The age of the drone is here, and U.S. intelligence agencies are warily monitoring their proliferation around the globe. China uses them to spy on Japan near disputed islands in Asia. Turkey uses them to eyeball Kurdish activity in northern Iraq. Bolivia uses them to spot coca fields in the Andes. Iran reportedly has given them to Syria to monitor opposition rebels. The U.S., Britain and Israel are the only nations to have fired missiles from remote-controlled drones, but the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles has become so prevalent that U.S. intelligence sources and private analysts say it is merely a matter of time before other countries use the technology. “People in Washington like to talk about this as if the supposed American monopoly on drones might end one day. Well, the monopoly ended years ago,” said Peter W. Singer, who heads the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution. What’s worse, clandestine strikes carried out by Washington in far-flung corners of the world have set a precedent that could be ugly. Mr. Singer said as many as 87 nations possess some form of drones and conduct various kinds of surveillance either over their own territories or beyond. Among those 87, he said, 26 have either purchased or developed drones equivalent in size to the MQ-1 Predator — the model made by San Diego-based General Atomics.
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