Straight from the piece in WaPo:
On his web page, Hughes mentions Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.”
Thoreau wished to “trace the effects of [his] allegiance” to the state.
Such inquiry may become impossible if limitations baked-in to computer
hardware and software increasingly limit the possible avenues for civil
disobedience. We ought to be able to choose to comply with the law, rather than have such compliance be forced upon us by technological architecture.
Arguing that non-violent rule-breaking ought to be possible is not
arguing that rules ought not to exist. In this particular case, it makes
sense to legally protect the airspace around the seat of our government
from willy-nilly flights, whether of drones or manned aircraft. But we
must not obscure Hughes’s deliberate, calculated sacrifice by writing
him off as a loony and nothing more, and we must continue to make
choices like his possible.
Abrogating the possibility of such
choices removes an avenue of dissent from our democracy. Let us not
further eliminate one of the few ways in which those without much money
can nevertheless make their voices heard on the national stage, at great
personal cost. There is a place for police robots like the one which
tentatively circled around Hughes’s airplane. They can make us safer,
and they can make us more efficient.
But if we allow our
technologies to limit our speech as if we ourselves were robots, then we
step back from Thoreau’s ideal of progress, “imagining a State at least
which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual
with respect as a neighbor.” Fortifying the Capitol or the White House
to make intrusions like today’s impossible isn’t only anti-democratic.
It’s un-neighborly, too.