(Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain)
(EndTheLie) – Many Americans are likely unaware of the fact that drones are already being used in the United States. Indeed, drones are used by the military, data from which is shared with law enforcement, by at least one National Guard unit and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is slated to join the club as well.
Now lawmakers across the United States are attempting to put limits on the use of drones domestically in an apparent attempt to push back against this sweeping trend.
One bill, HB 1616, introduced in Virginia by Del. C. Todd Gilbert, would provide “that no state agency or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police nor any department of law enforcement of any city, county or town, shall procure a public unmanned aircraft system (drone aircraft) without the approval of the General Assembly or the local governing body, respectively.”
In North Dakota, Republican state Rep. Rick Becker has introduced legislation in an attempt to make sure drone use by police is not abused.
“It’s a new technology that has really amazing capabilities and can be used in excellent ways for our communities. I don’t want to say that drones can’t be used,” Becker said, according to the Washington Times. “But with the new technology there are also issues, primarily privacy issues, which can come into play.”
Unsurprisingly, the sheriff of the most populous county in North Dakota, Cass County, has already claimed that Becker’s proposal would set a dangerous precedent.
“Some people have this idea that these drones are some sneak-and-peek into their private lives,” Sheriff Paul Laney said.
“It’s no different than a routine patrol when we drive by in a squad car on the road and look down the driveway. We are just doing it from a higher level,” Laney claimed.
Apparently Laney is opposed to the fact that Becker’s legislation would require law enforcement to actually obtain a warrant when using a drone as part of a criminal investigation.
However, the need for probable cause warrants is increasingly diminishing with dangerous rulings like that which determined that hidden surveillance cameras can be placed on private property without a warrant.
State Rep. Ed Gruchalla of North Dakota has voiced opposition to Becker’s idea claiming that “it will blow over,” according to the Associated Press, and is similar to complaints about cameras in squad cars.
Gruchalla’s assertion is patently absurd given the fact that cameras in squad cars can actually protect citizens and hold police accountable for breaking the law, whereas drone-based surveillance offers no such benefits.
In Florida, state Senator Joe Negron filed SB 92, the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” which would “prohibit the use of domestic drones over the Sunshine State,” according to the Tenth Amendment Center.
The legislation would, however, allow the use of drones “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.”
In Missouri, state Rep. Casey Guernsey has proposed legislation that would “require law enforcement officers get a warrant before using a drone in Missouri,” according to the Associated Press. “It also would prohibit the use of drones by people, organizations or government agencies for the surveillance of farms.”
In New Jersey, a bill was introduced by Assemblyman Bob Shroeder in June of 2012 that would regulate the use of drones.
“While they may be useful in fighting crime or keeping watch over our water supplies, giving government and private agencies carte blanche can be dangerous,” said Shroeder, according to a press release. “The last thing we need is Big Brother literally peering into our living room windows.”
Similar legislation is expected to be proposed in other states as well during this legislative session including California, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon and Michigan according to the Washington Post.
State Senator Jim Tomes of Indiana is considering putting limits on the private use of drones over privacy concerns, according to WISH, while it is unclear if Tomes believes law enforcement and other government entities should be subject to similar restrictions.
There have also been attempts at the federal level including one piece of legislation introduced by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky which would “ban domestic governmental drone use except in patrolling the border or in high-risk security situations,” according to Eli Richman of Governing.com.
Also at the federal level, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a bill which would amend the Federal Aviation and Administration Modernization and Reform Act “to provide guidance and limitations” on non-military drone use in the United States.
“It would ensure that the FAA cannot issue a license to a drone operator unless they describe what kind of data the drone will collect, how that data will be used and how long it will be stored, among other information, in their license application,” according to the Hill.
How all of this legislation will fare remains to be seen but a hostile reaction from law enforcement and the government is almost guaranteed as they apparently have come to enjoy the circumvention of the Constitution in the name of stopping crime and terrorism.