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Can Federalism Protect You From Government Drones?

Drone and Rand Paul
Congress has, as CHQ Vice Chairman Kassandra Smith noted in yesterday’s article “Rand Paul and Mark Levin Are Right: Congress Is Failing You,” been derelict in its duties on a variety of issues, not even reading the budget and spending bills being prominent among those derelictions.

But in turning a blind eye toward the surveillance state being built by President Obama, or in many cases actively supporting it, nowhere have your Representatives and Senators been more clearly in violation of their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The efforts of those members of Congress such as Senator Rand Paul and Representatives Justin Amash (MI-3) and Thomas Massie (KY-4), who have had the courage to actively oppose the surveillance state, have been stymied by the congressional “leadership” of both parties who are fully invested in the idea that our technical surveillance capabilities should trump the Constitution in the name of keeping Americans “safe.”

The need for federal legislation to rein-in the use of drones by government agencies is becoming all the more pressing now that it has been revealed that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are increasingly borrowing border-patrol drones for domestic surveillance operations.

Customs and Border Protection, which has the largest U.S. drone fleet of its kind outside the Defense Department, flew nearly 700 such surveillance missions on behalf of other agencies from 2010 to 2012, according to flight logs released recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by civil-liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to reporting by Craig Whitlock and Craig Timberg of The Washington Post, in 2010, for example, Customs and Border Protection conducted 76 drone missions for other agencies. The next year, that number quadrupled, and it remained at nearly the same level in 2012.

Although the border agency has acknowledged that it flies drones for other law-enforcement departments, it has revealed little about the number and precise nature of the missions.

Far from curtailing the use of drones as privacy advocates and constitutionalists have demanded Congress has directed the FAA to gradually open the national airspace to public and commercial drone traffic in the coming years.

State legislators and governors, who are closer to the concerns of the people, have yet to be convinced that “if we can do it, we should do it” is the right strategy in a constitutional republic whose government is supposedly restricted by the Fourth and Ninth Amendments to the Constitution.

In Massachusetts a bill that would restrict how police in Massachusetts can use drones — requiring warrants and banning weapons — goes to a Transportation Committee hearing tomorrow.

“I just want to ensure we don’t have a major intrusion of our privacy rights, mainly by law enforcement,” state Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) told the Boston Herald.

The Drone Privacy Act, filed by Hedlund, would prevent drones from carrying weapons, and would require warrants before they can be deployed, except in emergency situations.

The bill also seeks limitations on the kind of information that police departments collect, and would require data accidentally collected to be deleted within 24 hours.

In North Carolina a special House committee formed to explore the topic of drones meets for the first time today and could propose legislation to address issues surrounding the unmanned aircraft and their potential use by government agencies in the state.

According to reporting by the News & Observer’s Patrick Gannon, Rep. Mitchell Setzer, a Catawba County Republican and co-chairman of the House Study Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, said the first meeting would focus on drone technology and the status of federal and state laws governing them.

Gannon reports that the committee is expected to delve into safety and privacy issues related to drones, as well as the economic benefits of the industry. It also will look at drone uses, including search and rescue, responding to natural disasters, law enforcement operations, surveying, and environmental and infrastructure monitoring.

Much of the committee’s attention is likely to focus on the potential use of surveillance drones by police or other government agencies. According to a provision in the 2013-14 state budget, no state or local government may buy or operate a drone “or disclose personal information about any person acquired through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system” before July 2015, unless the state’s chief information officer decides it’s necessary.

Can federalism protect your Fourth and Ninth Amendment right to privacy? A good place to start would be to contact your state legislator and ask him or her to introduce a drone regulation bill in your state. Many state legislative bodies are well into their 2014 sessions, the time to make that call to protect your privacy is now.

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This government is growing in size and cost, our rights and liberties as well as representation are victims of this enormous costly growth, in effect WTP are the victims of what we abhor and stand little chance of putting a stop or oversight in place because our representation has diminished but the elitism is now rampant. Career politicians are like a dynasty they take years to burn out and leave a trail of trash in their wake, WTP can do better.
For many states career politicians have decimated the government and destroyed the quality of life of the residents of many states and counties across the US, the cost of maintaining the over paid behemoth is to much of a burden. As a American we need to rethink how this government can be restructured to serve the people who allow it to exist, this is a Republic and it was structured to serve. Why not resort to part time legislature for state government, term limits no retirement for all government officials elected and appointed, a national budget governed by the ballot and a ban on all government unions?..the need to repair and maintain is ongoing, if we fail in our duty as citizens, then we will fail as a Republic...