On June 5th, we suggested that rather than encourage the use of drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement, Congress must step in and exercise its constitutional responsibilities to protect our privacy before 18,000 police departments get drone fever and armed police drones are hovering over every city and town, and bedroom, in America.
We can now thank Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Congressman Austin Scott of Georgia for doing just that.
Their bills are specifically drafted to place the use of domestic surveillance drones under strict constitutional limits and require the use of such drones to be subjected to the same standards for any other wiretap or search warrant.
Scott, a freshman Republican who was elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, is a member of the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees. He introduced the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012” on June 7 -- and information on the bill, H.R.5925 , is available by clicking the link.
Senator Rand Paul’s bill with the same title, “The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012,” was introduced in the Senate on June 12.
Consistent with the Constitution, the bill prohibits the use of drones by the government except when a warrant is issued for its use in accordance with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.
The bill includes only the following exceptions:
1) patrol of national borders;
2) when law enforcement possesses reasonable suspicion that under particular circumstances, swift drone action is necessary to prevent “imminent danger to life;”
3) high risk of a terrorist attack
The bill allows any person to sue the government for violating the Act and specifies that no evidence obtained or collected in violation of the Act can be used or be admissible as evidence in a criminal, civil, or regulatory action.
In introducing the bill, Senator Paul said, “Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued. Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics…”
As we said last week, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles adds a new and troubling weapon to the Big Brother regulatory state – with a drone the EPA, the FBI, the Department of Energy or your local police department literally can, and as surely as night follows day will, peer into your bedroom, or your farm or your factory or your backyard swimming pool.
The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012 is a start; now we have to make sure the restrictions on domestic use of drones envisioned in the bills actually become law.