Senate hears steady anti-drone drone

The long arm of the law now has eyes. (AP)

The long arm of the law now has eyes. (AP)

“Don’t drone me bro,” a phrase employed ’round the world by scampering, hillside terrorists, is increasingly popping up in the American lexicon.

Politicians are getting an earful from privacy groups alleging the use of unmanned aircraft over U.S. soil violates civil liberties, writes the Los Angeles Times.

Some appear to be listening, according to the Times:

“The thought of government drones buzzing overhead and constantly monitoring the activities of law-abiding citizens runs contrary to the notion of what it means to live in a free society,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that explored whether legislation was needed to curtail drone use to protect civil liberties.

Drones are so ubiquitous even those living is Pakistani caves have heard about them. The military-style drones have proven effective at killing U.S. enemies, and sometimes civilians.

No official records are publicly available, but The Bureau of Investigative Journalism believes at least 400 civilians are among 3,000 or so people reportedly killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

Some believe the CIA has gotten a little drone happy. The Obama administration appears to be moving the drone program back to the Pentagon, which would make the strikes subject to international military law, UPI reports.

Not all military drones shoot, some are designed to be shot at. Boaters in the Florida Keys found one Sunday. The $570,000 jet-powered “aerial target” had been lost by the U.S. Air Force, reports The Miami Herald.

Many of the drones flying over the U.S. are not controlled by the military, but by local and federal law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Wednesday, 24 privacy groups demanded that agency stop flying 10 unarmed Predator drones along the Mexican and Canadian borders until clear guidelines are established on what information can be recorded and retained.

Domestic drones are thought to be armed only with cameras and other sensors, and the vast majority are owned by private citizens.

The website DIYDrones sells as many unmanned aerial vehicles per quarter — about 7,500 — than the U.S. military is thought to own.

Not everyone is cool with that many eyes in the skies.

Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center urged the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to pass laws to ensure that law enforcement drones, and those increasingly used by private citizens, do not violate privacy rights.

Stepanovich said many domestic drones are useful — they are used to fight forest fires and conduct search and rescue operations, for example — but Americans have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

She said the Department of Homeland Security is in the midst of crafting drones “that will carry facial recognition technology, able to remotely identify individuals in parks, schools, and political gatherings.”

Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law, and Stepanovich said current privacy laws are inadequate, pointing out that 20 years ago the Supreme Court found that aerial surveillance “from as low as 400 feet” could be accomplished without a warrant.

My take? How do I get one of these things?

4 comments Add your comment

DLink

March 21st, 2013
8:59 am

I’d really like the SWAT teams to not use tear gas in their effort to save people. Hand grenades and nuclear weapons are fine, but gas? Come on people, be reasonable! /s

Madmax

March 21st, 2013
9:09 am

Guess the average citizen is an enemy of the state. New policy is guilty till proven innocent.

al mansfield

March 21st, 2013
9:34 am

Wait until the first drone collides with an airliner full of passengers or a small private plane .

Bumper

March 21st, 2013
4:49 pm

Practically everywhere you go now you’re watched by a security camera, so the drones just take it to the next level. We’re seeing our personal freedoms slowly but surely disappear, all in the name of “security”.