State Legislatures Move To Restrict Drone Use In America

The use of drones elicits mixed reactions from people. Some conservatives favor the use of drones as long as they’re used in a far away land, killing those that our government tells us are terrorists.

The government doesn’t have to produce evidence or bring charges against any of the people they kill as long as they have reasonable suspicion that the person in question is somehow tied to an organization that our government has deemed a terrorist organization. They don’t have to produce evidence because we’re in a “war”—a war on terror. And in a war, anything goes. Even killing innocent men, women and children. Since it’s a war, those innocents that are killed are just collateral damage.

Liberals used to be opposed to the war on terror because Bush was the one that declared it. Now, since Obama is in office and has greatly expanded this terror war and has greatly increased the use of predator drone strikes in places like Pakistan and Yemen, liberals have mostly been silent on the subject. It’s bad when a Republican is given unilateral power to authorize killing people including innocents, but it’s OK when Obama does it.

While the predator drones have (as far as we know) remained overseas, surveillance drones are proliferating here in America for domestic use. It has people concerned about privacy. They don’t like the idea of local and federal governments and police departments using drones to watch us.

As of last week, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved 348 unmanned aircraft for domestic use. Most of the applications were from the Defense Department. 7% were from law enforcement agencies, and 24% were from universities, which are researching their use in disaster response, agriculture and other areas.

Florida state Senator Joe Negron, a Republican, introduced a bill last month that prohibits the use of drones by law enforcement except to “prevent terrorism.” He said that drones were “fine for killing terrorists … but I don’t think they should be used to spy on American citizens.” USA Today summarized some other state legislation pertaining to domestic drone use:

  • Last month, state Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would regulate drones in California. He worries they’ll be used to “infringe upon fundamental constitutional rights.”
  • Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a bill in December that would establish national privacy safeguards and limit surveillance.
  • A bill introduced in Missouri by Rep. Casey Guernsey, a Republican, would require warrants before drones gather evidence. “I don’t like the idea of Missouri becoming a police state,” he says.

What I don’t understand is how most of these politicians probably don’t have much problem with using drones to kill people almost indiscriminately in the Middle East because of terrorism, but at the same time, they don’t want them spying on Americans. Unless it’s to “prevent terrorism.” We’ve been through this before. What’s “terrorism?” A terrorist today is really anyone who does not support current government policies. That could include truly bad people, but it also includes good people.

The use of surveillance drones on Americans would be a violation of the 4th Amendment, because it would be subjecting us to searches without their ascertaining probable cause and obtaining a search warrant. But thanks to the war on terror and the destruction of the 1st Amendment, they can bypass the 4th Amendment. And it’s this kind of thing that is the reason we have the 2nd Amendment.