The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” ~Fourth Amendment
Fighting fires, search and rescue efforts, monitoring the condition of bridges… these are all good and useful purposes for state government use of drones. But as these popular unmanned devices become more prolific and widely used within the United States, the reality of the harm they can do is becoming more readily apparent.
Drone technology gives the government a new means by which to keep the citizenry under 24-hour surveillance. Surveillance drones raise significant issues concerning privacy and civil liberties.
Drones equipped with high-tech cameras can scan entire cities or zoom in and read your computer screen or paperwork sitting on your kitchen table. Unfettered police use of surveillance drones gives law enforcement carte blanche access to everything you do – without any suspicion of a crime, they can peer into your windows 24-hours-per-day, just waiting for you to make a mistake.
But that’s not the worst of it.
In August, 2015, a North Dakota bill that was passed to limit the state’s use of drones, made headlines when it was discovered the bill actually made it legal for the state to attach non-lethal weapons to their drones. There was instant backlash over this revelation, as citizens and civil rights groups fully took in the implications of armed, unmanned aircraft targeting citizens.
Unfortunately, what many people fail to understand is that unless a state has specifically banned lethal and non-lethal weaponizing of drones, it is legal for a state to do so.
Drone technology has been around for some time, with the controversial use of armed drones overseas increasing rapidly since the “War on Terror” began. But few people were prepared for the reality that someday, local law enforcement could be using armed drones to police America’s streets.
Armed drones hand law enforcement the ability to act as judge, jury, and executioner, racing full speed into a total Police State.
Hundreds of bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country in recent years, most of them limiting how private individuals, hunters, or private industry can use them. But few bills have made it into law limiting use of drones by law enforcement.
And while North Dakota’s codification into law of non-lethal weapons on law enforcement drones is bad, as of the 2015 legislative session, only 6 states have banned it. In some states, such as Wyoming in 2015, bills to ban weaponized drones or limit surveillance use have failed to pass.
It is important to pass comprehensive state legislation requiring warrants showing probable cause for a limited purpose and banning weaponized drones, and Campaign for Liberty state groups are working toward that goal. But there is also action that can be taken on this issue at the most local levels. Until a state passes proper measures, local municipalities can limit how their own law enforcement entities use drones.
Check out your state Campaign for Liberty page here to see if they are currently working on this issue. (Be sure to check back often for new battles.)
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If you’d like to assist Campaign for Liberty state efforts, simply click on “contact coordinator” from your state page, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.