“Sen. Paul proposes bill protecting Americans from drone surveillance” but is it Necessary?

by Jessica Poarch

This morning The Hill reported that on Tuesday Senator Paul introduced a bill that would require the Government to obtain a warrant before using Drones to conduct surveillance. This bill, entitled ‘‘Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012,’’ prohibits the government from using drones to “gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant that satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment….” (Sec 3) There are some exceptions to this requirement, mainly that a warrant is not needed for boarder surveillance, if there are exigent circumstances, or if there is a high risk of a terrorist attack based on “credible intelligence.” (Sec 4). If the Government fails to comply with this requirement, the evidence obtained can not be used in Court. (Sec 6).

In my opinion, this bill should be put in a pile with the rest of the election seasons ploys to play on the Nations sensitivities and garner votes. First, unless Drones are equipped with advanced x-ray and audio technology, this bill is a misapplication of the 4th Amendment. The 4th Amendment only applies to unwarranted government intrusion into a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.  Activity undertaken in the open (i.e. visible from the air) does not receive protection. This would be no different than law enforcement officials sitting across the street with a high powered camera.

If Drone technology has advanced far enough to allow law enforcement officials to take x-ray images of the inside of buildings or record conversations that occur in buildings, then the 4th Amendment likely already provides protection as this case would be closely analogousness to currently controlling case law (ex: Katz, 389 U.S. 347 , providing 4th Amendment protection to a conversation in a public phone booth because Katz closed the phone booth door clearly intending to have a private conversation).

I too have concerns over allowing law enforcement officials to use Drones for ordinary crime control; however, a bill such as the one discussed above does not, in my opinion, provide any additional protection or truly address any privacy concerns. If Congress is truly concerned about law enforcement overstepping its bonds with the use of Drone technology it should find a more effective means to prevent it, such as tightening its purse strings and restricting the financial resources available for this form of surveillance.

The full Article: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/232489-sen-paul-proposes-bill-protecting-americans-from-drone-surveillance

The Bill: http://thehill.com/images/stories/blogs/flooraction/jan2012/s3287.pdf

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