A bill introduced in the North Dakota State House of Representatives looks to protect the privacy of its residents from the police state by making a set of guidelines for the use of unmanned drones in surveillance by law enforcement.
House Bill 1373 was introduced by Reps. Becker, Anderson, Beadle, Heilman, Hofstad, Monson, Rohr, Toman, Hanson and Sen. Sitte. It was first read on Jan. 21 and referred to the Judiciary Committee where no action has presently been taken.
The bill comes in response to the growing national concern over predator drones, the controversial machines used to drop bombs onto people in foreign lands, coming to American skies en masse. Public safety concerns abound after repeated instances of crashes both domestic and abroad. Another troubling bit of information is that the Air Force maintains the right to spy on and collect data from drone missions about American citizens without so much as a warrant for up to 90 days as long as they claim it wasn’t intentional.
The text of HB 1373 states that “except as provided in section 4 of this Act, a law enforcement agency may not use an unmanned aircraft for surveillance of a person within the state or for the surveillance of personal or business property located within the borders of the state to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct.” Section 4 of the Act gives law enforcement the right to use drones for weather-related catastrophes, exigent circumstances requiring reasonable suspecion to prevent immediate danger to life or bodily harm and national border patrol.
The bill goes further to specifically ban the use of armed drones saying, “A state agency may not authorize the use, including a grant to permit to use, of an unmanned aircraft while armed with any lethal or non-lethal weapons, including firearms, pepper spray, beanbag guns, mace and sound-based weapons.”
But these seemingly common sense measures to protect the people of North Dakota from big brother aren’t without their detractors. Unfortunately, there are some toadies on the government dole who apparently think that drone use should be warranted in situations other than just felony crimes, border patrol and environmental emergencies.
Jerry Kemmet of the ironically named North Dakota Peace Officers Association argues for more police power than what it allotted in the bill. He was reported in the Bismarck Times as saying, “It does restrict law enforcement.” I assume the ‘it’ in this statement means predator drones but could just as easily mean Constitutionally-protected privacy rights.
Kemmet continued on to say, “I don’t think we have to be afraid of [predator drones in the skies]. We have to use it the right way.” Of course they don’t have to be afraid as the police are the people who have the drones and are using them on the public! Kemmet attempts to use the same old trick to conflate we the people with the government. The people and the government are two separate and distinct entities, and government needs to be strictly constrained by the rule of law or abuses will run rampant as we have seen repeatedly across the country.
University of North Dakota Vice President for Research Phyllis Johnson also opposes the drone restrictions saying, “We are concerned that passage of a privacy bill could have a chilling effect on how the Federal Aviation Administration views UND and the state of North Dakota with respect to research and testing of [drones].” Perhaps she is worried that UND will not be able to make these machines of death even more murderous and invasive because of the bill.
State Rep. Rick Becker disagrees with these power-obsessed drone lovers saying, “[The bill] is not anti-law enforcement … It allows for an abundance of situations when drones can be used. It is not intended to deter research going on at UND.”
Kudos to Rep. Becker and the rest of the brave legislators who sponsored this bill for standing up for privacy rights in an age where many government officials are quick to pronounce them to be dead for everyone except themselves. More voices of reason like these are needed to counter-balance the authoritarians who would prefer that no limitations be placed upon their emerging technological tyranny.
LEGISLATION AND TRACKING
If you are from a state other than North Dakota and would like to see a bill similar to this introduced in your legislature, see The Tenth Amendment Center’s Model Legislation: The Privacy Protection Act.
For more information on contacting your State Representative to urge them to support House Bill 1373 if you live in North Dakota, click HERE.
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