The Washington state Public Safety Committee passed HB 1771 this afternoon, with 9 votes for, 1 against, and one excused.
The intention of the bill is to protect citizens from loss of privacy through warrantless surveillance, limit liability on the state and local government, and create clear standards for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, AKA drones.
Warrants have to be very specific in the information they are trying to obtain, must show probable cause, and don’t allow for the keeping of extraneous information that is coincidentally collected about non-involved persons in the process. Which means that your neighbors should be safe from surveillance, even if the police have a warrant for your backyard. If footage of them happens to be collected in the process, it must be discarded.
If the bill becomes law, therefore, it would be a great victory in protection against unreasonable search and seizure, especially as we head into the new frontier of massive drone production.
“This bill is about freedom.” noted Representative Matt Shea, who co-sponsored the bill and wasn’t alone in his sentiments.
While the bill only limits drone use by state and local government, it will have some serious impact on intended results being pushed by the federal government. At this stage in the ‘drone game,’ the feds are working hard behind the scenes to get states to operate the drones for them. In fact, DHS issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once the create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing,’” he said. “Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.
Mike German, Senior Policy Council with the Washington ACLU, who also has a history in intelligence and law enforcement, asserted that “policy that protects the Constitution is the smartest policy,” and that we should be creating regulations because drone technology is rapidly evolving, and will give “unprecedented capabilities” to law enforcement. It was also noted by his colleague, Shankar Narayan, that “the temptation is to have more drones- to do more surveillance. What’s in the bill is quite generous as far as what’s allowable. This is about your government surveilling you and using that information down the road.” “Basic regulations are good, create less public backlash, and make the public feel more confident.” Certainly a true sentiment, as our society lacks transparency more and more often, and citizens become more concerned about information they don’t have.
Opponents were mostly associates of law enforcement with specific concerns in regard to the limitations that might be imposed; such as not being able to use surveillance to catch thieves in parking lots, and the idea that documentation discourages use. Chris Barringer, from Seattle Sheriff John Urquhart’s office, did come out to speak for the bill. Though the sheriff’s office does support some modification, they acknowledge the need for regulation. Most private citizens also came out in support of the bill.
“I was in the military, and like you, I took an oath to protect the Constitution. As Representative Appleton said…( it’s about the 4th amendment), and she’s exactly right – that is the bottom line.” – Travis Couture
Representative David Taylor (R-Yakima), sponsored the bill, which will now move to the Rules Committee, which will vote on sending it to the full State House of Representatives.
ACTION ALERT for Washington residents
1. Contact members of the House Rules committee. Strongly, but respectfully, tell them you want them to vote YES to send HB1771 to the full House for debate and vote.
Contact information here:
2. Call your representative. Strongly, but politely urge them to pass HB 1771. Let them know that you take your rights very seriously, and that you support regulation on unmanned aerial vehicles that would protect civil liberties. Find their contact info here.
3. Encourage your local community to take action as well. Present the Privacy Protection Act to your city county, your town council, or your county commissioners. Various local governments around the country are already passing similar resolutions and ordinances. Local legislative action present a great way to strengthen a statewide campaign against warrantless drone surveillance.
LEGISLATION AND TRACKING
If you’re outside of Washington, please contact your own legislators regarding anti-drone legislation. If none has been introduced in your state, you can email them The Privacy Protection Act model legislation.
Track the status of drone nullification in states around the country HERE