Last week, Kentucky state representatives introduced HB 342, dubbed the “Citizens’ Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act”, aiming to prevent government agencies from spying on citizens without obtaining a court warrant. Not only does it mandate that state and local law enforcement cannot conduct sweeping oversight of anyone in the vicinity of the drone, it also bans evidence obtained by military operated drones for the purpose of enforcing state and local laws.
In recent months, the issue of general surveillance and the collection of vast amounts of electronic data and metadata of American citizens has churned the waters on domestic spying, turning it into a hot-button political issue. People on both sides of the aisle have been both outraged and concerned by how pervasive electronic information collection has become by the nation’s top intelligence agencies. Over the past year, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul for example has kept the national spotlight on the issue of both government surveillance and drones with the hope of safeguarding individual rights.
In a similar manner, Kentucky HB 342 takes both government surveillance and drone operation into account and prevents national, state, and local governments from using warrantless drone surveillance against citizens in court proceedings within the state of Kentucky. The bill requires state and local law enforcement to obtain a court warrant in order to monitor a specific individual. At the same time, facial recognition software used will be required to ignore anyone not associated with the warrant meaning that any information of surrounding persons collected ought to be minimized.
Although some have argued that preventing government agencies from obtaining information from suspected criminals or terrorists ties the hands of government agencies to protect the common good, others have argued that the lawless collection of as much data as possible not only violates the intent of the framers of the Constitution but it also subverts the rule of law. Put another way, using “general warrants”, as Senator Rand Paul calls them, to collect information on any and everyone possible is the same behaviour that American colonials loathed about British officials before the American Revolution. Instead, he argues, the country was founded on principles which respect the rights of individuals while also allows the government a legal means to obtain information in the form of court ordered individual search warrants.
Currently, it is in the Judiciary Committee docket waiting for a hearing and testimony before progressing to the House floor. In order to keep the focus and the pressure on state representatives, one can call the Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative John Tilley at (270) 881-4717 in order to voice your concern about the issue and urge its passage through the committee.