The primary function of the Fire Scout fleet is surveillance. Its predecessor, the MQ-8B, has already been used to monitor opposition in Afghanistan and Libya, despite having crashed on several occasions and resulting in a temporary grounding last year. These Blackhawk-style flight vehicles require no human controller and are manufactured by military-industrial kingpin Northrop Grumman at a cost $15.3 million each.Details
Think state and local law enforcement aren’t watching you with high-tech federally-owned drones? Think again.
In a new post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, released an updated list of “times the agency has flown its Predator drones on behalf of other agencies — 500 flights in total over a three-year period.”
Some of the more interesting revelations contained in the report — obtained by EFF as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit — include the fact that CBP drones flew more than 100 missions on behalf of the Department of Justice.
As the EFF story indicates, this level of cooperation between CBP and the Department of Justice “is in direct contradiction to a recently released DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report (pdf) that stated DHS had flown its drones on only two occasions for DOJ law enforcement components.”
Although many of the agencies borrowing CBP drones were revealed in earlier lists, there are a few new entries: “Grand Forks SWAT, the North Dakota Narcotics Task Force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Drug Task Force, and several branches of the military.”
Read that again: “Several branches of the military” are flying drone missions above the United States. For what lawful purpose could the armed forces be conducting such operations domestically? Furthermore, the likelihood is high that such activities run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the U.S. military from performing domestic law-enforcement duties.Details
On July 29, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber (D) signed the Anti-Drone Spying bill (HB2710) into law.
The new law will require law enforcement to obtain a warrant for drone use in all but a few cases.
Provides that drones may be used by law enforcement agency for purpose of surveillance of persons only pursuant to a warrant or in emergency circumstances. Provides that law enforcement agencies may use drones to intercept communications only as provided under laws relating to wiretaps other interceptions of communications. Requires destruction of images and other information acquired by use of drone within 30 days.
The bill also outlaws weaponized drones.
Representative John Huffman (R ) said, “I feel that we were able to craft our bill to get ahead of the curve and ensure people’s rights were protected — but also to let Insitu and other companies in the industry know that we are willing to work with them.”
The House passed its version of the bill 52-7 on April 15. The Senate passed the amended version 23-5 on June 10th. The differences between the two bills were resolved in committee, and it was sent to the governor for his signature.
While the exceptions for drone use raise legitimate concerns, as things existed, Oregonians had no protections against drone surveillance. Law enforcement agencies in Oregon could use drones any time, anywhere, with absolutely no parameters. Under the new law, drone use will be extremely limited and circumscribed.Details
Law enforcement in Illinois will now have to work under strict regulations when it comes to drones.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill restricting drone spying to the point of near extinction into law late last month.
SB1587 prohibits law enforcement agencies from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant in most cases.
The House overwhelmingly passed the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act 105-12 on May 30. The Senate gave its approval 52-1 in April and quickly concurred with two House Amendments the day after House passage. Gov. Quinn inked his name on the legislation on Aug. 27.
The act does leave the door open for some drone use. The prime exception allows for the use of drones “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.” In addition, the bill would permit law enforcement agencies to use drones when attempting to locate a missing person, as long as that flight was “not also undertaking a criminal investigation.” It would also allow for review of a crime scene and traffic crash scene photography. Any information gathered by a drone would have to be destroyed within 30 days, unless the information proved to contain evidence of criminal activity, or was relevant to a trial or investigation.
While the exceptions raise legitimate concerns, as things existed prior to the law, Illinois had no protections against drones.Details
Spokane City Council members are getting ready to vote on a local ordinance regarding the regulation of domestic drone use. According to city council president, Ben Stuckart, this ordinance is modeled after a similar action that was passed earlier this year in the city of Seattle.
Representative David Taylor introduced a bill in the Washington House of Representatives during the recent session, which would have required state and local law enforcement to obtain legislative approval before purchasing drones. It reaffirmed the right to privacy by laying down rules regarding the obtainment of information and use of surveillance. Despite being voted out of committee, 9-1 the bill failed to get a vote on the house floor before the cut off deadline. It was heavily lobbied against by both Boeing, and the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs. Despite this, Representative Taylor still has hopes that the bill can be pushed through next year.
There is valid concern among citizens that because there are no current state regulations regarding drone use, the potential for abuse is incredibly high. Local communities like Spokane are stepping up to provide guidelines to their law enforcement agencies.
The Spokane ordinance would contain three main components;Details
COLORADO SPRINGS – On Aug. 6, the Deer Trail Board of Trustees will consider an ordinance to sell licenses as part of a “bounty program,” authorizing the license holders to shoot down unmanned aircraft violating the town’s “sovereign airspace.”
Up until now, the small town’s claim to fame is holding the “Worlds very first Rodeo, on July 4, 1869.” Deer Trail is located 55 miles east of Denver, boasting a population of 546 people. With this pending legislation, the town could become an important benchmark in an ongoing debate on sovereignty.
In an article posted on the History of Deer Trail Facebook Page, Kathy Smiley summarized the proceedings.
“Phillip Steel presented his citizen’s initiative to the Deer Trail Board on July 2nd.” Even though this legislation is very serious to Mr. Steel, he received “a few chuckles from the Trustees and audience members” while making his presentation. “Steel did his due diligence on the seven-page ordinance, written in detailed legalese, set forth in seven sections,” to “defend the sovereign airspace of the town from unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Steel argues, “State and local governments throughout the country are talking about the fantastic possibilities of using unmanned aerial vehicles. It is time to take a stand against becoming a surveillance society.”
Another benefit of the ordinance – “it would generate revenue for the Town of Deer Trail.”Details
Last Friday, Governor Perry signed into law a bill to severely restrict the use of drones for surveillance. Dubbed the ‘Texas Privacy Act’, H.B. 912 is an attempt to rein in potential abuses related to the rapidly-developing drone technology that has made its hands into the hands of government at the state and federal levels. The bill was originally authored by Rep. Gooden (R-District 4) and amassed over 100 co-sponsors since it was introduced Feb. 1, showing vast and bipartisan support for stopping the government’s Orwellian takeover of our skies. The House passed the bill by a vote of 128-11 on May 10th. (roll call here) And the Senate passed a slightly amended version of the bill by a vote of 29-1. (roll call here).
The bill states that “a person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image.” The offender would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if they were caught violating this part of the law.
Data gathered by law enforcement illegally ‘may not be used as evidence in any criminal or juvenile proceeding, civil action, or administrative proceeding’ according to the bill and ‘is not subject to discovery, subpoena, or other means of legal compulsion for its release.’ This incentivizes police to not misuse the drone technology unless they wish to risk jeopardizing their entire investigation.Details
Ohio has joined the growing number of states considering restrictions on drone use. Legislation limiting the use of drones by law enforcement agencies was introduced on 6/12/2013 by Ohio State Representative Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont).
House Bill 207 was introduced in response to law enforcement agencies seeking to purchase and use unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones.
“As this technology continues to become more prevalent, the state of Ohio must be vigilant in seeing that drones are used only in circumstances that specifically protect public safety,” Damschroder stated. “HB 207 ensures that law enforcement agencies are only using drone technology for appropriate reasons. We have all watched over the past few weeks how technology could potentially be used by government agencies to violate our privacy and conduct unwarranted surveillance. We need to do everything possible to prevent a Big Brother society where government exerts too much control of our lives or has too much access to our private information.”
The bill states that no law enforcement agency shall operate a drone unless the agency has obtained a search warrant, or if a law enforcement agency has reasonable suspicion that swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life, serious damage to property, or to prevent the escape of a suspect or destruction of evidence. HB 207 further ensures that no information or evidence collected while operating a drone shall be used in a court proceeding if it was obtained in violation of the exceptions provided in the bill.
“We all have a right to personal privacy and HB 207 advances that cause,” Damschroder continued. “The bill is a preemptive strike against the abuse of our 4th amendment rights and makes it clear that drones cannot be used simply to spy on individuals and survey our property.”
ACTION ITEMS FOR HB 207
1. Contact your state representative. Strongly encourage her/him to support HB 207.
2. Encourage your local community to take action as well. Using model legislationDetails
SALEM, Ore – Last Monday, the Oregon Senate passed an amended version of a bill that would nullify drone use without a warrant in all but a few cases.
HB2710 “Provides that drones may be used by law enforcement agency for purpose of surveillance of persons only pursuant to a warrant or in emergency circumstances. Provides that law enforcement agencies may use drones to intercept communications only as provided under laws relating to wiretaps other interceptions of communications. Requires destruction of images and other information acquired by use of drone within 30 days.”
The bill also outlaws weaponized drones.
The House passed its version of the bill 52-7 on April 15. The Senate passed the amended version 23-5.
The amendments broaden the scope of the bill by requiring any public body operating a drone to register with the Oregon Dept. of Aviation, and by criminalizing the use of a drone to interfere with another aircraft and hacking into a drone. The amended bill would also allow property owners to seek damages from anyone operating a drone less than 400 feet above their property.
Senate amendment also make exceptions more explicit, allowing police to use drones if they have “probable cause to believe that a crime committed at the time the drone is used and exigent circumstances exist that make reasonable for the law enforcement agency to obtain a warrant authorizing use, or if the law enforcement agency has probable cause to believe that the targeted intends to commit a crime and circumstances exist that prevent the law enforcement acquiring a warrant, authorizing use of a drone, before the time at which enforcement agency believes the crime will be committed.” Police could also use drones to track an individual fleeing the scene of a crime.Details
Pennsylvania House Bill 961 is a bill to nullify warrantless drone spying. It is currently in the Judiciary Committee and needs your action to help it move forward.
HB961 requires that a judge sign an order for the use of a drone for surveillance purposes during a criminal investigation or unless prior consent was given. See Chapter 57 Title 18 Subchapter 5704 Section 4 for current Pennsylvania wiretapping law.
Action Items for HB961.
1. Contact the Committee Chairman. Politely ask him to schedule HB961 for public hearing and vote.
Ron Marisco (717) 783-2014
2. Contact the other members of the Judiciary Committee. Strongly, but respectfully, urge each of them to vote YES on HB961.
Thomas R. Caltagirone, (717) 787-3525
Todd Stephens (215) 368-5165
Bryan Cutler (717) 783-6424
Glen R. Grell (717) 783-2063
Timothy Krieger (717) 260-6146
Sheryl M. Delozier (717) 783-5282