A bill under consideration this year in the Vermont State Senate would restrict the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) by government officials, banning their use in surveillance by law enforcement without a warrant based on probable cause.
Introduced by State Sen. Tim Ashe and State Sen. Joe Benning, Senate Bill 18 (SB18) would, among other things, require all state law enforcement agencies to obtained a warrant before using a drone except for emergency circumstances.
The bill specifically bars them from collecting any information obtained on anyone other than the person for whom the warrant was issued. Any information kept that was obtained illegally is inadmissible in court.
The bill also outright bans weapons on the drones, as well as the use of facial recognition technology except on the location or person in the warrant.
Additionally, law enforcement agencies that uses a drone would have to report annually to the Department of Public Safety on the number of times they used the drone, the incident involved, the type of information collected, justification for its use, the number of criminal investigations it was used in and arrests made as a result of the information gathered by the drone. The Department of Public Safety would then report back to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary and on Government Operations
Although drone use would still be permitted in specific circumstances, these bills set a nearly-total prohibition on their use in areas of great concern, warrantless surveillance.
Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey has noted that bills such as this have significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington D.C. is pushing and funding drone use at the state level. He noted that the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. “Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power.”
“The feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” he said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting with intelligence officials. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”
“If enough states pass bills like these, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”
For Vermont: To support this bill, follow the steps at THIS LINK
All Other States: Take steps to stop warrantless drone spying HERE.
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