Debate Topic: Domestic Drones?

Back in May I stumbled across this video of columnist Charles Krauthammer expressing his desire that use of unmanned drones in the U.S. be banned completely.

“I’m going to go hard left on you here, I’m going ACLU,” syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said in opposition to the use of drones on the U.S. homeland. “I don’t want regulations, I don’t want restrictions, I want a ban on this. Drones are instruments of war. The Founders had a great aversion to any instruments of war, the use of the military inside even the United States. It didn’t like standing armies, it has all kinds of statutes of using the army in the country.”

Charles Feldman of KNX 1070 in Los Angeles came across Air Force documents that cause concern.

A non-classified U.S. Air Force intelligence report obtained by KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO dated April 23, 2012, is helping fuel concern that video and other data inadvertently captured by Air Force drones already flying through some U.S. airspace, might end up in the hands of federal or local law enforcement, doing an end-run around normal procedures requiring police to obtain court issued warrants.

Jim Galloway has been writing about drones for some time now including this article about their potential use in metro-Atlanta.

Georgia Tech has been doing research into drones and sought approval from the FAA to use them to monitor traffic after football games. They were denied.

Last week the drone industry released a code of ethics:

Released by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the guidelines focus on three principals: safety, professionalism and respect. They include promises that the industry will properly test all drones before flight, comply with all laws governing aircraft, respect the privacy of individuals and work to better educate the public.

“Acceptance and adherence to this code will contribute to safety and professionalism and will accelerate public confidence in these systems,” the association said in a statement.

Congressman Austin Scott is attempting to limit the use of domestic drones. Scott told the AJC:

“We’re not opposed to the use of drones. But their use has to be consistent with the established rules with regard to search and seizure. The same thing that you would have to obtain to use a wiretap, you would have to have for the use of a drone,” Scott said. “This has the potential to be a huge invasion.”

Rich Lowery of National Review writes that the panic over drones is “Luddism masquerading as civil libertarianism.”

As drones proliferate for commercial and other private uses, it is foolish to expect law enforcement to forgo them. Already, the Border Patrol uses drones down at the border. One day we will marvel that there was a time when a police drone wasn’t first on the scene of a shooting. Or a time when we had high-speed car chases, endangering everyone else on the road, instead of a drone following the suspect from the air.

Ultimately, it is not the technology that matters, but the use to which it is put. A can of pepper spray is technologically unsophisticated. Yet it can be an instrument of cruelty if wielded arbitrarily by a cop. The drone is potentially a powerful tool. Vigilance is advisable; panic is silly.

So what’s your take? Is this simply a case of law needing to catch up to rapidly developing technology or is it yet another step toward our inevitable destruction by the very technology we’ve created.

BTW, when I ask the opinion of Peach Pundit readers I always reserve the right to ignore what is said and do what I want. Invariably a comment will appear informing me “the people have spoken Buzz!” I’ll listen to what’s said here and form my own opinion. 🙂

24 comments

  1. southernpol says:

    I’d probably be for allowing unarmed drones be used to monitor traffic. Would love to hear an argument against it (I’m not set in my ways).

    I agree with Rep. Scott on this one. I think they should have to have a warrant to use it as a way of finding criminals or some activity that they will use against someone.

    Unfortunately, the Supreme Court can likely bypass search and seizure laws and the 4th amendment by simply providing for a “special circumstances” drone fleet…

  2. Charlie says:

    I tend to side with a friend of mine who posted on facebook yesterday that “drones are the new black helicopters.”

    I frankly have more problem with the Google’s of the world having this kind of information than the government. Limiting the government’s ability to have information that third parties are freely able to obtain through legal means doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

    I’m open to reasons why the government shouldn’t have this info, but thus far the folks leading the charge are mostly the folks that purchase their tinfoil by the ton.

    • Daddy Got A Gun says:

      Here are some thoughts for consideration:

      1) Google can’t use deadly force against you or lock you up for violating one of the nearly infinite number of applicable laws, unlike the government. The government derives all of its power from its lawful ability to kill you and/or deny your freedom, ie prison. I’m less fearful of Google than the government. Plus, if I don’t like google there are ways to stop them.

      2) Unlike the rest of the world, the government and its agents has to have reasonable suspicion that you have violated the law before they can put you under surveillance. We are innocent until proven guilty and protected by the 4th Amendment. Until Obama actually burns the Constitution instead of sh.ting on it, it still applies.

      3) The government, especially the feds, lie when it comes to surveillance. An example are red light cameras. The government claims that they are installed only for safety and never for surveillance. Except …. Red Light Cameras increase accidents and have been used for criminal investigations and trials. Americans would be very surprised how often those cameras are used in criminal investigations. There is a case in Washington where the cops are trying to get access to the red light cameras. Washington is one of the few states that prohibit the use of the cameras for anything than its traffic control purpose.

      I’m sure you are thinking, I’m not a criminal … I don’t have anything to fear. Are you so sure you haven’t violated the law today? There are many crimes that Law Enforcement write tickets/summons for that they could actually arrest you and put you in jail until your trial or you make bail. This is something that the Legislature should address. Is it right that you get hauled to jail for a misdemeanor? I think, in theory, you could be put in jail for not buckling your seat belt.

    • saltycracker says:

      Ga Tech & tiny black helo-drones – been driving & fantasizing about the potential if we had them in college – we had the best looking sorority gals in the U.S. at F.S.U. and we did suspect they had illegal beer & such in their house !

  3. Three Jack says:

    We already live in a semi-police state with cameras viewing much of what we do. Cops are able to conduct roadblocks for ‘public safety’ purposes. There are Homeland Security vehicles cruising local areas, military exercises conducted in the woods of north Georgia and so many other activities conducted by the government. The barn doors opened long ago, adding drones to the mix will happen no matter how many oppose…it is inevitable.

  4. seenbetrdayz says:

    I thought Britain was bad for their ‘christmas trees of cameras’.

    But I also think that there’s a great deal of irrationality behind the push for drone surveillance. I can’t claim to be an expert on terrorism, but it would seem to me that we’ve done pretty well in fending off attacks without drone surveillance since 9/11, and that’s been 11 years. I don’t think that terrorists are watching this debate and thinking, “Okay, if they ban domestic surveillance, we’ll attack. But if they legalize drone surveillance without warrants, then, shucks, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

    I think there’s a “plateau” that government reaches where it has done basically all it can do to keep you safe, and everything after that point is just ‘overkill’.

  5. saltycracker says:

    No warrant, no deal

    It is an American tradition to talk your wife/girlfriend into skinny dipping at the lake and we cannot give her one excuse to deny!

  6. mountainpass says:

    I don’t see this as a tin foil issue. These things are real. I can see copious amounts of taxpayer monies being spent(already are at the top) on these things at all layers of government. Does the county sheriff need one? Of course he does, he already has a tank http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLMq6ldwr1E .

    There are several types of these drones: planes, hovering wings( http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/07/maple-seed-drones-will-swarm-the-future.php ), and helicopters. I see the 4th Amendment being abused from the start. On my private property(we still have this right?), do I own any airspace? If so do I own to the top of the trees? How about I own the airspace up to 150 feet?

    Do we really want to live in a world where you are sitting on your back porch admiring the back forty when out of the blue you spy a small hummingbird size drone as it eases out of the sky to peer in your bathroom window at your wife?

    No longer will “Get Off My Lawn!” suffice, now it will be “Get Outta My Sky!”

  7. xdog says:

    How hard is it to shoot down a mini-drone, say with a 12 gauge, modified choke? Or using a slingshot for that matter?

  8. I Miss the 90s says:

    An all out ban seems typical of conservatives while a Democrat is in office. 3 years ago there would have been no debate.

    Predator drones have all sorts of uses other than surveillance, but the surveillance aspect has several useful implications for law enforcement. I have seen many here say they are fine with it so long as there is a warrant. Of course. This is what liberals have been saying since the PATRIOT Act and its since-struck-down components that authorized blank-warrants (although that does not change the fact that you all fell for the line that Max Cleland was a terrorist sympathizer).

    Aside from criminal investigations, however, there are many uses for drones in disaster situations. For one, nobody needs a warrant to use a drone to monitor rioting and looting. In such situations the drone would act similarly to a security camera.

    On top of that, drones can be used as roaming cell towers in disaster areas and to serve for survivors. They can probably be used to search for missing hikers as well.

    That is all I could come up with from what I have read and thought up in ten minutes, but it is important that this technology is used responsibly and in accord with our rights. It is far more straight-forward that the paranoid conservatives like Krauthammer. We already have decades of precedent established regarding the use of surveillance equipment. The only difference between that precedent and the Predator drone is that the drone can fly…and even then there is plenty of case law establishing limits on the use of surveillance equipment from helicopters and manned airplanes.

    This is all much ado about nothing.

    • Calypso says:

      “The only difference between that precedent and the Predator drone is that the drone can fly…”

      Not disagreeing with you totally, but some concern might be because the drone can fly over private property to surveil, where mounted security cameras would be capable of only looking to that direction from a fixed point.

      Just a point you may have not thought about.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      And probably has about as useful in catching terrorists.

      My guess is that if they have enough evidence on someone to go through the effort of tracking his/her daily routines with a drone, they might as well go ahead and arrest the person and put them on trial.

      I’m still torn between whether these drones will be practical, or maybe just another one of those things the government does to try to make people think it’s doing something useful, like searching nuns and handicapped kids at airports.

    • Calypso says:

      But the Google Maps car can’t drive around in my acreage in my woods and pastures behind my home, theoretically speaking of course, because I actually live on a half-acre lot in the suburbs, but you get my point.

        • Calypso says:

          True. That’s why suspended a 100′ by 200′ camouflage net over my entire property. It also helps with noise abatement from the rotor chop of those black helos flying around all the time.

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