Ky. lawmaker floats anti-UAV law

The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act would require police to get a warrant before using aerial drones to surveil U.S. citizens


Investor's Business Daily

The junior senator from Kentucky seeks to protect the Fourth Amendment from the advance of technology and require that all forms of surveillance by law enforcement require a warrant from a judge.

Does the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures include aerial surveillance of your house and property? Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., thinks so.

He introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would require the government to get a warrant before using aerial drones to surveil U.S. citizens.

"Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued," Paul said Tuesday. "Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics."

We live in an age awash with cameras in stores, banks, parking lots, and most public places. Many cities have red light cameras at intersections to catch scofflaws and cameras on neighborhood corners to monitor gangs and other bad guys lurking in high-crime neighborhoods. Police cars are constantly on patrol.

The operative word here is public and in these situations the expectation of privacy does not apply. Certainly as we fight an ongoing war on terror we tolerate, despite the excesses, an invasion of our privacy in the form of body scans, luggage searches and the like.

We accept these actions because they aid law enforcement in its legitimate duty and help protect us from the dangerous and the criminal.

The argument is that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. Yet we know the store is looking for shoplifters, the camera on that pole is looking for people running red lights or gangbangers selling drugs. We can see the police car driving down the street. We can't see the drone over our house as we barbecue with friends and family.

To tap our phones or search our premises, law enforcement must go before a judge and demonstrate that there is probable cause that a crime is being or has been committed. How are these things different from a drone flying over our homes taking pictures of our homes and equipped perhaps with infrared and radar that can "see" through the walls of our homes?

Sen. Paul says his bill allows exceptions "such as the patrol of our national borders, when immediate action is needed to prevent "imminent danger to life,' and when we are under a high risk of a terrorist attack."

In all other situations, he suggests we put a bell on the government cat.

As we have reported, the Environmental Protection Agency has been flying drones over the farm belt looking for violations of the Clean Water Act. Such drones pick up footage of the farm, but also any activity on it by the farmer and the family. Is this a legitimate function of government?

With whom is all this data being shared, and just who is watching the watchers?

"Our Founding Fathers had no idea that there would be remote-control drones with television monitors that can feed back live data instantaneously--but if they had, they would have made darn sure that these things were subject to the Fourth Amendment (protecting individual privacy)," Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told Fox News.

Giving law enforcement every possible tool to protect us would seem to be a good thing, but that must be balanced against the protections of our liberty. Americans have a right to privacy, the presumption of innocence, and a right to be secure in their homes (and backyards) from unwanted and unwarranted surveillance.

Benjamin Franklin once said that those who are willing to trade liberty for security deserve neither. And, history shows, they are likely to wind up with neither.

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