Drones over America: Lawmakers investigate domestic UAV use by Obama

Jim Kouri
Law Enforcement Examiner

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), held a hearing titled, “Using Unmanned Aerial Systems Within the Homeland: Security Game Changer?” on Thursday. It was a meeting that received scant media coverage considering the seriousness of the subject, according to several counterterrorism and legal experts.

According to some House lawmakers, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have enhanced surveillance capabilities for military operations abroad and have increasingly been used within the continental United States as part of homeland security, such as border security operations.

However, as of June 2012, President Barack Obama’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appointees have authorized about 60 private and government entities to operate UAVs in domestic airspace. The authorized entities include Federal, State and local law enforcement and academic institutions…

…Unfortunately, many lawmakers, law enforcement officials and civil libertarians have reservations about increased UAV use since no federal agency is taking responsibility for creating comprehensive policies and regulations concerning the use of these “spy-in-the-sky” systems domestically.

There are also lawmakers who are concerned with drones being fitted with weapons systems, as well, which would mean an end run around the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, that prohibits the use of the U.S. military domestically…

Read the complete article at Law Enforcement Examiner.

Update: Congress steps up efforts to regulate drones

…On Monday, Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican and former judge, will introduce the “Preserving American Privacy Act,” which sets strict limits on when, and for what purpose, law enforcement agencies and other entities can use unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

Drones are now being used on a limited basis by some police and federal departments, but they’ll be available for commercial and private use in 2015. Once they become widely available, lawmakers and Fourth Amendment advocates fear they’ll be abused, and that Americans’ privacy rights will be eroded.

“When we see a drone in the air, it should be no surprise to us. Now is the time to start, not 2015,” Mr. Poe said Friday. “With the increased technology of surveillance, Congress to be proactive in limiting drone use to law enforcement, and also protecting civilians from the private use of drones.”

The measure, which as of Friday had no co-sponsors and is open to changes, Mr. Poe said, would require judicial warrants before any agency could employ a drone. It also restricts the use of UAVs by any state or local entity “except in connection with the investigation of a felony,” the bill reads in part.

But the proposal goes beyond law enforcement, and also sets a rigid framework for the private use of drones, expected to be popular among news agencies, private investigators and others who could benefit from an unmanned eye in the sky.

Mr. Poe’s bill states that no “private person” can surveil another inidividual without their consent…

Update 2: VA Lawmaker to Introduce Domestic Drone Regulation Bill

What could bring together the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and one of Virginia’s most conservative state representatives? The specter of drones filling the skies of the United States. In a joint statement released July 17 by Virginia Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and the Virginia Chapter of the ACLU, the seemingly disparate pair announced plans to work to fight the unregulated use of drones by law enforcement in the Old Dominion…

Families of Americans killed by drones file suit

The families of three U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes in Yemen last year, including militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, filed a lawsuit Wednesday that accuses top CIA and U.S. military officials of violating the constitutional rights of those killed.

The lawsuit, which was prepared in part by the American Civil Liberties Union, represents the most direct legal challenge yet to the Obama administration’s decision to kill U.S. citizens in counter-terrorism operations without open due process measures or scrutiny from courts…

Pentagon orders $531 million worth of drones

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