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Sunday, May 19, 2013

House Judiciary Committee drone hearing: one step closer to legislation restricting drone use

Chris Calabrese of the ACLU
delivers his testimony 
Madison Ruppert

The House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing yesterday examining the privacy implications of allowing aerial drones into domestic airspace, setting the stage for potential legislation restricting the use of drones.

While drones are already used across the U.S. by more entities than we know, by 2015 the airspace will be opened up to much more widespread use. That said, local law enforcement agenciesCustoms and Border ProtectionNational Guard unitsU.S. Marshalsthe militaryprivate entitiescolleges and many more have already flown or are planning to fly drones domestically.

During the hearing, the participants referred to H.R. 637 introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). Poe previously said that the Judiciary Committee could move to limit drone use and that it is looking increasingly likely.

H.R. 637, or the “Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013” was introduced on February 13, 2013 and would place at least some restrictions on drone use at the federal level. Meanwhile, legislation is being considered in states across the countryMultiple municipalities have passed anti-drone resolutions as well.

During the hearing, individuals from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Brookings Institution, Boston University School of Law and Pepperdine University School of Law raised many concerns surrounding drone use.

You can see the hearing here or here.

Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU, said that drones make it possible to track specific individuals with multiple drones and pose significant harms if left unchecked.

“Manned aircraft are expensive to purchase,” Calabrese said. “Drones’ low cost and flexibility erode that natural limit. Small hovering platforms can explore hidden spaces or peer in windows and large, static blimps enable continuous long-term monitoring, all for significantly less than the cost of a plane or helicopter.”

Current laws lag behind hat is needed and federal privacy protection is spotty, Calabrese said. As such, the ACLU is backing H.R. 637, he added.

“Weapons developed on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan have no place in the United States,” Calabrese said. “There is a consensus forming on this issue. In fact, both the Heritage Foundation and the International Association of Chiefs of Police both support sharp limits on weaponized drones.”

At one point, Pepperdine University School of Law’s Gregory McNeal referenced ARGUS –technology which I covered in the past – in order to demonstrate how far drone-based technology has advanced.

Tracey Maclin, of the Boston University School of Law, also described surveillance cameras capable of thermal imaginglicense plate reading, and facial recognition technology that can track individuals based on their height, age, gender or skin color.

Calabrese “concurred and took the argument one step further, explaining that such information can be tied to sensitive location data pinged from an individual’s cell phone – resulting in continuous, long-term monitoring,” as Sandra Fulton of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office pointed out.
The four experts were divided on what actions Congress should take to address the problems raised by drones, but as the Associated Press put it, “the four witnesses all agreed that drones raised new, often unprecedented questions about domestic surveillance.”

Many of the members of congress expressed serious concerns about how drones could be used in the future.

“At what point do you think it’s going to get to a point where we have to say what a reasonable expectation of privacy is?” asked Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.).

“It seems to me that Congress needs to set the standard, rather than wait and let the courts set the standard,” Poe said.

McNeal, however, believes that it would be a mistake for Congress just to act on drones. Instead, McNeal said that if they want to act, they should set borad standards for surveillance or what it means to have a realistic expectation of privacy.

“A technology-centered approach to privacy is the wrong approach,” McNeal said, drawing parallels to privacy concerns raised by the rapid development of the Internet in the 1990s.

Calabrese urged Congress to act fast and mark up H.R. 637. Many of the representatives who spoke seemed to be willing to act; it’s just a matter of how and when.

How the story actually put anyone in danger, even if the AP is lying about getting the story cleared by the government, is unclear.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM - 9 PM PT/10 PM - 12 AM ET. Show page link here:http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at
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