Saturday, July 20, 2013

Drone Warfare, No Need for a Bounty, This one is on me

Drone Warfare, No Need for a Bounty, This one is on me

By: Julia Sieben /
Recently I wrote an editorial about the small town of Deer Trail, Colorado, drafting a bill to issue drone hunting permits, including bounties paid for successful kills.  This town is now experiencing the throws of being placed into the national arena from what one would call a novelty.

Partly an earnest attempt to raise cash flow in a town that is only known for being the home of the first rodeo in the world, the sleepy town with a population of approximately 500 has gained not only the attention of hunters, but also Patriots, and Washington DC.

The FAA released a statement Friday in response to Deer Trail’s new ordinance that is under consideration.  The FAA administration out of Washington, DC made notice to the public in this statement that they regulate the nation’s airspace, including the airspace over cities, towns and residences.  FAA warned that firing guns at any drones would be endangering the public and property, and any violations could result in prosecution or fines.

In the statement it said, “A drone hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air.  Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”

As stated in our previous editorial, Deer Trail would grant the hunting permits to shoot down drones for a fee of $25.00, and award in a bounty $100.00 for any successful kill.  Authentication of any downed drone would be an identifiable piece of the drone.  All permits issued would be kept anonymous, only requiring limitations that the petitioner was 21 years old or older, used Joe Biden’s choice of weapon (a shotgun), and that the recipient spoke English.

When Deer Trail resident Phillip Steel, author of the bill, was interviewed he indicated that he already had 28 signatures.  Under Colorado law, any petition that obtains 10 percent of an areas registered voter’s signatures, must be formally considered for adoption or put on the ballot for the next election. Mr. Steel has met this requirement, and anticipates that the counsel shall take up the bill in August.
“I don’t want to live in a surveillance society. I don’t feel like being in a virtual prison,” Steel said. “This is a pre-emptive strike.” As we previously quoted in our earlier edition.

When asked about the FAA warning to Deer Trail, Steel dismissed the warning,. “The FAA doesn’t have the power to make a law,” he said.

Actually what some may dismiss as a ranting of a redneck, gun toting, crazy conservative is mostly correct.  The FAA which is in charge of establishing regulations for the use of unmanned drones is far behind in developing the regulations.  Congress gave the agency until 2015, but very little is enacted law.  Most all the regulations are who can apply for a license to fly the drones, the airspace in which these drones may fly, and the qualifications of the type of drones.

What is not addressed is the use of these drones.  There are no limitations or requirements for licensing of any drone that is classified as a hobbyist.  Small drones, under twenty-five pounds, flown during daylight hours, and under the 400 feet above surface is pretty limitless.  In fact, as brought to our awareness by an article in USA Today, Blue Eye Investigations, touts the advertisement on their page, “authorized to operate aerial drone surveillance,” featuring a photo of Blue Eye’s eye-in-the-sky,  a large, mechanical spider lifted by four rotor blades, carrying a video camera under a glass dome.  Blue Eye’s business is a private investigation company.  One of those shady, sleazy companies that make a livelihood lurking in bushes and behind blacked out glass, while the take pictures of the cars in your drive way or peep in your windows.

Their ad even continues as such: “Blue Eye Investigation is now the ONLY Private Investigation firm in Kentucky currently authorized to operate areal Drone surveillance. What vehicles are located at the residence? Should he be working on the roof?? —I thought he was on workman’s comp? Who is he with??…His wife is in Chicago!”

In fact the owner of Blue Eye Investigations was questioned by USA Today about his claim on his website.  Richard Travelstead, owner of Blue Eye in Louisville, Ky., confesses that his site’s message contains what he calls a bit of marketing, given that no one authorized him to use his drone.

No one has to authorize him to spy on you on your private property, the rules and regulations of the FAA exempt him from such a license.

It is not the “Richard Travelsteads of America” most Americans are worried about, as the residents of Deer Trail, it’s the government.  In fact until recently, use of drones inside our borders was basically denied by governmental officials, until it was disclosed that the FBI has been using them on a regular basis to monitor citizens.

FBI Director Robert Mueller revealed at the Judiciary Committee held June 19, 2013 that the bureau uses drones to conduct surveillance on U.S. soil. When Mueller was asked if the bureau had developed a set of policies governing drone use and privacy protections, Mueller said that such a process was just starting.

We are in the initial stages of doing that,” Mueller said, emphasizing that the FBI drone program was in the nascent stages. “I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few of limited use, and we’re exploring not only the use, but the necessary guidelines for that use.”

Feinstein asked again on what protections the FBI has in place to protect privacy; Mueller said the main safeguard is the way the drones are used.

It is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs,” Mueller said. “That is the principal privacy limitation we have.”

In other words, if they have a need then that is the only privacy limit, they have.  There are none. They enacted a secret use of drones on US soil, with no regard to any citizen’s Constitutional rights, or the violation thereof. 

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), an Intelligence Committee member who has been critical of government surveillance. He found it troubling that the FBI had not yet developed a policy to govern its drone use.

Unmanned aerial systems have the potential to more efficiently and effectively perform law enforcement duties, but the American people expect the FBI and other government agencies to first and foremost protect their constitutional rights,” Udall said in a statement. “I am concerned the FBI is deploying drone technology while only being in the ‘initial stages’ of developing guidelines to protect Americans’ privacy rights. I look forward to learning more about this program and will do everything in my power to hold the FBI accountable and ensure its actions respect the U.S. Constitution.”

With present‐day imaging capabilities, it would be an easy matter to use a UAS (or a manned aircraft) within navigable airspace to acquire imagery that includesintimate details.”

For example, a government UAS at an altitude of several hundred feet could identify the topic of an electronic or paper news article being read by a person sitting in his or her fenced‐in backyard. A strong case could be made that these observations, even when made from public navigable airspace, would be unconstitutional in the absence of a warrant.

When law enforcement officers wiretap a phone pursuant to a warrant, a great deal of privacy is lost, but ultimately some minimal privacy is still maintained. For example, a tapped phone does not provide images of the interior of a home. But with UAS, the implication that a search warrant should have some limits is not unreasonable. Imagery acquired by UAS pursuant to a warrant could lead to profound violations of privacy for both a suspect and the other residents of a house.  It is one thing for a wiretap to capture the private conversations of a suspect’s spouse. It is quite another for a UAS, hovering in a backyard and taking pictures through a window (or in the future, hiding unseen inside the house), to acquire images that might show an occupant of the house in a state of undress. To assert that the government, even when armed with a warrant, has an unfettered right to acquire, store, and view such images raises significant concerns. Thus, questions of UAS privacy do not end with the issuance of a warrant.

According to data released in early 2012 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the FAA had issued “about 700–750 authorizations since the program began in 2006,” of which approximately 300 remained active as of April 2012. In February of 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released information that an additional 81 county and city law enforcement agencies had applied for certificates of authorization from the FAA so that they could operate drones in their localities. Most law enforcement agencies have sought acquisition of drones without notification of their community’s citizens or proposing policy that would govern the use of such drones.  Department of Homeland Security has been documented to be using Predator drones along the borders since 2007.  This makes me wonder why, since it has not stifled or slowed down the illegal traffic immigrating to the US for Federally offered programs, or the illicit drug trade that quickly migrates northward to Chicago and beyond.

Many states along with some municipalities are drawing up legislation to regulate local law enforcement agencies’ uses of drones. The ACLU and the Tenth Amendment Center have offered recommendations to these entities, which has been adopted by all but seven of the states who are drafting legislation.  Many are justified in the fear, that these bills and laws regulating the local law enforcement are nothing but meaningless acts to mollify the public rather than effectively protect the public’s civil liberties.

FAA officials have estimated that once regulations are in place, thousands of drones will be in use across the country for a wide variety of purposes.   Unfortunately, many of these are nefarious in purpose.  One such proposal, which resulted in legislation against certain uses of drones, was in the State of Idaho.  PETA announced their plans on the use of drone surveillance over farms and ranches, in order that they may look for violations of animal cruelty.  Farmers and ranchers created such uproar concerning the violation of their privacy that the State passed a drone privacy bill that specifically requires a farmer or rancher’s permission before a “farm, dairy, ranch or other agricultural industry” can be monitored with an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Now we have the liberal left defending the use of drones and threatening civil action if limits are made on private sector surveillance.  Margot Kaminski is one such advocate of private use of surveillance.  Kaminski, a scholar at Yale Law School, describes the approach to regulating privately operated drones as “kind of a disaster.”  She warns that regulations of private drone use could raise First Amendment problems,  “for example if you have a news organization hovering over a protest and videoing cops beating protesters, that’s really valuable for the First Amendment,”

Is anyone else shaking their head now?  I am about to go loading my shotgun out of spite of this woman who thinks her 1st  Amendment Rights gives her the right to violate my 4th Amendment right to privacy.  I do not really care what you do or video in public, but when it comes to flying over my house and spying on me without a warrant then you deserve a load of buckshot in the rear of your flying spy.

Ms. Kaminski, in reference to Idaho and Texas passing laws limiting the use of private drone surveillance as a violation of her 1st Amendment said, “There’s really not all that much out there that shows how the First Amendment and privacy law are supposed to intersect,” she says. She believes states like Idaho and Texas are “likely to end up with a ruling that says this doesn’t pass First Amendment muster.”

One of the main proponents of drone use has a lot riding on the limitless use and passage of drones. 

The drone industry trade group The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, immediately issued a statement along with FAA on the Deer Trail, Colorado drone hunting permit campaign.  Their warning contained comments such as “irresponsible, dangerous, and unlawful.” 

AUVSI according the information available has over 7000 members mostly contrived of governmental agencies, law enforcement, and academia.  Their last convention held in Las Vegas boasted of having more than 8,000 attendees and 500+ exhibitors from more than 40 countries, AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems North America is recognized as the leading event for the unmanned systems marketplace.   In other words, it’s BIG BUSINESS.

The FAA estimates that by 2020 there will be as many as 30,000 drones flying in U.S. airspace. The ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ may be exploding in popularity among war makers, defense contractors and police agencies but don’t call them “drones” — it makes industry leaders cringe at AUVSI.

The Deer Trail proposal is only a small community trying to raise a few coins for the coffers, while making a very noticeable statement about their privacy rights being violated by drones.   Is it realistic to shoot down a drone with a shotgun?  Probably not, unless you have a glider or hot air balloon to get up where the spies in the skies are, but it definitely may make people think a little bit more about their liberties they are losing.

As for me, I do not think I will bother purchasing a permit, unless it was for novelty sake,  I want to hedge my chances and use something with a little more power, and a lot farther range.  

Think it’s time to go ammo hunting.

With the exceptions noted below, almost all of the bills require law enforcement to get a probable cause warrant before using a drone in an investigation. 

If you see your state listed below, call your legislators and urge them to support privacy-protective drone legislation. (See here for an analysis of the content of drone legislation 
According to ACLU website: Legislation proposed in 42 states, enacted in 6 states, and still active in 27 states.

State Status Notes
Alabama Passed Senate committee
Alaska Resolution adoptedcreating drone task force; legislature adjourned without taking up other proposed legislation Task force is to recommend drone policies and legislation
Arizona Passed House Only protects U.S. citizens & includes carve-outs for drug crimes & human smuggling.
Arkansas Legislature adjourned without taking up proposed legislation
California Introduced
Florida Legislation enacted, goes into effect July 1, 2013.
Georgia Legislature adjourned without taking up proposed legislation Resolutions honoring the aerospace/drones industry also passed in both houses.
Hawaii Introduced
Idaho Legislation enacted, goes into effect July 1, 2013
Illinois Passed in House & Senate, on governor’s desk
Indiana “Study group” resolution passed Senate committee; bill introduced
Iowa Introduced
Kansas Introduced
Kentucky Introduced
Maine Passed both chambers, VETOED by governor
Maryland Introduced
Massachusetts Introduced
Michigan Introduced
Minnesota Introduced
Missouri Passed House
Montana Legislation enacted, goes into effect Oct. 1, 2013
Nebraska Introduced
Nevada Introduced
New Hampshire Dead for this year Passed House committee; tabled in House.
New Jersey Introduced
New Mexico Died in committee
New York Introduced
North Carolina Introduced
North Dakota Dead for this year Passed House, defeated in Senate.
Ohio Introduced
Oklahoma Dead for this year Bill held over until next session, replaced with call for interim study on drone privacy issues.
Oregon Passed both chambers, on governor’s desk
Pennsylvania Introduced
Rhode Island Introduced
South Carolina Passed House Committee
Tennessee Legislation enacted, goes into effect July 1
Texas Legislation enacted, goes into effect Sept. 1
Vermont Introduced
Virginia Legislation enacted, goes into effect July 1, 2013.
Washington Not brought up for full House vote before deadline, so dead for this session.
West Virginia Introduced
Wyoming Died in committee

Wyoming Died in committee

No comments:

Post a Comment