Democrat Legislator Admits That Drone Bill Opponents Aren’t Concerned With Privacy


On the Legislature Today radio program last night host Dale Wetzel had on Rep. Rick Becker – who is sponsoring legislation to require that law enforcement obtain a warrant before using surveillance drones in a criminal investigation – and state Senator Carolyn Nelson who opposes that legislation.

You can listen to the entire interview here, but during the discussion Senator Nelson said something I found pretty revealing about what the priorities of opponents to Rep. Becker’s bill really are.

“Were you fairly assured that the folks coming in to testify against the bill had civil liberties and personal privacy at the forefront of their mind,” asked Wetzel.

Senator Nelson’s blunt answer? “No.”

Wetzel followed up asking, “don’t you think that’s a little scary?” to which Senator Nelson dissembled for a bit, making some noises about how privacy was a part of the directives for proposed UAV research at UND, before finally admitting that parochial and economic interests trump civil liberties.

“After listening to this it is clear to me our rights are for sale for a little bit of economic development money,” a reader emailed me about the interview.

That seems to be the case.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • RCND

    This attitude is clearly why this bill has to pass. Hopefully it will. If it does, I am actually more concerned Dalrymple will veto it and sell our rights down the road because he is never one willing to pass up “free” money no matter the real cost

  • ND Observer

    Legislators would agree there is a problem with civil liberties and personal privacy if there was evidence or examples that law enforcement has a track record of being intruding on privacy already. There is little factual evidence of that problem. Then why should there be a problem with the UAS? It is easy to draw the conclusion that support for this bill is based on irrational fear and scare tactics without facts and evidence.

    • Rob

      Legislators would agree there is a problem with civil liberties and personal privacy if there was evidence or examples that law enforcement has a track record of being intruding on privacy already.

      That’s just plain silly.

      We’re supposed to wait until there’s an abuse before we put in protection against abuse? We should wait until drones are proliferated through our law enforcement communities before we put in place guidelines and protections for their use?

      That’s not irrational, and it’s telling that people like you are so dismissive.

      • ND Observer

        Conservatives and libertarians do not believe lawmakers should be making all sorts of laws based on fear and speculation and maybe’s and if’s. We need fewer laws, not more, and this is how we get so many laws that that are useless.

        It is silly to make laws without a real need.

        • Rob

          There’s always need to put in place guidelines for law enforcement’s use of new technology.

          I’d rather not wait until someone has their privacy violated before we pass a bill to protect them.

          I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why it’s such a hardship to expect law enforcement to get a warrant.

          Nobody is making that argument, because the real problem isn’t getting the warrant. The real problem is this idea that this law will cost UND the UAV program.

          Economic development trumps civil liberties.


          • Dave

            Playing Devil’s advocate: one could (not necessarily me) say “Economic development trumps environmental concerns. Pathetic.”

            I think it just boils down to what a person’s values are and where they fall on the ideological spectrum. Passionate arguments can be made either way, with no real chance of convincing the opposing view point.

          • ND Observer

            Law Enforcement does agree there needs to be rules to protect privacy. The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a policy for use of UAS to ensure they are used safely, responsibly and respect privacy. These regulations won praise from the ACLU. Here they are:

            Additionally the Association Unmanned Vehicle Systems Intl (AUVSI) issued a Code of Conduct which addresses the safe and responsible use of UAS that respects privacy.

            And the US Senate Judiciary Committee has set a meeting for March 20th on UAS privacy issues in the US., Let Congress take the lead as we do not need a patchwork of state laws.

            There is no need for this law, and there is a significant upside by being a UAS test site – esp in agriculture and energy.

            When civil liberties are not being threatened except by fear and maybe’s and what if’s; then we should put these two $11 B industries first.

          • Lynn Bergman

            We should put diversification of our economy first, by lowering taxes; Then we won’t struggle when oil or ag hiccups.

          • Hal801

            Congress and state legislatures need to do their jobs and pass laws that put reasonable restrictions on what they deem to be invasive activity. If they don’t, they are shirking their responsibility of good governance.

      • Dave

        But, conversely, you argue a lot against creating new laws, creating unneeded protections and imposing nanny statism before there are problems to justify them.

        • Rob

          I don’t think a requirement that law enforcement get a warrant to use a drone falls into the category of “nanny statism.”

          • Dave

            No, you are right, it does not. I was focusing more on the other two examples that I listed: creation of new laws and the other creation of new protections — before they are shown they are needed. That said — I am sure you have argued on this board against many, if not all, nanny state impositions (that merit great enough need to comment) on the grounds that there is no proven need for them — did you not?

          • Rob

            Yes, I use that argument a lot.

            But are you arguing that there’s no proven need for protections against police power? Because I don’t think that’s true at all. The need for protection against the abuse of police power is demonstrated all the time.

          • Dave

            I’m not saying that at all. I was just looking for consistency in ideology. And I think you are getting closer to doing that with this last comment. Although I think you are right that abuses of policing power does happen “all the time,” I have seen opposing view points on here use that same kind of general blanket statement to bolster their side ,saying that things need to be protected because abuses or injustices or harm or threats of harm are happening “all the time.”

          • Rob

            I’m not understanding your point.

            Since the very founding of this country we have acknowledged that it is right and proper to restrain police and prosecutorial powers. That’s why we have the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments, just to name a few.

            Arguing that we shouldn’t put in place protections against police power because an abuse hasn’t yet happened is a little ridiculous.

            We have to wait until someone has their privacy violated to put a protection in place? that makes no sense. Especially given that law enforcement doesn’t even have drones yet. Before they get them, we should have guidelines in place for how they’re to be used.

          • Hoth

            He seems to be equating laws that protect us from government intrusion and over reach with laws that are intended to protect us from ourselves.

    • RCND

      The bill sponsor himself heard from law enforcement (listen to the tape) that law enforcement wants to use the drones to gather information to shop for warrants with. That of itself is a big enough problem to warrant the law.

    • Hal801

      If you aren’t doing warrantless searches now the state bill shouldn’t affect you.

  • Roy_Bean

    It seems that a favorite line in the law enforcement community is “if you aren’t doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear”, unless the public wants to film them. I bet you won’t see any drones circling above any police stations.

  • Hal801

    As she said, the people who testified were there to protect their own interests. The ND Senate needs to protect the citizens interests. The bill allows all the testing and training you want. No 4th amendment drone searches without a warrant.

  • Say it

    I would like to see the legislation passed. It can always be changed in a future legislative session.