Drones Capable Of Snooping On Guns And Communications

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The North Dakota state House has passed a bill (HB1373) on to the state Senate which would require that law enforcement obtain a warrant to use a surveillance drone as part of a criminal investigation. The bill passed the House despite hostility from the law enforcement community one legislator describing proponents of the bill as “anti-law enforcement” and members of the “black helicopter crowd” during the floor debate.

I actually debated a member of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association on the Jay Thomas Show last month, and he claimed that warrants for drones weren’t necessary because cops can already fly over your house with helicopters and airplanes and take pictures. So what’s the big deal, they ask?

Well, the big deal (aside from the fact that, if helicopters and drones were truly equal, why are law enforcement agencies so hot on drones?) is that these unmanned aerial vehicles can do a lot more than helicopters and airplanes, such as be equipped with the ability to detect who is and is not carrying a firearm and to snoop on communications. Declan McCullagh writes that the feds are already using that sort of equipment domestically:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.

The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department’s unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States’ northern and southern borders but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think law enforcement should have to get a warrant before using this sort of technology on private citizens. There’s not much the North Dakota legislature can do about the federal use of drones, but certainly if state law enforcement is going to have access to this sort of technology in the future we need laws in place to ensure appropriate, constitutional use.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. 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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Hal801

    “There’s not much the North Dakota legislature can do about the federal
    use of drones, but certainly if state law enforcement is going to have
    access to this sort of technology in the future we need laws in place to
    ensure appropriate, constitutional use.”

    Except that federally operated drones have been used on behalf of local law enforcement and the ND House bill would require a warrant in that instance.

    When is the ND Senate going to take up the “drone” bill?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Not sure some time after crossover.

  • RCND

    Once again the police fail to point out that manned aircraft have to stay 1000 ft off the ground over a city and 500 ft off the ground over more rural areas. They are more than free to roam around above those levels. Drones, however, will operate below those levels and thus can get a lot closer to where they want to look. Drones are also much cheaper to buy and operate than manned aircraft are.

    Will they be a great tool for law enforcement? Most definitely. But with this tool comes the responsibility to not violate civil liberties. The ND bill will better ensure that happens

  • Camburn

    The real question is:
    Why aren’t search warrants required when using helicopters and airplaines?????????

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    From the DC Examiner:

    Virginia seeks to become test site for drones, but also may ban them

    Seems familiar somehow ….http://washingtonexaminer.com/virginia-seeks-to-become-test-site-for-drones-but-also-may-ban-them/article/2523034

  • ec99

    As long as enough cops substitute “To Protect and to Serve” with “To Arrest and to Convict”, to close a case in spite of guilt or innocence to clear the decks, view all citizens as prospective criminals, believe that their only friends can be other cops, falsify reports to protect each other…in short, a mindset which has been documented by numerous studies, we need protection from them.

  • John_Wayne_American

    After Homeland Insecuity doles our our states allotment of 52 armored trucks, and a few million rds of hollow points, the little drone circling your house will be the least of your worries…

    • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

      I think it’s just a matter of time before drones are used here in the USA.

      • $8194357

        The spy in the sky been watching us for awhile, IMO.

        • Ray Seltz

          Who’s us? You got a turd in your pocket?

          • $8194357

            Oh Ray ray…
            How third grade of you, huh.

          • Ray Seltz

            Have you got around to spitting out the government teat yet?

          • $8194357

            Your delusional Ray ray.

  • JoeMN
    • $8194357

      PETA
      People Eating Tasty Animals

  • yy4u2

    Police love the law. They dislike following it.

  • $8194357

    We need to keep the “heavy hand” of government off its own people and for our defense like the Constitution requires. A limited and restricted Federal reach.

  • Mike Peterson

    Look, let’s not beat around the bush here. Let’s not refuse to say things just because they don’t have some obnoxious degree of political correctness. The fact is, we – as in our country – are at an arms race with itself. The People are buying up guns and ammo on a level never seen before. And so is the entire civilian branch of the federal government. And it’s very clear, unless you deliberately have your head in the sand, that the reason they’re arming themselves to the teeth is because the homeland is the target. What does that tell you? That both the People and the Government are maxing out on guns, ammo, and domestic warfare tech such as these drones? I’m going to go ahead and say the unsaid and I openly share who I am with everybody- this is a society that is very sick, and it is also a society that is preparing for war with itself.

  • Hellboy

    The drones would have a hard time discerning who had a gun if everyone would carry a six inch piece of black steel pipe on their person as everyone would appear to have a gun…….. sometimes you have to go back to the basics to fight technology…Cell phone intrusion presents a different problem. Regardless, both actions seem to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

  • ND Observer

    The biggest threat to privacy is not a drone, but the camera on the ubiquitous smart phone. A cop with a cell phone will capture more info than a camera in a drone flying hundreds of feet overhead, Law enforcement can fly any manned aircraft overhead and take photos now with all sorts of cameras and sensors. The only difference is that the drone can stay longer in the air than a plane cause it does not have to come down to pee.

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