Kentucky Bill Seeks to Nullify Warrantless Drone Spying

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The Kentucky legislature will consider a bill in the 2014 legislative session that would take significant steps towards protecting people there from prying eyes in the sky.

Representatives Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park) and Brent Yonts (D-Greenville) have introduced House Bill 11 (HB11). If passed, the act would prohibit the use of drones by Kentucky state law enforcement and other agencies without a warrant in most cases.

The bill states that “No prohibited agency shall use a drone carrying a lethal payload” and that “no prohibited agency shall use a drone to gather evidence or other information” without a search warrant. Prohibited agencies include state law enforcement agencies, domestic or foreign corporations, foreign governmental or intergovernmental entities and any agent of any prohibited agency.

The legislation also makes any evidence gathered in violation of the law inadmissible in court.

The act does make exceptions allowing the use of drones for gathering information when the proper legal process has been followed and for training by active service members of the United States military stationed in Kentucky.

While some might find the exceptions troubling, it represents a huge improvement over the status quo. As it stands now, law enforcement can use drones in Kentucky with absolutely no restrictions. This bill stops drone use without a warrant in most cases.

The legislation does not address drone use by the federal government, but Tenth Amendment Center’s executive director Michael Boldin said that this kind of bill does have significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington is pushing and funding drone use in the states.

“The feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” he said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance  information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”

In fact, the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power.

The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once they create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing.’  Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.

HB11 was prefiled April 11, 2013 and referred to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary to start the 2014 legislative session.

ACTION ITEMS

If you live in Kentucky

1. Contact committee members and ask them to move the Citizens’ Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act out of committee for a floor vote. You can find committee member contact information HERE.

2. Contact your own senator and ask him or her to support the Citizens’ Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act You can find legislator contact information HERE.

3.  Share this information widely.  Please pass this along to your friends and family.  Also share it with any and all grassroots groups you’re in contact with around the state.  Please encourage them to email this information to their members and supporters.

LEGISLATION AND TRACKING 

If you don’t live in Kentucky, encourage your representative and senator to introduce legislation to stop drone use. You can track efforts nationwide HERE. You can find model legislation HERE.

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