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Preserving American Privacy Act would limit domestic drone spying, ban killer drones

Bipartisan privacy bill aims to protect Americans' privacy from warrantless domestic drone spying and ban armed drones above U.S. soil.

The Preserving American Privacy Act (PAPA) [PDF] bill is meant to protect American's privacy rights from the domestic drones. It has bipartisan support and was introduced by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) to "provide for a legal framework for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems."

After the leaked Justice Department whitepaper about drones [PDF], Packet Storm wrote, "Drone attacks to be allowed stateside, what can go wrong?" Indeed. And when it comes to President Obama's drone assassination policy, former Vice President Dick Cheney is a big fan. This should speak volumes. In an interview with CBS News's Charlie Rose, Cheney called Obama's armed drone strikes policy a "good program." Rep. Poe and Rep. Lofgren are out to insure that weaponized drones are not used over U.S. soil.

Both Representatives are also concerned about our Constitutional rights and how drones could easily disregard our Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. PAPA would limit warrantless drone use. Rep. Lofgren stated, "The expanded use of drones on U.S. soil raises serious Constitutional and civil liberties issues that Congress needs to address." Rep. Poe added, "Legitimate uses by government and private citizens do occur, but a nosy neighbor or a Big Brother government does not have the right to look into a window without legitimate cause or, in the case of the government, probable cause."

The bill stipulates that government-operated unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) "must obtain a warrant to collect information that can identify individuals in a private area." Among other specifications, the government would have to post a public notice before information can be collected that identify people in public areas. There are exceptions, like for "emergencies" and "border security." Rep. Lofgren has provided a section-by-section break-down [PDF] of the bill.

Before reintroducing the Preserving American Privacy Act, Representative Poe stated, "It doesn't take a constitutional law professor to see why legislation is needed to protect the rights of the American people. The right of a reasonable expectation of privacy is a constitutional right. Any form of snooping or spying, surveillance or eavesdropping goes against the rights that are outlined in the Constitution." A PAPA provision addresses this: "Private UAS cannot capture visual images or sound recordings of individuals engaging in personal activities in certain circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy."

Representative Poe said:

As we enter this uncharted world of drone technology, Congress must be proactive and establish boundaries for drone use that safeguard the Constitutional rights of Americans. Individuals are rightfully concerned that these new eyes in the sky may threaten their privacy. It is the obligation of Congress to ensure that this does not happen. Just because Big Brother can look into someone's backyard doesn't mean it should. Technology may change, but the Constitution does not.

Last year, regarding another piece of legislation, "Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano warned about the "coming use of drones - some as small as golf balls - to watch us, listen to us and record us. Did you consent to the government having that power? Did you consent to the American military spying on Americans in America? I don't know a single person who has, but I know only a few who are complaining."

It's time for us all to raise our voices and be heard because domestic drone surveillance is coming, complete with facial recognition and other invasive capabilities. Some drones are "indestructible" and some are the size of insects. You don't want to smile for the drones as your local cops fly them overhead. "We" did it for SOPA, we can do it again. As Rep. Poe said, "We don't have time to wait until 2030 when there are 30,000 drones in the sky."

Read the Preserving American Privacy Act [PDF].

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