Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act this past Tuesday, which would require the government to obtain a warrant before using aerial drones to run surveillance on the United States. Paul says the bill’s purpose is to prevent “unwarranted governmental intrusion” through the use of drones.
“Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued,” Paul said. “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.”
Senate bill, S. 3287, would require the government to obtain a warrant to use drones with except when patrolling national borders, when they are needed to prevent “imminent danger to life” or when there is the risk of a terrorist attack. The bill would also allow Americans to sue the government for violating the act. And it would prohibit evidence collected with warrantless drone surveillance from being used as evidence in court.
While drone surveillance in the United States would undoubtedly prove controversial, the use of drones is currently a topic of international concern. Some Democrats have said the use of drones to disrupt terrorist networks is hurting America’s image overseas. The United Nations is considering an investigation into drone airstrikes inside Pakistan, which could focus on the rate of civilian casualties caused by these attacks.
Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to move toward allowing drones to fly alongside commercial aircraft in U.S. airspace by 2015. The FAA is planning a pilot program to test fly drones in six locations, but will not set the rules for what the unmanned aircraft can be used for.
Law enforcement agencies and state and local governments have expressed a strong interest in unmanned aircraft, and are being courted as potential customers by the booming drone industry. There is opposition, however, from groups at opposite ends of the political spectrum.