The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to soon start approving licenses that will allow unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol America’s sky, but Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to make sure that civil liberties aren’t lost along the way.
Sen. Paul, the son of Republican presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced legislation before Congress on Tuesday that aims to ensure that Americans aren’t unlawfully spied on by unmanned drone aircraft.
In explaining his reasoning behind the creation of the bill, the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012, the senator says that he isn’t adamantly opposed to drones themselves, but instead is concerned over how the government may use the unmanned vehicles to conduct clandestine surveillance of law-abiding citizens.
"Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued. Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics," Sen. Paul writes in a statement published on his official website.
Offering further explanation this week to CNN, Sen. Paul says, “I’m not against technology per se,” but rather, “What I am for are the constitutional processes that protect our civil liberties. So, you know, it’s not like I’m against the police using cars or against them using airplanes or helicopters or robots. But I am for personal privacy for saying that no policeman will ever do this without asking a judge for permission.”
Particularly, the legislation calls for a law that “prohibits the use of drones by the government except when a warrant is issued for its use in accordance with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”
That isn’t to say that the senator’s proposal is free of exceptions, though: while most American citizens will be spared from unwarranted drone surveillance, Paul’s bill will still allow for the aircraft to be used to patrol America’s borders with neighboring countries, during instances where there is a high rick of terrorist attack or “when law enforcement possesses reasonable suspicion that under particular circumstances, swift drone action is necessary to prevent ‘imminent danger to life.’”
Another section of the act outlines that any person can sue the government for violating the law, if implemented.
“What I would say is that drones can be used if you have a proper warrant,” Paul tells CNN. “But that means you go through a judge. A judge has to say there is probable cause of a crime. But I don’t want drones roaming across, crisscrossing our cities and our country snooping on Americans. And that’s the surveillance state that I’m very concerned about. And that’s what our bill would stop.”