February 22, 2013
Bi-partisan legislation to limit drone use within Washington state was approved Thursday 9-1 after a large group of people, from regular citizens to a former F.B.I. employee, came to show and voice their support.“I’m pleased the Committee moved H.B. 1771 with a ‘Do Pass’ recommendation. We’ve been working on the issue for several months and we have a lot of work left to do, but we passed the first hurdle today. It’s a great day for freedom and liberty in Washington State,” said Rep. David Taylor (R), the primary sponsor of the bill.
H.B. 1771 contains much needed guidelines statewide to limit drone use to protect the rights of Washington residents under the 4th Amendment as well as Article I, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution, while allowing drones to be used only after a warrant is issued or in certain emergency situations such as wildfire observation and search and rescue.
“This bill quite simply provides protection to the citizens of Washington state from warrantless surveillance. That’s our intent here. To start a conversation and say if these things are going to be used, you will protect the Constitutional rights of the citizens,” said Rep.Taylor.
Some of the guidelines in the bill state that any government group within Washington must get permission and be approved before even acquiring a drone. No personal information can be collected on an individual or area other than the target that justified the issuance of a search warrant.
The bill also requires any group using a drone to conduct annual comprehensive audits on all drone operations which will include the law enforcement log book, corresponding emergency telephone calls, warrants and other documentation of the justification for use and data collected. The audits will have to be made available to the public.
“The entire drone issue is not going to be solved with just this one bill, but this will get the law enforcement side under control because there are no clear guidelines out there right now for the use of these drones and we could put the state on the hook with liability if these drones are used in an improper manner,” said Rep. Matt Shea (R), another sponsor.
Citizens also raised concern over the recently leaked Department of Justice white paper that outlines the supposed legality of drone strikes on U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism even without any intelligence to show actual involvement in a plot to attack America.
“Drones are the equivalent of King George the III’s General Warrants. We must get their use by public agencies and law enforcement under control now to protect the people of Washington from warrantless searches and seizure. Just imagine what state environmental agencies could do with drones …. Tyranny,” said another sponsor, Rep. Jason Overstreet (R).
Not everyone in attendance was in support of the legislation. Police groups and drone manufacturers from the state spoke out in opposition to the legislation citing issues such as the possible economic impact of strictly regulating drone use.
Washington state also made drone news recently after residents spoke out against, and ended, the Seattle Police Department’s drone program.
The bill now moves forward to the Rules Committee to determine if it will head to the floor of the House.
Mikael’s article first appeared on Examiner.com.