Mandates that unauthorized images taken by unmanned planes be destroyed
July 19, 2012
A Virginia Delegate is to introduce legislation that he says will enforce tight regulations on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the state.
C. Todd Gilbert (R) has joined forces with the ACLU, releasing a joint statement that lays out their intentions to “strictly” oversee the rollout of drones.
“Both the ACLU and I believe, as do many Virginians across the political spectrum, that the use of drones by police and other government agencies should be strictly controlled by state laws that protect the privacy and civil rights of all Virginia residents,” Gilbert said.
“I will be introducing legislation in the 2013 General Assembly Session to i) prohibit the use of drones by law enforcement unless a warrant has been issued; ii) require that policies and procedures for the use of drones be adopted by legislative bodies in open meetings; iii) provide for public monitoring and accountability; and iv) mandate that pictures of individuals acquired by drones be destroyed unless they are part of an authorized investigation.” the statement reads.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, echoed Delegate Gilbert’s remarks:
“Delegate Gilbert is right to be concerned about the possibility that, without new laws, this new and increasingly inexpensive technology will be used in a manner that will violate the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of Virginians to assemble peaceably and speak freely. We are proud to be working with Delegate Gilbert to build a coalition in favor of the legislation he will introduce — a coalition that will bring together diverse voices from across the Commonwealth.”
The Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, is on the record saying he endorses the use of drones domestically for police surveillance.
During a recent interview on WTOP radio’s “Ask the Governor” program, McDonnell stated:
“I think it’s great. I think we ought to be using technology to make law enforcement more productive — it cuts down on manpower in the air — and more safe. That’s why we use it on the battlefield.”
“We need to address civil liberties like privacy, but I believe if you’re keeping police officers safe, making it more productive and saving money … it’s absolutely the right thing to do.” McDonnell added.
Delegate Gilbert’s bill, which will now work its way through the legislature, outlines the following restrictions and notices on drone use by the government and law enforcement in Virginia:
• Usage restrictions. Drones should be subject to strict regulation to ensure that their use by government, law enforcement, and private entities does not trample individual privacy rights. For example, legislation should prohibit the use of drones for indiscriminate mass surveillance or for monitoring protected First Amendment activities. In general, legislation should ban all government and government-sponsored use of drones except where:
there are specific and stated reasons to believe that a drone will collect evidence relating to a specific instance of criminal wrongdoing and where the government has obtained a warrant based on probable cause; or
there is a geographically confined, time-limited emergency situation in which particular people’s lives are at risk, such as a fire, hostage crisis, or land- or water-based search and rescue operation; or
the drone is used for reasonable non-law enforcement purposes by non-law enforcement agencies, where privacy will not be substantially affected, such as geological inspections or environmental surveys, and where the surveillance will not be used for secondary law enforcement purposes or enforcement of administrative regulations.
• Image retention restrictions. Images of identifiable individuals captured by aerial surveillance technologies should not be retained or shared unless there is reasonable suspicion that the images contain evidence of criminal activity or are relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.
• Public notice. The policies and procedures for the use of aerial surveillance technologies should be explicit, written, and public. While it is legitimate for the police to keep the details of particular investigations confidential, overall policies governing deployment of drones — including the privacy tradeoffs they may entail — are a public matter that should be subject to public oversight and accountability.
• Democratic control. Policy decisions regarding the purchase and deployment of drones should be democratically decided by appropriate legislative bodies (e.g., city councils, county boards, or the General Assembly) based on publicly available information and in open meetings — not made administratively by police departments or other law enforcement or regulatory agencies (e.g., through receipt of federal grants, purchasing decisions, or by inclusion in the general orders of law enforcement agencies).
• Auditing and effectiveness tracking. Public agencies should not invest in drones without a clear, systematic, and public examination of the costs and benefits involved. If aerial surveillance technology is deployed, independent audits should track the use of drones by all government agencies, so that all Virginians can tell generally how and how often they are being used, whether their use is consistent with the original rationale for their deployment and whether they represent a worthwhile public expenditure.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.