Drones over Kentucky; Why the ACLU is concerned but 'not opposed to the use of drones'

08/22/2013 10:12 AM

Taking a cue from Washington, and perhaps from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky legislators on Wednesday brought privacy activists and law enforcement to Frankfort to make the case for defining the parameters of using unmanned drones.

Several state representatives had filed a bipartisan bill seeking to define drones and set standards for information gathering using the technology. They plan to introduce the bill in the 2014 General Session. Activists and lawmakers are concerned how data collection using drones might violate Kentuckians’ rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

To provide background on the technology and it’s law enforcement and the commercial uses for unmanned aircraft a committee gathered to hear testimony from law enforcement and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The program director for the Kentucky ACLU, Kate Miller, told the members that her group is “absolutely not opposed to the use of drones,” but she said there are concerns for information collection and use.

The ACLU is working to suggest legislation which could help guide lawmakers set the parameters on how what information is able to be gathered for drone surveillance and the process of obtaining a warrant for that information.

The issue, one speaker at the meeting said, was not the technology of drones, but rather the application of that technology. Drones have a wide range of uses beyond surveillance including uses in crop dusting.

Capt. Don Roby of the Baltimore County Police Department testified before the committee that his officers already are using drones in the field. He said they could use the devices to position SWAT officers in emergency situations, and he said the benefit was a fiscal one.

Roby said the cost of an unmanned drone was around $25 an hour, where officers in a helicopter could range up to $600 an hour.

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, asked Roby though if he could foresee a situation where drones could be used in a lethal capacity to end an emergency situation.

No vote was held. Lawmakers heard the testimony on an information-only basis until the legislation comes up in the 2014 regular session. The meeting took place during the special session for redistricting.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, made headlines nationally when Paul sought information regarding to their use to potentially target U.S. citizens in the United States during his 13-hour filibuster on the issue.

The Obama administration said it would not order drones to kill American citizens on U.S. soil.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlines the privacy rights and due process for Americans.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


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