Virginia Senate committee backs two-year moratorium on government and law enforcement drones

Madison Ruppert, Contributor
Activist Post

According to reports, a Virginia Senate committee has approved a two-year moratorium on drone use by both law enforcement and government agencies as drones continue to be used in the U.S. and will be used abroad indefinitely.

This move is especially interesting given that the Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell called drone use in the state “great” and “the right thing to do,” citing the supposed success of drones in warzones.

While it might be somewhat surprising, there is currently a legislative push against the unrestricted use of drones at both the state and federal levels. How successful these efforts will be remains to be seen.

The measure in Virginia was approved by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and according to the Associated Press is similar to one pending in the Virginia House of Delegates.

However, this is not an outright ban by any means.

State lawmakers were considering bills imposing regulations on drone use which would have, among other things, required law enforcement to obtain a warrant before deploying a drone.

Law enforcement groups unsurprisingly staunchly opposed the proposed bills while those who supported them said the use of drones threaten the privacy rights of Virginians.

The moratorium allows legislators to study the issue for two years before having to decide on the bills.

While industry groups have called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ignore the legitimate privacy concerns of citizens, the FAA has actually delayed the selection of drone host cities for just that reason.

Still, the Pentagon listed 110 potential drone bases on U.S. soil in June of last year, the Oregon Army National Guard and others seek to launch drones from a public airport and the Department of Homeland Security has embraced small spy drones.

Opposition to drones is more widespread than many might think and is bringing together groups that, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch puts it, “don’t typically find consensus.”

In the case of Virginia, groups opposing the use of drones include the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), various tea party groups, the Farm Bureau and an agricultural business council.

The Times-Dispatch reports that Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, the executive director of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU, said that drones can currently follow people almost anywhere without a warrant, adding that the homes, businesses or backyards of Virginians should not be under 24 hour surveillance.

“It’s leading us closer to a Big Brother society,” Gastanaga said. “The citizens of Virginia want a policy that protects their privacy.”

Unfortunately, the law is slippery on the subject and with a federal court in Wisconsin ruling that covert digital surveillance cameras can be placed on private property without a warrant, it doesn’t seem all that likely that the courts will block invasive drone surveillance.

While John Jones of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association told the Times-Dispatch, “We recognize there are civil liberties issues,” he emphasized that law enforcement views the use of drones “as an officer safety issue.”

One can only guess how these bills will fare in the Virginia legislature after the moratorium expires.

What do you think about drone use in by the government and law enforcement in the United States? Let us know on in the comments section of this post, on Twitter or our Facebook page.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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