Privacy concerns about an airborne armada of government drones recording the actions of Americans was at the forefront of a congressional hearing Thursday in Houston, but so far Texas law enforcement has had limited experience with the new technology.The Hill also had notable coverage ("Lawmakers mull restrictions on domestic drones," Oct. 25), quoting "Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) [who] emphasized that he believes drones are essential for killing suspected terrorists overseas and monitoring the border, and he said drones have a 'real benefit and use' for law enforcement. But he added that he would support legislation to limit their use in domestic airspace." Indeed, some of the testimony made even Congressman McCaul nervous. The Hill article closed:
U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, chaired the hearing to discuss his proposed law that would ensure the unmanned aerial vehicles will not be used by government agents to illegally spy on Americans or let people stalk their neighbors.
The Texas Department of Public Safety employed drones from 2008 to 2010, but halted their use due to operational costs and federal regulations that limited both flight areas and radio frequencies to control the aircraft, said regional DPS Commander Duane Steen.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office has still not received government approval to operate a $300,000 drone that crashed last year into a SWAT vehicle during a test flight.
"This is new technology, it's uncharted territory and we … want to make sure we're doing this the right way and the legal way," said Sheriff's Lt. Melvin Franklin, who explained the drone would be deployed in emergency situations or to search for missing persons.
Todd Humphreys, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, predicted that drones in the future could be as small as insects and able to crawl around a person's house.
"Wow, now you're really scaring me," McCaul said.See also the ACLU's brief, prepared testimony (pdf).
I've said before Grits may not agree with Ted Poe on everything, but I'm sure glad he's working on this issue.