Friday, October 26, 2012

Houston hearing honed in on use of drones by law enforcement

Grits wishes I could have attended yesterday's hearing in Houston of the US House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime on domestic use of unmanned drones by law enforcement, but James Pinkerton at the Houston Chronicle offered up a good report that began thusly ("Use of drones in community policing 'uncharted territory'," Oct. 25):
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.

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.
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:
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.


Unknown said...

Being born in the late 1940s and living most of my life in relative freedom it is not hard to guess my position on all the surveillance and tracking technology now made available to agencies of the state and federal governments. However, honestly I don’t think there is much that can be done to halt its inevitable encroachment on our lives. At best I think its people of my generation that have managed to slow it down but, I think the war will be lost. Selling an ever increasing invasion of privacy gets easier all the time. The younger folks don’t seem to mind a bit. A good example are facebook and twitter. They fill these sites with there personal information willingly and think nothing of it. They aren’t growing up with the freedoms of the past and they don’t miss it. Whether Obama is elected or not it sure looks to me like this country is eventually going to try out socialism. Of course we know it is a geopolitical system that has never worked in the history of the world but, those coming up behind us don’t seem to know or care. They are going to lose a lot of freedoms and government surveillance resulting in a ever increasing invasion of privacy is just one.

Anonymous said...

ted poe rakes in money from the bondsman industry and has proposed a bill that benefits the bondsman industry.

he called it citizens right to know act

Anonymous said...

More information on the hearing and a link to watch the video :