|Drone Picture from telegraph.co.uk]|
Much has been discussed and written about lately about the propriety of using armed drones to kill terrorists abroad. But here, in this blog, that will remain a discussion for a later day.
Here, today, I want to rant some more about the growing, unregulated use of drones by law enforcement agencies for surveillance in this country. In my opinion, not enough is being discussed or written about this potentially dangerous practice.
Look, I am no "bleeding heart." I have always been a strong supporter of law enforcement. Even though, presently, I may be an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I am a former career (state and federal) prosecutor. And as a law-abiding citizen, I want the police to be able to do their jobs.
But no matter who you are, and no matter what your political philosophy, in my opinion, we should all be concerned by the prospect of unregulated police agencies using unmanned aerial vehicles to spy on any and all American citizens. While some may say that only the criminals have anything to worry about, in my opinion, all of us, as free citizens, should question any unregulated government intrusion into our private matters. Moreover, in my opinion, unregulated police surveillance is subject to abuse, including by following political opponents, or for stifling political dissent.
I am not suggesting that all drone usage should be prohibited; instead, I am simply advocating for further legislative discussion and some carefully considered regulations to prevent police over-reaching and abuse.
I am heartened to read that, just last week, the Charlottesville, Virginia City Council passed a resolution calling for Congress to regulate police use of drones in this country, including by forbidding the introduction of evidence obtained by drones in any criminal case. While this resolution may be merely symbolic, at least it may help encourage further discussion about this important topic around the country.
What do you think? Should the police be able to use drones to watch citizens and gather intelligence without a warrant? Do you agree that at least there should be some discussion and oversight?