Banning Surveillance: What States and Localities Can Do About Drones

Search form

Banning Surveillance: What States and Localities Can Do About Drones

Banning Surveillance: What States and Localities Can Do About Drones
Mon, 11/18/2013 - by David Swanson
This article originally appeared on War Is A Crime

Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with "anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being." It also pledged that Charlottesville would "abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones."

St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville, plus a ban on anyone operating a drone "within the airspace of the city," making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.

Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.

Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits "the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft" and that "landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the 'public right of transit' through this private property," and urging the state and Congress and the FAA "to respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace."

See full text of all resolutions here.

Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had "banned drones" or "passed an anti-drone resolution."

The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones. By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support. By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections. Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself. Less can be more.

Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states.

The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate. In 1967, a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey, 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."

Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No locality is an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for any city or state to keep them out.

How to Pass a Local Resolution:

Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues. Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences. To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials. Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people. Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control.

Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception.

The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm. If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare. You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak.

Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a "No" vote with support for cameras in everyone's windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a "Yes" vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.

Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.

Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance "absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct" except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or they are reasonably suspicious it's needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or there's a warrant or there's suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for ... too many exceptions to list.

 

Article Tabs

The DEA is collecting hundreds of millions of records about cars traveling on U.S. roads – but who approved the program, where does the data go, and are there limitations on its use? No one seems to know.

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, essentially disappearing Americans and locking them in the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The 5 Largest U.S. Financial Institutions And Their Effects

The only way to beat organized money is to have organized people.

As the European Commission president who helped define Europe's austerity-driven financial policies, Barroso advocated doing "whatever is necessary to make sure the euro thrives and to regain the trust of financial markets.”

HSBC scandal, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Tax Justice Network, HSBC money laundering, tax evasion, Libor rigging

The company directors should be called to account and sent to prison because HSBC has been involved in criminal activity at many levels.

Posted 6 days 14 hours ago

Through "evergreening,” pharmaceutical companies could could retain ownership of and royalties to drugs for which their patents have expired – limiting access to generic forms of medicine that millions need.

Posted 4 days 12 hours ago
postal banking, public banking, American Postal Workers Union, Alternative Financial Service Providers, underbanked, payday lenders, Digital Wallet program, payday loans

Postal banking represents a national, nonprofit public option to the private, for-profit banking system – and a solution for the one in four Americans who are underbanked.

Posted 6 days 14 hours ago
Radical Independence Campaign, Scottish fracking moratorium, Scottish National Party, fracking ban, #GreenSurge

Following last month's decision to place a moratorium on fracking, widespread Scottish opposition is growing to other unconventional methods of fuel extraction.

Posted 5 days 14 hours ago
Killswitch, Lawrence Lessig, Tim Wu, Peter Ludlow, hacktivists, Aaron Swartz, Edward Snowden

Will this film be a cautionary tale of what happens when you dare to take on elite power structures – or will it be the spark that ignites a revolution that will redefine democracy in the digital age?

Posted 5 days 14 hours ago

On Monday, a group called Debt Collective said former students of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges Inc. will stop paying their loans – signaling an escalation in the nationwide student fight against skyrocketing student debt.

Goldman Sachs, California school district bonds, capital appreciation bonds, Bank of North Dakota, public banking

In 2008, after collecting millions of dollars in fees to help California sell its bonds, Goldman urged its bigger clients to place investment bets against those bonds – a scam ensnaring future generations in mountains of debt.

oil train explosions, oil train derailments, fracking boom, fracking oil

More than 141 “unintentional releases” were reported from railroad tankers in 2014, an all-time high and a nearly six-fold increase over the average of 25 spills per year during the period from 1975 to 2012.

It's not easy writing a play about injustice in America much as it's not easy telling the complex, multi-layered story of the Occupy movement – something Catherine Hurd set out to do in her musical that premieres this week.

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, essentially disappearing Americans and locking them in the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

Sign Up