Under the Obama presidency, tactical drones have successfully taken out over 2,400 enemy persons. Now though, it seems the drone has a new enemy. An enemy that can’t be taken out with a hellfire missile – The Constitution, or more specifically, The Fourth Amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Does the paragraph above ring a bell? It should, as that is The Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment basically prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, stating that such activities require a judicially sanctioned warrant that is supported by probable cause.
That’s all well and good but as we know, technology develops at a faster rate than the law, that’s just the way it is. Technology is like a Porsche 911 Turbo bombing down the Autobahn whereas law is closer to a Ford Model T.
Thousands of drones are being made each year with more and more of them going into civilian circulation. Amazon, Google, Facebook and various other startups are all working on drones along side the United Stated Government. It’s an absolute certainty that drones are here to stay and drone technology is going to explode (no pun intended) into our lives.
Drones can do anything. On one end of the spectrum you have military combat drones shooting hellfire missiles at Taliban members, that despite all this still keep coming back for more with their flip flops and Toyota pickup trucks. On the other end of the spectrum we have drones for our GoPros that take pretty footage.
Photo Credit: Don McCullough
With the rapid adoption rates of drone technology, an interesting issue arises regarding domestic law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies in the United States currently have an active fleet of drones used on surveillance operations. So with the number of drones taking to the skies increasing on a daily basis, is anyone regulating this? No! All this is happening without any constitutional scrutiny whatsoever.
If law enfacement agencies are using unarmed drones as a means of surveillance, is this a violation of The Fourth Amendment? Does the use of drone surveillance fall under unreasonable searches?
In 2011, a North Dakota farmer by the name of Rodney Brossart was the first man to be arrested thanks to drone surveillance. This isn’t a case involving high value terrorists but a simple dispute between neighbors over the theft of a few cows. The drone in this case was sent to survey the property. The drone observed armed suspects on site and law enforcement quickly and safely made arrests. In court, Brossart claimed that the evidence used against him was obtained while violating his Fourth Amendment rights. However this motion was denied.
There is no denying that drones patrolling the city could effectively direct officers to areas in which they are needed and greatly reduce the risks that the resounding officers face. However there is also no denying that most people aren’t pleased about having drones over their cities. These are just aspects of drones with law enforcement. What about drones from Facebook or Google that could track us and attempt to bombard us with more effective advertising, or to create more “live” social media and search options?
Photo Credit: Debra Sweet @flickr
There is no doubt that both the private and government use of drones needs to be regulated – as soon as possible. In fact, we faced a similar issue not so long ago with the mass introduction of CCTV cameras. Today, millions of homes have CCTV cameras and most major cities are covered with hundreds of cameras and we are all okay with that. So will The Fourth Amendment be taken out with a hellfire missile? Or will the use of drones be deemed as unconstitutional? It will very interesting to see how the regulation on this problematic issue develops.
What’s your opinion? Leave us a comment and let us know.
Feature Image: The National Guard