Lawmaker Proposes Restricting Drone Use in Pa.

U.S. military drones are used overseas and domestically, as new Federal Aviation Administration laws allow police nationwide to use drones.

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – A Philadelphia state lawmaker wants to make sure that Pennsylvania citizens aren’t needlessly spied on by aerial drones.

State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, circulated a co-sponsorship memo Tuesday for a bill requiring law enforcement to get a court order from a judge before using “unmanned aircraft surveillance” in the commonwealth.

Cruz told his fellow lawmakers that the point of the bill is to protect against invasions of privacy. He also said his legislation would ensure drones would not be used in Pennsylvania “without reasonable cause given for their use and proper approval given from the court system.”

The authorization would be similar to the current rules law officers follow to intercept communication.

So far, the bill has four co-sponsors.

Cruz introduced the same bill last session. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, though it didn’t see a vote.

But the bill could have a different fate this year, as the national context of drone legislation in 2013 is much different. A growing number of states are looking to restrict domestic drone use in their airspace, or ban them altogether.

To the west, Missouri lawmakers are considering drone restrictions that would prevent government agencies from using drones and require police to get a warrant.

To the south, in the commonwealth of Virginia, a bill is pending that would prohibit state and local law enforcements from using drones until mid-2015. But Gov. Bob McDonnelll hasn’t yet said whether he’ll sign off on the legislation.

Further down the interstate, in Florida, lawmakers are considering a drone ban except for situations authorized by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would keep law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather evidence against suspects. Beyond that, it would provide a legal mechanism to sue if the government violated the law.

Such legislation is praised by privacy rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit against the federal government in regards to international drone use, specifically, the targeted drone killing of three U.S. citizens abroad as well as Freedom of Information Act lawsuits connected to the release of drone use records.

On domestic drone use, the ACLU advocates for clear privacy protections as well as usage limits.

“Routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America,” the ACLU said on its website. “Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a ‘surveillance society’ in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

tom reese February 17, 2013 at 12:38 AM
All of the prevailing criminals in the city, of course. I look forward to the use of drones. If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.
Yikes! February 17, 2013 at 01:54 PM
What does your statement have to do with the subject of this article Mike? This proposed legislation is extremely important. Great article Melissa and Patch editors - thanks for posting something unbiased, meaningful and important!
Yikes! February 17, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Right Bob - and what about the Bush-Cheney-oil-grabbing-world-takeover-machine?? What about the abomination of the Twin Towers debacle? There may well be forces at work to destroy the United States, Obama may be just another vehicle for that, or maybe not... but don't vilify anyone who questions it by dividing them into Right/Left, Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Conservative. All that does is add animosity among citizens which only weakens the Union. Exactly what "they" want.
Mike Shortall Sr February 17, 2013 at 04:24 PM
@Yikes ... Most people would understand the connection. While some KNOW the implications of my comment, they will ignore the irony because they can't handle their own hypocrisy on the subjects of privacy, security and Benny F's observation on "essential liberty" because it always depends on who's making the policy.
Ashish Sitapara MD February 19, 2013 at 12:47 AM
Where are all my Republican colleagues who value privacy, and personal sanctity and personal space? There is no justifiable argument that should allow drone spying to be any different than taping my phones or other legally designed law enforcement means. They want to use this tool for law encorcement. Sure go abead. We have a legally designed framework authorities can use to spy. The hippocracy of some tea party advocates is laughable. These are often the same people who want to protect citizen gun rights to the extreme so our military don't attack us. Really?! Pick a side, be consistent in your views. I don care if a R, D, or I proposed a sensible law. (Of course I have to know the specifics of this law but I support the philosophy.)


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