House Republican Raises the Issue of Drone Usage

On Thursday, Georgia’s Austin Scott introduced H.R. 5925, the Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act, a bill with the stated purpose of protecting privacy against unwarranted intrusion by use of drones.

When I saw the headline, I was skeptical. Scott’s a good guy; I’ve met him a handful of times, and though I think his intentions are usually good, he’s been a pretty big disappointment since he got to Washington. When he was campaigning (in the Georgia gubernatorial race first, and then for Congress), he said all the right things that made me think he’d be good to have in Washington. Once he got there, however, his tune changed, and he quickly sold out to the establishment.

That’s not to say that everything he’s done in the last 2 years has been a disappointment, but I was shocked to see that he was leading a charge to protect the Fourth Amendment. To be fair, I’ve not read this bill because it’s not available online as of this writing, so it might be wonderful legislation. The reports I’ve seen, however, list some exceptions in the bill that are troubling.

The legislation, according to this report, says that there are “several exceptions for the use of drones without warrants, including the patrolling of U.S. borders or during the threat of a terrorist attack.” On the surface, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but this is similar to some other legislation that violates the Fourth Amendment:

NDAA: “Indefinite detention only applies to you if we think you’re involved in terrorism. Otherwise you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

PATRIOT Act: “Monitoring activities and communication only applies to you if we think you’re involved in terrorism. Otherwise you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

And now it seems this bill, which is already being touted as a protector of liberty, follows the same logic: “Drone usage only applies to you if we think you’re involved in terrorism. Otherwise you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

That approach doesn’t really protect Fourth Amendment rights. It’s the Republican approach of “protecting” Americans while providing a way to violate Constitutional provisions that offer real protection of liberty. Either the Fourth Amendment protects people against unwarranted search and seizure or it doesn’t.

This bill is obviously in its early stages, and while I fully agree that drones shouldn’t be used to spy on Americans without warrant, we must reject this practice of allowing our government to throw out pieces of the Bill of Rights on a suspicion. If there’s a legitimate concern, they’ll have no problem getting a judge to sign a warrant, but continuing this underhanded practice bypassing the Constitution under the guise of protecting liberty must end.


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