Rand Paul Follows Austin Scott’s Lead on Drone Issues

On Monday I wrote about Austin Scott, the Georgia Congressman who has taken up the issue of domestic drone usage in the House. Now Senator Rand Paul has introduced companion legislation to address the issue in the Senate.

Senator Paul’s press release gave more information about the legislation than I had when I wrote about Austin Scott’s bill earlier this week. According to Paul’s press release, the bill requires a warrant before drones can be used domestically, allows anyone to sue the government for violating it, and makes any information gathered in violation of the bill inadmissible in court.

As I said on Monday, all of that is great. It requires judicial review before a violation of privacy. Where it gets ugly is in the exceptions. The reports on the exceptions in Scott’s bill earlier this week were vague, but Paul’s press release sheds some light on the list of exceptions. The bill excludes national border patrol, instances where drone usage is required to save lives, and times of high risk of a terrorist attack.

We’ll have to see the full text of the bill before passing judgment, but I’m a little disappointed in Senator Paul on this. He’s been one of the few standing up to the exceptions lists that give government the ability to bypass the Fourth Amendment. It’s disheartening to see those loopholes in legislation coming from him.

I don’t know if this is an attempt to play nice with his GOP friends or if there’s something else going on here, but giving loopholes for big, vague, exceptions that allow the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment isn’t Rand Paul’s usual style.

Maybe there’s more to this. Maybe the bill defines a “high risk of terrorist attack” so that the generic terrorism excuse can’t be used to justify any/all drone usage. I surely hope there’s something in there that gives full protection to the Fourth Amendment, but until I see the text and understand it for myself, I remain skeptical of the quality of the bill and disappointed in the Senator from Kentucky.

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