Skip to comments.Should We Let Law Enforcement Drone On and On? Domestic shock-and-awe is now becoming par for the...
Posted on 06/09/2012 6:00:56 PM PDT by neverdem
Domestic shock-and-awe is now becoming par for the course.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell thinks the use of unmanned aerial drones for domestic law enforcement ishis word"great." As he told WTOP radio in Washington recently, "[It] cuts down on manpower in the air, and also [is] more safe. Thats why we use it on the battlefield."
Well, yes. But there is a slight difference between Baltimore and Basra or Kansas and Kandahar: Were not at war in Baltimore or Kansas. Were not trying to vanquish enemy forces in Washington, or repel an invasion inNorth Dakota.
Admittedly, you might not know that by looking at todays hyper-militarized police forces. In recent years they have been stocking up on body armor, flashbang grenades, assault rifles, and armored vehicles like the Lenco BearCat G3an 8-ton, quarter-million-dollar behemoth that is all the rage in burgs both big and small. (Among the localities that have bought a BearCat G3 is Warren County, Va., a bucolic place of 40,000 that averages one homicide every three years. If that.)
But domestic shock-and-awe is now becoming par for the course. Earlier this year Virginia State Police officers donned combat gear to face down a small group of pro-choice protesters at the Capitol here in Richmonda level of overkill on the order of opening the door to an Easy-Bake Oven with a splitting maul.
Now law-enforcement agencies around the country are buying drones. During the Clinton years, homegrown militia groups used to warn about black helicopters in whisper mode spying on American citizens. The paranoid fantasies seemed funny at the time. That was then. As of this writing more than 300 state and local police departments have bought drones and applied for federal permission to use them.
Some drones are in domestic use already. The EPA has been using them to overfly farms in Nebraska and Iowa to look for any possible violations of the Clean Water Act. Does the agency have any probable cause to conduct such searches? No. The dragnet surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, but it is being carried out with impunity.
Last year a sheriff in Nelson County, North Dakota, called in a Predator drone to help find three men with rifles on a sprawling family farm. According to a December story in the Los Angeles Times, local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.
But its not as if the drones are in constant use! Oh, no. As Bill Macki, the head of the Grand Forks SWAT team, said, We dont use them on every call-out. If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we dont call them. That is certainly a load off.
Are there legitimate reasons to use drones domestically? Certainlyand advocates like to cite the missing-child hypothetical as an example. Fine. Drones also are being used to patrol the U.S. border. And a recent story in The Times-Dispatch noted that Virginia Tech has a drone as wellto study atmospheric microbial life by collecting airborne spore samples. Even private eyes and paparazzi are getting in on the game.
Yet there also are reasons not to accept the drone-ification of the American skies with bovine complacency. For one thing, they add another piece to the mosaic of the modern surveillance state.
That mosaic already includes a proliferating number of cameras in public places, from Palm Springs toWashington, D.C.where police officers in the Joint Operations Command can watch live video feeds from dozens of streetcorner cams around the city. The mosaic also includes dragnet surveillance efforts such as the poking and prodding of little old ladies at the nations airports; New Yorks controversial stop-and-frisk policy; and the routine use of police checkpoints on city streets along with manifold databases such as the Department of Homeland Securitys Automated Targeting System, which vacuums up information about everything from car rentals to email contacts.
Supporters of drones cite court precedents holding that law-enforcement agencies can conduct aerial surveillance without a warrant. Drones, they contend, are simply the next logical step in the technological evolution. They might be right.
On the other hand, law enforcement and the Obama administration made much the same argument last year, in a case about using GPS devices to monitor a suspects movements over an extended period of time. Supporters of GPS tracking contended that it was no different from putting a tail on somebody. The Justices rejected that argument 9-0.
Its not hard to see how their concern about the effect of long-term, surreptitious surveillance on the right to privacy in that case could translate to the routine use of domestic drones watching people from 10,000 feet up. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Chronicles of Narnia, If theres a wasp in the room I like to be able to see it.
Hmmm...Even a cursory reading of history will show that governments have tended to use "technologies" for "evil" more often than not.
Excluding the Constitutionally mandated responsibility for the Nation's defense on the battlefield, since the 1990's, the U.S. government's use of technology has been directed primarily to setting the tyranny that is enveloping us in cement.
Excluding any opportunities offered by 99942 Apophis, the next 1000 years will be the darkest in mankind's history.
Just adda rotor and tail prop dime ized
No. And unless SWAT is being used to actually raid known, hardened drug houses/gang hangouts, they need to be dismantled as well.
“Some drones are in domestic use already. The EPA has been using them to overfly farms in Nebraska and Iowa to look for any possible violations of the Clean Water Act. Does the agency have any probable cause to conduct such searches? No. The dragnet surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, but it is being carried out with impunity.”
Did you get distracted and miss that?
No, I did not miss that. My comments stand. The article was written to make it sound like the high court banned the use of GPS tracking. That is what it says. That is not the truth and GPS tracking is still used daily. It requires a search warrant to install and monitor now and that is fine by me.
The courts have generally held if something is in plain view to a person outside the curtilage of a residence it is not protected by the 4th Amendment. It seems unlikely that a successful argument will be made that the airspace above a persons home is protected by the 4th Amendment. What if the view is from at a slight angle - in other words, the aircraft is over your neighbors house/air space looking at your yard. Where does this privacy zone extend? Into space?
A search warrant to view your house from the air might be required one day, but current case law makes this highly unlikely. I would be fine with that too, just like the new requirement for GPS tracking. Warrants require probable cause that a crime has taken place and they are reviewed by the Judge that signs it. They are also subject to intense scrutiny in a criminal proceeding through motions to suppress as well as the appellate process.
The general rule of thumb in law enforcement is that you are clear to observe illegal activity as long as you are lawfully present in the spot from which you observe it. Plain view doctrine even extends to naked men standing in their picture window waving at little girls next door.
National Guard aircraft have been used in domestic counterdrug operations for years. Pole cameras, spotting scopes, trail cameras, and other things are commonly used now. We can’t even begin to guess what new ethical/legal questions we will face in the future when new technology becomes more common.
As always, law enforcement agencies will be restrained by the courts to whom they report and the people that fund their agencies. I actually agree that many aspects of domestic law enforcement are becoming too militarized when there are other options available.
These things concern me too, but that portion of the article seems to have been written to make the layman reader believe the court struck down GPS tracking when they simply said you must get a warrant to conduct it. No problem. The courts are not kind to any cop that goes to far to make a case against somebody and I like it that way because I understand the dangers to individual freedom that would exists absent those safeguards. It terrifies me that many of our freedoms currently seem to hang by one wishy-washy vote on SCOTUS. We never should have reached this point!
The concept of curtilage is interwoven throughout case law and it would be very difficult to extend that to airspace.
Many assessor’s offices currently use Google Earth to see new outbuildings, swimming pools, and other major changes that might affect your tax assessment.
As long as the local populace allow them to increase property taxes for improvements funded by the homeowner they will continue to do it.
Look up your address on Google Earth and you might be shocked. I can look at the details of my garden, orchard, and even identify my cars on it. I would bet that NSA satellites are 10-20x more powerful and clear than Google Earth.
Even a cursory reading of history will show that governments have tended to use “technologies” for “evil” more often than not.
You are correct and no argument from me. However, in a democracy with a constitution that every soldier, cop, politician, and leader takes an oath to uphold who is really to blame? We don’t live in a totalitarian state and if we do it’s our own fault is’nt it?
The lesson of American politics seems to be one where everyone counts on someone else to monitor the excesses of government. Too bad most of our fellow citizens are either ignorant or more concerned with American Idol than what takes place at their local commission meeting or in congress.
I won’t participate in that and I have taken the oath 4 times as a soldier and cop.
Hmmm...the engineer in me says that an RC “drone killer” may be a fun project.
Were not trying to vanquish enemy forces in Washington......yes, they are.
I am all for giving the police all they need to catch criminals,but this is going way over the top.
The temptation for abusing these things is too much.
Have the cops get off thier fat union asses and do some patroling. The only use for these things is on the Mexican border.
Using the words "Public Servant" will also put the blood pressure over the red mark...
Really? How about FLIR, which can show which room you are in and what you are doing?
How about IR lasers which, directed at a window, can record sounds (speech) inside the house?
How about RINT and COMINT? You can observe those from outside the "curtilage" of the sucker's property. Cordless phone? Got you.
All's fair, right? I mean, if it's war on the citizen, well, then, LE has to win! They just have to!
Congress has betrayed Americans by permitting the CIC to classify Americans involved in political activity leftists and GOPe don’t like as domestic terrorists. In addition, they have now named common crime as terrorist activity while it has become politically incorrect to name Islamists as possible domestic terrorists.
The elite have proven they are unworthy of the trust Americans gave to them in fighting jihad on US soil under the Patriot Act. It’s time to dismatle it all.
And fires magnesium darts that burn the victims in a flaming end!
The only use of FLIR that I have ever witnessed was using the fire departments scanner to try and locate a father who killed the mother and was holding his two kids hostage in a decent sized house. There was already a search warrant for the house and he had fired numerous shots at the first officers to respond.
IR lasers that record a conversation from a window and/or any tapping of telephone or wireless communication is already settled case law. This requires a Title 3 wiretap authorization and that is the most difficult affidavit and court authorization to write. In fact, they are far more difficult to obtain than a search warrant. They are a grade A pain in the butt and are most often used in large scale drug investigations or racketeering investigations when other investigative means have failed. You have to demonstrate to the court that you can’t make the case without doing this and you need the highest level of probable cause of any warrant/affidavit. They are continually monitored and scrutinized throughout their usage.
I am not sure how any of this makes war on the citizen. In 2001, the Supreme Court said you needed to have a search warrant to use FLIR after officers used it to detect an indoor marijuana grow. I can’t think of another crime that FLIR would show and I have no issue with the SCOTUS decision to require a warrant.
Many people don’t know this, but it is illegal to monitor any persons cordless phone conversation without their permission and that applies to law enforcement too.
So everything you alleged cops would use to abuse people needs a search warrant?
Our republican mayor in Orlando is spearheading the initiative for the county to buy hundreds of new “re light” cameras. Oh but she is a conservative. Ever notice how politicians love technology to catch the serfs misbehaving, but they never use it to help us or increase our freedom?
Ever stop at a traffic light and no traffic is moving from any d
The point is that warrantless searches and no-knock dynamic entries are gradually becoming the norm.
That was not your point and I answered everyone of the things you alleged to support your suggestion that law enforcement is out to violate your rights. Each one of those needed a search warrant.
I probably agree with many of your concerns about SWAT and militarization of the police. I have said for years that SWAT is used far too often when other less militaristic tactics would suffice. The police are not the military and I have been in both.
You are wrong about warrantless searches. That can be a career ending event for a cop because it is a violation of a persons civil rights. Do you sincerely think a court and prosecutor are going to prosecute somebody on the basis of evidence that is illegally seized? That is not true. Even if the prosecutor, cop, and first Judge get it wrong it is highly unlikely the appeals court will. A defense attorney will usually have the case thrown out on the first hearing for an illegal search and in many cases the Judge will even admonish or crucify the officer. That is the reality of our court system where they take search and seizure very seriously.
“No knock” warrants require the permission of the Judge when applying for a warrant and the officers are required to articulate justifiable reasons for doing so prior to the court granting permission.
Again, everything you have alleged that law enforcement does in this thread to “routinely violate peoples rights” has required a search warrant or permission of the court. If you don’t like the police that is fine. Lord knows, I read stuff everyday and shake my head at the stupidity of some in my profession. I share your general concern for our freedom and know that most of my co-workers feel the same way. We are not your enemy and I have met very few people with badges over many years that I could ever see supporting a totalitarian state. Frankly, I did not hold a high opinion of those folks to begin with. Every profession has a few, right?
There are many things to be concerned about in our nation and SCOTUS is definitely one of them, because as I have stated many times on this forum, SCOTUS is the absolute authority on our constitutional rights. Given 1-3 more appointments by this administration we will likely lose the best restraint we currently have on the power of government.
I don’t mind having reasonable discussions about this stuff, but it must start out with the truth and not innuendo and half-truths that usually have little basis in reality. Cops make mistakes and so do courts. That is why there are appeals courts. In fact, there are few activities of government that are more scrutinized than law enforcement. Furthermore, your examples are not common in my experience and they need search warrants or articulated reasons to the satisfaction of a court.
Moving forward in our nation we will have to address technological changes vs civil rights. I believe in civil rights and therefore have no problem with the requirement to obtain search warrants when necessary to investigate crime. You seem to believe that rights are eroding in our country and that is not my experience. I would argue that searches have become far more restrictive over the last few decades. The trend in law enforcement has been to require search warrants and expand an individuals rights to privacy. I agree with the courts even though it sometimes makes work a little less convenient. Freedom is not about convenience for me when it involves your rights.
Another example of this was that officers used to be able to search vehicles under state law if they arrested the driver or passenger. Many states now require a search warrant to look in the car. That seems to be opposite of what you suggest and believe. This is something that probably happens thousands of times for each example you gave above. The same is true for searching computers, cellphones, digital cameras, etc etc. Those items often require a seperate search warrant with articulated facts to support the issuance when we used to be able to search under one blanket warrant.
Again, I will be glad to discuss this with you. I think “domestic shock and awe” is a little bit over the top and is not reflective of 99.9% of law enforcement in my experience. Too many people take one isolated incident and make sweeping generalizations about it on this forum and others. It’s not nearly as bad as you think. If you are open minded feel free to research my answers yourself. I am not your enemy anymore than I would be the enemy of my neighbors, friends, or family.
I pinged neverdem because the same offer applies....
My point, to redirect, was that improving technologies provide an ever-expanding menu of options to L.E. for finding ways around a subject's rights, and that the drift in the last 20 years or so has been toward greater ease in obtaining warrants, the creation of special courts with sealed proceedings and -- I would add -- captive magistrates who will almost-never restrain the police of the future in taking a surveillance action, and the acceptance in court of tactical doctrines that would never have met the approval of the Framers.
That's my point. My appeal to the dystopian model is still good. That's what we're looking at down the road.
My experience of almost two decades disagrees with your premise. The courts require more probable cause today than they did when I started for obtaining warrants. They require more warrants today to search a person, place, or recover data than they used to. I routinely write warrants today that I did not have to write 10-20 years ago.
I would urge you to remember that almost all law enforcement is state and local. They answer to local politicians who have to run for election. We also have a great system in place where Sheriff’s run for election as independent agents of government. Woe to any Sheriff who runs a department with a reputation for violating peoples civil rights. He won’t be in office long. Local Judges run for election as well so they are usually cognizant of their duty to be fair and impartial and they are constantly worried about a higher court overturning their decision. It’s a great system if you love freedom.
The areas with the biggest problems in law enforcement often have two things in common. They are union agencies in democratic strongholds. In the South, we did not make the big wages they do in union states. Consequently, we knew that we worked for the taxpayers and any raise for officers would usually be by popular vote. That was pretty effective. The Chief was appointed by the Mayor and there are few things that will get an elected Mayor in hot water faster than a rogue department. That has been my experience for whatever it’s worth.
Technology will change continually and the courts will prudently weigh the new technologies against the constitution. They are doing that now and the most common answer is to get a search warrant as I said before. The police are not nearly as powerful as you seem to think and there are checks and balances throughout the system including the feds who investigate the police when civil rights violations are alleged.
The technology for big brother is definitely there, but so far the courts and the system seem to err on the side of civil rights and the checks and balances are working as intended. It’s not perfect and new issues will arise from time to time, but they will work through it like they always have and new case law will be born that will keep law enforcement on a very short leash.
The real danger we face is SCOTUS moving any further away from the constitution. It is sad to say that many of the important votes come down to one vote. I am hoping Obama can’t load the court with a second term because we can’t afford 1-3 more Justices like the two he gave us.
Magistrates are captive to higher Judges and the appellate courts. This (along with election for many) is the checks and balances you allege don’t exist. They don’t owe the police anything and they are not part of a police agency. They are Judges.
I believe the special courts you reference at the federal level consist of a single panel created under the Bush administration specifically for the war on terrorism. That is the only one that I am aware of and it’s a panel of very senior Judges that were created for that specific purpose. This kept their decisions and rulings out of the NY Slimes newspaper for our enemies to read. I think they also report to one of the congressional intelligence committees. I don’t know that much about it other than anything that keeps sensitive investigations from being compromised by the NY Slimes is a good thing in my book. I am doubtful that they are used against U.S. citizens that don’t have a foreign terror nexus, but I don’t have firsthand knowledge.
What tactical doctrines are you saying the framers would not approve of? I did’nt understand that.
References to the Star Chamber, during public discussion of the Patriot Act, were not lost on people who knew what the objectors were talking about. And by objectors, I am not referring to the slime who crusted around William Kunstler and his Communist foundation, or its Stalinist progenitor and helpmeet, the National Lawyers' Guild, both of which are working overtime to create the spectacle of a United States President's being dragged into a Communist show trial in The Hague.
No, I'm talking about libertarian Republicans and Libertarians who pointed to the Patriot Act and several expedient yawning divergences with the Bill of Rights -- never mind "special circumstances, special courts, senior judges". Seizures and wholesale confiscations were once confined to Customs cases against contraband cargoes of ganja and tightly-wrapped parcels of heroin. Those seizures were made under Admiralty law, in accordance with standard practices of the last 250 years against bootleggers, smugglers, rumrunners, and abandoned cargoes of contraband. Now Admiralty law is being brought into traffic court as a civil measure with, soon enough, criminal consequences (points, fines, insurance surcharges, eventually license-fee surcharges such as are now regularly imposed as DWI revenue-grubbing), all of which cannot easily be defended because, basically, Admiralty law is pre-constitutional and represents very precisely the regime of law and justice that Americans rebelled against in the first place. George III is laughing at us, as we are harried by "swarms of officials" who "eat out our substance" .... just as in 1774.
But that is just the Admiralty-law angle, to which we must add the constitutional "alterations" and "adjustments" of the Patriot Act, which is already applied not to foreign-born terrorists swarming hither in airliners, but to ordinary American travelers, who are treated as terrorists in their own country, by their own officers.
Fish rots from the head, and sh*t rolls downhill. Abraham Lincoln established by violence on a scale never imagined by the Framers that the federal government is uphill, and that the States and People are downhill, on a principle familiar to tyrants and kings, but not to Americans of Andrew Jackson's time. We have to live with it now, and what the federal government does today.
Local L.E. will do soon enough in turn what the ATF and FBI and Marshal Service did at Ruby Ridge and Waco -- as witness the aforesaid Bearcats and the rest of the federally-funded arms bazaar that is provided by the NHTSA's federal funding, bloc-grant programs, and the responsible committees of the Congress that you just pointed to as our atlantes of the Bill of Rights. Those amenable betrayers will, instead, point to U.N. resolutions and formal treaties inked by quisling politicians as the international tyrant-genocides foreseen by Robert Heinlein 60 years ago come to collect us as Stalin did the kulaks, because we have dangerous knowledge and are deadly tyrannicides both in deed and through inspiring others.