Rand Paul’s welcome Fourth Amendment dronings in plain sight
Sen. Paul (R-KY) introduces needed bill to limit use of unmanned military planes by domestic law enforcement
The constitutionally informed should have no problem when the Commander-in-Chief commands those for whom he is chief to kill Bin Ladens in Pakistan with Navy Seals on the ground or even American citizen al-Harethis levying war against their own country in Yemen with un-manned drone aircraft. The President has broad, inherent chief executive power to repel the enemies of America, no matter where located, and even in the absence of specific congressional authorization much less a formal declaration of war against a specific nation. In the case of the War on Terror, both the current and former presidents that have served since September 11, 2001 have had the added benefit of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force bill passed by a bi-partisan House and Senate.
But much different rules apply to domestic law enforcement across the Fruited Plain where the U.S. Constitution protects Liberty writ large via a government limited to only reasonable searches and seizures:
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.
Kentucky’s junior Senator Rand Paul understands that even a non-living constitution applies to new technology, and, just in case a President (that issues edicts making illegal aliens legal, even after the co-equal legislative branch rejects such legal changes) doesn’t understand the limits of his power, he has introduced A Bill (S. 3287):
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would require the government to get a warrant before using aerial drones to surveil U.S. citizens.
More broadly, Paul’s bill is aimed at preventing “unwarranted governmental intrusion” through the use of drones, according to the lawmaker.
“Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued,” Paul said Tuesday. “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.”
[The bill] would require the government to obtain a warrant to use drones with the exception of patrolling national borders, when drones are needed to prevent “imminent danger to life” or when there are risks of a terrorist attack.
The bill would also give Americans the ability to sue the government for violating the act. And, it would prohibit evidence collected with warrant-less drone surveillance from being used as evidence in court.
DeVine Law has been concerned about the lack of any federal (or state legislation for that matter) legislation specifically limiting the use of drone aircraft within the borders of the United States for several months after reports of various governments’ use or contemplated use of the war weapon in the “War on Drugs” or other domestic crimes.
Senator Paul understands the difference between real wars in which the “warrants” for searches, seizures (including killings) are passed in the halls of Congress and signed by a President who serves as judge and jury for those that he determines to be enemies of the state; and faux wars labeled as such to fool the public into thinking a solution to a problem has been fashioned in Washington, D.C., thus earning re-election for those that voted aye to take the money of the 1% to hire government employees in perpetuity, with union dues deducted and sent to the Democratic Party.
The Fourth Amendment is not the First Amendment. It does not, of course, say that Congress shall make no law in the area of law enforcement as it does with respect to abridgments of the press, speech, and the free exercise of religion. Rather, it essentially invites the continued application of Common Law brilliance on a case-by-case basis in the courts to determine what is “reasonable” in the absence of statutory limits, and to temper the parameters that legislatures may set for police action.
Search and seizure law jurisprudence long ago carved out a “plain sight” exception (and others including exigent circumstances) to the warrant rule. If a police officer walking his beat witnesses a crime taking place, he may act to search and seize evidence and have it be admitted into court for the purpose of obtaining a conviction. This concept applies to stationary cameras in public places and should also apply to non-stationary cameras on drones, but that is only the beginning of the inquiry.
Stationary cameras don’t annoy us at backyard bar-be-ques, hence the need to restrict where they may fly, and not just impose an exclusionary rule. We the People should be mostly concerned with being denied our liberty by being put in jail, but we think that federal, state and local governments should be restricted in the use of air borne spies even if they don’t seek indictments.
Yes, district attorneys should be able to use evidence gathered in plain sight, even by drones, but we favor more specific restrictions on just exactly what altitudes from which they may plainly sight potential suspects. We hope the amendment process will add to the utility of an already acceptable restriction on big government from our tea partier favorite doctor from the Bluegrass State.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson
Atlanta Law & Politics columnist – Examiner.com
Charlotte Observer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-eds archived at Townhall.com.