La-La Land

I noticed the Drudgereport featured an article on drones being deployed in LA.

Message: Drones – coming soon to a reality near you.

Several recent court cases appear – at first glance – to give a green light to the use of drones, but the situation is more complicated, and at least two US Supreme Court cases appear to preclude the use of drones for mass surveillance. Wildly unconstitutional.

First, I get it… I understand that some courts will uphold a SWAT team (in North Dakota) or the Border Patrol using drones in specific circumstances, for specific reasons, and in conjunction with a search warrant (ideally).

However, the US Supreme Court has two decisions out there that are relevant, at least. Both cases involved the authorities looking for marijuana growers. Yeah, the war on Cheech and Chong. Your tax dollars at work.

In Kyllo v. United States (2001) the Court found that the use of a thermal imaging device (then mounted on land, but now standard for drones) represents a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. So it must be accompanied by a search warrant specifically describing the things to be searched.

A better case is California v. Ciraolo (1986). Here, drone advocates think they have their precedent. But they do not. They’ve been smoking too much of something.

True, the Court let stand the use of a private plane by police (acting on a tip) to fly over the area and find someone growing the devil’s weed in their back yard. And then the warrant was issued.

I don’t have a problem with that necessarily, but drone advocates are forgetting the details of the Court’s decision.

The Court justified the fly-over and the introduction of evidence because it was based on an officer (sitting in a plane) and his “naked-eye observations,” that could be documented by an ordinary photograph.

Drones would be constitutional if they included some dude sitting there, stretching his neck this way and that, looking for something dodgy.

But drones today do not come with humans. They feature all kinds of gadgets to measure heat, motions, etc… They can scan license plate numbers from cars. They even have facial recognition technologies to feed countless faces into a remote database, churning random people through lists of supposed terrorists. This is inherently intrusive technology and should require a search warrant.

The proposed LA drones are not attached to a specific investigation or a warrant. These are intended to hover in the air indefinitely, 24/7 is the idea, as in some dystopian science-fiction movie.


Amendment IV

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.






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