|By Karl Dickey, West Palm Beach Libertarian Examiner
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is calling congressional approval of legislation making it easier for the government to operate unmanned drones over U.S. soil an “ominous step that raises serious concerns about individual freedom and privacy.”
The FAA Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Obama Tuesday, includes a provision directing the Federal Aviation Administration to develop rules for the testing and licensing of drones to be flown in U.S. airspace and to expedite the process for authorizing their use by federal, state and local agencies. The FAA projects that as many as 30,000 drones could be in use over the U.S. by 2020.
In a statement, Johnson said, “The threats to privacy in America – from our own government – seem to never end. Does Congress really think they can just stick an ‘oh-by-the-way' provision in an obscure piece of legislation directing the FAA to clear the way for 30,000 drones to fly over our neighborhoods, and have no one notice?
“Big Brother is alive and well, and now we’re talking about making it easier for him to fly remote control planes loaded with cameras over our neighborhoods. Based on our experience with the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and several other laws Congress has enacted in recent years, it is not alarmist to fear or assume that when we give the government the power to snoop, they will indeed snoop.
“The government, through the FAA, already has the power to permit specific uses of drones, such as in fighting forest fires, looking for lost campers, or helping deal with natural disasters. And right now, they are being used to patrol the border. Some of those uses may be justified and legit, and the rules allow for that today. But directing the FAA to come up with a system that will allow federal, state and local law enforcement to deploy 30,000 drones is a very different proposition, and should absolutely not be allowed to proceed without a serious conversation about a very real threat to fundamental privacy.
“The ACLU, the Electronic Freedom Foundation and numerous other groups are expressing serious concerns about Congress’ action, as they should. I share those concerns. The idea that the air above our heads and homes should be turned into a wide-open playground for government snooping is an insult to freedom and to what remains of privacy in this country.”
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