Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Blog

The administration’s drone policy has been the center of attention in part because of the nomination of John Brennan for director of the CIA. Leading up to Brennan’s confirmation hearing, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and his colleagues sent a letter to the President requesting documents discussing the legal justification for the targeted killings of American citizens abroad by the use of drone strikes. And now, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is threatening to filibuster Brennan’s nomination, after two previous letters requesting information about the administration’s authority to conduct drone strikes inside the US have gone unanswered. “The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction that should not be ignored,” wrote Paul.

In the last decade alone, drone strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people. As the administration has been under scrutiny for its use of drones abroad, state legislators are now introducing legislation to combat the use of drone surveillance domestically. Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss has introduced legislation that would require local authorities to obtain a search warrant prior to the use of a drone to collect evidence. With the potential use of drones domestically, Biss said this is “the exact moment states should be looking into” this issue. More than twenty states have considered legislation that would limit or ban the use of unmanned aerial systems, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Virginia state legislators sent a bill to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell earlier this month that would establish a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by local and state law enforcement. If signed by Gov. McDonnell, Virginia will become the first state to enact drone regulations. A number of states, including California, Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Missouri – are considering similar legislation to Virginia’s.       

While state legislators are wasting no time in joining the national debate, on Capitol Hill Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have also recently introduced legislation that “creates a legal framework for the domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to protect Americans’ privacy.”  The House Judiciary Committee is also holding a hearing tomorrow called “Drones and the War on Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?” The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also indicated that his committee will take up discussion on the matter as well. 

comments powered by Disqus