Drones are a smart way to start a trend on Twitter; D.C.-area drivers tweeted feverishly when they mistook the Navy’s X-47B drone traveling on a flatbed truck for a UFO. But the way President Obama employs drones is unconstitutional and therefore dumb with a capital ‘D.’
Dumb Drones At Home
On Valentine’s Day (politicians know that holidays and weekends are ideal times to pull the wool over our eyes), Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. This law allocates $63.6 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration between 2012 and 2015. Basically, it authorizes the FAA to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to loosen and expand drone regulations for both military and private/commercial use.
The Fourth Amendment gives you and me—as American citizens—the right “to be secure in” our private property without the threat of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” And, warrants for any searches must have “probable cause.” The FAA Modernization and Reform Act is unconstitutional because it appears to allow federal agencies to survey American business owners, farmers, landowners and all other private property owners without showing “probable cause” and obtaining warrants.
This law effectively gives the executive branch (the President) the authority to operate independently, without accountability to Congress. The Washington Times reports: “The FAA has issued hundreds of certificates to police and other government agencies, and a handful to research institutions to allow them to fly drones of various kinds over the United States for particular missions. …but the FAA refuses to disclose which agencies have the certificates and what their purposes are.”
The EPA similarly flies piloted planes over the private lands and homes of cattle ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa to scan for possible violations of the Clean Water Act without proper warrants. When federal agencies like the FAA and the EPA regulate private property while ignoring entire constitutional amendments, it is a clear violation of the Constitution’s mandate that the legislative branch, not the executive branch, make laws.
Thankfully, Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) are pushing bills that will require government agencies to get warrants before flying a UFO—err, a drone—over your backyard while you’re grilling steaks in your boxer shorts.
Dumb Drones Abroad