Feinstein Calls For Regulation After Drone Spies Through Her Window


For anyone involved in the debate over government abuse of privacy, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been fun to watch lately. She has  jumped to the defense of the National Security Agency in the past several months and is a longtime apologist of the White House’s drone policy. But based on a couple of her recent outbursts, it’s clear that, while she’s just fine with spying on American citizens, Feinstein is insulted and upset that the government, or anyone else, would violated her 4th Amendment protections.

During an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” as part of a segment on the growing controversy surrounding the use of drones for law enforcement as well as commercial and private enterprise, Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for the Federal government to regulate unmanned aerial vehicles, describing privacy concerns associated with drones as “very, very major.”

The Senator shared a personal experience: “I’m in my home and there’s a demonstration out front. And I go to peek out the window and there’s a drone facing me.”

The segment, “Drones Over America,” evoked a sci-fi cityscape, the sky above abuzz with unmanned aerial vehicles — taking bird’s eye photos, shooting video, delivering packages, even providing medical evacuations. Drones are also played up as an asset to law enforcement.

“This is a whole new world now and it has many complications,” Feinstein said.

“When is a drone picture a benefit to society? When does it become stalking? When does it invade privacy? How close to a home can a drone go?” she asked.

Feinstein has been a supporter of the NSA’s surveillance programs in the past. Her concern about drones invading privacy echoes her recent concerns about government espionage, in the immediate wake of her heated public argument with the CIA last week, in which the Senator accused the agency of spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Congress and the FAA have already passed a bill to welcome commercial drones to the U.S. by 2015, and some people think that’s not soon enough. The FAA released its first drone “roadmap” last November.

Unmanned aerial vehicles have a growing presence in the military and in law enforcement, but no one knows quite yet what the reality of having a sky full of UAVs will be like.

“And the question is,” Senator Feinstein asked, “how does it all get sorted out? What is an appropriate law enforcement use for a drone? When do you have to have a warrant? When don’t you have to have a warrant? What’s the appropriate governmental use for a drone?”

The Senator’s answer?

“It’s going to have to come through regulation, perhaps regulation of size and type for private use. Secondly, some certification of the person that’s going to operate it. And then some specific regulation on the kinds of uses it can be put to.”

**Personal Liberty Staff Writer Sam Rolley added to this report by UPI’s JC Sevcik.

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