Federal Government to Pass Bill Allowing Them to Shoot Down Drones

The federal government will soon be able to shoot down any privately owned drones in the event that the FAA budget bill becomes law, according to NBC news. The new law would give the FBI and Department of Homeland Security the power to track and shoot down commercial drones that are considered threats. If the bill passes, the government could identify, track, capture, and destroy drones that they feel pose a threat.

However, some lobby groups believe that the broad language used in the bill may be misused by officials with too much authority. According to India McKinney, a legislative analyst, the bill raises many concerns over unreasonable seizures and free speech. This is because the bill fails to distinguish between commercial drones and other private drones. Which means everyone is at risk, including journalists covering protests, as well as delivery drones.

The senior legislative counsel of the ACLU, Neema Singh Guliani, said Congress should not be able to use the disaster relief and aviation bill as a way to force controversial law. According to Neema, the bill will interfere with press freedom and expand warrant-less surveillance on people. Beyond the First Amendment freedoms that seem to be at risk, McKinney said that the bill would also allow the Homeland Security Department and Justice Department to track drones that they believe are threats by intercepting communication between the operator and the device.

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen recently asked for authorization from the House Homeland Security Committee to down some drones, pointing to their alleged threat. According to Nielsen, commercial drones can easily be used by terrorists and other criminals to deliver contraband to prisons, drop explosives, disrupt communications, plus much more. Meanwhile, local law enforcement agencies have begun using their own surveillance drones quietly for quite some time now. Last year, the police in Boston spent $17,454 on three surveillance drones that were to be used in a predominantly low income neighborhood.

According to Lucy Parsons Labs, a nonprofit organization dealing with police accountability issues, the legislation would expand police use of drones for monitoring big public gatherings such as protests. The legislation also proposes that the drones be equipped with facial recognition technology. This will give law enforcement agencies a lot of power that many are concerned about. This can end up doing more harm than good which is why it’s important to draft a bill with enough checks and balances to ensure law enforcement and government do not misuse the technology. The house will be voting on the proposed bill soon.

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