A rogue drone found by an employee at a Florida television station illustrates the “potential for bad behavior” even when used by a civilian, according to news investigators.
WND has reported the concerns about drones use by government agencies. President Obama has acknowledged that his administration has used drones to attack and kill terror suspects.
The drone, a small aircraft powered by battery and controlled by radio, was obtained by WKMG-TV in Orlando after the machine went out of control and fell out of the sky, ending up in a tree literally overhead from a station worker.
It had a high-definition camera attached.
So the news team went to work, reviewing the videos inside and spending several weeks to track down the location from which it was launched and the owner.
The station reported that the video, some 120 minutes on the camera, revealed the “potential for bad behavior.”
The unit raced to an apartment window and captured images of a sunbather without her knowledge.
Reporter Erik von Ancken said the drone’s origin was traced to student Jimmy Alexis in nearby Altamonte Springs, who told the station he wanted to record a flight, add music and post it on YouTube.
But he, too, admitted there was potential for misbehavior.
The report noted that the use of a drone that was not in the line of sight of the operator violated federal regulations. State Rep. Dan Young, R-Temple, who had worked on an anti-voyeurism law, said she would review it to make sure it was strong enough.
The only state law in Florida now regarding drones applies to law enforcement agencies that use them.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been a major opponent of the use of drones on American citizens by the government. He recently asked the FBI to explain why it is using drones to spy on Americans, noting that Director Robert Mueller admitted in a recent appearance before Congress it’s being done with no operational guidelines.
“How long has the FBI been using drones without stated privacy protections or operational guidelines?” the senator asked in a recent letter to Mueller. “Why is the FBI only now beginning to develop guidelines for the use of drone surveillance?”
In March, Paul engaged in a filibuster in the U.S. Senate over President Obama’s apparently willingness to carry out a drone strike on an American citizen under certain circumstances.
Paul forced the administration to admit the president is not authorized to order Americans killed.
But he wasn’t any more pleased with the response from Mueller when the FBI chief appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“You confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses drones for the surveillance of American citizens. You also confirmed that the FBI is currently utilizing these surveillance tactics in the absence of any operational guidelines,” he wrote.
“I am disturbed by the revelation that the FBI has unilaterally decided to begin using drone surveillance technology without a governance policy, and thus without the requisite assurances that the constitutional rights of Americans are being protected,” Paul said.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center said it already has been trying to get information on the administration’s use of drones, petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a public rulemaking procedure to address the threat to privacy and civil liberties.
The senator recently told radio host Aaron Klein that the Obama administration may have made promises about drones that fly above U.S. soil, but “there still exists a question” on exactly how the White House does plan to use the unmanned, armed vehicles.
“There is a difference between being in combat and not being in combat,” Paul told Klein. “For example, if you’re an American and you’re in Afghanistan and you’re fighting with the Taliban and you’re shooting at us, there’s not going to be any due process in that situation. … You fire back.
“The question is: What happens when you’re not involved in combat, but you’re thought to be conspiring to attack the United States?”
Hear Paul’s interview with Klein:
After Paul’s lengthy filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder said: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”
Previously, in response to a question from Paul, Holder said the U.S. never has carried out a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on American soil and that it would be “unlikely.”
However, Holder also said he could not rule it out entirely.
“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder’s letter said.
The attorney general said Obama “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.”