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Don't let drones invade our privacy

By Rand Paul, Special to CNN
June 15, 2012 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, fears domestic use of drones would violate our Fourth Amendment rights.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, fears domestic use of drones would violate our Fourth Amendment rights.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Rand Paul says surveillance drones in the U.S. could track everyday activity
  • He says it's a violation of the Constitution to spy with drones without approval by a judge
  • Rand Paul says police should be able to get approval for limited use of drones
  • He says legislation is need to reaffirm the rules set out in the Constitution

Editor's note: Rand Paul, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

(CNN) -- When assuming office, every government official must take an oath to abide by and uphold our Constitution. Since 2010, I have made that my mission in Congress. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is not upholding nor abiding by the Constitution -- in fact, this administration is going to great lengths to continually violate it.

Its most recent transgression involves the use of domestic drones.

These small drones are to be used as a crime fighting tool for law enforcement officials. But is unwarranted and constant surveillance by an aerial eye of Big Government the answer?

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul

In a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama's secretary of the Air Force, the stated purpose of these drones is "balancing ... obtaining intelligence information ... and protecting individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution."

However, flying over our homes, farms, ranches and businesses and spying on us while we conduct our everyday lives is not an example of protecting our rights. It is an example of violating them.

The domestic use of drones to spy on Americans clearly violates the Fourth Amendment and limits our rights to personal privacy. I do not want a drone hovering over my house, taking photos of whether I separate my recyclables from my garbage.

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When I have friends over for a barbecue, the government drone is not on the invitation list. I do not want a drone monitoring where I go, what I do and for how long I do whatever it is that I'm doing. I do not want a nanny state watching over my every move.

We should not be treated like criminals or terrorists while we are simply conducting our everyday lives. We should not have our rights infringed upon by unwarranted police-state tactics.

I have introduced legislation into the Senate that restates the Constitution.

This bill protects individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of these drones. The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012 will protect Americans' personal privacy by forcing the government to honor our Fourth Amendment rights.

I want to make it clear that I am not arguing against the use of technology. But like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, a warrant needs to be issued to use drones domestically. The police force should have the power to collect intelligence; however, I believe they must go through a judge and request a warrant to do so. The judicial branch must have some authority over drones, as they do with other law enforcement tools.

My bill will restate the Fourth Amendment and protect American's privacy by forcing police officials to obtain a warrant before using domestic drones.

There are some exceptions within this bill, such as the patrol of our national borders, when immediate action is needed to prevent "imminent danger to life," and when we are under a high risk of a terrorist attack. Otherwise, the government must have probable cause that led them to ask for a warrant before the use of drones is permitted.

If the warrant is not obtained, this act would allow any person to sue the government. This act also specifies that no evidence obtained or collected in violation of this act can be admissible as evidence in a criminal, civil or regulatory action.

Allowing domestic drones to act as spies for the government is a complete violation of our basic right to personal privacy.

Unrestricted drone surveillance conjures up images reminiscent of Orwell's "1984" -- a totalitarian police-state. According to the Fourth Amendment, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

I am sure our police force had good intentions with their suggested drone policies, but do they understand the consequences? Do they realize that they are allowing the government to act as the eye in the sky?

By infringing upon our rights and watching over our every move, the government is not going to protect us, but they will push us one more step closer to completely losing our Fourth Amendment rights. My bill will protect individual privacy against governmental intrusion by these drones and establish a balance by requiring judicial action and allowing protection in court.

I am confident that my colleagues in the Senate will agree with this bill. Each and every one of us took the same oath to abide by and uphold our Constitution. The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act does just that.

Overheard on CNN.com: Unmanned drones ignite domestic surveillance debate

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rand Paul.

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