Skip to main content

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.

Poll: Don't use drones for speeding tickets

Sen. Paul says no to domestic drones
Officials open up about drones
Markey: Public debate needed on drones

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

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT