Sen. Feinstein Comes Face To Face With A 'Drone,' Fails To Learn Anything From The Experience

from the 'the-drone,-laden-with-its-payload-of-irony...' dept

Tireless NSA defender Dianne Feinstein apparently had a scary run-in with surveillance technology. Oddly, it bothered her.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she once found a drone peeking into the window of her home — the kind of cautionary tale she wants lawmakers to consider as they look at allowing commercial drone use.

The California Democrat offered few details about the incident when speaking about it Wednesday afternoon, during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on drone policy at which she appeared as a special witness. But she used the episode to implore lawmakers to “proceed with caution.”

To be fair, the “drone” (explanation on the scare quotes in a moment) was hovering “inches from her face,” right outside her window. To be even more fair, Feinstein likes her surveillance bulk and untargeted, not hovering outside her house. She’s pushed for CBP drones to be used only within three miles of the border in California, so it can be said she’s no friend of drone surveillance.

Feinstein didn’t elaborate on the event during her statement, withholding details on when (recently/several months ago) and where (DC/California) it happened. If she had elaborated, it probably would have undercut the “scariness” of the drone invasion.

The Wire talked to Feinstein spokesman Brian Weiss, who offered some helpful background details.

The Wire spoke by phone with Feinstein’s spokesman Brian Weiss, who confirmed that the incident happened at the senator’s house in San Francisco several months ago. At about the time, it seems, that Code Pink showed up to protest Feinstein’s support for the NSA.

On June 15, the anti-war group held a protest focused on Feinstein, which included activists in disguises and, yes, two remote-controlled helicopters, which might creatively be described as drones.

Here’s some video documentation:

Yes, Feinstein’s privacy was “invaded” by a tiny pink helicopter roughly the size of a crow that carried no camera. As for her claim that she “startled” the drone causing it to spin around and crash? Well, without a camera, it’s pretty hard to “startle” the operator.

For a staunch defender of US surveillance programs to become perturbed at the new face of surveillance technology (even if this particular one didn’t have a face, so to speak, or at least couldn’t “see”) is a bit rich. Sure, Feinstein is working hard to craft regulatory legislation to govern drone usage, but she seems to be more concerned with commercial drone use than government drone use. She has stepped up to keep the CBP from flying theirs all over California, but her scary story of flying eyes was delivered in support of legislation governing commercial drone use. So, even in this case, Feinstein remains more a government surveillance lapdog than a privacy defender. This issue just happens to intersect at a junction privacy activists have been known to frequent.

Too many eyes in the skies — ones that can fly for hours and provide the sort of long-term surveillance piloted vehicles can’t — is a problem for everyone. This time, it happened to Dianne Feinstein. Unfortunately, the experience failed to impart any understanding as to why the public might be perturbed by the NSA’s unguided, untargeted and mostly un-overseen bulk collections programs. Surveillance is surveillance, whether its outside your window or hoovered up from overseas cables, phone records and dozens of other programs operating in complete darkness.

The camera right outside your window is a subjective issue. The many eyes with the access and capabilities to peer into the lives of millions of people seems rather abstract compared to a one-on-one confrontation. But the dangers posed by both are equally real.

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Comments on “Sen. Feinstein Comes Face To Face With A 'Drone,' Fails To Learn Anything From The Experience”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Drone, huh?

These R/C copters are not drones.

I have several R/C copters, and as much as I joke around about them being my drone army — you both are right — these aren’t drones. These R/C copters can go maybe 300-400 feet before they lose signal and become ballistic (some of the more expensive ones can go far longer distances.) They are fun to play with at our 2600 meets, but don’t have much usage for surveillance (even the ones with cameras.) We used them to look into windows of businesses in the area during one of our meets, but the biggest difficulty was flying them around cell towers (which would interrupt their signal,) and they would plummet to the Earth rather violently.

Anonymous Coward says:

How remarkably telling that the senator has no issues with the bulk gathering of data nor of spying on the masses…until it invades her own personal life. Then suddenly that’s a whole different thing somehow.

So when is the senator planning on getting around to if and when the NSA spies on senators and congress critters? When does she plan on reducing the amount of spying the NSA can do within the domestic borders?

*hears the crickets chirping while waiting a lengthy time for a non-response*

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Reminds me of the rental privacy laws that got put into place. Robert Bork claimed no right to privacy during confirmation other than that put into law by congress. Michael Dolan obtained and published his video rental list. You have to admit, that was a perfect demonstration of the flaws of Bork’s stance on privacy.

Just Sayin' says:

violation of privacy

The operators of this “drone” may find themselves in hot water, considering it’s rather illegal to use such a device to obtain images inside someone’s private property. If that was not the case, the paparazzi in LA would have long since started using them to peep in people’s windows for profit.

There is absolutely no indication that the government drones are used in such a manner. It’s a poor attempt to make a point that instead points opponents of the use of surveillance drones as bitter and misinformed.

There is no “third party” in peeping in someone’s window. It’s just offensive.

Loki says:

Well of course she was taken aback. Surveillance, especially targeted surveillance, is for the peasant population, and maybe member of government who aren’t fully under the corporate umbrella yet. People who are duly elected corporate spokespeople (such as Feinstein and Rogers) should clearly be immune from at least overt tracking/monitoring.

Anonymous Coward says:

I pretty sure Sen. Feinstein was afraid for her life and thought the drone was carrying a bomb. I’m sure she reads classified reports about US military drones locking onto Jehadee terrorist’s cellphones, and raining Hellfire missiles down on their heads.

After reading stuff like that, I’m sure she viewed that thing as a flying IED (improvised explosive device).

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