Bill That Was Supposed To Limit Police Drone Activity Changed By Lobbyist To Enable Weaponized Drones

from the this-won't-go-wrong-at-all... dept

North Dakota state representative Rick Becker had a good idea with his House Bill 1328, which would forbid the use of drones by law enforcement in the state without a warrant. A few other states have been looking at similar proposals, after there have been growing concerns about police using drones for surveillance activities. Virginia, for example, recently passed a law that requires a warrant for police drone use. So, good idea, Rep. Becker.

Except… in stepped Bruce Burkett, a lobbyist from the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association, who “was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328” to now make it about legalizing weaponized drones for police. Yes, a “peace officer” representative just made it possible to weaponize drones. The trick? He amended the bill to make it only about “lethal weapons,” which now opens the door to what police like to refer to as “less than lethal” weapons like “rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers” — some of which have a history of leading to deaths, despite their “less than lethal” claims.

Even ?less than lethal? weapons can kill though. At least 39 people have been killed by police Tasers in 2015 so far, according to The Guardian. Bean bags, rubber bullets, and flying tear gas canisters have also maimed, if not killed, in the U.S. and abroad.

Meanwhile, local police are still freaking out about the need to require a warrant. Check out this bit of police state nonsense:

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost said his department?s drones are only equipped with cameras and he doesn?t think he should need a warrant to go snooping.

?It was a bad bill to start with,? Rost told The Daily Beast. ?We just thought the whole thing was ridiculous.?

Rost said he needs to use drones for surveillance in order to obtain a warrant in the first place.

Yes, we need to spy on your first, to then see if we should get a warrant to spy on you some more. That’s not how this works.

And, now, while there will be warrant requirements for some uses — though with broad exceptions including within 25 miles of the US/Canada border and for “exigent circumstances” — the bill will (thanks to a lobbyist) allow the police to also experiment with weaponizing drones. If you thought the militarization of police wasn’t screwed up enough, now you might need to worry about stun guns and rubber bullets hailing down from the sky…

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Comments on “Bill That Was Supposed To Limit Police Drone Activity Changed By Lobbyist To Enable Weaponized Drones”

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57 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Uh, because there’s no history of police hitting the wrong people, right? Because drones are very, very precise and don’t miss, ever, right? Because they would never apply military tactics to deal with citizens and fire at those trying to provide help to the target right?

Conspiracy? They’ve been real too many times to rule something as impossible or improbable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

But we sure did laugh at all of the conspiracies along the way didn’t we?

The problem with government is that somewhere along the line someone came up with the idea that government can or should be trusted.

The founding fathers made it clear that government can never be trusted, not trusting the government helps keep it honest.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Don’t worry; you’re not necessarily handing this power to your government.

The armed drones lording over you will eventually use the technology developed to allow people in California to control drones in Iraq and Pakistan. Which means that not only can their manufacturing be off-shored to save money, but so can their operation.

This has the added advantage of making it harder to sue when someone feels that they’ve been unjustly tazed or tear gassed by an overseas security contractor. And those constantly predicting a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” will have a new twist to write about.

Hope This Helps!

That One Guy (profile) says:

If the local police don’t like it that sounds like a pretty solid endorsement for it to me.

The ‘lethal weapons’ clause, 5.1, could be fixed easily enough simply by striking out ‘lethal’, such that it prohibits any drone mounted weapons, rather that just lethal ones. If someone wants to play around with weaponized drones they can join the army, otherwise they can do without.

The rest of it looks fairly solid, though the ‘Exigent circumstances’ clause, 4.1, seems rather open to abuse, given how easy it would be to argue that every call presents ‘imminent danger to life or bodily harm’. A nice modification to that would be a requirement post-event to submit a justification for the need of the drone’s deployment, with any gathered or resulting evidence barred from use if the justification was found to be too weak. Not perfect, but it would at least do something regarding the large loophole.

sigalrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The ‘lethal weapons’ clause, 5.1, could be fixed easily enough simply by striking out ‘lethal’, such that it prohibits any drone mounted weapons, rather that just lethal ones. If someone wants to play around with weaponized drones they can join the army, otherwise they can do without.

In a world where Congress has redefined pizza to be a vegetable (in, what, 2011?), I have to imagine it would be fairly easy to redefine certain “non-lethal weapons” – say, pepper spray as an “aerosol-based anti-psychotic medication with pacifying qualities” or similar. Of course, many medications have negative side effects, but as long as the label is properly formatted, FDA should be fine with it.

I can hear the smooth, deep-voiced voice over in the commercial now:

“Imagine a world where drones aren’t weaponized – they’ve been re-purposed and converted into unmanned aerial medical dispensaries…”

I mean, who could argue against that?

ECA (profile) says:

Beyond the NEED for police

Police should have the concept that I CAN DO to myself, what I wish, on my OWN LAND…An idiot pays for his OWN mistakes, he needs little help from ANOTHER IDIOT..

I really dont Mind cameras in public locations. WHY the hell do they need a drone? Cheaper then a Chopper?
WHAT he wants to watch the BAR at closing time from a remote location?? The Donut shop?

Anonymous Coward says:

Tear gas, I’d believe. Tasers… maybe.

Rubber bullets? Well, you remember Newton’s laws, don’t you? How well does a Quad Copter react to such things? Just how accurate do you think a small drone would be when firing kinetic rounds, rather than simply dropping something?

And how big would the drone have to be before firing shots of some sort would be easily correctable? (And the answer is: large, but not huge. And not “quad”. And probably not excessively accurate would be my guess.)

Admittedly, ED-209 was something of overkill for drone size, but still…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Rubber bullets? Well, you remember Newton’s laws, don’t you? How well does a Quad Copter react to such things? Just how accurate do you think a small drone would be when firing kinetic rounds, rather than simply dropping something?

And how big would the drone have to be before firing shots of some sort would be easily correctable? (And the answer is: large, but not huge. And not “quad”. And probably not excessively accurate would be my guess.)”

A lightweight quad-copter ‘drone’ using a “recoilless rifle”-type weapon would be able to shoot even very heavy bullets while remaining motionless. That’s because a recoilesss rifle has its gun barrel open at both ends, so the kinetic energy resulting from the fired shot (in both directions) is equalized, and therefore there is no recoil.

As far as the challenge of being able to hold a rifle accurately on target while airborne, how about one of these gyroscope-stabilized, remote-controlled rifle platforms? Mounted on drone vehicles and aircraft, police could conduct a SWAT raid while safely sitting behind a desktop computer screen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p411Til7VC4

But the big question is whether armed robots would be more likely or less likely to fire in “self defense” – since “plausible deniability” or “computer error” could easily be claimed whenever innocent people are killed.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Drones

I don’t agree with arming these things, but why should one with just a camera require a warrant?

The cops don’t need a warrant to fly over your property in a plane or a helicopter, and the cameras they can attach to those aircraft are every bit as hi-tech and intrusive as what you can put on drone. Sometimes more so, because those platforms are larger and can carry much more robust equipment than a little drone can.

It seems like this is another one of those tech panics over the fact that it’s a drone, not what it’s capable of actually doing.

I’ve never understood this in the military context, either. People clutch their pearls and get the vapors over drone strikes, except they don’t necessarily question the legitimacy of the strikes themselves, but rather that they are done with drones. The implication being they wouldn’t have much of a problem with it if the military used an F-16 or an F-22 jet fighter piloted by a person to deliver the same bomb to the same target to kill the same people. It’s just doing it with a drone that gets their shorts in a twist. I don’t get it. Who cares *how* the bomb reaches its target? If the target is legitimate, then whether it’s flown there by a drone or a plane piloted by a person is irrelevant.

Same here. If the surveillance is legal with a helicopter, why should that legal analysis change merely because the pilot is at the other end of a signal instead of sitting in the cockpit?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Drones

The cops don’t need a warrant to fly over your property in a plane or a helicopter, and the cameras they can attach to those aircraft are every bit as hi-tech and intrusive as what you can put on drone.

Has this ever been tested in court?

In Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001) the majority opinion argued that a person has an expectation of privacy in his or her home and therefore, the government cannot conduct unreasonable searches, even with technology that does not enter the home.

It seems that using hi-tech cameras from airplanes is something that is “not commonly available to the public”, which was a deciding factor in Kyllo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Drones

…The cops don’t need a warrant to fly over your property in a plane or a helicopter, and the cameras they can attach to those aircraft are every bit as hi-tech and intrusive as what you can put on drone…

…the majority opinion argued that a person has an expectation of privacy in his or her home…

The key phrase there is in his or her home. Any camera or technology, such as infra-red and thermal cameras, that can see inside of a home does require a warrant. Visible light (only) cameras can only see the home and what’s outside, not anything inside; thus no warrant required. Police likely won’t go after nude sunbathing in the back yard even with an indecent exposure law, but grow marijuana plants in the back yard and it’s fair game for the police to start an investigation.

Police helicopters have been around for decades and the concept is no different than being on foot or in a car: if an officer sees something amiss it’s fair game to start an investigation.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Drones

The key phrase there is in his or her home.

Yeah, I was thinking in terms of an airplane, helicopter or drone viewing into a house through a window from an angle that normally wouldn’t be available to a normal person standing on the sidewalk or street.

I know that there’s not much expectation of privacy in your own backyard, although United States v. Vargas has pushed back this a little bit by declaring the warrantless video surveillance of a man’s front door with camera mounted outside his property to be unconstitutional.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Drones

The implication being they wouldn’t have much of a problem with it if the military used an F-16 or an F-22 jet fighter piloted by a person to deliver the same bomb to the same target to kill the same people. It’s just doing it with a drone that gets their shorts in a twist.

I disagree. There’s an argument about gun control that covers it:

“Handguns are available for self protection in Seattle, but not in nearby Vancouver, Canada; handgun killings are five times more common and the handgun suicide rate is ten times greater in Seattle. Guns make impulsive killing easy.”
– Carl Sagan, Demon Haunted World

Drones are cheap compared to F-16s and F-22s. They’re FAR cheaper to operate. The drone pilot if FAR cheaper to train. You don’t risk a pilot. You don’t risk the political fall-out of a pilot being captured.

Consider the US’s first Predator drone murder, back in 2002. Three men in Afghanistan. Murdered because one of them was tall, so obviously he must be Osama Bin Laden.

Drones make impulsive killing easy.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Drones

You don’t risk a pilot. You don’t risk the political fall-out of a pilot
> being captured.

I can’t believe you’re advocating that only systems that put your own countrymen in more danger be utilized. That it’s somehow unfair for the enemy not to have the opportunity to capture our own personnel.

How about armor on tanks and Humvees? That protects the soldiers, too. Is that an unfair advantage? Should we have to conduct our operations only using methods that put our service personnel in the most vulnerable possible?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Drones

I can’t believe you’re advocating that
> only systems that put your own countrymen
> in more danger be utilized.

I can’t believe you’re advocating only practices that kill a lot of innocent bystanders be utilized.

See? Two can play that game.

Armor on tanks and Humvees does not kill innocent bystanders.

One more time, since you obviously missed it: It’s not about fairness. It’s about not making impulsive killing easy.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Drones

I can’t believe you’re advocating only practices that kill a lot of
> innocent bystanders be utilized.

No more bystanders are killed using drones than using fighter jets. Try again.

Once again, you’re complaining about the targets and the accuracy of the bombs hitting them, not the delivery vehicle.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Drones

Flying a fighter jet into a civilian zone of a
> country we’re not at war with and dropping a
> bomb would be an act of war, and likely even a
> war crime

If it’s an act of war with a fighter jet, then it’s an act of war with a drone.

Once again, it’s the bombing that determines the act of war, not the delivery vehicle.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Drones

Is that actually what international law says, or just what makes sense?

There’s no such thing as “international law”. There’s no International Congress or Parliament out there passing statutes which every country must obey.

There’s only treaties and agreements between nations, and those differ from nation to nation. So what constitutes an act of war between Nation A and Nation B isn’t necessarily and act of war between Nation A and Nation C.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Drones

There’s no such thing as “international law”… There’s only treaties and agreements between nations,

Commonly referred to as “international law”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_law

But if you feel there is no such thing and can back that up with references, by all means suggest the WP article for deletion. 😉

When discussing acts of war, usually agreements between the major powers (and others) such as the Geneva conventions are relevant.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Drones

When discussing acts of war, usually agreements between the
> major powers (and others) such as the Geneva conventions
> are relevant.

It would only be relevant if one of the nations involved is one of those “major nations” of which you speak, or is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. Otherwise the nation is not bound by either one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Upon reading this article, I was reminded of ....

this little gem. http://www.villainsource.com/blog/463/weaponry/heavy-arms/accukak-systems-non-lethal-anti-personnel-unit

As for how large a drone needs to be in order to mount and control a firearm, not very large at all. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=york5EYv2Fo

Looks to me like the drone is handling the recoil quite well. I estimate the quadcopter to be about 2 feet long by about 1.5 feet wide (assuming 7″ slide length on pistol which is the slide length of an M1911. I don’t know what pistol is mounted on the drone, but the M1911 looks like a reasonable match).

Mike says:

Drone-based deployment of directed-energy weapons

Mike, It’s worse than that: This opens up the door for “less than lethal” Directed Energy Weapons (DEW). Imagine noiseless, invisible lasers, particle-beams, etc. deployed from drones against American citizens. Such weapons, even when tuned to be “less than lethal,” are perfectly capable of inflicting *covert* torture and maiming.

Some of this is already covertly going on (though not necessary from drones)

I wish I were joking about this.

Mike

Vladilyich (profile) says:

Less than lethal?

This is precisely why I own (and wear at times) military spec body armor, Kevlar helmet and mask as well as a Russian made gas mask that’s good against CS gas. Police have been allowed by nutcases like this to get totally out of control.

So far my self-defense measures are perfectly legal, BUT, the state of California has a bill pending in their legislature to make it illegal for “civilians” to own protective gear.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Less than lethal?

Err…. isn’t that sort of protective, anti-police-bullet gear, illegal for American citizens to wear outside.

Seems to me there was an article right here on techdirt about that.

Yeah, I’m pretty certain the Cops got, or wanted at least, legislation making body armor on civilians, 100% verboten in der Landt oov der Vree.

Heil Clapper!

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Remember this guys name

Because when the first inevitable fatality occurs, that blood is on his head.

No, he’s just one spoke in the wheel. He’s just doing his job for his employer, selling drones. Very sneakily, kind of admirably in a twisted sort of way.

But on that day, he won’t be pushing the button, he won’t be the guy giving the okay, he won’t be the guy who procures and deploys them, and he’s only part of the “us” that lets them all get away with this. It’ll be a team effort.

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