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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: code pink, commercial drones, dianne feinstein, drones, privacy, protests, surveillance


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2014 @ 5:13pm

    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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.