Should the LAPD use drones?

As reported by the L.A. Times:

For more than three years, a pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department was locked away, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.

Seattle police saw a similar backlash when they wanted to use the devices, grounding their drone program before it even took off. And recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s use of a drone has been criticized by activists as well as civilian oversight commissioners who want the agency to stop.

On Tuesday, the LAPD again waded into the heated debate, saying the department wanted to test the use of drones in a one-year pilot program.

Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to deploy the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates or police critics for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance and fears of military-grade, weaponized drones patrolling the skies. …

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Jerry Brown Lets Emergency Responders Take out Drones

DroneCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday that will allow the state’s emergency responders to take out civilian drones without fear of civil liability for the damage that results.

Senate Bill 807, introduced by State Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), provides: “An emergency responder shall not be liable for any damage to an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, if that damage was caused while the emergency responder was providing, and the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system was interfering with, the operation, support, or enabling of the emergency services…”. The bill defines “emergency services” as:

(a) Emergency medical services or ambulance transport services, including, but not limited to, air ambulance services.
(b) Firefighting or firefighting-related services, including, but not limited to, air services related to firefighting or firefighting-related services.
(c) Search and rescue services, including, but not limited to, air search and rescue services.
The bill was seen by many in the state as increasingly necessary, given the frequent interference of drones with firefighting efforts as the state has battled wildfires in recent years. Earlier this year, for example, an aircraft loaded with over 10,000 gallons of fire retardant and headed for a wildfire in the San Bernardino Forest had to turn back because a drone was spotted in the area that could have placed the plane and its crew in danger.
In a statement thanking Gov. Brown, Sen. Gaines said:
Wildfires continue to ravage our state and we can’t have drones or anything else getting in the way of the first-class emergency response we get from all of our firefighters and public safety officers. These are life-and-death situations where a single delay can lead to tragedy. Let’s keep drones away to protect people and property … I want everyone to know that interfering with firefighting or other emergency activities is reckless and wrong. Let’s get the word out as far and wide as we can – immediately – to help keep our people and emergency personnel safe. … People can replace drones, but we can’t replace a life. Public safety should be our absolute number one priority.
The San Jose Mercury News notes that drones have been spotted increasingly over wildfires in the U.S. It is possible other states will consider similar measures to indemnify emergency responders and clarify responsibility for damage to drones.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart California. 

Drone Bill Will Stifle Innovation, Fail to Protect Privacy

DronePrivacy matters. Giving consumers control of their personal information is central to many pieces of good legislation in California. Unfortunately, SB142 (Jackson) – which is intended to provide privacy protections related to small, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – will instead stifle innovation without providing real privacy protections. AB856 (Calderon), on the other hand, does afford meaningful privacy protections. The juxtaposition between these two bills, both of which are currently on Governor Brown’s desk, is clear. A veto of SB142 paired with a signing of AB856 demonstrates a willingness to stand against hollow messaging legislation while supporting meaningful protections of privacy.

If an irresponsible operator spies on your family by flying a small UAV in his or her own yard, you have no recourse under SB142. However, if a delivery drone with no recording mechanism flies over your property without your express permission to deliver a package of medical supplies to your neighbor, SB142 considers it an invasion of privacy. If this doesn’t make sense to you from a privacy perspective, you are right. SB142 doesn’t address behaviors that constitute privacy breaches – it creates arbitrary guidelines, including a 350 foot altitude limit that is inconsistent with limits set by the Federal Aviation Administration, that are impractical and unworkable.

Ironically, the author explains, “When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy.” SB142 simply doesn’t ensure that is the case. Instead, it restricts UAVs that pose no threat to privacy and provides no recourse if an operator were actually spying on you.

According to the Assembly Judiciary Committee synopsis, SB142 “establishes a new and unusual definition of trespass.” Even if done so unintentionally, legislation that creates new definitions and standards of harm that allow for more litigation should be reconsidered so that California businesses are not subject to repeated frivolous, yet costly, lawsuits.

As an alternative to SB142, AB856 addresses privacy in a straightforward manner by creating a right of action against anyone who uses a UAV to take images (still photos or video) of a person engaging in personal, familial, or private activities on his or her property. By tailoring the offense to this conduct, AB856 is at the core of what the right to privacy is all about.

Privacy protection is worthy goal, but SB142 is unfortunately a step in the wrong direction. Governor Brown should veto SB142 and sign into law AB856.

Executive Director of the Small UAV Coalition

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

New Bill Targets Drones That Interfere With Firefighting Efforts

Fed up with private drones interfering with firefighting, a state senator has announced another bill to keep unmanned aerial vehicles away from hot spots.

Courtesy CalFireSen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, said SB168 would indemnify emergency responders who damage a drone during firefighting, air ambulance or search-and-rescue operations.

Earlier this month, aerial fire crews responding to a blaze that swept across Interstate 15 north of San Bernardino had to pull back after five drones were spotted above the fire.

It was the fourth time in a month that a drone had disrupted wildfire response in the region, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. Gaines introduced SB167 earlier this summer to increases fines and introduce the possibility of jail time for drone use that interferes with firefighting efforts. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, co-authored both bills.

“Private drones don’t belong around these emergencies. That is the first message I want to get out,” Gaines said in a news release. “But if one gets damaged or destroyed because it’s in the way then that can’t lead to financial penalty for the people trying to save lives and property. It’s unfortunate, but that’s all it is. People can replace drones, but we can’t replace a life. When our rescuers are risking their own lives to protect us, I want them thinking about safety, not liability.”

Courtesy CalFireGaines also said it’s his hope that the advent of effective “jamming” technology could keep drones away from emergency response areas and flight paths.

He went on to say that “public education efforts could ensure that the safest, least-damaging methods for avoiding or disabling unauthorized drones will be the primary methods used in these crises.”

In a phone interview on Friday, Gaines said its his understanding that the federal government is working on a technology that would jam a certain frequency used by private drones.

Some government agencies are already using drones, or have plans to do so, to monitor areas including wildfires.

Contact reporter Chris Nichols at [email protected] or on Twitter @ChrisTheJourno

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Dianne Feinstein helped keep drones with CIA

As reported by Politico:

Nearly two years ago, President Barack Obama called for moving the drone war from the CIA to the Defense Department to give the controversial counterterrorism program greater oversight.

But it hasn’t happened.

Then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein expressed concerns, and intelligence sources say she inserted a classified amendment in a spending bill last year requiring that the administration certify that giving the Pentagon a greater role would not have negative impacts on the war on terrorism.

Feinstein’s office declined to comment on the classified amendment, but the White House, in response to the amendment, has been slow to make any changes.

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Drone Carrying Meth Falls Near Border

As reported by the U-T San Diego:

A small aerial drone crashed about two miles from the U.S. border in Mexico carrying several pounds of methamphetamine, Mexican police said Wednesday.

The discovery at a shopping mall parking lot in Tijuana, within walking distance of the U.S. border crossing, raises the prospect of a new, high-tech front in the struggle between drug gangs and law enforcement.

Tijuana’s metropolitan police department said an anonymous caller reported the crash of the remote control aircraft at about 10 p.m. Tuesday. Officials from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office were seen scouring …

Read full story here

CA bans state cooperation with warrantless spying

From new regulations on ride-sharing to a ban on plastic bags, Californians lost plenty of liberty this legislative session. But freedom in the Golden State scored at least one small victory in 2014.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bipartisan bill that would ban the state from cooperating with warrantless spying by the federal government.

Senate Bill 828, co-authored by Sens. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, would ban state officials from complying with a federal agency’s request for electronic data if the state knows that request is illegal or unconstitutional. The bill is a response to the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance programs that collected phone and electronic data on millions of American citizens.

Lieu stands up for 4th Amendment

Dubbed the 4th Amendment Protection Act, the bill sailed through both houses of the Legislature without opposition.

“I commend Gov. Brown for recognizing that the National Security Agency’s massive and indiscriminate collecting of phone and electronic data on all Americans, including more than 38 million Californians, is a threat to our liberty and freedom,” Lieu said. “We can only hope the feds halt this illegal and unconstitutional practice nationally.”

Supporters of the bill, which include the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the Consumer Federation of California, say that the new law is a symbolic victory for constitutional principles.

“The federal government’s dragnet collection of millions of phone records and metadata is very troubling,” said CAIR-Sacramento Valley Executive Director Basim Elkarra. “We are happy to see California leading the way in pushing back against the unconstitutional data collection by the NSA and ensuring the observance of the Fourth Amendment, as a basic principle of this nation’s founding and democratic values.”

Orwellian technology exposed by Snowden

As CalWatchdog.com first reported in January, Lieu’s legislation comes in response to last summer’s revelations by former defense contractor and government whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA has been collecting phone data on millions of Americans. In December, a federal judge ruled that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is likely unconstitutional.

“The almost-Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979,” Judge Richard Leon wrote in his December ruling.

California’s new law covers “electronically stored information,” which is any data stored in a digital form, as well as the metadata surrounding any communication. Metadata is the “data about data” and can include the time, date, location, duration, origin or identity of the persons. In many cases, such information can be as revealing as the content of a call or email itself.

“New technology is demonstrating just how sensitive metadata can be: how friend lists can reveal a person’s sexual orientation, purchase histories can identify a pregnancy before any visible signs appear, and location information can expose individuals to harassment for unpopular political views or even theft and physical harm,” the American Civil Liberties Union of California explained in its February 2014 white paper, “Metadata: Piecing Together a Privacy Solution.”

Feds occasionally rely on state for data

According to the legislative analysis, federal agencies occasionally rely “upon services provided by the state and/or private entities that provide services on behalf of the state” in order to illegally collect data.

“SB 828 makes clear that the state of California will continue to uphold the Fourth Amendment rights of its citizens, even under pressure from the federal government,” said Anderson, the Republican coauthor of the bill. “Our nation is unequivocally dedicated to stopping terrorism, yet we must be ever vigilant that our desire for safety does not come at the expense of the freedoms and liberty our enemies seek to destroy.”

The new law, which is less than 200 words in length, is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Here’s the text of the bill:

Senate Bill 828: 4th Amendment Protection Act

The state shall not provide material support, participation, or assistance in response to a request from a federal agency or an employee of a federal agency to collect the electronically stored information or metadata of any person if the state has actual knowledge that the request constitutes an illegal or unconstitutional collection of electronically stored information or metadata.

This article originally appeared on CalWatchdog.com