Friday, March 22, 2013

Drones And Privacy-- Do Libertarians Still Back Buck McKeon? What About Ed Markey?


Buck McKeon is riding the weapons manufacturers' drone expansion agenda to immense personal wealth

We started sounding the alarm about drone privacy issues as soon as we realized that the founder and chairman of the House Drone Caucus, Buck McKeon, was taking massive legalistic bribes-- hundreds of thousands of dollars-- from the drone manufacturers, more than any other Member of Congress. They don't give him that kind of money because they like the cut of his jib. He's expected to always be there for their special interests and to push their agenda relentlessly. He hasn't disappointed them and managed to push through legislation that enables licenses for 30,000 or more domestic drones, most of which will be used to spy on American citizens. The DCCC is starting to come around to the idea of targeting the now vulnerable McKeon in 2014 and, hopefully, Lee Rogers will defeat him the next time they face each other.

Meanwhile, though, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, is trying to deal with the ramifications of McKeon's treachery against the Constitution and the American people. Yesterday he introduced a bill, The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act (DAPTA), that would establish safeguards to protect the privacy of individuals from expanded use of McKeon's drones. Markey:
“As drones increasingly fill our skies, Americans must be afforded a level of privacy and protection from these aerial technologies. My drone privacy bill provides transparency on the domestic use of drone aircraft and adds privacy protections that ensure this technology cannot be used to endlessly watch Americans. I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues on this bi-partisan issue to ensure that strong personal privacy protections and public transparency measures are put in place now, before this technology is literally hovering over our heads.”
Congressman Markey introduced similar legislation in 2012 which Boehner was able to kill by sending it to Fred Upton's notorious Committee of Corporate Shillery (House Energy and Commerce), where it died without a hearing or vote. “Drone surveillance poses a real threat to privacy and civil liberties in the United States. Congressman Markey's bill adds much-needed transparency to the drone authorization process and mandates important restrictions that will help to protect Americans from unwarranted drone use," said Jennifer Lynch, Electronic Frontier Foundation. Similarly the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are also supportive of the Markey bill, issuing a press release that supports his efforts based on the need to safeguard the Fourth Amendment in the digital age. "This bill leaves the door open for law enforcement use of aerial drones while upholding the right of Americans to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Striking the proper balance between law enforcement interests and privacy interests, this bill is the first step in the right direction towards transparency and accountability in future drone use.”

There is no accompanying legislation in the Senate-- at least not yet. Markey is running for the open seat John Kerry gave up to become Secretary of Defense-- and Kerry has endorsed him (as has Massachusetts' other U.S. Senator, Elizabeth Warren. No doubt he will introduce the same bill in that body as soon as he's elected. Perhaps he and Rand Paul, who also purports to oppose McKeon's drone expansion, could co-sponsor it. If you'd like to help make sure Markey gets to the Senate (instead of a conservative corporate shill), you can do so on the Blue America Senate page.

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