Skip to main content

Don't let drones invade our privacy

By Rand Paul, Special to CNN
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, fears domestic use of drones would violate our Fourth Amendment rights.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, fears domestic use of drones would violate our Fourth Amendment rights.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Rand Paul says surveillance drones in the U.S. could track everyday activity
  • He says it's a violation of the Constitution to spy with drones without approval by a judge
  • Rand Paul says police should be able to get approval for limited use of drones
  • He says legislation is need to reaffirm the rules set out in the Constitution

Editor's note: Rand Paul, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

(CNN) -- When assuming office, every government official must take an oath to abide by and uphold our Constitution. Since 2010, I have made that my mission in Congress. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is not upholding nor abiding by the Constitution -- in fact, this administration is going to great lengths to continually violate it.

Its most recent transgression involves the use of domestic drones.

These small drones are to be used as a crime fighting tool for law enforcement officials. But is unwarranted and constant surveillance by an aerial eye of Big Government the answer?

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul

In a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama's secretary of the Air Force, the stated purpose of these drones is "balancing ... obtaining intelligence information ... and protecting individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution."

However, flying over our homes, farms, ranches and businesses and spying on us while we conduct our everyday lives is not an example of protecting our rights. It is an example of violating them.

The domestic use of drones to spy on Americans clearly violates the Fourth Amendment and limits our rights to personal privacy. I do not want a drone hovering over my house, taking photos of whether I separate my recyclables from my garbage.

Poll: Don't use drones for speeding tickets

Sen. Paul says no to domestic drones
Officials open up about drones
Markey: Public debate needed on drones

When I have friends over for a barbecue, the government drone is not on the invitation list. I do not want a drone monitoring where I go, what I do and for how long I do whatever it is that I'm doing. I do not want a nanny state watching over my every move.

We should not be treated like criminals or terrorists while we are simply conducting our everyday lives. We should not have our rights infringed upon by unwarranted police-state tactics.

I have introduced legislation into the Senate that restates the Constitution.

This bill protects individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of these drones. The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012 will protect Americans' personal privacy by forcing the government to honor our Fourth Amendment rights.

I want to make it clear that I am not arguing against the use of technology. But like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, a warrant needs to be issued to use drones domestically. The police force should have the power to collect intelligence; however, I believe they must go through a judge and request a warrant to do so. The judicial branch must have some authority over drones, as they do with other law enforcement tools.

My bill will restate the Fourth Amendment and protect American's privacy by forcing police officials to obtain a warrant before using domestic drones.

There are some exceptions within this bill, such as the patrol of our national borders, when immediate action is needed to prevent "imminent danger to life," and when we are under a high risk of a terrorist attack. Otherwise, the government must have probable cause that led them to ask for a warrant before the use of drones is permitted.

If the warrant is not obtained, this act would allow any person to sue the government. This act also specifies that no evidence obtained or collected in violation of this act can be admissible as evidence in a criminal, civil or regulatory action.

Allowing domestic drones to act as spies for the government is a complete violation of our basic right to personal privacy.

Unrestricted drone surveillance conjures up images reminiscent of Orwell's "1984" -- a totalitarian police-state. According to the Fourth Amendment, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

I am sure our police force had good intentions with their suggested drone policies, but do they understand the consequences? Do they realize that they are allowing the government to act as the eye in the sky?

By infringing upon our rights and watching over our every move, the government is not going to protect us, but they will push us one more step closer to completely losing our Fourth Amendment rights. My bill will protect individual privacy against governmental intrusion by these drones and establish a balance by requiring judicial action and allowing protection in court.

I am confident that my colleagues in the Senate will agree with this bill. Each and every one of us took the same oath to abide by and uphold our Constitution. The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act does just that.

Overheard on CNN.com: Unmanned drones ignite domestic surveillance debate

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rand Paul.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT