Drone Wars Hit the States

Photo Credit: Reuters Drones could soon be entering the airspace above you — and privacy-minded state lawmakers, banding together in an unusual left-right political alliance, are in a dogfight with law enforcement groups across the country as they move to put protections in place for those on the ground.

Sen. Rand Paul, a leading critic of drones, recently helped drive them into the national debate with his 13-hour filibuster on the issue and a later comment that it would be OK if a drone were used by police in the U.S. to kill an armed robber at a liquor store. That comment infuriated some of Paul’s libertarian followers and sent the Kentucky Republican and possible 2016 candidate into full damage control mode.

While Paul brought the issue more mainstream attention, activity had already been under way in legislatures. In more than three-quarters of the states this year, legislators who fear the “surveillance state” are seeking to limit the use of the unmanned, unarmed aircraft in the name of privacy rights, clashing with police and industry organizations that argue the efforts unfairly stigmatize a still-developing, widely misunderstood and potentially useful technology that has an unfortunate link to the killing of terrorists in faraway deserts.

“We want to make sure we don’t create a system where Big Brother is always up there watching us,” Michigan state Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican sponsoring a bill restricting drones, told POLITICO. “These can be used, but only in certain instances.”

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