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Charlottesville imposes first-in-nation curbs on aerial spy drones

By   /   February 5, 2013  /   No Comments

CHARLOTTESVILE – The home of the University of Virginia on Monday became the first U.S. city to limit the use of police spy drones.

In a 3-2 vote, the Charlottesville City Council placed a two-year moratorium on the use of aerial drones within city limits. The council also barred police agencies from arming the unmanned craft and prohibited the government from using data recorded via police drones in criminal prosecutions.

The passage of the resolution coincided with a leaked Department of Justice memo outlining the Obama administration’s rationale for assassinating U.S. citizens via drone strike.

With the Federal Aviation Administration projecting that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, the libertarian-leaning Rutherford Institute has drafted resolutions that can be adopted to safeguard the public.

The Charlottesville council adopted a version of the Rutherford resolution.

An alternative resolution, drafted by local anti-war activist David Swanson, was not adopted.

“It’s our hope that the rest of the country will follow Charlottesville’s lead in establishing clear limits on the use of drone technology, especially by law enforcement agencies,” said Rutherford President John Whitehead.

“The Obama administration’s unapologetic rationale for using drones to kill U.S. citizens sends a clear and urgent message about the need to limit the government’s use of these devices domestically.”

The FAA Reauthorization Act, quietly signed into law by Obama late last year, authorizes the use of drones domestically for a wide range of functions, both public and private.

Heretofore, drones have been confined to military use in the battlefields over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whitehead, an attorney, says the domestic use of drones “will usher in a new age of surveillance in American society.”

“Not even those indoors, in the privacy of their homes, will be safe from these aerial spies, which can be equipped with technology capable of peering through walls.”

In addition to their surveillance capabilities, drone manufacturers have confirmed that drones can also be equipped with automatic weapons, grenade launchers, tear gas and tasers.

Many local police departments throughout the country, including in Florida and California, have already begun utilizing drones in police procedures.

“When either state or national governmental entities overstep constitutional bounds, it is imperative that our local government address these issues,” Whitehead said from his Charlottesville office.

— Kenric Ward



Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.