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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 14, 2014

 
Drones Over Your Homes

by Tom Sullivan

So in North Carolina's capitol, one of Charlie Pierce's Laboratories Of Democracy, Gov. Pat McCrory is rushing to fix items in the budget he signed just days ago. Like a "provision that would stop automatically paying for enrollment growth at public schools."  It's just another of those items slipped anonymously into a must-pass budget bill. Among the hidden pearls is this ALEC-inspired gem found by Asheville-based activist Barry Summers. He wrote about it this week in the Asheville Citizen-Times:
H1099 was never heard by any Senate committee, but it has become State law nonetheless. It allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events (including those on private property) or any place which is in “plain view” of a law enforcement officer. It has other loopholes and deficiencies which taken altogether, make a mockery of the “right-to-privacy” anywhere but inside your home with the shades drawn tight.
Not surprisingly, the ACLU-NC, which had partnered with conservatives to draft the earlier, tougher H312 (Protecting Privacy Act), has come out solidly against H1099.
It was conceived in the NC House Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, chaired by an executive of a company that develops drone technology for the military (no conflict of interest there, right?). They solicited no testimony from anyone whose focus is the preservation of civil liberties. Instead, they invited drone manufacturers, law enforcement and others who clearly wanted the NCGA to open up the skies to drones with the fewest possible restrictions. Concerns about privacy were given little consideration.
These drones might be GoPro-equipped flyers like the one that just found its way to the bottom of the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone. Or they might be the type that until recently the San Jose Police Department denied purchasing with a Homeland Security grant. Or they might be, as Summers discovered in a presentation to a state committee, whatever specially equipped drones are being flown out of the eastern North Carolina airstrip owned by the firm formerly known as Blackwater.

I wonder, Wayne LaPierre, can they see into your gun safe and count your AR-15s?
It's a rare instance where the ACLU and the tea party are on the same page. The local tea party group represented by state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, one of ALEC's point men on drone legislation in NC, seems to have caught Moffitt claiming that the drone bill "is more than likely not going anywhere." This, after the language he sponsored got slipped into the budget bill he voted for and Pat McCrory signed. People who might have been staunch supporters have discovered that Moffitt thinks they're stupid or else he's incompetent.
Moffitt is up for reelection in November. Good luck with that.

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