House bill would require warrants for aerial surveillance

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A House bill introduced on Thursday would require federal law enforcement officials to get a warrant if they want to conduct aerial surveillance inside the country.

It would also forbid them from identifying people who are inadvertently captured by aerial surveillance.

The measure, dubbed the Protecting Individuals From Mass Aerial Surveillance Act, is sponsored by Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan DelBeneArmani, Batali among guests at White House state dinner Lawmakers ask Lynch to help 'fine tune' evidence bill House passes bill to block high-cost regulations under litigation MORE (D-Wash.).

“Just because technological advances have made it easier for the federal government to collect information doesn’t mean that our privacy rights can or should be violated on the ground or in the air,” DelBene said in a statement. “Congress has an obligation to clear the legal fog by passing my bill to require the federal government to obtain a warrant if it wants to conduct aerial surveillance.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ted PoeTed PoeA clear signal on Georgia’s future Overnight Tech: Dem presses Facebook on gun sales | Praise for new librarian of Congress | Fourth Amendment Caucus to push privacy concerns Overnight Cybersecurity: Guccifer 2.0 releases more DNC docs; China hacked banking regulator MORE (R-Texas), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOvernight Finance: House GOP grills IRS chief on impeachment | Bipartisan anger over Iran payment | Fed holds rates steady but hints at coming hike Panel votes to extend nuclear power tax credit DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion MORE (D-Ore.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.). A related bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.

It comes amid growing concerns about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s use of aircraft to conduct surveillance of Americans.

Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI had attached so-called stingray devices small airplanes. The devices simulate cellphone towers and are able to collect information about cellphones around them.

Then, in June, the FBI said that it was operating a fleet of planes. The Associated Press reported that they were carrying cameras and the stingrays. The FBI told the AP at the time that the aircraft "are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance."

Since then, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have both instituted policies that require their officers to obtain warrants before using the cell site simulators.

But some privacy advocates have said that exemptions contained in the policies make it too easy for agencies to still use the devices without a warrant.