Sen. Paul proposes bill protecting Americans from drone surveillance

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would require the government to get a warrant before using aerial drones to surveil U.S. citizens. 

More broadly, Paul's bill is aimed at preventing "unwarranted governmental intrusion" through the use of drones, according to the lawmaker.

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"Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued," Paul said Tuesday. "Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics."

The bill, S. 3287, would require the government to obtain a warrant to use drones with the exception of patroling national borders, when drones are needed to prevent "imminent danger to life" or when there are risks of a terrorist attack.

The bill would also give Americans the ability to sue the government for violating the act. And, it would prohibit evidence collected with warrantless drone surveillance from being used as evidence in court.


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While drone surveillance in the United States would undoubtedly prove controversial, the use of drones is currently a topic of international concern. Some Democrats have said the use of drones to disrupt terrorist networks is hurting America's image overseas.

Additionally, the United Nations is considering an investigation into drone airstrikes inside Pakistan, which could focus on the rate of civilian casualties caused by these attacks.

Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to move toward allowing drones to fly alongside commercial aircraft in U.S. airspace by 2015. 

The FAA is planning a pilot program to test fly drones in six locations, but will not set the rules for what the unmanned aircraft can be used for. 

Law enforcement agencies and state and local governments have expressed a strong interest in unmanned aircraft, and are being courted as potential customers by the booming drone industry. 

There is opposition, however, from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that have raised concerns about the impact of the drones on privacy.

— This story was updated at 10:09 a.m.

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