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Public Statements

The Drones are Coming

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, the domestic use of drones is on the way. There will be more eyes in the sky looking over America.

According to the FAA, by 2015, it will allow the use of drones nationwide, and by 2030, 30,000 drones will be cruising American skies--looking, observing, filming, and hovering over America. They will come whether we like it or not. We will not know where they are or what they're looking at or what their purpose is, whether it's permitted or not permitted, whether it's lawful or unlawful, and we really won't know who is flying those drones.

Sometimes drones are good. We can thank drones for helping us track terrorists overseas and for helping us catch outlaws on the border. Legitimate uses by government and private citizens do occur, but a nosy neighbor or a Big Brother government does not have the right to look into a window without legitimate cause or, in the case of government, probable cause.

Mr. Speaker, drones are easy to find. I learned from a simple Google search that you can buy a drone on eBay or at your local Radio Shack. It's very easy. And as technology changes, Congress has the responsibility to be proactive and to protect the Fourth Amendment right of all citizens. The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.

It doesn't take a constitutional law professor to see why legislation is needed to protect the rights of the American people. The right of a reasonable expectation of privacy is a constitutional right. Any form of snooping or spying, surveillance or eavesdropping goes against the rights that are outlined in the Constitution.

Today, I will reintroduce the Preserving American Privacy Act because it's time for Congress to be proactive in protecting the rights of civilians from the private use and government use of drones. This legislation balances individual constitutional rights with legitimate government activity and the private use of drones. We don't have time to wait until 2030 when there are 30,000 drones in the sky.

This bill sets clear guidelines, protects individual privacy and informs peace officers so they will know what they can do and what they cannot do under the law. Nobody should be able to use drones for whatever purpose they want. This bill will make it clear for what purpose law enforcement and citizens and businesses can use drones.

There will be limits on the government use of drones so that the surveillance of individuals or their property is only permitted or conducted when there is a warrant. This applies to State, Federal, and local jurisdictions, but there are exceptions. Law enforcement could use a drone for fire and rescue, to monitor droughts and to assess flood damage or to chase a fleeing criminal. And of course, the exceptions, called exigent circumstances, which are already in our law, will apply.

This bill includes a clear statement so that it does not prevent the use of drones for border security. The bill also sets guidelines for the private use of drones.

The bottom line of the bill is simple: nobody should be spying on another unless they have the legal authority to do so. The decision should not be left up to unelected bureaucrats to decide the use of drones, so Congress has the obligation to set guidelines, to secure the right of privacy and to protect citizens from unlawful drone searches. Just because the government has the technology to look into somebody's yard doesn't give it the constitutional right to do so.

And that's just the way it is.


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