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Louisiana Bill Would End Warrantless Drone Spying; Hinder some Federal Surveillance

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BATON ROUGE, La. (March 7, 2016) – A Louisiana bill would significantly limit drone surveillance in the state, and also serve to thwart one aspect of the federal surveillance state.

Rep. James Armes (D-Leesville) prefiled House Bill 811 (HB811) on March 4. The legislation would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before conducting drone surveillance over private property in most situations. The proposed law would allow police to deploy a drones with pronable cause to believe the target has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, and exigent circumstances exist making it “unreasonable” to get a warrant.

HB811 does not address the issue of armed drones.

Impact on the Federal Surveillance State

Although HB811 focuses exclusively on state and local drone use and does not apply directly federal agencies, the legislation would throw a high hurdle in front of some federal programs.

Much of the funding for drones at the state and local level comes from the federal government, in and of itself a constitutional violation. In return, federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through fusion centers and a federal program known as the information sharing environment.

According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators… have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.

The federal government encourages and funds a network of drones at the sate and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on drone use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. This represents a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.

Bills like HB811 make part of a bigger strategy to put an end to government drone surveillance. Virginia led the way with its 2013 moratorium recently took the next step implementing permanent limits on drone surveillance. Each bill introduced, passed, and signed into law creates and builds momentum for other states to do the same.

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HB811 will be assigned to a House committee where it will have to pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full House.