WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today introduced the Protecting Individuals From Mass Aerial Surveillance Act, which would require the federal government to obtain a warrant to conduct aerial surveillance in the United States. Reps. Ted Poe (TX-02), Donald Beyer (VA-08), Zoe Lofgren (CA-1) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), are original cosponsors of the bipartisan bill.
“Even though technological advances have made data gathering and mass surveillance easier and more accessible, it does not change the Fourth Amendment and its extended protections to Americans. This legislation is common sense, if the Federal Government wants to use aerial surveillance, they should have to obtain a warrant,” Poe said. “I was a judge for 22 years in Texas, and officers came to me with search warrants. If they had probable cause, I would sign them — this is what the Constitution requires. Innocent Americans should not be caught in the crosshairs and spied on when the eyes of Washington are in the sky. While technology may change, the Constitution does not. The Federal Government, just like any officer, should have to obtain a warrant.”
“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. “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 Protecting Individuals From Mass Aerial Surveillance Act would prohibit the government from identifying law-abiding Americans who show up incidentally in surveillance, and it would prohibit unlawfully collected information to be used in court. The bill also includes common-sense exceptions for terrorist threats, border security, surveying public lands and scanning disaster relief areas.
“Our law enforcement agencies need modern tools to combat crime and terrorism in the face of emerging technologies but we must take every precaution to preserve civil liberties and privacy rights,” said Beyer. “I am proud to join Rep. DelBene’s common-sense legislation to protect our constituents from privacy incursions.”
“The recently reported expanded use of aerial surveillance on U.S. soil raises serious Constitutional and civil liberties issues that Congress needs to address,” Lofgren said. “This legislation includes important guidelines to protect Americans’ privacy in a time of increasing surveillance technologies.”
“Unmanned Aerial Systems are revolutionizing entire sectors of the economy – saving time, money, and even human lives. As this technology proliferates, however, so too must our privacy protections,” said Blumenauer. “This bill ensures that Americans can be confident in the fact that there are clear protections from illegal surveillance by UAS carried out by either the government or the private sector.”
Earlier this year, news reports revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been conducting aerial surveillance missions over many U.S. cities. The reports suggested that some of the aircraft were equipped with devices, such as StingRays and high resolution cameras, which can capture massive amounts of data including images, emails, texts, calls and geolocation. After hearing the reports, DelBene led a letter to FBI Director James Comey requesting more information.
The House bill is a companion measure to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Dean Heller’s (R-NV) legislation.