It seems that every day we publish another story about the expansion of President Obama’s drone program. Drones swarm over a region of Pakistan firing Hellfire missiles at suspected terrorists and a drone tracks an American on his own farm so that a SWAT team can rush in and arrest him.
In response to the crescendo of coverage of the drone war some have posited that there is no difference between the government’s or law enforcement’s use of a drone and the use of a helicopter. No warrant is required for police to deploy a helicopter to search for criminals evading capture, therefore no warrant should be required to justify the use of a drone toward a similar end.
There is a question, however, of whether there is a legal distinction to be made between the level of search conducted by the human eye (whether the searcher is on foot or in a helicopter) and that of a drone’s powerful never-blinking optics. Such an inarguable increase in police perception is not an insignificant decrease in the privacy expectation enjoyed by landowners and protected for centuries by timeless principles of Anglo-American law.
Given this encroachment into the formerly sacrosanct territory of individual liberty, Americans are right to resist the government’s apparent plan to fill the skies of our Republic with remote-controlled agents of the President and police.
In point of fact, a government or law enforcement agency may be less inclined to seek a warrant when the search is being conducted using a drone. The target of the hunt will likely be unaware that he is being tracked and thus government (at any level) can keep a close eye on those considered threats to national (or local) security without having to permit the eye of the court to look over their shoulder.
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