Legislation

“I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem,” New York Times columnist David Brooks laments. “Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions.” I think Brooks is wrong, though I wish he were right.

On Monday a group representing about 7,000 drone manufacturers and operators from government organizations, industry and academia released an industry-wide code of conduct to allay fears of privacy violations.  According to the press release issued by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, describes the code as “a set of guidelines to provide AUVSI members – and those who design, test and operate UAS for public and civil use – with recommendations for their safe, non-intrusive operation.”

As the sprawling surveillance site being constructed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in Utah grows larger and nearer completion every day, the domestic spy service remains tightlipped about just how much and what kind of personal electronic data they have already collected and collated. Not only does the NSA refuse to provide such information, it insists that it cannot be forced to.

In July of 2011 and again in May 2012, Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to James R. Clapper, Jr., the Director of National Intelligence, asking him a series of four questions regarding the activities of the NSA and other intelligence agencies regarding domestic surveillance.

Many Americans are justifiably anxious about drone use by the federal government against the American people, but the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations says that concerns about our privacy are overblown.“While many are understandably anxious about the seemingly inevitable expansion of drones a cross the United States, I argue that many fears are either overblown or based on misperceptions,” wrote Micah Zenko on the Council on Foreign Relations website June 21.

The British government is proposing a bill that would force communications providers to log details of every e-mail, telephone call, and text message in the U.K. and make this information available to law enforcement on request.

 Adding to its revolutionary navigation service, Google is planning to release a new version of the Google Maps program, offering users a 3D aerial-mapping technology that provides details capable of showing objects just four inches wide. But as U.S. technology companies race to produce aerial maps with greater detail and visibility, critics are posing privacy concerns and warning that America is quickly becoming a surveillance society.

Last Friday, Boeing debuted a high-powered, high-altitude drone — the Phantom Eye — in the sky over Edwards Air Force Base. 

The federal government informed an appeals court on Thursday that it has the right and the power to place GPS tracking devices on the privately owned vehicles of citizens without obtaining a warrant. This is in open rebellion to a Supreme Court decision from January that held that such warrantless installation of tracking devices on cars was unconstitutional.

Despite an increasingly noisy chorus of resistance to many of its provisions, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House, 248-168, on April 26. Passage in the House was assured with more than 70 percent of those supported by the Tea Party voting for it. It moved to an uncertain future in the Senate.

The opposition noted that the bill’s many flaws included precious little “protection” for rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, especially those guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by the Obama administration of an appeals court decision granting standing to the ACLU to challenge the NSA's domestic wiretapping program.

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