Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eyes in the sky

Unmanned drones will soon be making their appearance in the skies over Montgomery County, Texas. Officials with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office are excited about the latest addition to their arsenal of tools to violate the people's right to be left alone.

Supposedly the drones will be used to "hunt criminals" and find missing persons.

But the drones will be flying over private property while conducting these searches. Well, what's the problem with that, you ask. The problem is the irreparable harm these flights will do to the citizenry's reasonable expectation of privacy.

You see, our rights to be protected against unlawful search and seizure are based on this vague notion of whether a particular intrusion violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. Right now a homeowner would have a reasonable expectation that no one is snooping on him in his own backyard if he has a fence or trees of shrubs that shield the public's view of his yard. But, announce that you will be sending unmanned drones on missions throughout the county and one's expectation that he will be left alone in his backyard goes out the window.

Of course the authors of the Bill of Rights had no idea that one day man would be able to soar through the skies in motorized flying machines. That just made it easier for the government to declare that your personal space did not extend upward into the heavens.

It's much like the situation at the nation's airports these days. The government tells you that you will have little or no expectation of privacy in an airport terminal if you expect to board a plane - that means you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. That means the government doesn't need a warrant to conduct a search of you or your bags.

The apparent goal of the state is to place as much of the public under their eyes (and thumbs) as possible. Quite ironic in this era in which every politician on the right screams to the high heavens of his fervent belief in limited government. The feudal lords north of Houston can proclaim all they want that these drones will make the public safer, but I'm not buying it.

Quite the contrary, the forces of the state are consolidating their power over the people. We have someone forgotten the words Abraham Lincoln spoke on the hallowed battleground of Gettysburg. The government is here to serve us, not the other way around.

In the name of protecting ourselves from whatever the threat of the month may be, we have allowed our interests to be made subservient to those of the government, including our right to be left alone. Someone please explain to me how that embodies the ideal of limited government.

See also:

"Droning on in Montgomery County: unmanned aircraft could be mounted with weapons," Grits for Breakfast (Oct. 29, 2011)

"Texas civil libertarians have an eye on police drones," Houston Chronicle (Oct. 31, 2011)

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