The right to privacy, the right to due process and the right to a trial by jury have been staples of human rights enjoyed by citizens of the United States since the Bill of Rights was put into effect in 1791.
Now, however, these rights are quietly being diminished through the use of unmanned aircraft known as drones being used over U.S. soil.
In Feb. 2012, Congress passed a bill that would make it easier for institutions to obtain a license to fly drones in U.S. airspace.
Drones have a wide variety of styles, sizes and uses. The unmanned aircraft can be small like the 36 inch Raven to large like the infamous 27 foot Predator. Equipped with everything from surveillance cameras to electromagnetic sensors to thermal imaging cameras to missiles, they can be controlled by a computer onboard the drone or a person in a remote location.
Groups that have applied for licenses range from police departments, who hope to use drones to control criminal activities and traffic violations, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has previously used them to study hurricanes and underground water.
With more institutions gaining access to drones, the question of personal privacy and safety has been called into question.
The size of the drone and the cameras it can use may allow anyone to be watched and recorded anywhere in the U.S. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, new technologies like facial recognition and laser radar that can potentially “see” through walls will potentially be utilized by drones soon. With these devices, what will prevent the total invasion of personal privacy both outside the home and in?
Drones are most notably used as a military weapons equipped with missiles and now, these missiles have the potential to be used against U.S. citizens.
At the beginning of February, a document now known as the “Department of Justice White Paper” was leaked to NBC. This document explains that the federal government can use deadly force against any person at any place if they belong to al-Qa’ida or its associated forces and are suspected to be a threat to the U.S.
It states that “targeting a member of an enemy force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the United States is not unlawful.”
While this may seem like a good idea, Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution assures Americans the right to a fair trial by a jury of their peers. The rules laid out in the White Paper would bypass this amendment, essentially nullifying it.
While drones have proven beneficial for scientific purposes, Americans need to weigh these benefits against the very real threat drones bring to the rights we have been granted by the Constitution. If we allow the government to strip us of the Fifth, Third, and Fourth Amendments how much farther will they go?