August 23, 2014

House passes surveillance drone ban critics call ‘overreaching’

The state House has narrowly passed legislation to keep the state of Missouri from surveilling its citizens using aircraft. 

Representative Casey Guernsey (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Casey Guernsey (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) says his bill stems from concern he has over events in two neighboring states.

“The federal government in conjunction with the state government in Iowa and Nebraska actually engaged in surveillance that brought about 50 different actions against farmers in Iowa alone.”

Guernsey suggests the charges against those farmers might be unfounded.

“The problem is that people who are interpreting a lot of this data don’t know anything about farming. They don’t understand anything about growing crops, they don’t understand anything about keeping cattle and if they’re looking at some image on a farm from a screen and they have no ag background, they’re the ones who are going to be allowed to start policing agriculture or business or homes or residential codes or, you know, whatever? The Conservation Department?”

Some lawmakers who didn’t oppose the original intent of the bill said amendments added on the floor made it go too far. One added the words, “Manned aircraft,” to the key provisions.

Representative Jeff Roorda (D-Barnhardt), a former police officer, says that will impair law enforcement use of aircraft.

“This grounds the air division of every law enforcement agency in the state. Not just planes, not drones, it includes helicopters.”

Roorda says it also adds a right to privacy where none exists.

“You have a right to privacy, to be free from unreasonable searches in your person, your home, your papers and your affects, right? Not in an open field, not in the highways and byways of our state.”

Another amendment would prevent news media from using drones to conduct surveillance of private property or individuals.

The bill now goes to the Senate.