A bi-partisan bill to limit drone use within Washington state is meeting resistance from the aerospace and defense corporation Boeing.
Just last month, H.B. 1771, a bill to put limits on government drone use within Washington state, passed its House Committee hearing. The bill establishes guidelines and standards for the use of drones by public entities to protect the privacy rights of Washington residents.
"This bill quite simply provides protection to the citizens of Washington state from warrantless surveillance. That's our intent here. To start a conversation and say if these things are going to be used, you will protect the constitutional rights of the citizens," said Rep. David Taylor (R), the bill’s primary sponsor.
Now with the bill on the Floor Calendar, after failed attempts to stop it from police and a drone lobbyist, Representatives Taylor and co-sponsor Matt Shea (R) have confirmed Boeing’s efforts and indicated they have met with a Boeing lobbyist to discuss their concerns.
“One of the aspects Boeing is opposed to is legislative oversight at the local level,” Rep. Taylor said.
“That’s a non-starter for me. I was elected to represent the people of the 15th District, as their voice in Olympia. The people have a right to know whether their government is purchasing drones and, if so, what they are being used for.”
Boeing has claimed that the bill will hurt Washington's chance of being one of six FAA sites in the country approved for drone testing following President Obama's signing of H.R. 658, a bill that permits as many as 30,000 drones to be flown within the country.
“Boeing is putting profit ahead of the Constitution. To support unrestricted drone use is to support the idea of King George III’s ‘general warrants’ where anyone’s property could be searched at any time for any reason. General warrants are why we have a 4th Amendment to our Constitution that limits government intrusion. Less government means more freedom,” said Rep. Shea.
The ACLU of Washington has argued that Boeing's statements are unfounded, pointing out that the bill does not cover private use and allows uses as long as they aren't collecting personal data, which Boeing's drone testing would not fall under.
"The entire drone issue is not going to be solved with just this one bill, but this will get the law enforcement side under control because there are no clear guidelines out there right now for the use of these drones and we could put the state on the hook with liability if these drones are used in an improper manner," said Rep. Shea.
"Boeing should be doing everything it can to stand in protection of the constitutional rights of the citizens of Washington state, the same citizens who have done so much for Boeing," said Rep. Jason Overstreet (R).
"Why would Boeing want to compromise the industry's credibility, put state and local municipalities at risk of lawsuits and compromise the public's confidence in law enforcement's use of this technology?"
It is unclear whether Boeing's efforts will pay off given the large bi-partisan support from the Republican and Democrat sponsors as well as the massive grass-roots push to get the legislation through.
"House Bill 1771 crosses political lines and demolishes conventional political paradigms as it strives to protect the constitutional rights of all Washington citizens," said Rep. Overstreet.
Just last month, Washington residents showed their feelings towards unrestricted drone usage by successfully ending the Seattle Police Department’s attempt to use surveillance drones at a Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee hearing, forcing the department to return its two drones back to their vendor.
In light of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) near thirteen hour filibuster this week, pointing out the Obama Administration's position on using lethal force against US citizens with drones on US soil, it appears the public opinion on drones may be reaching a fever pitch in opposition to the technology fewer and fewer are trusting in government hands.
Public scrutiny has even caused the Air Force to quietly reverse its policy of sharing the number of drone strikes in Afghanistan and scrubbing previous statistics off their website.