Careful review needed on drone legislation

by Whitney Carter

As Americans, we should be concerned about the proliferate rise of the use of drones in war. They can be a powerful resource, but the legislation has not yet caught up with the technology, leaving us a gap in our constitutional rights. The use of drones domestically is rising and adds to that gap.

We, as a nation, currently have little legislation governing drones. This needs to change. This is an issue that affects us on both broad and personal fronts and affects our constitutional rights as well.

There was recent talk on campus about the use of drones as a result of the Thursday, Feb. 21 lecture titled “A Pilot’s Perspective on the Growth of Drones.” The pilot in question was Bradley J. Ward, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot. Ward has nine years of experience in drone aircrafts and technology, and he commanded and directed drone operations. He was a strong believer in the necessity of drones, and I agree.

Ward presented the idea that drones cause less collateral damage and the research backs him up. The New America Foundation analyzed reputable news reports about drones, specifically in Pakistan, to get a sense of the numbers and they found that the estimated civilian death rate in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declined dramatically from 2008 to 2013.

Other warfare techniques can cause significantly more collateral damage, but drones make the process easy to eliminate enemies with less collateral damage. The idea of eliminating enemies is simple when the enemy seems to be a lurking foreign terrorist. The terrorist has no connection to the U.S. nor does he fall under our laws, though maybe he should. The line is further blurred when the so-called enemy is one of us. Four Americans have been killed in drone strikes, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Congress.

I am concerned about the legalities. During Ward’s lecture, he discussed the current national legislation about drones. Basically, as a result of the War Powers Act post-9/11, the president has been left free to pursue enemies that may have been involved in the planning or execution of the 9/11 attacks, Ward said. Any American should be subject to the rights that we are afforded as citizens, such as the right to a fair trial, those killed by drone strikes, are not permitted those rights.

In Washington State, we are dealing with the issue of drones on a different scale. The issues of a fair trial are not as much at stake as the right to privacy. Two bills defining and regulating the use of drones made their way past the House and were being debated in the Senate in Olympia, Washington’s capital, as of last week. One of the bills defines how the state government can use drones and the other bill is trying to protect citizen’s privacy.

Washington State is on the right track. Drone legislation should be taken seriously nationwide. Drones have the possibility to infringe on constitutional rights. They are a powerful resource in the world we live in today, but they should be limited or kept in check.

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