- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Federal law enforcement agencies would be prevented from using drones to conduct warrantless surveillance of U.S citizens under a new privacy bill proposed on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, explained Tuesday that the Buzz Off Act he introduced aims to keep the U.S. from copying other countries that recently begun deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to enforce restrictions imposed as a result of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Although we are living in unprecedented times, we must not compromise our long recognized constitutional rights,” Mr. Biggs said in a statement.

The Chinese and Spanish governments have used drones to impose so-called stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, the contagious disease the coronavirus causes, and some localities in the U.S. have recently followed suit, Mr. Biggs noted.

“In California, drones have been equipped with speakers and cameras to help enforce the coronavirus lockdown; in at least one New Jersey city, these devices are being deployed to harangue citizens into heeding social distancing guidelines,” he said in a statement.

“Any freedom-loving American is left to wonder: what’s next?” Mr. Biggs said. “The Fourth Amendment and decades of Supreme Court precedent grant all American citizens a right to privacy. I won’t let our nation be transformed into a police state, nor will I sit idly by and let a soulless machine tell me how to live my life. These nosy little drones need to buzz off!”

Specifically, passage of the congressman’s bill would prohibit federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. from using drones “to intentionally conduct surveillance of, gather evidence or collect information about, or photographically or electronically record a specifically targeted United States citizen or the specifically targeted private property of a United States citizen” without a warrant. It provides an exemption if surveillance is necessary to counter a “high risk” of a terrorist attack.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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