June 12th, 2012
11:16 AM ET

Sen. Paul says no to domestic drones

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is supporting a bill to ban the use of domestic drones to monitor citizens in the U.S. He spoke with CNN's Carol Costello a day after a U.S. Navy drone crashed in Salisbury, Maryland.

Here is the transcript:
Costello: The smoldering wreckage is still there lying in a marsh in Salisbury, Maryland. It’s what's left of a military drone. No injuries. No property damage, but $176 million loss for the air force. The air force is still investigating why this thing crashed. The drone is used for military purposes, but smaller drones are being used by law enforcement agencies across the country. Police say these small drones can fly low and undetected and help them fight crime. The American Civil Liberties Union says it's a violation of personal rights. Republican Senator Rand Paul does too. He’s here now. Welcome, Senator.

Paul: Good to be with you.

Costello: Tell us about your anti-drone bill. I actually have it right here, and I’m amazed it's three pages long.

Paul: Well, you know, I got the idea from Representative Austin Scott. So I have to give him some credit from Georgia. He told me about the bill recently. We picked it up and are introducing it as the senate version. Yeah, I’m a big fan of the fourth amendment. Not only do I like the second amendment, I like the fourth amendment. I think you should have to have a warrant to invade people's privacy and to spy on them. And so I think it's very important. And this just basically restates the Constitution. But sometimes you have to restate the Constitution because many up here seem so ignore it. And Representative Scott when he told me about the bill he said, look, when I’m out hunting on my property, I don't want them spying on me. And I’m not a hunter. But when I’m separating out my recyclables, I don't want them having a drone to make sure I’m putting my newspaper in the proper bin.

Costello: Well, we've already got drone launch sites in more than 20 states. Police are pretty excited about this new crime fighting tool. So would your bill make these launch sites go away?

Paul: What it would do is there's a balancing act. I mean police do have power and I want police to catch rapists and murderers. But they ask a judge and we separate the police from the people who finally make the decision on someone coming in your house. So even if a rapist is loose in D.C. tonight, the police will call a judge in the middle of the night, wake him or her up and say, we think there's a rapist in the neighborhood. Can we go in x address? And so those are things that are very, very important to protecting innocent individuals. And a drone is a very, very powerful way of snooping on behavior. And I don't want them monitoring every bit of my behavior. And I’m not joking about the recyclables. I mean, we've had different states and cities trying to punish people criminally for not separating out the recyclables. We don't want a nanny state that watches every minute of our day. It's not that there will be no drones it's just that drones will only be used when a judge says that it's proper.

Costello: What about in this instance? One Texas sheriff told reporters his agency is considering arming his drones with rubber bullets and tear gas. Let's say there's a large crowd gathering and you need some crowd control. This type of drone might be able to diminish any problems on the ground. Would that be allowed under your bill?

Paul: Anything that would require a warrant. It would have to have a warrant. And I’m concerned about obviously arming drones. But I don't want to say that I’m arguing against technology. For example, there's a bomb in a car, I’m very happy that we have automated robots that can go up to the car and investigate the bomb and we don't have to risk a human. Same with drones. If they can save lives, that'd be one thing. Arming drones obviously sends up pictures of the military and I don't think domestically armed drones are a good idea. What I would say is that drones could be used if you have a proper warrant. But that means you go through a judge. A judge has to say there is probable cause of a crime. But I don't want drones roaming across, crisscrossing our cities and our country snooping on Americans. And that's the surveillance state that I’m very concerned about. And that's what our bill would stop.

Costello: This military drone that crashed in Salisbury, Maryland, the ACLU is also concerned that these domestic drones may crash randomly in some neighborhood and hurt people. Is that a concern you have too?

Paul: I think that could be a danger. I don't know the safety profile of you know how good they are. But they do crash occasionally. So this one crashed and we also lost the one in Iran. So I think there is some danger. But I’m not against technology per se. What I am for are the constitutional processes that protect our civil liberties. So, you know, it's not like I’m against the police using cars or against them using airplanes or helicopters or robots. But I am for personal privacy for saying that no policeman will ever do this without asking a judge for permission. That was the recent case where the police were tagging GPS tags on your car without a warrant. The Supreme Court was very clear on this. Struck it down 9-0. So I feel comfortable that conservatives and liberals on the Supreme Court are concerned about privacy and technology's ability to invade our privacy. So I am very, very concerned about this, and I think this is a very serious bill. And we'll push forward and I’m going to talk to Senator Reid and Senator McCconnell about allowing a vote on it.

Costello: Do you have the same types of concerns about military drones being used in other countries or does your bill just specifically deal with drones flying over the United States?

Paul: This would only be domestic.

Costello: Do you have concerns about the use of military drones in other countries?

Paul: I am concerned about one person deciding the life or death of not only foreigners but U.S. citizens around the world. And the chance that one person could make a mistake, you know, is a possibility. So having the president decide who he's going to kill concerns me. I would rather it go through a court, and there are actually secret courts, the FISA court investigates intelligence information. And most of these decisions aren't made like this. They make the decision over weeks and months. They target people and go after them. I see no reason why there couldn't be some sort of court preceding, even a secret court preceding, to allow some protection. I mean even in the United States where we have the best due process probably in the world, we have probably executed people wrongfully for the death penalty. They have found out through DNA testing, many people on death row are there inaccurately. And even Republicans have pulled back their beliefs some on death penalty. So I think when we decide to kill someone, that's obviously the ultimate punishment. We need to be very, very certain that what we're doing is not in error.

Costello: Senator Paul, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.


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