Friday, December 7, 2012

Does the Second Amendment protect the right to use lasers against drones?

So drone use in these United States seems to be common, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is one of the most important organizations we have in America today.  While most of the country lays fast asleep to the dangers of the encroaching surveillance state, the EFF is always vigilantly at work on the front lines.  In their latest article, they show that military drones are already flying all over these United States and, using information received from a FOIA lawsuit they provide important details on what is flying and where.  You may be shocked at some of their conclusions.
And so to the heart of the argument.  Nobody argues that the First Amendment doesn't apply to offset printing, or the Internet, or twitter or email.  It's understood that speech is speech, no matter the form.  The question then is whether government surveillance is government surveillance no matter the form it takes - agents skulking by the window or reaper drones at 10,000 feet.

If so, then what would James Madison et al. say about the use of lasers to blind surveillance cameras sent without a warrant - and let's be grown up here: the chance that any of these drones flies with a warrant approaches zero.

Technologically-wise, it seems that it would not be too hard to use a laser to blind these things.  It might not be hard to set up a mesh network of citizen radar sites to identify the drones.

So here's the question: is it the second, the fourth,  or fifth that would protect you if you did this.


Dave H said...

By "blind" do you mean temporarily (i.e. "dazzle"), or do you mean to actually damage the sensor?

I can't see where dazzling a camera would be taken as an assault that must be defended in court. It amounts to closing the blinds on your window. I'd be reluctant to deploy an automatic system to do that though, because it might mistake the local traffic chopper for a drone and cause the pilot to crash.

Radar sites are a different problem. They generally require an FCC license. The FCC's not shy about enforcing that, either.

Archer said...

"is it the second, the fourth, or fifth that would protect you if you did this."

You mean, "Is it the 2nd, 4th, or 5th that should protect you?" I don't have any illusions that the gubmint would honor any Bill of Rights protections when it comes to defying Big Brother's will.

Old NFO said...

It 'should' be the fourth... SHOULD...

SiGraybeard said...

I would think that if a radar system was set up in amateur radio spectrum by hams, it would be difficult to go after them for using spectrum. The rules for the amateur microwave bands allow for us to play with radars. Done that.

Not that a federal prosecutor wouldn't try to develop charges against you for the use you put that system to.

Dave H said...

Graybeard: You're right, but not everybody has a ham license. Although that might be a novel way to entice more people to get one.

Anonymous said...

If these things are flying in domestic airspace, do they have transponders?

In that case "radar" is just tuning to the frequency and decoding their reported position from their own transmission.

Otherwise, as long as there are RF transmissions of some sort in the area one can use "passive radar". The FCC hasn't started banning radio receivers yet.

And, come to mention it, if the drone is sending back video, one just needs a few receivers spread out in space and able to keep a common time reference. Microwave TV transmitters are a bit hard to hide when they are obligingly staying above the minimum safe altitude for aircraft.

Anonymous said...

Functionally, I would say it is a technological proxy of the 3rd.

Alan said...

If they found out you were blinding drones with a laser you'd be labeled a domestic terrorist and disappeared into a dark hole never to emerge unless they needed a big public scape goat to scare people with.

Rights. LOL. That's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Don''t tell me - I know it. I don't 'get it' like all the cool kids do.

But I remain correct: the only rights and freedoms you have are those you can protect with physical force from the moral high ground.

If you were to blind that drone while it is on the hunt for terrorist bastidges - well...yer for us or agin us, I suppose. If you were to blind that drone as it stalked lawful private citizens then maybe you would have a case.

You talk of warrants and due process and such, BP - but there is no morality at all in letting criminal scum loose on technicalities. Libertarians could do themselves a huge favour by worrying less about law and more about justice.

Just my .02.


SiGraybeard said...

Anon 12/7 1919 - they have transponders? Some do; some don't.

The industry is kind of in a tizzy about how to handle drones in the national air space. Not every airplane has to have transponders, only those that go to airports which require it. There are many general aviation airports that don't, and while it may take some special efforts, you can get around the "upside down layer cakes" of controlled airspace by carefully choosing your routes.

There's a move to put transponders and TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems) on the bigger ones, but smaller ones that can still hurt you likely never will. There's simply too many.

Predators and the other drones that are the size of a small passenger jet probably will not only get TCAS and TDR, they'll get new systems that autonomously help them avoid collisions. The small ones that fly below 500' or that are deployed by local LEO probably never will have transponders.