March 13, 2013
House Bill 1556 authored by OK Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, working in conjunction with the Oklahoma ACLU, would have required law enforcement to get a warrant before using drones for surveillance and prohibited civilian drones from carrying weapons.
But today the Governors office put an end to this bill.
Reported by KFOR-TV March 13, 2013;
Bill on drone surveillance put on hold
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would have required law enforcement to get a warrant before using a drone for surveillance has been put on hold.
House Bill 1556 will be held over for the next session.
. . . The move comes as a result of opposition from Gov. Mary Fallin.
Read more and watch the video report at KFOR
Enjoying a groundswell of popular support that notably spans the political spectrum, HB1556 appeared to have a great chance of being passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives until the Governor’s office decided it was time to intervene.
Citing concerns that pending legislation would hurt Oklahoma’s chances to be one of the six states chosen by the FAA to be a testing site for drones, Governor Fallin’s office took issue with the bill. However, upon closer inspection of the FAA”s application by the bill’s author and the Dir. Of the OK ACLU, Ryan Kiesel, it was found that the FAA is explicitly does not automatically treat pending legislation as a negative.
This fact, when raised made no impact on opposition to HB1556 by the Governor’s office which begs the question: Why would the Governor be opposed to the passage of this very modest bill?
This unanswered question takes me back to the press conference that I attended that was held by Gov. Fallin, along with her Secretary of Science and Technology, Stephen McKeever, and drone industry representative Michael Toscano, the president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International on Jan 16, 2013 at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
When it came time to take questions from members of the press, not surprisingly, the very first question asked was in regards to privacy and civil liberties. At that time the Stephen McKeever made it crystal clear that they were not amenable to any statutory or even policy level changes that might protect the privacy rights of Oklahoman’s. McKeever was quite clear in his statements explaining that while it was not unreasonable to have some concerns about drones and privacy, he was opposed to any real efforts to secure our privacy rights for fear that it might hinder the drone industry in some way in our state.
That is when I knew that any legislation to advance the protection of our rights was going to be an uphill battle to say the least.
Recently, the Congressional Research Service issued a report; “Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues”
The report states that “perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens.”
That this is an issue is not a surprise to anyone. Yet with all of the time, money and effort invested by this state to ensure that Oklahoma becomes drone central, USA, nothing has been done to hear the concerns of Oklahoma citizens or ensure the rights of Oklahomans are protected.
There has been years of groundwork laid in making Oklahoma the premier state for the drone industry.
In 2009 the Unmanned Systems Alliance of Oklahoma (USA-OK) was created to promote the emerging unmanned systems industry in Oklahoma.
In 2011, Gov. Fallin issued an Executive Order to create the Unmanned Aerial Systems Council and appointed 13 members to her Unmanned Aerial Systems Council. The council was to advise the governor on ‘all issues related to UAS, including education, economic development, job creation and investments’ so that Oklahoma could become a national leader in the UAS industry.
This Council was created to advise the Governor on “all issues related to UAS”
How surveillance technology laden drones might infringe upon our Fourth Amendment rights has not been a primary or even secondary issue worth considering when officials were obviously working so hard at covering all the bases.
In all of the materials covering Governor Fallins efforts to develop the drone industry in Oklahoma that I have read, I have found but one brief mention of the fact that drones present a real threat to our civil liberties. It is in the Report of the Governor’s Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council, released on July 8, 2012. This recommendation made by the Oklahoma UAS Council, a small as it was, is one that should have been given some attention. It wasn’t.
The Oklahoma UAS Council stated that “The growth of UAS has the potential for enormous good and economic benefit for all residents, introducing new capabilities simply not possible at present. As with any new technology, however, new capabilities come with the potential for abuse. The state of Oklahoma takes these issues and concerns seriously. We support calls for thoughtful and informed dialogue to address these concerns and for the industry to work with privacy advocates, policymakers and legislators to provide the necessary protections against misuse.” Source: Report of the Governor’s Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council A Strategic Plan for the Development of an Unmanned Aerial Systems Enterprise in the State of Oklahoma
To my knowledge, no one from the drone industry or the Governor’s office reached out to the ACLU, OK-SAFE, or any other organization that is known for privacy advocacy in the state.
No. It was not until HB1556 gained real traction and only after a last minute attempt by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce to kill the bill in committee did the Governor’s office make any effort to connect with anyone and that was to put the brakes on the bill.
Rep. Wesselohoft worked openly and diligently to address any possible concerns by law enforcement or any others over the language in the bill. Nevertheless, he was sideswiped by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce shortly before the bill was to be heard in the House Aerospace and Energy committee when a Chamber representative told him that her organization was unhappy with the bill but refused to specify exactly what was problematic denying the Representative any opportunity to address their concerns. The Chamber representative then proceeded to pass out to all committee members what was described as a ‘hit piece’ on the bill in an attempt to kill the legislation.
Despite this last minute attempt by the Chamber to sink HB1556, the bill passed the committee by a vote of 23-4.
To protect the rights of the people of the state of Oklahoma is the first duty of our elected representatives, especially the Governor. In reality, protection of our rights has registered dead last on Governor Fallins drone ‘to do’ list and this is unacceptable!
Another example of what I consider to be bad faith on the part of the Governor regarding the drone issue is her studied lack of forthrightness on the nature of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s RAPS program currently active in Oklahoma.
On June 29, 2012 Gov. Fallin announces Oklahoma is the first state chosen by the Dept. of Homeland Security as a testing site for small unmanned aircraft (drones) in the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) program.
Gov. Fallin assures the public that ‘drones for use by the military or police investigations will not be tested at the Oklahoma site.’
Source: NewsOK, June 29, 2012, Oklahoma chosen as test site for drones
However, the Dept. of Homeland Security’s own documentation describes the RAPS program to include; “real-time law enforcement tactical operations support, and crime scene situational awareness.”
DHS explains that “Typical test scenarios include search and rescue missions, fire and
hazardous material spill responses, and simulated law enforcement tactical operations.”
Source: Privacy Impact Assessment for the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) Project
And then on Dec. 31, 2012 we get a real New Year’s surprise from a news article describing the first RAPS tests taking place in Oklahoma as a SWAT policing exercise.
FORT SILL — The small, winged drone quietly soared overhead as SWAT team members closed in on a building at Fort Sill.
When a suspect sprinted from the structure, the drone banked through a cloudless afternoon sky in an effort to track the person.
A few miles away, two Lockheed Martin technicians sat in a converted bedroom of a ranch-style house using a laptop computer to control the drone’s movements. They followed the action on a video relay.
The simulated chase this month was among the first test flights in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program designed to evaluate the possible civilian use of “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”
Source: NewsOK, Dec. 31, 2012, Wary eyes shift to the skies as unmanned aircraft are tested in state
Governor Fallin misrepresented this program. That is very concerning to me.
What is it that the drone industry plans on doing in Oklahoma that makes a simple piece of legislation protecting basic rights so offensive to Governor Fallin?
Here is the bottom line for the grassroots activists who are rightfully outraged by the governors direct role in quashing this bill; it is up to you to make sure that such actions by our governor politically painful enough that she will think twice about disrespecting the rights of the people of this state which she has sworn to defend.
First, call her office and register your opinion of her actions.
The Office of Governor Mary Fallin
Local: (405) 521-2342
Fax: (405) 521-3353
Don’t forget. You can also connect with Governor Fallin on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GovernorMaryFallin
And Twitter https://twitter.com/GovMaryFallin
No need to be rude or threatening but tell her this is truly a blatant example of profits over people and she needs to get her priorities straight!
Contact the news stations and ask them to investigate the relationship between the industry and state officials. Ask them to cover the ire of the people of this state about the amount of investment in this industry and the lack of attention to our concerns about privacy and arming the drones with weapons. Do your own research and see what you can uncover.
Find out where Governor Fallin is speaking and show up with signs to let people know how little she respects them.
And last but not least, when she runs for re-election, make this issue a campaign issue that she will have to answer to!
Be creative - but please do something to expose this problem! If we don’t make this an issue-no one else will!