The Republican Party’s 2012 platform, unveiled at the RNC Tuesday, includes this reference to domestic drone surveillance:
Affirming ‘the right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,’ we support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders. All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.
The ACLU expressed similar concerns in a report earlier this year, in which we emphasized that the government should be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause when drone surveillance intrudes on reasonable expectations of privacy.
That the Republicans are staking out a stance on aerial surveillance highlights how important this issue has become. Domestic aerial surveillance by both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles is steadily increasing. Lawmakers from across the aisle have introduced legislation to regulate drone surveillance, including Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Representative Austin Scott (R-GA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ).
As new technologies like this become increasingly common, it is essential that both parties fight to protect our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties. By invoking the Fourth Amendment in their party platform and recognizing the threat to privacy posed by this new technology, the Republicans have taken a small but important step in the right direction.