September 22, 2018

WASHINGTON — Late last night, Congress released the text of the Federal Aviation Administration bill to be voted on next week. Included in the bill is a modified version of the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 (S.2836).  

Neema Singh Guliani, American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative counsel, said:

“Congress should not use the aviation and disaster relief bill as a vehicle for controversial legislation that expands warrantless surveillance and interferes with press freedom.

“These provisions give the government virtually carte blanche to surveil, seize, or even shoot a drone out of the sky — whether owned by journalists or commercial entities — with no oversight or due process. They grant new powers to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to spy on Americans without a warrant. And they undermine the use of drones by journalists, which have enabled reporting on critical issues like hurricane damage and protests at Standing Rock. Congress should remove these provisions from the bill.”

The ACLU had previously raised concerns that a provision in the bill would grant the Trump administration more surveillance powers, as well as threaten the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

The bill is online here:
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20180924/HR302.pdf

A blog post on the free speech issues in the FAA is here:
https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/photographers-rights/drones-are-revolutionizing-journalism-congress-could-curb-new

A blog post discussing the surveillance issues in the FAA is online here:
https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/congress-poised-give-trump-administration-powerful

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