Caleb Brown interviews me for Cato’s Daily Podcast on the subject of law enforcement drones, which I wrote about yesterday. You can watch here.
Also, check out recent columns on the subject by my Cato colleagues Gene Healy and Nat Hentoff. As Healy points out, elected officials such as Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) have made remarkably blithe statements in favor of drone use, even as a defense contractor is perfecting tiny mechanized spies-in-the-sky that weigh no more than a battery and can perch on window ledges taking pictures of what is inside. (Another drone capability: intercepting nearby wireless communications.) Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has emerged as a leading critic (“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.”) The AP’s Joan Lowy covered the controversy last month.
Meanwhile, the chief practical obstacle to widespread drone deployment over U.S. skies — Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval — was quietly gotten around this spring when Congress passed legislation directing the FAA to carve out an approved space for drones, a move that followed a strong lobbying push on the “pro” side and almost no organized opposition from privacy advocates, Fourth Amendment fans or anyone else (see T.W. Farnam’s excellent Washington Post account.) More on domestic drone lobbying from Andrea Stone at HuffPo and First Street Research.
We’re getting closer to that world very fast — and if you have Fourth Amendment qualms, maybe you’re the sort a drone-company exec responds to as follows:
“If you’re concerned about it, maybe there’s a reason we should be flying over you, right?” said Douglas McDonald, the company’s director of special operations and president of a local chapter of the unmanned vehicle trade group.
My new post at Cato at Liberty has much more (& Above the Law).
A year ago the D.C. Circuit told the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it needed to go through notice-and-comment rulemaking for its controversial program of full-body scanners at airports. The rulemaking process is intended to ensure that the agency lays out clearly the factual, legal and policy basis for its actions, with a chance for opponents to lodge objections and establish a basis for judicial review. As my colleague Jim Harper points out, the agency has dragged its heels about doing this — a sort of passive resistance it would probably not tolerate from the hapless citizens stuck in its lines. TSA screening is one of the most widely resented governmental intrusions on the individual citizen of our era. Shouldn’t we all demand that the federal government demonstrate adequate justification for imposing it? [Cato at Liberty and Ars Technica; Consumerist; Constitutional Law Prof, 2011] (& welcome National Review “Web Briefing” readers; John LaPlante, Detroit News “Water Cooler”)
The Texas School for the Deaf flies its non-local students to their family’s homes each weekend for free, and saves the frequent flier miles for purposes such as buying air tickets for chaperones. A woman identified as D.G. sued, saying the benefit of the miles should go to her daughter, but her lawyer says she’s dropping the suit in view of the big public outcry against it. [Claire Osborn, Austin American-Statesman; followup, Ken Herman]
“Issues surrounding liability and law, rather than technology, now appear to be the biggest obstacle to autonomous vehicles.” [Ryan Avent via Alex Tabarrok]
You shouldn’t have let my common-law husband and his drunken coterie onto your charter flight, they were too obviously a safety hazard, alleges the suit, filed in a British Columbia court. [CNN]
The cost of buying a Piper Cub or similar sport/light aircraft has risen very steeply as measured in constant dollars or labor hours since 1947, in contrast to the cost of most other engineered goods. Economists David Henderson and W. Kip Viscusi know why.
And now someone must pay [The Smoking Gun]
More: Jon Coppelman consults Ogletree’s “settlement calculator”.
“Two Alaska Airlines flight attendants who were injured when a 2007 flight from Seattle to California encountered turbulent air have filed a legal claim against a national weather forecasting service and against the U.S. government.” [Seattle Times/Belleville News-Democrat]
A suit by the estate of the late DJ AM says a 2008 plane crash that he survived helped cause his 2009 drug overdose death [ET Online, TortsProf]
California: “Stanley Hilton, 60, of Hillsborough, said in unique court papers that his wife of 13 years divorced him and took their young triplets with her last year because of ‘around-the-clock’ jet noise at SFO. …Hilton last week sued (PDF) SFO, Hillsborough, the counties of San Mateo and San Francisco, dozens of airlines and jet manufacturers, and the real estate agents and couple that sold him his home on Darrell Road for $1.475 million in April 2003.” Hilton, who is representing himself pro se, “is a former civil litigation attorney with a law degree from Duke University and was an active member of the State Bar of California for most of the past three decades, records show. However, the Bar said courts deemed Hilton ineligible to practice law in August.” [San Mateo County Times, SF Chronicle "The Scavenger", Lowering the Bar.]