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Gilbert, ACLU join to seek rights protections from drones

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Todd Gilbert

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

A conservative state legislator and a civil rights group want rights protections in place if and when unmanned aerial drones start patrolling from the skies over Virginia.

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, and the American Civil Liberties Union have teamed up to craft legislation which aims to regulate the use of drones across the state. Gilbert said by phone Thursday he plans to introduce the legislation in the 2013 session of the General Assembly. As drone technology becomes less expensive and law enforcement agencies show more interest in the technology, Gilbert and the ACLU urge the state needs rules in place in advance.

"Some people are going to scoff at it because they never have thought of the notion that these types of vehicles are going to be used domestically," Gilbert said. "But I'm here to tell you that the technology is here and the domestic uses are coming and we simply wanted to try and get ahead of it and make sure that we're not reacting to already existing policies, that we are setting the policies."

Legislation would need to address what cameras on drones can view and record and how this relates to constitutionally protected activities such as rallies or speeches, or if the devices peer into the windows of private residents without a warrant, Gilbert explained.

The concern by the ACLU comes in part after Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed an openness to the domestic use of unmanned drones in Virginia, according Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU. McDonnell noted then that drones could help cut down on needed manpower.

"Obviously part of the reason why we're interested in making sure that everybody understands that they should only be used if they're carefully regulated and police officers have a warrant is in part triggered by the fact that [the] governor seemed to be giving a green light signal," Gastañaga said by phone. "One of the things that is a hallmark of new technologies is that they make possible what might previously have been too expensive or difficult."

"Drones [are] a very inexpensive way to accomplish pretty expensive surveillance at a pretty low cost and that means that people might be tempted to use them without thinking about what the policies ought to be," Gastañaga added.

The proposed legislation would prohibit the use of drones by law enforcement agencies without a warrant; require policies and procedures for the use of the devices be adopted by legislative bodies in open meetings; provide for public monitoring and accountability and mandate the pictures of people taken by drones be destroyed unless part of an authorized investigation, according to the release.

Gilbert and Gastañaga say they expect the coalition of support to grow. They acknowledged the organization and the legislator don't always see eye to eye.

"Of course the ACLU and I are at odds on issues from time to time and this represented a good chance for us to work on an issue on which we wholeheartedly agree, which is constitutionally protected rights," Gilbert said.

Neither local nor state law enforcement agencies use drones yet. But Gilbert expressed concern that some federal agencies do use drones and such practice could spread.

"This is not some unfounded theoretical concern that this may happen in the future," Gilbert said, adding that some law enforcement agencies in Virginia have looked into using drones.


My likeness is copyrighted therefore the state cannot use, view, monitor, obeserver or render my likeness without my written consent. This includes my house from the air, my yard from the air or me in my yard from the air.
I know, sounds silly but I don't need a state sponsored babysitter monitoring me and neither should anyone else.


WOW, this from a State Delegate who sits on the Judicial Committee, as well as the Rules Committee, who appoints his boss Clay Athey to be a Judge so he does not have to run against Beverly Sherwood! Constantly suspends any vote to legalize medical marijuana, so that some people can live longer lives! A practicing trial lawyer who works for Athey Athey and Pond! We only have 2 branches of government in Virginia, the Judges are political payoffs! No referendums, that would give the people too much power taking away from the state legislature!What Delegate Gilbert has done is not illegal, but it should be! Now he is trying to appease the populace. For me it is too little too late, ANYBODY ELSE in 2013, just not Gilbert!!!

Dean, you are showing the reason our country is doomed. Even when you agree with something your opponent does you're going to denigrate them. I don't like the ACLU, but when they fight for a cause I believe in I say, "Yeah!" I, like Todd, am against drones flying over America to spy on citizens. I find myself in agreement with the ACLU on this issue, so I'm not going to point out everything they do wrong, but join in the fight against this over reach of government into our lives. Vote against Todd in the future if you want, but if you agree with him here, for crying out loud, join the fight.


Sorry Kim, the reason why we are doomed, is because of legal corruption. Although the issue should not be how we use drones, but to never allow them to be used in a non military way for intelligence, period. Someone like Gilbert, should never have gotten into office in the first place. I have on many occasions called his office, only to get the same lip service that someone would give to not give an answer at all! Not only will I not vote for Gilbert, but I have been actively talking to other concerned citizens for the past year to actively vote out someone or who I see having no character or integrity. In my opinion he should be put up on charges. Some of the ways to fix our country would be to start electing Judges, forbid corporations from donating to political campaigns, and to get rid of the party system, and electoral college. For crying out loud join the fight to fix what's wrong with our country and state, rather than perpetuate bad policy and laws. GILBERT GONE IN 2013 !!!

I've spent a lifetime in bars telling lies to strange women. Bishop turns the tables here on the NVD blogs.


More regulation would hold them accountable if/when they crash one into the mountain and start a fire...like what apparently 'may have' happened and started the point 2 fire. Not being regulated now meant the Feds could hush hush it and say lightening started the fire...even though someone saw a damaged drone on a flat bed being retrieved from the mountainside. Had they been regulated, they wouldn't have had no choice about taking responsibility...maybe even help fight that fire.

Talk about an unholy alliance.

I think Delegate Gilbert and the ACLU is onto something here. We have seen how drones can be used in the recent wars on Terror. I think it is prudent of them to look into the future and see how these drones weaponized or not could be used on a civilian populace. We still live in a Republic and we still have the Bill of Rights protecting us. It is prudent of them to begin to take steps to ensure that our rights as American citizens are protected from Unconstitutional use of drones. This is not a Republican or a Democratic Issue as clearly shown by the agreed upon isse between Delegate Gilbert and the ACLU, this is clearly an American Issue.

If your not doing anything against the law you should not have to worry about who or what might be watching you.


Drones are also popular with hobbyists.

Here are some videos using a Mikrokopter Oktokopter.


First; state laws do not affect federal authorities. Second; why is this the only representative calling for this? Where are the others? Third; what JT said...

Wow, JT and Metazip, tell that to the American Indians who were murdered while following the laws on reservations. I hope your right, but history shows otherwise...and jeeze to Dean and ROFLMAO all I said was if we would work together to fight things we don't like it would be better. Keep on throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Doomed, doomed, doomed...

.. and when discontent and opposition to certain gov actions are reclassified as terrorism? Read 1984 & Atlas Shrugged - the bill of rights was established to protect the individual FROM the government. The erosion of these individual rights and massive increase in government control represent the loss of the principles the country was founded upon - i.e. liberty and justice for all!

good point shenvaltech... these people have obviously never heard of the NDAA or the Patriot Act. What is a terrorist today? or tomorrow?

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