Tuesday Apr 10, 201201:02 PM GMT
First man arrested by drone vows to fight case
Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:0PM
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Rodney Brossart was arrested in June.

The tiny town of Lakota, N.D., is quickly becoming a key testing ground for the legality of the use of unmanned drones by law enforcement after one of its residents became the first American citizen to be arrested with the help of a Predator surveillance drone.

 

The bizarre case started when six cows wandered onto Rodney Brossart’s 3,000 acre farm. Brossart believed he should have been able to keep the cows, so he and two family members chased police off his land with high powered rifles.

 

After a 16-hour standoff, the Grand Forks police department SWAT team, armed with a search warrant, used an agreement they’ve had with Homeland Security for about three years, and called in an unmanned aerial vehicle to pinpoint Brossart’s location on the ranch.

 

The SWAT team stormed in and arrested Brossart on charges of terrorizing a sheriff, theft, criminal mischief, and other charges, according to documents.

 

"We're not laying over here playing dead on it," says Brossart, who is scheduled to appear in court on April 30. He believes what the SWAT team did was "definitely" illegal.

 

While there's no precedent for the use of unmanned drones by law enforcement, John Villasenor, an expert on information gathering and drone use with the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, says he'd be "floored" if the court throws the case out. Using a drone is no different than using a helicopter, he says.

 

"It may have been the first time a drone was used to make an arrest, but it's certainly not going to be the last," Villasenor says. "I would be very surprised if someone were able to successfully launch a legal challenge [in Brossart's case]." Prison Planet

 

FACTS & FIGURES

 

The U.S. Congress passed a bill in February to make it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace. Washington Times

 

Although UAVs are today most commonly associated with military actions, in the United States, civilian law enforcement agencies use drones to patrol the nation's borders, scout property, and hunt down fugitives. (Center for Democracy & Technology)

 

Currently, about 300 law enforcement agencies and research institutions-including the Grand Forks SWAT team-have "temporary licenses" from the FAA to use drones. (Center for Democracy & Technology)

 

Individuals in the U.S. have few legal privacy protections from aerial surveillance conducted through UAVs. The weakness of legal protection from UAV surveillance have led to calls from civil liberties advocacy groups for the U.S. government to issue laws and regulations that establish both privacy protections and greater transparency regarding the use of UAVs to gather information about individuals. (Center for Democracy & Technology)

 

AHT/HJ

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