Tags: virginia | drone | ban | mcdonnell

McDonnell Weighs Va. Ban on Drone Use

Thursday, 07 Feb 2013 08:19 AM

By Melanie Gray

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is considering whether to sign a bill that would make his state the first in the nation to ban the use of drones by state and local agencies, according to Politico.

Citing McDonnell spokesman Paul Logan, Politico reported the bill, passed on Tuesday by the Virginia General Assembly with strong bipartisan support, would place a moratorium on drone use for at least two years, giving lawmakers more time to consider the issue more thoroughly.

“The governor will review these bills when they reach his desk and consult with the appropriate parties on both sides of this issue before making a decision on what action he will take,” Logan told the news outlet. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

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The use of unmanned aircraft has become an issue of national debate in recent days following MSNBC report on the Obama's administration's use of drones abroad to target and kill Americans suspected of terrorist activities. Under bipartisan pressure from Congress, President Barack Obama Wednesday ordered the Justice Department to release a 2010 classified legal document that justifies the policy.

Drones are also being used by some law enforcement agencies across the country, raising questions among state lawmakers not only in Virginia but elsewhere. In Texas, for example, Democrats and Republicans have joined to introduce a proposal that would make it illegal to use drones to sry on private property without consent.

In Virginia, McDonnell, a Republican, indicated last spring that he supported the use of drones by state and local law enforcement, saying in a radio interview that unmanned aircraft would help police do their jobs.

"I think it’s great. I think we ought to be using technology to make law enforcement more productive, cuts down on manpower and also more safe. That’s why we use it on the battlefield,” McDonnell told WTOP in Washington, D.C. "If you’re keeping police officers safe, making it more productive and saving money … it’s absolutely the right thing to do."

But Virginia lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, expect McDonnell to sign the bill because of growing concerns about privacy rights since they are being used in the states for surveillance.

"I think that while international issues related to the deployment of drones are different from the use of drones by local law enforcement, the general concern about the due process rights and the need for the involvement of the judiciary when it comes to drones is a common theme and concern that echoes with voters,” Republican Del. Benjamin Cline told Politico. “And so I’m hopeful that the governor will sign this bill.”

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