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posted by MarkJMiller in In The News

First American arrested with help from drone

May 4, 2012

In April, an unmanned aerial vehicle was used for the first time to aid in the arrest of an American citizen. Rodney Bossart was arrested on charges of terrorizing a sheriff, theft, criminal mischief, and other charges, according to documents.

After commandeering several cows that had wandered on his property in North Dakota, Bossart and his family had used high-powered rifles to scare off police that had gone to retrieve them.

With a farm too large to easily search, the Swat team used a surveillance drone in conjuction with Homeland Security to locate him and make the arrest.

Police claim that the drone was used only after obtaining a warrant, and that it was necessary to ensure the safety of the officers involved. Given Bossarts reputation as an anti-government "sovereignist" who had already threatened them with deadly weapons, it's understandable why they wouldn't want to be wandering around the property in search for him.

Bossarts attourney claims the use of the drone and other police actions were gross violations of his Constitutional rights, though he doesn't specify which rights those are.

This is obviously a pretty sticky situation. UAV's have been used to great effect in warzones, and are also used to monitor the Mexico-US border. But the idea that they could be used to monitor U.S citizens makes us all uncomfortable, especially since 63 drone sites have already been confirmed to be around the U.S,. 

But in this case, using the drone seems little different than using, say, a helicopter. Since they obtained a warrant, I stronly suspect the arrest and the evidence involved will hold up in court, and if it doesn't it won't be due to a legal complication with the drone. Furthermore, its use may well have saved the life of a SWAT or police officer.

Still, it sets a scary precedent. I'd really like Congress to pass a law strictly defining where and when drone surveillance would be permissible, and outlawing all other uses on American citizens. I'm not holding my breath, though.

What do you think? Should UAVs be added to the list of tools police can use? What instances would justify their use?

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