Senate to examine privacy, constitutional issues with drones

Olivier Knox

The ongoing battle over President Barack Obama's expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles is far from over.

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Wednesday that it will hold hearings starting next week on the use of drones at home and abroad, studying the privacy implications and debating the constitutional repercussions of Obama’s targeted assassination program.

The first hearing, set for March 20, is called “The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations.” The second hearing, scheduled for April 16, is called “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing.”

“Drones have the potential to assist law enforcement and other first responders, but they could also pose a significant threat to the privacy and civil liberties of millions of Americans,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement announcing the hearings.

“This is another example of a fast-changing policy area on which we need to focus to make sure that modern technology is not used to erode Americans’ right to privacy,” said Leahy, who will chair the first hearing.

No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois will chair the second session, which will take up questions about who can legitimately be targeted for killing and under what circumstances, as well as consider “establishing a transparent legal framework for the use of drones.”

“Targeted killing raises important legal and policy questions that require a public debate,” Durbin said.

Witness lists for the two hearings were not announced.