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Yesterday, Feb. 14th, 2013, across the Bay from San Francisco, the Public Protection Committee of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors (ACBS) held a public hearing on a proposal by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office (ACSO) to purchase and deploy drones.

Sheriff Ahern had almost managed to slip the entire operation into the fine print of a proposal he put forth late last year, but eagle eyes from the ACLU and ACAD managed to catch the attempted fast one just in time. They demanded that a public hearing be held before any decisions were made. Today was that hearing.

I was not able to attend, but I was able to follow much of the extensive tweeting from the hearing room, giving me a drone's bird's eye view of the proceedings. Here's how it came down.

Sheriff Ahern

Linda Lye from the ACLU

Linda shoots! Linda scores! No Contest, Really.

The Sheriff's arguments for why a drone "small unmanned aviation system" - as he insisted on calling it...


Ali Winston @awinston
#alcomtg re: #ACSO drone purchase begins, Cmdr Tom Wright presenting on "small unmanned aircraft systems", ACSO's phrase for #UAVs

Adam @AdamInOakland
#alcomtg Sherrif "objects" vocally every time phrases "drone" or "surveillance" are used.

Linda Lye @linda_lye
@OaktownMike : we reject Sheriff's effort to rename drone. George Bush wanted us to call French fries freedom fries.

would be beneficial ranged from the absurd
(earlier the sheriff was trying to make an argument that the drone would be useful for search & rescue of Alzheimer's patients) #oakdrone

"You notice that there are no people from Alzheimer's associations asking to make them safe with this drone" #oakdrone #alcomtg

to... the absurd.
East Bay Citizen @eastbaycitizen
Maudlin: Madigan says #drones could be used to help find lost seniors on railroad tracks. I don't make this stuff up. #alcomtg

Miguel @guelo
Sherrif says drone's infrared camera could be used to find fired discarded guns. #alcomtg

The Sheriff also blathered on about why, despite a written policy he just put together that does not explicitly prohibit certain things such as surveilling protests, he would never, never deploy a drone to do them...
Linda Lye @linda_lye
Major proposed use is crime scene preservation. Big loophole: jaywalking is a crime. This is basically carte blanche.

"we would never deploy it for jaywalking - that's not even polite to talk about" -sheriff #oakdrone #ridic

"you know that every political protest is called the crime scene when the police are looking at it" @OaktownMike on #oakdrone

Ali Winston @awinston
#alcomtg Sheriff Ahern corrects Capt Wright, saying he wants ability to deploy #drone for misdems as well as felonies

Adam @AdamInOakland
#alcomtg the Sheriff is a liar. "I dont want to limit the use of sUAS in JUST felony cases because there are some serious misdemeanors"

JP Massar @jpmassar
@AdamInOakland Yeah. Maliciously blocking a sidewalk. Holding an umbrella on Oscar Grant Plaza. Walking while black. The list is endless.

...because, well, because we should just trust him.
n.o.m.b.y. @nomby
.@oaktownmike talks about deportations and evictions supported by sheriff when he does not have to. We can't take sheriff's word.

.@MuslimAgorist here representing Muslims for Liberty. "The people in this room don't trust their government very much" #oakdrone

Nadia Kayyali @NadiaKayyali
@nomby speaker emphasize of sheriff ahern: "we cannot trust this man."

Miguel @guelo
Sheriff Ahern very thin skinned, was offended by attacks on his character. #alcomtg

The Public Protection Committee consists of two members (there are a total of five people on the ACBS), Supervisors Valle and Haggerty.  I doubt they were very happy to have to sit through more than three hours of testimony, but sit there they did.

 One of them, Supervisor Haggerty, was very pro-drone...

Miguel @guelo
Supervisor Haggerty is "excited" about Sheriff getting drones. #alcomt
while Supervisor Valle was more skeptical, apparently appreciating the civil liberties issues...
Sup Valle: I'm concerned about the bill of rights, particularly the fourth amendment #oakdrone

East Bay Citizen @eastbaycitizen
Not surprising Sup Richard Valle is speaking up for civil rights. He may be most progressive member of the Board of Supervisors. #alcomtg

After the Sheriff's presentation, first up to speak against drones were Attorney Linda Lye of the ACLU and Attorney Trevor Timm from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Nadia Kayyali @NadiaKayyali
@linda_lye sheriff told press, re: use at protests "we don't want to rule out a lot of uses" #alcomtg #oakdrone

Ali Winston @awinston
#alcomtg Linda Lye of #ACLU-Norcal: "privacy policy lacks essential and enforceable safeguards."

Ali Winston @awinston
Lye: "Policy, as proposed, would invite the sort of surveillance the sheriff says will not occur." #alcomtg

Adam @AdamInOakland
#alcomtg Sheriff "we will try not to gather data that isn't directly related to the current mission" (paraphrase) also: bullshit

Ali Winston @awinston
#alcomtg in short, #ACSO will use the UAV for whatever they deem appropriate. Including monitoring mass demonstrations

Nadia Kayyali @NadiaKayyali
data collected by #oakdrone could end up in a fusion center, says in the fbi's black hole of a database, e-guardian

Miguel @guelo
Sherrif refuses to say collected drone video would be used only for search and rescue. #alcomtg

Ali Winston @awinston
Timm: we want a privacy policy w/no loopholes. #alcomtg

Ali Winston @awinston
#alcomtg Trevor Timm #EFF atty, "UAVs can be equipped w/many types of surveillance equip." all @ once. I.e. facial rec, FLIR, license reader

Representatives from ACAD also spoke, including civil liberties lawyer Mike Siegel.
Ali Winston @awinston
Siegel: these drones pose a threat to privacy, to free speech & political expressions. #alcomtg

Ali Winston @awinston
Siegel: how will #drone be received in Alameda Cty's Muslim communities? In #Oakland? #alcomtg.

Ali Winston @awinston
Siegel: who will cover litigation costs if a deputy decides to abuse their #drone privilieges? #alcomtg

Ali Winston @awinston
#alcomtg Michael Siegel, @nomby: we oppose use of public resources to surveil and oppress our community. We want a #dronefree zone

n.o.m.b.y. @nomby
Seattle mayor McGinn sending back drones got applause. #oakdrone #alcomtg

greenkozi @greenkozi
@oaktownmike with platform of no drones gets round of applause #oakmtg #alcomtg #oakdrone

Then it was the public's turn.
Linda Lye @linda_lye
Opening to public comment. Huge portion of audience just stood up.

n.o.m.b.y. @nomby
Pretty sure everyone is speaking against drones. #oakdrone

Drone hearing
Some of everyone (the line goes out the door to the left)

"My name is Ernest Thompson & this is the first time I came to a meeting like this" #oakdrone

Miguel @guelo
Supe Haggerty heckling the anti drone speakers. #alcomtg

Speaker from code pink on now. "there is a drone of a size of mosquito that can take a sample of your DNA" #oakdrone

n.o.m.b.y. @nomby
Susan from @codepink: drones is the right word and surveillance is the right word. #oakdrone #alcomtg

n.o.m.b.y. @nomby
Sandy of #oo talking about protest crackdowns and drone attacks overseas. #oakdrone #alcomtg

Drone hearing Sandy
Sandy, artist & activist with and around Occupy Oakland

Adam @AdamInOakland
The lady next to me is mumbling about how the Sherriff legit needs a drone "to find the pot growers" SMH

Nadia Kayyali @NadiaKayyali
i just told the #alcomtg that alco wants community building, not surveillance. #oakdrone

Joshua Daniels @HarryElephante
.@MaryMad of @Nomby pointing out that opposition to #drones is one of the few issues that unites the left and the right. #alcomtg #oakland

Parker Higgins @xor
"Quite frankly, I'm tired of losing my liberty for some false sense of security." Public comment at #alcomtg

And last a stack of petitions...
.@marymad delivering a petition with 600+ signatures against #drones #oakdrone #alcomtg
Finally it was time to leave
Linda Lye @linda_lye
Supe Valle is my hero, closed drone hrg by saying the most impt thing for him is constitution, civil rights.
and see what the MSM was going to write:

Inside Bay Area:

"There are vocal groups that are 100 percent against it," Ahern said after a three-hour contentious county Public Protection Committee meeting that didn't bring Ahern any closer to becoming the first jurisdiction in California to acquiring a drone...

The meeting ended with no resolution and no meeting has been set to take up the matter again.

The sheriff is considering buying two drones that run about $50,000 each. They would be paid in part with money from a Homeland Security grant and general fund dollars... Supervisors do not have the budget authority to prevent the sheriff from spending money allocated to the department if the drone is used for legitimate law enforcement activity, Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler said during the meeting.

Inside Bay Area:
The drone, or small unmanned aerial system, would be used to give law enforcement a birds-eye view of crime scenes, search and rescue operations, and bomb scare situations...

But while the sheriff's department says the potential benefts of the drones are "irrefutable," the American Civil Liberties Union said the potential for abuse is just as great.

Members of the ACLU and a group called Alameda County Against Drones filled the Board of Supervisors meeting room wearing "No Drone" stickers. Some want Alameda County to be declared a "drone-free zone."

Civil rights attorney Micheal Siegal said he worries the robotic computer controlled machines would be used to "surveil and supress our community."

If the decision were up to dozens of angry residents and several civil rights groups, the answer would be a resounding "No."

"We oppose the use of public resources to buy machines to surveil its citizens," Michael Seigel, a member of Alameda County Against Drones, said to rousing applause by many of the 150 people in attendance... Moments later, Sheriff Gregory Ahern said: "We object to the term surveil. We have no intention of doing that."

County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, a member of the Public Protection Committee, told American Civil Liberties Union attorney Linda Lye that he didn't believe the drone would be used to spy on people in their backyards, as she alleged.

He added that, whether she believed him or not, "I don't care."

Then Haggerty began suggesting that helicopters and drones could equally escape noise detection by potential suspects.

"That is crap," somebody uttered from the audience...

While Alameda County inches toward drone use, the Seattle Police Department last week grounded its two drones amid privacy concerns, and months after the Government Accountability Office warned Congress that its push for drones to become commonplace in U.S. airspace fails to take into account privacy, security and even GPS jamming and spoofing...

The full Alameda County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide the issue at a public meeting that was not announced Thursday.

The drone wars are here. Not in some country far, far away. From Seattle to Texas, from the Bay Area to Virginia, restrictions are being debated or pooh-pahed. Its once again the police state versus civil liberties, and we know exactly which side the odd favor. If your grandchildren ask you "Grandpa, what did you do to stop the drones?" will you be able to tell them without Big Brother recording your every word?
L3ft-Libertarian @socialistlib510
FYI: Oakland/Alameda is THE place where American Drone policy will be made. Stop sitting still and join the fight. Support @nomby & friends.
NOMBY / ACAD Web site.



Ali Winston (@winston) is a reporter for the East Bay Express who has covered police violence and abuse in Oakland extensively.

@thehoopoe and Adam (@AdamInOakland) are Oakland activists.

Nadia Kayyali (@NadiaKayyali) and @marymad are members of ACAD.

n.o.m.b.y (@nomby) (Not Over My Back Yard) is ACAD's twitter account.

Photos via the Mercury News photo album.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:35 AM PST.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, California politics, SFKossacks, and Progressive Policy Zone.

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