Leahy Sees Drones As ‘A Significant Threat’ to Americans’ Privacy

By Susan Jones | January 17, 2013 | 9:08 AM EST

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says he is concerned about the domestic use of drones. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – “I am concerned about the growing use of drones by federal and local authorities to spy on Americans here at home,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told Georgetown University Law students on Wednesday.

“This fast-emerging technology is cheap, but I think just because it's available doesn't mean it helps us. I think it -- there could be a significant threat to the privacy and civil liberties of millions of Americans.”

Leahy said protecting civil liberties is among the priorities for the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress.

“So just because we have the technology that allows us to spy on each other, let's not forget we have certain basic constitutional rights as Americans. And in a fast-changing, technologically changing world, let's not lose sight of the plan that we should follow. It's not a plan of code or written into a computer program; it's a plan that is written in our Constitution.

“We make a tragic mistake. We think that merely giving up more and more of our privacy's going to make us safer. It will not. Security and liberty are both essential in a free society. You can't forsake one for the other.”

Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said he also wants to “examine the constitutional and legal issues" involved in the administration's use of drones to kill terrorists abroad.

The senator said his other priorities include immigration reform; gun control; protecting first-responders; reforming the criminal justice system; renewing the Violence Against Women Act; and government transparency.

“And there I might say to the administration, as I've said to past administrations, don't overclassify things. Don't put a classification on everything that you do, including those things where you want to cover your mistakes. This is an open and free country. Let's keep it that way.”