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EPA Drones Spying on the Livestock Activity of Midwest Farmers
As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to approve scores of drone applications for a range of federal, state and local agencies, concern among Americans and privacy groups is rising about the use of these drones for illegal surveillance.
The latest federal agency to potentially have violated constitutional protections against invasive, unauthorized drone surveillance is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a federal leviathan within a leviathan that is developing quite a reputation for flexing authority it doesn’t really have.
In fact, Congress recently launched a probe into whether this out-of-control, rogue agency has used drones to monitor the activities of farmers in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
In early June, Nebraska’s congressional delegation submitted a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to express their concern about the heavily invasive actions and legality of such monitoring.
“Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska pride themselves in the stewardship of our state’s natural resources. As you might imagine, this practice [aircraft surveillance] has resulted in privacy concerns among our constituents and raises several questions,” said the letter from Reps. Adrian Smith, Jeff Fortenberry, and Lee Terry, and GOP Sen. Mike Johanns, as well as Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson.
EPA – a history of arrogant dismissive tendencies
As expected, the delegation got an arrogant, self-serving response: Yes, the agency is using drones because doing so is cost-effective and legal. As has been the case for decades, few officials working for the EPA appear to understand the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment privacy protections, as well as the Fifth Amendment’s protection against being deprived of liberty without due process.
Reports said the surveillance so far has covered EPA’s Region 7, which encompasses the Midwestern states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. Still, much of the surveillance has focused on Nebraska and Iowa because of the high concentration of livestock feeding operations in a watershed area with a history of contamination.