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The Seattle Times

Officer Jim Britt demonstrates the unmanned aerial vehicle during an October informational meeting at the Garfield Community Center.

Officer Jim Britt demonstrates the unmanned aerial vehicle during an October informational meeting at the Garfield Community Center.

The Seattle City Council approved regulations that cover the Seattle Police Department’s use of unmanned aircraft systems. But the department has to start all over again, under the new rules.

That much has apparently not changed. Last week the SPD secured a last-minute revision of pending City Council legislation that laid out the operating conditions for the use of surveillance technology, including drones.

The unanimously approved council bill allows the police to use drones under three sets of conditions: when they have a warrant to do so; under certain “exigent” emergency circumstances; and in the course of a criminal investigation when the courts would not require a warrant for specified kinds of surveillance in public spaces.

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz asked the council for the exemptions. He noted a council requirement to always secure a warrant could create an impediment to investigations because the courts are not inclined to issue warrants when they are not needed.

The sought-after language was included in the council bill, but its last-minute inclusion offered the public virtually no opportunity to comment during a brief public hearing. Read More

The Seattle Times

Officer Reuben Omelanchuk demonstrates a drone last spring.

Officer Reuben Omelanchuk demonstrates a drone last spring.

SEATTLE Mayor Mike McGinn’s abrupt decision to halt the Seattle Police Department’s plan to deploy aerial drones will send the two vehicles back to the vendor.McGinn made a wholly appropriate decision. It was simply bad timing to acquire the drones ahead of having established operating procedures and requirements for rigorous performance reviews.

Boisterous public expression of concerns about potential invasions of personal privacy and the Seattle City Council’s catch-up efforts to write an ordinance to cover drone use helped doom the plan.

Seattle residents find the whole notion of surveillance more than a bit creepy, and that includes the news about a phalanx of cameras on the waterfront to watch harbor and port activities. A lot of communities across the country share similar concerns about drones and surveillance. Read More

David A. Fahrenthold | Seattle Times

It turns out that the Environmental Protection Agency is not using unmanned drones like this one to spy on U.S. cattle farmers — just regular planes with people in them.

WASHINGTON — It was a blood-boiler of a story, a menacing tale of government gone too far: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was spying on Midwestern farmers with the same aerial “drones” used to kill terrorists overseas.

This month, the idea has been repeated in TV segments, on multiple blogs and by at least four members of Congress. The only trouble is, it isn’t true.

It was never true. The EPA isn’t using drone aircraft, in the Midwest or anywhere else.

The hubbub over nonexistent drones provides a look at something hard to capture in U.S. politics: the vibrant, almost viral, life cycle of a falsehood. This one seems to have been born less than three weeks ago, in tweets and blog posts that twisted the details of a real news story about EPA inspectors flying in small planes.

The falsehood spread, via conservative websites, mentions on Fox News Channel and “The Daily Show,” and the endless replication of Twitter.

In its mature stage, the idea was sustained by a digital echo chamber. Members of Congress repeated false reports — and then new reports appeared, based on the lawmakers.

“We’ve never thought that. We’ve never said that. I don’t know where it came from,” said Kristen Hassebrook, of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s group, when asked about drones buzzing cattle farms. Her group seems to have started the hubbub and watched as its complaint against the EPA was turned into something it wasn’t. “But obviously the word ‘drone’ is a very sexy word.” Read More

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