Watch a Congressional Candidate Shoot Down a ‘Government Drone’

House contender Matt Rosendale of Montana wants Big Brother out of his airspace.

Montana state Sen. Matt Rosendale "shoots down" a government drone in a campaign ad for his bid for the U.S. House.
National Journal
Alex Brown
April 16, 2014, 10:17 a.m.

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As a “gov­ern­ment drone” hov­ers over Matt Rosend­ale, the Re­pub­lic­an House can­did­ate from Montana tells the cam­era what he thinks of gov­ern­ment over­reach, reg­u­la­tion, and “spy­ing on our cit­izens.”

Then, stand­ing in front of an ATV, Rosend­ale coolly puts a rifle to his shoulder, looks up through the sight and “downs” the drone with a single shot.

“The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is too big and too power­ful,” Rosend­ale says. “I’m ready to stand tall for free­dom and get Wash­ing­ton out of our lives,” he says.

Rosend­ale is try­ing to stand out in a five-way primary for Montana’s at-large seat in the House.

Sport­ing a barn jack­et and a flat­top buzz cut, the state sen­at­or lowers the rifle and pledges to get the feds off his con­stitu­ents’ backs — or at least not hov­er­ing over their heads.

Montana is among the states that pro­hib­it law en­force­ment from us­ing drones without a war­rant. On the fed­er­al level, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion runs sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tions with its nine-drone fleet.

Cus­toms also loaned its drones to oth­er agen­cies for sur­veil­lance mis­sions 700 times over a three-year peri­od, in­clud­ing to state and loc­al de­part­ments. The Elec­tron­ic Fron­ti­er Found­a­tion and oth­er ad­vocacy groups have ex­pressed con­cern that these mis­sions have strayed from the gov­ern­ment’s bor­der-se­cur­ity dir­ect­ive.

Though it’s un­likely the gov­ern­ment has sent drones buzz­ing over Rosend­ale’s prop­erty, which is in a small town not par­tic­u­larly close to the Ca­na­dian bor­der, he’s tap­ping in­to the sen­ti­ment that helped fuel Sen. Rand Paul’s drone fili­buster last year.

Paul en­vi­sioned a scen­ario in which the gov­ern­ment could use a drone to take out an Amer­ic­an “in a cafe in San Fran­cisco” so long as the tar­get was sus­pec­ted of be­ing a ter­ror­ist. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­spon­ded that Amer­ic­ans not en­gaged in com­bat would not be the tar­get of drone strikes on U.S. soil.

Still, some — and not just Re­pub­lic­ans — are con­cerned that the gov­ern­ment’s grow­ing use of drones could lead to pri­vacy over­reaches if not kept in check. Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if., said earli­er this year a drone spied in­to her house and called for guidelines for law-en­force­ment use of the tech­no­logy. The ACLU and Elec­tron­ic Fron­ti­er Found­a­tion are among groups who hope to set strict bound­ar­ies for drone use by the gov­ern­ment.

Shoot­ing down a drone, however, is il­leg­al, ac­cord­ing to the Fed­er­al Avi­ation Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Here’s how the agency re­spon­ded when a small town in Col­or­ado made it leg­al to hunt drones: “A [drone] hit by gun­fire could crash, caus­ing dam­age to per­sons or prop­erty on the ground, or it could col­lide with oth­er ob­jects in the air. Shoot­ing at an un­manned air­craft could res­ult in crim­in­al or civil li­ab­il­ity, just as would fir­ing at a manned air­plane.”

Rosend­ale isn’t the first can­did­ate to send a bul­let at a chosen specter of big gov­ern­ment. Obama­care and cap-and-trade have pre­vi­ously found them­selves in can­did­ates’ crosshairs.

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