This makes me generally uncomfortable. I’m a law and order gal as you all know, but this does seem to unfold a slippery-slope when it comes to what the government is allowed to do here on our own soil against American citizens involved in local, civil activity. I suppose I’m a bit of a Libertarian on these issues, but my concern also rests within my commitment to small, unobtrusive, constitutional

It feels to me as another example of crazy overreach by the Fed as we saw with Ruby Ridge and, arguably, Waco. I’m curious to seen where you stand on this.

Via US News and World Report

A North Dakota court has preliminarily upheld the first-ever use of an unmanned drone to assist in the arrest of an American citizen.

A judge denied a request to dismiss charges Wednesday against Rodney Brossart, a man arrested last year after a 16-hour standoff with police at his Lakota, N.D., ranch. Brossart’s lawyer argued that law enforcement’s “warrantless use of [an] unmanned military-like surveillance aircraft” and “outrageous governmental conduct” warranted dismissal of the case, according to court documents obtained by U.S. News…

Court records state that last June, six cows wandered onto Brossart’s 3,000 acre farm, about 60 miles west of Grand Forks. Brossart allegedly refused to return the cows, which led to a long, armed standoff with the Grand Forks police department. At some point during the standoff, Homeland Security, through an agreement with local police, offered up the use of an unmanned predator drone, which “was used for surveillance,” according to the court documents.

Grand Forks SWAT team chief Bill Macki said in an interview that the drone was used to ensure Brossart and his family members, who were also charged, didn’t leave the farm and were unarmed during the arresting raid…

Brossart is believed to be the only American citizen who was arrested with the assistance of a drone on U.S. soil. John Villasenor, of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, says the legality of domestic drone use likely stems from two Supreme Court cases that allow police to use “public, navigable airspace” for evidence gathering.

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11 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. IloiloKano says:

    This falls into the category of “sounded like a good idea at the time”. I share your discomfort.

    However, if he had seen the drone flying over HIS private property, and if it was within reach of small arms fire, could he have legally shot it out of the sky?

    My guess is that he could not, which makes me even more uncomfortable.

  2. dennisl59 says:

    Maybe some context would be helpful here. And please correct me if I’m wrong with the timeline/narrative.

    So some cows(breed unknown) wander onto this guy’s farm, right?

    The owner contacts the farmer and requests the cows be returned. For whatever insane reason the the guy refuses. The cow owner calls the cops, ‘he won’t give me my cows back!'(who moved my cheese?), anyway…

    Cops come to the farm, the owner gets stubborn and says, ‘you’ll get this cows
    over my d**d body!’. Cop leader goes, ‘ok, enough is enough’, call SWAT. Done.
    ‘we need to make sure nobody leaves the property’. someone pipes up…
    ‘this is a big dang 3,000 acre farm, how are we going to cover all the roads ‘n stuff?’ ‘well, we’ve got the option of flying a live, real time camera over it? well, we DO have an order for this guys arrest’…

    So they launch the UNARMED drone over the place so they can get this crap over with and go to Golden Corral for the chocolate waterfall and cotton candy, and it’s been SIXTEEN hours now and the Chief is PO’d about all the overtime pay.

    long story short. I have no problem with the authorities deploying a drone over this guy’s place, in order to resolve the issue. Come to think of it, how is this any different from sending in a remote controlled robot into a hostage situation to gather intelligence? any feedback is welcomed.

    posted 8/2 Texas[Free The Cows!]Time

    • sweetexp says:

      I do understand your point of view Dennis. Most of the time these situations lack full disclosure to the public and we don’t know whether or not to be for or against… I hope law enforcement had their ducks in a row on this one. We need to be safe. Maybe the President could get some of these drones going on our border states? I’m for that. I hope law enforcement made the right choice on this one. If they did, great job!

  3. Alain41 says:

    My concern is that it may enable the police to get sloppy. Eg, from this story, I don’t know how they got into a standoff in the first place. Did the police go to the ranch with an arrest warrant? Did the man poke a rifle out the window when he saw a police car in the drive? This story ended with no one hurt, but that isn’t always the case in standoffs and if the police get sloppy because they can always bring in the drones then I definitely don’t like it.

  4. TheGreenHornet says:

    This is wrong all day. Try flying a drone in to the air space of a country like Russia and see what happens. Yet we have no protection for the air space over your own property. In this post constitutional Amerika that we now live in, any kind of abuse is found to be ok by the court system.

  5. shellym says:

    I find the whole premise of the story to be odd. *Six* cows wandered onto a 3,000 acre farm — that’s over 4.5 square miles. And, this somehow escalates into a 16 hr. standoff involving local police, homeland security and an unarmed drone ?

    No. That doesn’t pass the smell test.

    As for flying a drone over this person’s private property? Clearly the court didn’t agree, but it’s simply wrong.

    While I’m skeptical of the story in general, this was a brazen use of technology and shows significant lack of restraint by these officials.

  6. dennisl59 says:


    From U.S. News and World Report, dateline 8/2/12(extract)

    Court Upholds Domestic Drone Use in Arrest of American Citizen.

    A motion to dismiss charges based on the use of a Predator drone was denied Wednesday.

    A judge denied a request to dismiss charges Wednesday against Rodney Brossart, a man arrested last year after a 16-hour standoff with police at his Lakota, N.D., ranch. Brossart’s lawyer argued that law enforcement’s “warrantless use of [an] unmanned military-like surveillance aircraft” and “outrageous governmental conduct” warranted dismissal of the case, according to court documents obtained by U.S. News.

    District Judge Joel Medd wrote that “there was no improper use of an unmanned aerial vehicle” and that the drone “appears to have had no bearing on these charges being contested here,” according to the documents.

    Bottom Line: It’s NOT an Armed Military ‘Drone’, it’s an unmanned surveillance aircraft, some would argue no different from a Police helicopter as used during a Legal Police Action. I see the day instead of news helicopters used during the daily car chases in LA they just use unmanned. Cheap and safer. On the other hand, what if gangs launched their own to counter these, then you would have a ‘remote controlled’ airwar over LA. The ‘craft would be ‘all tricked out’, painted in gang colors…

    posted 8/3 1005am Texas[BRB, I hear something over head]Time

  7. geezer says:

    disturbing on so many levels.

    The cows must have belonged to rancher MacGuffin, because they seem to exist merely to advance the story, nobody asks or cares about them, and we don’t even know what ever happened to them. Doesn’t matter, the story is about armed standoffs and drones. Hitchcock would be proud.

    This is big cattle country… multi-thousand acre ranches where people own hundreds-to-thousands of head of cattle. Now, six of them roamed across a property line and the guy won’t give them back. How could this not be a civil matter? They must have been special cows. Were they carrying signs that said Eat Mor Chikin?

    But anyways, we have a rancher who stares down the police, over the six cattle, yeah that’s the ticket, and forces an armed stand off. Well, the story says standoff but later when mentioning the police it says armed standoff. We know the police were armed. It’s reasonable to assume a rancher owns guns, but did the guy brandish a weapon at the police and yell you coppers will never take me alive? Or did he just refuse to come out on the porch? We know if he had fired a shot the story would be about a deceased rancher.

    Spose he was thinking about Ruby Ridge? hmmm… home with the family, surrounded by police and SWAT teams, drone buzzing in the sky, all over six cows. Everybody knows what drones do… they blow the crap out of bad guys. Was anyone on a bullhorn hollering the drone only has cameras, it won’t obliterate your house and family? Wonder what the rancher could have been thinking. I’m just a city boy but it’s hard to imagine six cows to a rancher is worth all of that. Might be hard for a rancher to imagine that so many police could get so excited over that, too.

    The article says they needed the drone to: (1) make sure nobody left the property, after all it was 3200 acres. Really, did they suspect there were tunnels, because the family was in a house surrounded by police. (2) make sure nobody was armed. I guess the drone could see a weapon under someones coat better than the police spotters on the ground with binoculars.

    This was a test balloon folks. Serendipity that is was a bizarre case involving the kind of folks DHS has said are probably terrorist threats (i.e. cattle ranchers in SD). We’ve seen the articles about how their gonna use drones to watch those farmers to make sure they aren’t polluting the land in Nebraska. Same Same.

    No biggie. All sounds plausible if you don’t think about it. Now go get some bread and watch the circus. Drones are good. Go back to your TV sets. Drones don’t kill U.S. citizens. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Hey, how about those US Olympic swimmers? Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

    • larrygeary says:

      Agree 100%. Two points:

      1 – The drone is not like a red light camera in that there is a person watching what the drone sees with its camera, so there IS an accuser to confront.

      2 – The Federal courts are the ratchet by which Leftism and totalitarianism advances. Aside from the 9th Circus, these bad decisions never seem to be reversed. Does anyone thing John Roberts’ decision to open the door to unlimited Federal power (as long as a “tax” is involved) will ever be reversed?

      Everything pointed out here is disturbing. More and more I fear the Federal government over even Russia and China’s nuclear arsenals, or Islamic terrorists. I just want the Feds to leave me alone and do their jobs as defined by the Constitution. But I’m afraid those days are gone until after the next revolution.

  8. Timbo says:

    Just generally uncomfortable?…Rate mine very uncomfortable. A government surveilling it’s own people with no stated warrant or cause is a dangerous thing. It is not what a democratic Republic is based on. It is what a Fascist regime is based on. This sets a very bad precedent.. what is next? How many miles do you drive? What do you eat? Where do you work? Do you participate in the tea party? The list is endless…

    Show me where in the Constitution that this is legal and acceptable..

  9. critter64 says:

    I only have one point to add. In the past the air force allegedly launched an aircraft with live nukes on it instead of the enert practice nukes. I know I spent considerable time in NATO special weapons units. Enert nukes are easy to spot, they’re blue. What happens next time when they launch an armed drone “by mistake oops”. Their is no incentive for a gov’t worker to bust their rear end. Case in point, I had ankle surgery recently at the VA, I needed a memo for work and out of the three I got, everyone had a mistake. Think about it folks this is truely the slippery slop.

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