CA City To Use Chinese Drones To Monitor Gatherings, Businesses

P. Gardner Goldsmith | March 25, 2020

Here’s a frightening sign.

The government of Chula Vista, California, just announced that it will be using DRONES to help enforce Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom’s “stay at home” commands.

What’s scary about that is twofold. First, and, perhaps, most bizarre, is that some critics of this move are focusing on the source of manufacture of the drones.

See, the drones are made in China. As Zachary Halaschak notes for The Washington Examiner:

DJI, a Chinese company from which the department purchased the drones, is the world’s largest player in the civilian drone industry, making up 80% of the global market.

People within the Defense Department might have some justified concern here. As Ryan Morgan notes for American Military News:

U.S. officials have said that Chinese-manufactured drones pose a risk of opening the U.S. up to Chinese spying efforts. In 2017, the U.S. Army ordered its soldiers to stop using DJI (the manufacturer) drones. The U.S. Department of the Interior also decided in October to ground its entire drone fleet, consisting out of mostly Chinese drones and components, out of concern the drones were relaying sensitive information about U.S. infrastructure back to China.

Which all seems rather ironic, considering that the government of Chula Vista now wants to use the drones to surveil people during Newsom's lockdown.

But wait, there’s more, via Halaschak at The Examiner:

He (Police Capt. Vern Sallee) noted that in Chula Vista, police are simply taking note of gatherings of more than 10 people, businesses that are open that shouldn't be, or people in parks that are closed. Staff have been directed to advise people on social distancing guidelines and ask for them to comply voluntarily with Newsom's stay-at-home restrictions.  

The Examiner article notes that drones have been in operation by the Chula Vista police force since 2016, and with the recent purchase of two DJI drones, has doubled its fleet.

Consumers worldwide recognize the value they get for their expenditure when they make their decisions to buy. No one forces the purchases on the free market level.

But, of course, the Chula Vista government isn’t operating through freedom, so taxpayers are paying for these Chinese drones whether they like it or not.

And that brings us to the bigger point. It’s the fact that folks seem more concerned about these being Chinese-made than the reality that the government of Chula Vista is using them to monitor people and that the Governor of California has imposed a constitutionally questionable “stay at home” order.

Simply put, Newsom’s order – and similar orders by various mayors and governors – might appear acceptable under an original reading of the First Amendment, which prohibited CONGRESS establishing any laws infringing on the exercise of free speech, freedom of association, religion, or the press. Since the First Amendment only focuses on Congress, and there were speech codes and curfews on the books in many states long after the Constitution was adopted, many judges have found in favor of local ordinances infringing on those rights. But even if the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t explicitly “incorporate” the Bill of Rights into state operations, as some historians errantly argue it does, the act of banning public assembly and stopping many forms of commerce are questionable on two other constitutional fronts.

First, the US Constitution forbids any state or local politician from blocking the fulfillment of private contracts. That means that if a restaurateur has promised to buy food or detergent from a supplier, or to pay an employee for work on a certain day under agreed parameters, any politician who stops that agreement from being fulfilled is breaching the Contract Clause of the US Constitution. This is clear, and it would also apply to minimum wage laws and all kinds of regulations imposed by government – IF judges read the Constitution as it is supposed to be read, rather than siding with the vast panoply of regulations governments across the US wield to control our lives.

Second, the Constitution promises Americans a system whereby the government cannot punish them without proper jurisprudence – in court. And since Newsom’s and all the other “forced closure” and “stay-at-home” mandates could be construed as forms of imprisonment, they are violations of that constitutional protection.

Looking to the state for protection from a virus is precisely the wrong thing to do. Not only can it put people at risk, it breaches so many principles of freedom as to make the Constitution a dead document.

Let’s keep it alive, even as we strive to help one another do so.