New Documents Show How the Police Convinced the FAA to Put a No-Fly Zone Over Standing Rock

New Documents Show How the Police Convinced the FAA to Put a No-Fly Zone Over Standing Rock

Motherboard obtained nearly a hundred pages of emails between the Federal Aviation Administration and federal, state, and local agencies through a Freedom of Information Act. This correspondence describes the exchange between the law enforcement officials and the FAA regarding the establishment of a no-fly zone over the protest area. This is a critical issue because the temporary flight restriction required by the police to counter the use of drones in Standing Rock collide directly with the news gathering rights protected by the first amendment.

With the rise of the shale oil production in the northern U.S.A., the energy companies designed a pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), to move the heavy petroleum to an oil terminal located 1,200 miles away in Illinois. Standing in the middle are several Indian reservations and native American tribes, some of which opposed to the construction of the pipeline. This case generated protests and incidents with law enforcement personnel on site.

The emails released by Motherboard show the police's concerns and justifications to implement the no-fly zone.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Shannon Henke to North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services (DES):

We need to ensure the movement of law enforcement trying to protect the innocent is not being broadcast live by the use of drones. With today's technology this would be very easy to do with a drone and the camera capabilities.

Sean Johnson, Chief Planner at North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (DES) to FAA Special Operations Security:

Due to the violence that has in fact been displayed over and over again throughout this period of civil disorder and riots, it is only a matter of time until a law enforcement officer, a lawful protester, or member of the public is injured (or worse yet killed) as a result of unlawful actor usage of UAS.

A FAA Official Brian Throop told Johnson:

There is a very robust discussion here about whether or not to issue the TFR. Management at the highest levels of the FAA is aware of this and is involved in the discussion.

For more information, read the article on Motherboard. The entire emails transcript is available at the end of the article.

Regarding the TFR over Standing Rock, you can also read the opinion of Attorney Peter Sachs on the Drone Law Journal.

[via Motherboard]

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Anonymous's picture

What "news gathering rights" are protected by the first amendment. The text is very vague. It sounds a lot like you're saying the press should be allowed to go anywhere, anytime for any reason they deem newsworthy. Just curious.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

It's not vague; it is generally stated on purpose. The Founding Father’s weren’t idiots. They knew that the future would allow for different ways for the press to gather information. Why shouldn’t legitimate press be able to fly drones to gather information in such a situation? How is that different from news helicopters? When did the police become the military, a government body that actually has legitimate reasons to restrict large areas of land from overflight?

Police today have far too much influence and power in America. That’s why they can get away with pretty much anything they want.

To the writer of the article, it would help if you briefly explain what Motherboard is. You shouldn’t expect everyone to understand what you are talking about.

Anonymous's picture

While you very well could be right, I'm not going to just accept your word their intent was for the gathering of information. Being next to "freedom of speech" as it is, I take it to mean the press can write whatever they like, within the law, and especially to hold government accountable. If a law says they can't do something, that's it. Personally, I have no love of drones or helicopters. They're typically used to gather sensational news and not news that benefits the public at large. Clearly you have some grievance with the Police, and that's fine, but that's your business. If you'd like to rebut with facts, rather than opinion, please do so.

But Sam that's what the press has always done; it gathers and disseminates information. So what other intention would the Founding Fathers have in protecting the freedom of the press?

Your grammatical interpretation of the quoted text is simply incorrect. It is also unfounded based on the commonly held views of the Founding Fathers regarding those basic rights they wished to protect as a country that had to fight on the battlefield for its independence. The Founding Fathers were very wary of government overreach. The history is very clear on that.

No subsequent laws outside of the constitution trumps the constitution. Fact.

A drone or a helicopter is simply a tool. Their level of annoyance to me has nothing to do with them existing. It is how they can be used that can cause an issue. Legitimate media shouldn't be banned the use of such a tool to gather information.

You say I have a grievance against police and I say of course. Police in America today have shown time and time again that they often don't give a rat's ass about the constitution.

By the way, opinions can also be based on facts, as mine was.

Anonymous's picture

Your opinion (again not necessarily wrong) is based on facts but not the same as fact. Two people can see the same facts and both, honestly, use that fact to support their disparate opinions, as is evidenced by the current political and cultural divide in our country. Where our opinions diverge is, what does "freedom of the press" mean. I say to report facts and opinions, unhindered by the government, while you seem to grant them privilege rather than mere freedom. I'm unconvinced. Knowing your attention to facts supporting your positions, a detailed explanation by one of the authors probably doesn't exist and we should call it a day and respectfully disagree. :-)

As for overreach by the police, yes it occurs at times. As it does whenever individuals are granted power over others. It's inevitable. I hope the press will use their power of dissemination to shed light on those actual abuses. They also, occasionally, engage in overreach and, often, to greater harm than the police. Perhaps you and I are the last two people on earth to care about the constitution, even if our interpretations won't always align. ;-)

My comment regarding opinions and facts had to do with your closing comment where you said "if you'd like to rebut with facts, rather than opinion, please do so."

Clearly I was rebutting with facts. Your grammar also makes it seem that an opinion can not also be fact. And opinion is simply a shared view on something. That's all.

Your position on press freedom is the one that comes across as a privilege being granted. In this case, that the press should feel privileged to gather information a certain way. Clearly the writers of the constitution thought otherwise, as I do. That is why the relevant words they wrote are general in nature, and not something like horse drawn carriages not allowed.

The job of the press is simple, to gather and disseminate information. That has always been the case, so I don’t think it is reasonable to wonder what the Founding Fathers were thinking.

"As for overreach by the police, yes it occurs at times. .......I hope the press will use their power of dissemination to shed light on those actual abuses. They also, occasionally, engage in overreach and, often, to greater harm than the police."

I excuse no one that violates and abuses our constitution. It is reasonable to recognize the greater danger that police can have on the public and society when it comes to life and freedom. That is why the second ammendment exists. As long as all press goes unhindered then things like bias, fake news, etc, will work itself out on its own. Comparing armed police that have favored status in courts to the press is not reasonable in this case.

Anonymous's picture

Not clear to me at all. Maybe I'm just stupid. :-/ In any case, one of us is confused but I'm sure we'll also disagree on who it is. :-)
Feel free to have the last word. I'll read and consider it but not reply.