FBI admits to flying drones over US without warrants

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it has used drones at least 10 times for domestic surveillance purposes in the United States. In three additional cases, drones were authorized, but “not actually used.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday published a

letter
from FBI Assistant Director Stephen D. Kelly, who
admitted that the agency used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
domestically, without obtaining warrants.

“The FBI uses UAVs in very limited circumstances to conduct
surveillance when there is a specific, operational need,”
the
letter reads. “Since late 2006, the FBI has conducted
surveillance using UAVs in eight criminal cases and two national
security cases.”

The bureau states that it would only be required to obtain a
warrant to use a drone in cases for which a person “would have
a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The FBI stated that it
has not yet needed to ask for a warrant, but that all requests
for drone use must be reviewed by an agency lawyer and approved
by a senior management official.

The agency said one of these cases involved the rescue of a
5-year-old boy who was being held hostage in an underground
bunker — information that strongly suggests UAVs were used in the
Alabama hostage crisis in which a retired truck driver kidnapped
a boy from a school bus and held him hostage for six days.

Drone usage was also authorized in three additional cases, but
the FBI did not release details about the nature of the
circumstances.

Sen. Paul has long advocated against domestic drone usage, and in
March held up CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination for nearly
13 hours, due to his history of defending drone strikes. In June,
FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that his agency uses drones
to spy on US citizens without any “operational
guidelines.”
Since Mueller made that announcement, Paul has
sent a series of open letters to the FBI, requesting detailed
information about the FBI’s use of drones in the United States.

In his second letter, mailed July 9, Paul threatened to
filibuster the confirmation hearing for James Comey, Mueller’s
successor, if he didn’t receive a response. And this week, Paul
finally received the information he sought.

But Paul was discontent with part of the agency’s response: in a
follow-up
letter
addressed to Mueller, he expressed concern about the
FBI’s ability to use drones without a warrant in cases where
there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy.” He
said the clause could result in “an overbroad interpretation
of this protection,”
and asked the FBI to clarify what would
require a warrant.

Sen. Paul also took his concerns to Twitter, telling his
followers that “spying without warrants is
unconstitutional.”

Overall, the confirmation of the FBI’s drone use might be a cause
of concern among privacy advocates and anti-drone activists. Dave
Norris, a councilman of Charlottesville, Va., in February
predicted that drone use would occur domestically, and feared
that there would be room for abuse.

To me, it’s Big Brother in the sky,” he told the New York
Times. “I don’t mean to sound conspiratorial about it, but
these drones are coming, and we need to put some safeguards in
place so they are not abused.”

Republished from: RT