FBI Is Using Drones for Limited Domestic Surveillance

OMFG! The FBI? Surveilling things? Where’s my fainting couch?

During a Senate hearing, FBI chief Robert Mueller acknowledged the use of drones on U.S. soil. He said they were for the purpose of surveillance — and pointed out that the agency does so in a “very minimal” way. Asked about policies and limits, Mueller said it’s a work in progress.

Asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) whether the FBI uses drones, Mueller said the agency uses them for surveillance. “I think I can assume,” Grassley followed up, “since you do use drones, that the FBI has developed a set of policies, procedures, and operational limits on the use of drones and whether or not any privacy impact on American citizens?

“We are in the initial stages of doing that,” Mueller replied. “I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few and have limited use — and we’re exploring not only the use, but also the necessary guidelines for that use.”

Again, we should keep this stuff in check, but let’s not fool ourselves because it’s trendy to be outraged by any headline with the words “surveillance” and “drones.” The FBI and law enforcement is in the business of surveillance. It always has been.

By the way, I’m sure you’ve seen the sign: “Speed Checked by Aircraft.”

  • D_C_Wilson

    So, who will be the first to accuse the FBI of mounting Hellfire missiles on the drones: Alex Jones or Glenn Beck? Or will it be Greenwald?

  • eljefejeff

    gotta hand it to the republicans, particularly rand paul, he figured out what would piss people off when nothing else was going on and was able to draw attention to it. This is their “death panels” of 2013, preventing anything from getting done in Washington.

  • muselet

    I don’t have much of a problem with the FBI operating drones. I don’t even have much of a problem with the policies for their use being developed on the fly, you should pardon the expression.

    My concern is that while those policies and procedures are being developed, some hotshot Special Agent in Charge will overstep and decide that which is not forbidden is allowed. The public hue and cry will cause Congress to write the policies themselves and I don’t see that turning out well for anyone.

    The FBI needs to pull the finger out and get a firm set of regulations in place.


    • Christopher Foxx

      As a general rule, if you want a good outcome the policies should come before the program starts. Otherwise, you don’t end up with folks asking “What would be a good policy?” but instead “What have we done so far?” Which doesn’t end well.

      • muselet

        True, but sometimes technology runs far ahead of the law and the bureaucracies. That’s why I called for the FBI to get policies in place for the use of UAVs pronto.


  • JMAshby

    Homeland Security has already used drones domestically for a number of years to monitor floods, wildfires, and the border.

    Drones were also used after Hurricane Katrina to look for survivors with thermal imaging.

  • Oscar Jimison

    “…but let’s not fool ourselves because it’s trendy to be outraged by any headline with the words ‘surveillance’ and ‘drones.’ ”

    To take the outrage up a notch, include the phrase “U.S. Soil” when talking about the use of drones.

    • Bubble Genius

      But but there’s no soil involved. The drooooooooones are in the air. So really, to jack up the outrage, in the future please replace “US soil” with “US airspace.” Besides, that sounds so much more futuristic.

    • D_C_Wilson

      People need to get a grip.

      The word “drone” isn’t a magical curse like “Avada Kedavra” that will kill all freedom. It’s jut a remotely controlled aircraft with the same imaging technology we’ve been using on helicopters since forever. It’s a tool that can be used to look for survivors after a disaster or search for smugglers or terrorists. Like all tools in the government’s hands, it can be abused and needs strict rules on its use. But the mere existence of drones over US soil is not the end of democracy.

      These twits on the left are getting as bad as ones on the right. It’s like “nuance” has become a swear word to both sides.

  • ChrisAndersen

    There seems to be something about the word “drone” that just immediately triggers a reaction in some people. I can’t quite figure out what it is.

  • smitallica

    What? Drones?? Used for SURVEILLANCE??? What’s next? POLICE HELICOPTERS??!?!

    Someone notify Glenn Greenwald IMMEDIATELY!!!

    • Oscar Jimison

      The fake cable company vans are what keep me up at night.

    • missliberties

      Does he know about the super spy satellites yet? They can zoom in on the date on a dime from outer space!! Or why bin Laden lived in caves!!!!!

  • nabsentia23

    Yeah, I saw that “Speed Checked by Aircraft” sign many, many times on the road to Tennesee.