FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, yes, the government does use drones over U.S. soil for surveillance — but not too much.
When asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) about the use of unmanned aircraft, Mueller said “Our footprint is very small. We have very few,” according to Wired.
Grassley pressed, asking about their purpose, to which Mueller said they were for surveillance. Surveillance on U.S. soil?
“Yes, in a very, very minimal way, and seldom,” Mueller said.
The Huffington Post reported Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) expressing privacy concerns over the use of drones and calling them “the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans.”
In terms of privacy protections built into the drone program at the moment, Mueller said the program itself “is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs,” which he called “the principal privacy limitation we have.”
He did say the bureau was in the “initial stages” of developing privacy guidelines though.
In May of this year, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that the Obama administration had killed four Americans using drones in Yemen and Pakistan. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also showed letters sent by Holder that said “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.”
The FAA was charged with drafting new regulations that would open up the skies of America to more private, commercial and military drone use by 2015.