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Do Drones Spy on U.S. Soil? FBI Director Says 'Yes' But in a 'Very, Very Minimal Way

Image source: U.S. Air Force

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.

Mueller Testifies At Senate FBI Oversight Hearing ederal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 19, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Mueller confirmed that the FBI uses drones for domestic surveillance during the hearing on FBI oversight. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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."

drone (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

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.



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