The FBI has informed Congress it does not believe the agency needs to obtain a warrant to employ drones on surveillance missions, reports the Washington Post.
In a July 19 letter to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Stephen D. Kelly, assistant director for the FBI’s congressional liaison office, explained that the FBI has used drones on 10 occasions – twice for reasons of “national security” and eight times for criminal cases.
Kelly went on to say that the agency authorized drone use in three other criminal cases but did not deploy them.
Paul released a second letter from Kelly on Monday, in which Kelly said the FBI feels a warrant is not needed as long as unmanned aerial surveillance is conducted within certain guidelines.
Kelly said the FBI takes its lead from several Supreme Court cases that deal with manned aerial surveillance.
In those cases, the court ruled that no privacy rights were violated if the areas observed were in public view and no law enforcement officer was trespassing.
Kelly pointed up a specific case in which one of the justices concluded a problem might arise if an agency were to conduct long-term warrant-less surveillance of someone in public, as that could be construed as an unreasonable search in violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
“We do not use UAVs to undertake such surveillance,” Kelly said.
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