The FBI uses drones in domestic surveillance operations in a “very, very minimal way,” Director Robert Mueller said.
Mueller, in Senate testimony today, acknowledged for the first time that the Federal Bureau of Investigation uses “very few” drones in a limited capacity during its investigations.
“It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident when you need the capability,” Mueller said when asked about the bureau’s use of pilotless aircraft with surveillance capabilities. “It is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs.”
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Lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the impact on privacy of drones used by federal law enforcement agencies. The Homeland Security Department regularly deploys drones to oversee the southern border.
Mueller said the FBI is in “the initial stages” of formulating privacy guidelines related to its use of drones.
“There are a number of issues related to drones that will need to be debated in the future,” Mueller said. “It’s still in its nascent stages, this debate.”
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