FBI Drone Surveillance

Today’s post is short, but it is about a topic that I haven’t seen get a lot of coverage.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller told committee members that the FBI uses surveillance drones on American soil.

It’s been pretty widely acknowledged that the government uses drones to monitor the border with Mexico, but the FBI’s usage of the unmanned aircraft was not widely known. (It also strikes me as interesting that most headlines referring to this state of affairs just say “the border” without specifying which one. But the possible reasons for that could make their own post.)

Mueller was quick to try and reassure the senators that the agency’s drone usage was rare and approved on a case-by-case basis.

One of his exact quotes was “We’re exploring not only the use [of drones] but also the necessary guidelines for that use.”

It doesn’t strike me as exactly reassuring that the use of drones has apparently begun ahead of, or at the same time as, considering what the appropriate guidelines would be.

Coming in the wake of the NSA leaks, FBI domestic drone surveillance is just another example of the expansion of a surveillance state in the U.S.

The refrain from officials seems to boil down to “trust us.” But these programs show exactly how little trust the government has in the people. In intelligence and security policy, there are of course always going to be some things that must be secret. But when the government is so afraid of the people they are supposed to protect that they decide we must be under constant surveillance, I think something has gone very wrong in our democratic system.

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