FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that the FBI is using drones to conduct secret surveillance on US citizens. Many lawmakers seemed surprised.
Even as President Obama was calling for prudence in the use of drones Wednesday to an audience in Berlin, over on Capitol Hill came new revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been using drones to conduct secret surveillance on US citizens.
The disclosure came during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked whether his agency is considering buying drones – and if so, how it’s planning on using them.
The FBI already uses drones to conduct surveillance, Mr. Mueller told lawmakers, many of whom seemed surprised to hear this.
Striking an optimistic note, Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa offered, “I think I can assume since you do use drones that the FBI has developed a set of policies and procedures and operational limits on the use of drones and whether or not [they have] any privacy impact on American citizens.”
“We are in the initial stages of doing that,” Mueller replied.
Absorbing this information, Senator Grassley wanted to know whether the FBI uses drones “for surveillance on US soil.”
“Yes,” was Mueller’s reply.
Mueller then endeavored to provide context, stressing that drones are used “in a very, very minimal way – and very seldom.”
At the moment, the “footprint” for the drones is “very small,” he added. “We have very few and [they are] of limited use, and we’re exploring not only the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use.”