FBI's Robert Mueller: Drones Are In Use In America
WASHINGTON -- FBI Director Robert Mueller revealed Wednesday that the bureau uses drones to conduct surveillance on U.S. soil.
Asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) if the FBI was following in the footsteps of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in pursuing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, Mueller said yes. The vehicles are used in very narrow circumstances for surveillance, he said.
Asked if the bureau had developed a set of policies governing drone use and privacy protections, however, Mueller said that such a process was just starting.
"We are in the initial stages of doing that," Mueller said, emphasizing that the FBI drone program was in the nascent stages. "I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few of limited use, and we're exploring not only the use, but the necessary guidelines for that use."
He added that drones were used "in a very, very minimal way, and very seldom."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a supporter of the recently revealed data collection program of the National Security Agency, told Mueller that drones represent a dire threat to Americans' privacy,
"I think the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone, and the use of the drone and the very few regulations that are on it today, and the booming industry of commercial drones," Feinstein said.
Pressed on what protections the FBI has in place to protect privacy, Mueller said the main safeguard is the way the drones are used.
"It is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs," Mueller said. "That is the principal privacy limitation we have."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post.