Mueller's Drone Admission Lights Another Fire Under Paul

Get ready, Senate podiums and Mark Kirk’s candy-stocked desk: The man behind this Congress’ 13-hour filibuster is on fire again about drones.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was all ears when FBI Director Robert Mueller confirmed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau uses drones for the surveillance of American citizens.


“You also confirmed that the FBI is currently utilizing these surveillance tactics in the absence of any operational guidelines,” Paul wrote Mueller today. “I am disturbed by the revelation that the FBI has unilaterally decided to begin using drone surveillance technology without a governance policy, and thus without the requisite assurances that the constitutional rights of Americans are being protected.”

Paul fired off a list of 11 questions that he wants answered by July 1.

1)      How long has the FBI been using drones without stated privacy protections or operational guidelines?

2)      Why is the FBI only now beginning to develop guidelines for the use of drone surveillance?

3)      Is the FBI working in consultation with Congress in developing operational guidelines for drone surveillance?

4)      What measures do you intend to adopt to protect Fourth Amendment and privacy rights?

5)      Will the FBI make publicly available all rules, procedures and operational guidelines for drone use?

6)      Given that they have already been used, what has the FBI done with information already collected by drones?  What are the rules governing storage of information collected via drone?

7)      In what circumstances would the FBI elect to use drone surveillance? Does this surveillance require a warrant?

8)      How many drones does the FBI possess? Is the FBI seeking to expand its inventory of drones?

9)      Are these drones armed? Do they have the capacity to be armed? If so, what guidelines will be put in place regarding the arming of drones and the use of armed drones?

10)  Is there ever a scenario you can envision where the FBI would seek to arm its drones?

11)  Does the FBI currently prohibit federal grant funds under its jurisdiction from being used by recipients to purchase drones?


“In the future, I hope that your agency intends to be more forthcoming with information on its use of drone surveillance,” Paul noted.

Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Mueller, “Does the FBI own or currently use drones and, if so, for what purpose?”

“Yes, and for surveillance,” the director responded.

“So, instead of asking a question, I think I can assume since you do use drones that the FBI has developed a set of policies, procedures, and operational limits on the use of drones and whether or not any privacy impact on American citizens,” Grassley continued.

“We are in the initial stages of doing that. I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few and of limited use. We are exploring not only the use, but also the necessary guidelines for that use,” Mueller said, admitting to Grassley that the drones are used for surveillance on domestic soil.



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