July 30, 2013

THAT COULD BE CHANGED BY LEGISLATION: FBI to Rand Paul: Domestic drone surveillance doesn’t require a warrant.

Drone surveillance in the United States does not require a warrant, but the practice remains limited, the FBI told Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in a letter after he placed a hold on James Comey’s nomination to be the new FBI director.

“[T]he FBI does not, and has no plans to use [unmanned aerial vehicles] to conduct general surveillance not related to a specific investigation or assessment,” Stephan Kelly, the assistant director at the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, wrote Paul.

Kelly said that UAVs, or drones, have only been used for surveillance in the United States 10 times since 2006, in cases related to “kidnappings, search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, and fugitive investigations.”

Extant Supreme Court rulings suggest that such surveillance does not qualify as a “search” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, Kelly added, and so does not require a warrant.

Related: Senate confirms James Comey as new FBI head. “The Senate on Monday easily confirmed President Obama’s nomination of James Comey as FBI director, ending a standoff over concerns about the agency’s domestic use of drones. Comey, who served as deputy U.S. attorney general for President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2005, replaces Robert Mueller, who had led the bureau since shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The 93-1 vote was opposed only by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.”