The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says it has used drones for domestic surveillance purposes in the United States at least ten times without obtaining warrants. In three additional cases, drones were authorized but “not actually used.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday published a letter from FBI Assistant Director Stephen D. Kelly, who admitted that the agency used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) domestically, without gathering any warrants.
“The FBI uses UAVs in very limited circumstances to conduct surveillance when there is a specific, operational need,” the letter reads. “Since late 2006, the FBI has conducted surveillance using UAVs in eight criminal cases and two national security cases.”
The bureau said that it would only be required to obtain a warrant to use a drone in cases for which a person “would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” The FBI stated that it has not yet needed to ask for a warrant, but that all requests for drone use must be reviewed by an agency lawyer and approved by a senior management official.
The agency said that one of the cases involved the rescue of a five-year-old boy who was being held hostage in an underground bunker. The information strongly suggests that the agency was referring to the Alabama hostage crisis in which a retired truck driver kidnapped a boy from a school bus and held him hostage for six days.
Drone usage was also authorized in three additional cases, but the FBI did not release details about the nature of those circumstance.
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