Uh, that’s California below — not North Waziristan

The US uses drones for surveillance in some limited law-enforcement situations, the head of FBI has said, prompting additional debate about the Obama administration’s use of domestic surveillance.

Robert Mueller’s acknowledgement came in response to questions on Wednesday from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who said they wanted to know more about the federal government’s increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on US soil?” Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Yes,” Mueller said, adding that the use was in “a very, very minimal way and very seldom”.

Mueller did not go into detail, but the FBI later released a statement that said unmanned aircraft were used only to watch stationary subjects and to avoid serious risks to law-enforcement agents…

The Federal Aviation Administration approves each use, the statement said.

The Justice Department had disclosed that two domestic law-enforcement agencies use unmanned aircraft systems, according to a department statement sent to the Judiciary Committee and released on Wednesday by Grassley’s office.

The two are the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives…

Mueller, who is due to retire when his term expires in September, agreed that there should be public discourse over the future of the unmanned vehicles, saying “it’s worthy of debate and perhaps legislation down the road”.

Mueller did not say…whether warrants were being obtained for the use of the drones.

Requiring warrants fits into the same category as FAA approval. Rubber stamps don’t ask questions or consider constitutionality.

  1. noname says:

    Obviously, we live in a police state!

    I don’t think even Russia or China tracks, monitors, records its people on the scale and huge magnitude the U.S. does!

    It’s sad, our Bill of Rights is worthless and our Supreme Court is facilitating its devaluing!

    Obama lies and says Top Secrete Courts are publicly Transparent!

    Obama is nothing more than a tool in our Police State!

    • Mextli says:

      But it’s all legal.

      Sarcasm in case it wasn’t obvious.

      • Hooman Who says:

        You might also note that China, Russia, etc. don’t really need to monitor, track, watch their citizens. And that’s because they don’t have a clear rule of LAW such as what we have with our Constitution. And when there’s no clear legal system the guy with the biggest balls gets to decide anyone and everyone’s fate.

        But give “them” time. Sooner or later the Constitution will be eroded to the point where China, Russia, etc. can let their masters take over — many of whom are already working on Wall Street!

  2. B. Dog says:

    Don’t drone me bro’.

    • Hooman Who says:

      Don’t go OUTSIDE dude!

      • msbpodcast says:

        They can use microwaves, deep penetrating radar and thermal imaging.

        Assuming you’re safe in a house is a chump’s safety.

        Remember the videos taken from the cameras on JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) during the Iraq war?

  3. Mr Diesel says:

    Next step, weapons on drones to be used during car/drone chases so we can watch them live on Fox taking out the guy who ran a stop sign and won’t stop for police.

    New show: World’s Most Amazing Police Drone Strikes
    Synopsis: Watch as some of the world’s drones pound speeders and drunks with Hellfire missiles until they are vaporized. Only on TruTV, Fridays at 10PM.

    • Hooman Who says:

      It’s not likely ever going to happen as long as we have sue happy citizens who might also get hit. Even in foreign war zones we’re ready to pounce on any military decision to neutralize a subject that might also cause collateral damage to someone else.

      Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t heard of more lawsuits against the show COPS. But then, that is a FOX TV show.

  4. msbpodcast says:

    Who knew that when I bought that “Drone Star State T-Shirt last year I was being prophetic.

    I’m really not interested in air travel anymore.

    I wouldn’t even mind, but the airheads who try to convince themselves that they’re in charge, keep lying to my face and looking all pissed off when their hand is caught in the cookie jar.

    Why do they keep on trying to pretend?

    Let ’em fly the fucking drones, who gives a shit?

    But at least be honest about it and maybe you’ll prevent an accident.

    • Mr Diesel says:

      I’m waiting for a drone to collide with a commercial airliner.

      • Hooman Who says:

        Me too! Just look at the chaos anyone can do with a laser pointer from the ground. (Which is HIGHLY illegal for anyone to do too!!!)

  5. So What is new ? says:

    Drones eliminate the airborne pilot.
    Spying of this nature using conventional aircraft could have been going on for decades.

    • dusanmal says:

      There are orders of magnitude in cost difference and in persistence. Real pilots and real planes must conform to high (costing) standards and have limits on operation. Kid trained on cheap can operate quite inexpensive drone almost 24/7 and many of them can run about unattended most of the time (drones, not kids). Very similar situation with red-light cameras. You could do that with cops at each intersection… yet that’s unheard of. Because costs beat gains. Or BigData spying – if an FBI agent was required to register each and every call or web-search…

      • bobbo, we think with words and flower with ideas says:

        Hey Duce==you aborted my nascent comment.

        Well done.

  6. Dallas says:

    Just assume the drone is a manned helicopter chasing OJ.

    • Mr Diesel says:

      Thanks, now I feel better. I remember watching that live…

      • Dallas says:

        I’m glad I was able to diffuse the potential panic situation for you !

    • dusanmal says:

      But if there was a plane or helicopter with a real pilot… persistence and pervasive nature of drone observation of (eventually) everything would not be possible. That is the crucial difference. Spying limited to actual humans doing the work ensures that only the really important targets are pursued- not the whole population for convenience sake.

      • Dallas says:

        Sadly, the march of technology moves forward 🙁

        In 20 years, all traffic lights will have high res cameras attached. However, President Chelsea Clinton will not allow the NSA to watch where Teapublicans assemble.

    • Hooman Who says:

      Never ASSUME anything. Just look at the word!

      When we ASS-U-ME, it usually makes an ASS out of U and ME!” (OK, maybe it’s just “U”.)

  7. Dante Smith says:

    Your latest post was awesome!


    I really loved your latest post on “FBI using drones for spy missions over the United States”. I have gone ahead and added “Dvorak Uncensored” to my Flipboard. Keep writing awesome stuff, and I will keep reading it.

    Thanks again,

    Dante Smith

  8. bob dobbs says:

    But Bush did things and stuff too! I mean come on Bush/Chaney !
    If you don’t see that Bush was the Babble, Babble, cry boohoo.

    {cry cry}

    • Hooman Who says:

      You mean KING Bush?! WHICH ONE?!

      Get your shit together dude! THINK about who is in power NOW!!!

      You might also like to realize that it’s now HALF A DECADE after ‘ol “W” was there and more that two decades since daddy senior was there. Or maybe you want to blame Ronald Reagan more than a QUARTER CENTURY LATER for all of the shit going on now. Hell! Some of it I might even agree with if you want to play the blame game. But when the CURRENT power does nothing about CURRENT PROBLEMS like an abuse of power then I tend to blame the guy who makes it happen or lets it happen. And right now that guy is Obama!

      — “None is so blind as he who WON’T see.

  9. Uncle Patso says:

    I don’t see how this is much different from police helicopters with those stabilized visible light and infrared cameras we’ve seen on all those Amazing Cop Videos programs. Even TV stations have them these days. Suddenly, because it’s a (GASP!) drone, it’s the end of all life as we know it? So the pilot is sitting in a trailer nearby instead of up in the air, so what? The FAA isn’t going to issue carte blanche for these things to gad wildly about in busy airspace and it’s going to be a LONG time (if ever) before they’re authorized to carry weapons and even longer before anyone lets them zoom about autonomously.

    If Skynet were just around the corner, it wouldn’t be because of these things.

  10. Hooman Who says:

    Requiring warrants fits into the same category as FAA approval. Rubber stamps don’t ask questions or consider constitutionality.

    FYI: Warrants are issued by a JUDGE or Grand Jury. But as you might guess, warrants are usually “rubber stamped” when almost any other authority toting a badge asks for one.

    Judges and any jury in America get their authority from the JUDICIAL branch. The FAA gets it’s authority (power) from the LEGISLATIVE branch which is then operated/maintained/controlled by the EXECUTIVE branch. Small difference these days, I admit. But as long as someone is still reading the Constitution we should at least acknowledge those small differences and place any blame at the feet of who’s to really blame – which I say are the courts! (Maybe that’s Eideard’s conclusion, but it was never actually said.)

    One other thing that was NOT mentioned here is that all of those domestic drones are about the size of a model airplane and absolutely unarmed. That still doesn’t give me any comfort since we all know that as soon as we give the government an inch they will (try to) take it all!

  11. Somebody_Else says:

    How is using a drone to monitor a hostage situation any different than using a helicopter? Sounds alike it would be cheaper and safer.

    I wouldn’t mind if they started blowing up fundamentalist churches and crazy christian right-wingers. The tree of liberty needs watering.

  12. Sam says:

    And this is unlike Google Earth because… ?

  13. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    The big issue in the future will be the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by local police departments.

    I don’t think a search warrant is required for a police helicopter if the helicopter isn’t flying directly over a surveilled place. The UAVs can stay aloft for 24 hours and at a significant and discreet distance from any place on the ground. They can transmit or record video using high resolution cameras which can be analyzed by contracted Big Data companies.

    Thus creating a more current and more localized “Google Earth” for a particular city.


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