The Los Angeles Times reports: Operating with almost no public notice, the FBI has spent more than $3 million to operate a fleet of small drone aircraft in domestic investigations, according to a report released Thursday by a federal watchdog agency.
The unmanned surveillance planes have helped FBI agents storm barricaded buildings, track criminal suspects and examine crime scenes since 2006, longer than previously known, according to the 35-page inspector general’s audit of drones used by the Justice Department.
The FBI unmanned planes weigh less than 55 pounds each and are unarmed, the report said. The FBI declined requests to discuss its drone operations Thursday.
In June, Robert S. Mueller III, then director of the FBI, acknowledged the existence of the drone program for the first time during congressional testimony.
Mueller, who retired Sept. 4, said the bureau was in the “initial stages” of writing privacy policies so agencies flying the unmanned aircraft would avoid improper surveillance of Americans. “We’re exploring not only the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use,” he said.
But the auditors determined that the FBI had not addressed the danger of violating privacy rights, and recommended that the deputy attorney general’s office consider writing new guidelines to curb improper surveillance by law enforcement drones. [Continue reading…]