Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that drones were currently being used to watch specific targets within the United States. He told the Senators that drones are infrequently used for surveillance and that they are only in regards to specific investigations.
“Our footprint is very small,” Mueller said in testimony. “We have very few and have limited use.”
The Hill reports,
Mueller said the FBI was in “the initial stages” of developing privacy guidelines for how the agency balances civil liberty concerns with security threats.
Mueller made the revelation before the Senate Judiciary Committee after being questioned by the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The news comes amid a debate over National Security Agency programs used to collect U.S. phone records and overseas Internet data.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Mueller that she believes drones are the most dangerous threat to the privacy of Americans, particularly the use of drones by private companies.
Mueller sought to assure Feinstein that the FBI’s use of drones was “very seldom” and only used in isolated instances.
One wonders if Mueller and the FBI have the cart before the horse. Privacy guidelines are dealt with in the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
There’s your guidelines. Judge Andrew Napolitano explains in his book It’s Dangerous To Be Right When The Government Is Wrong that the term “security” is how the Founders would have spoken about “privacy.” He writes:
“The United States Constitution does not expressly state a right to privacy. While numerous historians speculate and propose reasons as to why the Founders did not articulate this right in the text, the most telling reason may be the use of the word privacy in eighteenth-century America. In fact, a search of Thomas Jefferson’s sixteen thousand writings and letters produces not a single usage of the word privacy, because in the eighteenth century privacy referred to the bathroom or the outhouse. Rather, the Founders used the term security, which meant to them essentially the same thing as our contemporary understanding of privacy.” –pg. 85
Napolitano then gave an example by pointing to the Fourth Amendment.
Mueller tried to reassure Senators that their use of drones was a very small usage. However, it’s the doing and then going back and putting in place guidelines that should cause every American to be concerned with how their government is operating.
“It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident where you need the capability,” said Mueller.
He then added, “It is very narrowly focused on particularized needs in particularized cases, and that is the principle of privacy limitations we have.”
Well then if it is particular and specific, then Mueller would have to have probable cause, have gone to a judge to present reason for that probably cause and obtained a warrant for each and every surveillance that was conducted using a drone, right? That would be in keeping with the Fourth Amendment and he would be within the law doing that.
However, the talk of using drones domestically gave some members concerns about the use of armed drones. Remember the Senate sent the FAA Reauthorization Act last year to Barack Obama, which would place 30,000 drones in American skies by 2020; that’s less than seven years away. Remember too that the Air Force admitted to using the drones to spy on Americans, but only if they claim it was by accident.
The use of drones that potentially violates the Fourth Amendment, along with concerns of using armed drones on US Soil by the Executive Branch against US citizens, is exactly why Senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor filibustering the confirmation of John Brennan, a Muslim convert, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). One wonders if Paul’s filibuster resulted in the Air Force erasing drone strike data.
It is a real concern, given that Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice issued a confidential memo in which it states “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” This statement was part of the Federal government’s defense of its alleged “authority” to kill American citizens if they believe them to be “senior operational leaders” or “an associated force,” even if they don’t have any evidence that the person targeted is actually engaged in or plotting an attack on the U.S.
So, are you feeling safer?
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