FBI Admits To Using Drones To Spy On Americans

from the feeling-safer? dept

Most people in the US still associate government use of drones with far away places. But they might want to start paying more attention to what’s happening over their own heads. The FBI has now admitted that it uses drones for surveillance purposes domestically. Though FBI director Robert Mueller said that it was done in a “very, very minimal way, very seldom,” this is still the first admission that it has happened. Mueller seemed open to having Congress legislate how it can use drones. Oddly, members of Congress who seem unconcerned about the NSA’s mass dragnet of information, are apparently concerned about domestic drone use:

Dianne Feinstein, who is also chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said the issue of drones worried her far more than telephone and internet surveillance, which she believes are subject to sufficient legal oversight.

I would argue that both are worrying, in large part because the use of both have been secret to the American public until recent revelations. At the very least, these kinds of surveillance deserve a very public debate about whether or not they are appropriate.

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Comments on “FBI Admits To Using Drones To Spy On Americans”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

actually the drones are far less worrying. They are just a convenient way of removing the focus from the real surveillance problems.

Btw. Merkel was digging a bit at Obama in Berlin on the surveillance cases: “There needs to be a balance and we will continue to work with USA to find the right balance.”
Obama instantly answered that “USA already had found the right balance.”…

Given how this balance is individual for every person on earth I call bull on that…

FormerAC (profile) says:

Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

You keep repeating this as if it were relevant.

Here are a few reasons, off the top of my head, why it isn’t…
1.) I don’t have to use Google. I can use different products.
2.) Google is a private company. They cannot arrest me.
3.) The FBI/NSA are part of my government. They have the power to arrest me.
4.) The FBI/NSA have a long history of lying about who they are spying on and abusing their powers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

I imagine people are aware of the pitfalls of google and how it makes money. However, others don?t feel the need to put on foil hats and shout in the streets incoherently. Google?s antics are the price of free. You can limit what they take from you, or you can avoid their services all together. Though, I think it?s well enough to work within their system, but still retain some assembly of yourself. I?m not sure Google is dragging the sky down on top of us like you seem to betray it.

That you go full conspiracy theorist with your ranting?s, it discredits your arguments. Your message ends up getting ignored and you get belittled. You do more harm than good. You accomplish nothing except to thrust people further into the arms of google.

If you?re actually concerned about google and want people to know about its follies, you?re doing an awful job. If you?re a troll just trolling to troll, well than, you?re doing a bit better at that. Perhaps if your true intentions are to enlighten people on google, you should consider just doing it to be a troll. Least than you?d be somewhat successful in your dealings.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

Your message ends up getting ignored and you get belittled. You do more harm than good.

Indeed. Speaking as a person who is highly critical of Google and encourages people to be wary of them, Blue’s attempts are counterproductive in the extreme. He comes off as a lunatic, and so allows people to write off folks who point out the real trade-offs Google presents as just one of the lunatic crowd.

If Blue really wanted to raise awareness about Googly issues, he’d be well advised to talk like a rational person. Or, if that’s impossible, to at least shut up and let others do the job.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

The Crazy Copyright lady will never shut up. Whatever they did to get her panties in a wad she’s gonna carry on till the day she dies, using Google daily and complaining about it here.

Why? A desperate ploy to get attention, perhaps.

Epic butthurt over something so trivial she’s unwilling to talk about it in public?

Whatever it is, Cathy is so deranged she can’t even get the other trolls on board.

Let’s stop responding to her. She’s too nuts to pay attention to anyone who doesn’t immediately agree with everything she says.

Edward Teach says:

Where can I torrent the "best of surveillance" video?

I bet that there’s a lot of surveillance of topless beaches, clothing-optional beaches, beaches in general, and swimming pools in expensive parts of the towns where drones are based.

I bet there’s just *tons* of surveillance done over by sorority row, too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Have another report vote ootb for another post having no bearing on the topic.

I have come to the realization that nothing involving the present day scandals can be believed when I hear politicians mouths move.

The investigations into the NLS have already shown that any time the system can be abused it will be.

Boojumbunn says:

Lots of room to debate drones

Honestly, there is a lot of room to debate when and how the use of drones is appropriate inside the US and what is done with the data after a drone is flown.

I know it’s not against the law for an unmarked police car, for example, to follow me down the road as I drive. A manned drone seems, on the surface, to be an extension of this. However a drone is not restricted to the same paths and views that a car is (which is one of the strengths of a drone.) In my mind, this raises the following questions.

1. If a person is nude sunbathing in the privacy of their own, fenced, backyard and a police drone flies over.. what protections exist to prevent that part of that video from being kept, perused, taken home, posted on youtube, etc… Can an FOI be used to get copies of drone flight video’s?

2. If damage is done by a drone (breaks window, shorts power line) who is responsible?

3. What type of encryption will be used to protect flight controls for drones from being hacked? What sort of encryption for video streams to prevent from being recorded by third parties?

4. What restrictions will be placed on the correct use of drones? can building and safety use it (as they have been using google maps) to look into peoples backyards for code violations? Will a warrant be needed to use them? Can they only be used to follow individuals or can the forestry service use them to look for fires/drugs/poachers/etc?

5. What laws will be in place for private use of drones? To the best of my knowledge, if your not using them for commercial purpose you can fly video drones right now below 500ft. but if your using them for commercial purpose then it’s against FAA regulations.

So in my mind, there are lots of questions that need to be asked BEFORE we begin general use of drones within the borders of the united states. I hope they are being considered.

Boojum the brown bunny

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Lots of room to debate drones

  1. i can imagine drones making a VERY useful technology for society in general…
  2. with the exception of search & rescue ops (which should not necessarily be a police/military function), i can ONLY imagine horrific consequences for this technology in the hands of the police-military (difficult to tell apart these days: our mercenaries, oops, military ‘police’ countries a half a planet away, and our police make war on the citizens here…
  3. all we have to do to understand how police-military use of drones within the US, is to see how they are used on the rest of the world… which many legal minds and moral leaders (all four of them!) make an arguable case for the use of drones constituting war crimes…
    if its a war crime ‘over there’, why ain’t it a war crime ‘over here’ ? ? ?

  4. lastly, the MOST scary prospect in this inhumane drone usage (and -not coincidentally- ‘warrantless wiretapping’, ‘TIA’ shit), is establishing the ‘legal/moral principle’ (sic), that use of unobtrusive, undetectable surveillance techniques make the 4th amendment obsolete…

    aside from the mere factoid that 99%+ of our kongresskritters piss on the constitution and bill of rights on at least a three-month basis; aside from how our modern ‘papers and effects’ have mutated to a digital world unanticipated, BUT WHICH SHOULD STILL BE COVERED; and aside from the dubious value of these insane systems; i am looking in my popular science speculation crystal ball, and it ain’t too long out where we have ‘nanobots’ of various scales…
    if we establish the ‘principle’ that unobtrusive surveillance is ‘okay’, then what is to stop The They ™ from putting a nanobot up your butt ? ? ?

    nothing but a threadbare pair of tidy whities…

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

Who cares. They already have helicopters and satellites that can look down upon you. If they send up a helicopter it probably takes 3 cops. If they send up a drone, it takes one with a joystick. Saves the taxpayers money.

What do you honestly think they are going to do with these drones? Spy on you? Are you really that important? I’ll bet my left one that they will use them to watch the borders for illegals, Chase bank robbers, Watch known drug houses, etc etc. Wow what a horrible idea.

If you don’t want to be seen nude in your backyard than don’t go outside without clothes on.

Stop bitching about everything that the government does. You elected them. If you don’t like it than run for your local seat.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If they send up a helicopter it probably takes 3 cops. If they send up a drone, it takes one with a joystick. Saves the taxpayers money.

No, it doesn’t. It just means that they’ll do three times as much surveillance.

What do you honestly think they are going to do with these drones? Spy on you? Are you really that important?

As with the other spying issues, the point isn’t that you, or I, in particular are being surveilled. It’s that massive surveillance has a large number of detrimental effects to society as a whole, and that the cops & spy outfits have repeatedly demonstrated, over a period of many decades, that they will inevitably use their new power to do things like suppress legitimate dissent, punish political enemies, etc.

If you don’t want to be seen nude in your backyard than don’t go outside without clothes on

This is a stunning statement. So now we have to refrain from legal activity in the privacy of our own land just so cops get to play with their new toys?

Stop bitching about everything that the government does

I don’t bitch about everything the government does. I bitch about the things I see the government doing wrong. This is not only my right, but it is my responsibility as a citizen.

For the record, I don’t think the drones issue is nearly as big of a deal as the telephone spying, but there’s no reason not to call out both of these as issues that need to be addressed.

MAC says:

From Star Wars...

We are witnessing the death of the Republic to thunderous applause.

However, in our case, it’s probably apathy and indifference.

No time for politics, gotta make my car payment, mortgage payment, get next to the cute blond, take the kids to school…

There are so many excuses.

Then, all of sudden and before you know it:

It’s 3 am:
Don’t worry sir, this is for your own protection. Just put your hands behind your back while we put this black hood over your head…
Your family? What family…

btr1701 (profile) says:


Honestly, I don’t get the current obsession over drones. What does it matter which type of *vehicle* they use for surveillance? Whether it’s a drone or a helicopter or satellite is irrelevant; the surveillance is the same.

They’ve been looking down on us for years with satellites, but now that they’ve used a drone to do the exact same thing, suddenly we all clutch our pearls in horror? Makes no sense.

turkishboy says:


In my opinion, drones are creepy enough, but the US government is going farther by spying on the citizens with little drones that look like things you see pretty much everyday such as birds and insects.Doing that they are violating the right to privacy.

here are a couple links that might nterest you


^This link is about how some drones that look like little dragonflies were spotted in the skies by some teenagers.

Heres a quote by the college senior of new york”I look up and I?m like, ?What the hell is that?? They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.


^this link is about the cyborg beetles that are spying on you on behalf of the pentagon.

Here’s a quote from Tech-Onreports… Perhaps you are not particularly worried about the idea of remote-controlled insects spying on you, on behalf of the Pentagon. Darpa-funded researchers at the University of California, Berkeley would like to disabuse you of that notion. They?ve succeeded in “controlling a live rhinoceros beetle by radio,” Tech-Onreports.


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