FBI Has Used Drones On Americans To Save A Child... And The Rest Is Secret

from the for-the-children! dept

You may recall a few weeks ago that FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted to using drones to spy on Americans (and that there were no rules about using those drones). In response, Senator Rand Paul asked Mueller for details and those have now been sent, saying that the drones have been used 10 times, though they're very, very, very quick to play down the significance of this (and to highlight how they were used to recover a kidnapped 5-year-old -- "for the children!").
The FBI uses UAVS in very limited circumstances to conduct surveillance when there is a specific, operational need. UAVs have been used for surveillance to support missions related to kidnappings, search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, and fugitive investigations. Since late 2006, the FBI has conducted surveillance using UAVs in eight criminal cases and two national security cases. For example, earlier this year in Alabama, the FBI used UAV surveillance to support the successful rescue of the 5-year-old child who was being held hostage in an underground bunker by Jimmy Lee Dykes. None of the UAVS used by the FBI are armed with either lethal or non--lethal weapons, and the FBI has no plans to use weapons with UAVs. The FBI does not use UAVs to conduct "bulk" surveillance or to conduct general surveillance not related to an investigation or assessment.
Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.
While we share your interest in transparency concerning the use of law enforcement and national security tools, we are not in a position to disclose publicly more detailed information concerning the Bureau's specific use of UAVS. Such additional information is "Law Enforcement Sensitive" or, in some cases, classified, based on the need to protect the effectiveness of this capability in law enforcement and national security matters. We have enclosed a classified addendum that provides more detailed information in response to your inquiry. We request that you not disseminate the information in the addendum without prior consultation with the FBI.
Yeah. So, they use drones "to save the kidnapped hostage children!" and [REDACTED]. That's not particularly comforting.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:17pm

    Saving a child... after killing hundreds

    Some children are more equal than others, I guess...?

     

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      Wally (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:21pm

      Re: Saving a child... after killing hundreds

      This article had to do with the use of drones to rescue a kidnapping victim...not "killing innocent children".

       

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      Pseudonym, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:52pm

      Re: Saving a child... after killing hundreds

      The government is not a monolithic entity. The FBI generally doesn't kill people or destroy property (trying to persuade people to commit suicide in the past notwithstanding). If they're going to destroy an innocent person's life, they use old fashioned entrapment.

      It's the military who kills people with armed flying robots.

      Different parts of your government do different things. About the only thing they agree on is that you can't know about it, because terrorism.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:18pm

        Re: Re: Saving a child... after killing hundreds

        First you make a statement as tho it were fact - having to do with what a TLA does and does not do ... then you claim that these things can not be known.

        So which is it.

         

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          Wally (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 7:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: Saving a child... after killing hundreds

          The problem is that the AC is correct. The FBI are the next step above Sherif's Offices and State Highway Patrol. They utilize what resources they can for each investigation possible.

          Also, the FBI is a law enforcement agency, the NSA is an intelligence agency. Those are two different rolls by two different agencies.

           

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    Wally (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:29pm

    Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

    Ever play MS Flight Simulator? Same thing...only your aircraft is real. It's not a drone it's a UMAV that runs via remote control.


    Not that big a secret....

    As for the FBI's lack of transparency, this is likely a preventative measure to make sure countermeasures aren't used against the drones.

    The silver lining in their response to the questionnaire is the simple fact they politely responded to you.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:46pm

      Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

      Errrrr - what?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:04pm

      Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

      Ever play MS Flight Simulator? Same thing...only your aircraft is real.

      Yes, I think everyone understands what it is.

      It's not a drone it's a UMAV that runs via remote control.

      Um. Yeah, a UMAV is a drone, and a drone is a UMAV.

      Not that big a secret....

      Clearly, the parts marked secret are...

      As for the FBI's lack of transparency, this is likely a preventative measure to make sure countermeasures aren't used against the drones.

      This is the point. The FBI would appear to be using what many would describe as military weaponry against its citizenry, or, if you prefer, treating the people it exists to protect, as enemy combatants, with, apparently, inadequate oversight. They feel the need to keep this information out of the hands of its own citizens "to make sure countermeasures aren't used against the drones" is an implicit statement that the public at large would have some reason to use countermeasures against the drones, which would mean that the FBI seems to see fit to use this military weaponry against a significant enough number of its own citizens, that the general populace cannot be trusted with information about the use of this weaponry, which they funded with their own taxes. I don't know how much you know about the entire point of classifying government (read: the people's) information is to protect national security. Saving a kidnapped child, while quite noble, does not fall under the umbrella of national security. If the child is lost, the nation will somberly soldier on. Keeping secrets from the public is supposed to be a sacrifice of the government's desire, and more importantly, duty, to keep its owners aware of everything it does so that the people (the same ones mentioned in 'of the people, by the people, for the people') will be able to justly and rationally dictate the government's next steps. As more information slips into the black hole that is secrecy in the name of national security, we face greater and greater threats to our ability to perform this duty. Wally, you don't want to be ineffective in this duty, do you?

      I certainly do not. Now, another possible, albeit highly unlikely explanation for the secrecy about their use of this military weaponry, is that if the public at large knew more about it, they would use their increasingly endangered democratic might to weaken, and perhaps even entirely prohibit FBI's ability to use such military weaponry against its own citizens. I can imagine a world in which that is true. Hopefully, however, you're right that the FBI does not wish to entirely limit the public's democratic rights, and it merely wishes to attack American citizens with military weaponry, with relative certainty that the citizens cannot employ any countermeasures to defend themselves. That would be a relief, considering the possibilities.

       

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        Wally (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:55pm

        Re: Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

        Or it could be that kidnappers and criminals might take advantage of procedural information making it more difficult for the FBI to identify legitimate crimes and solve them. It should be noted that UMAV's come in all shapes and sizes. To say that they are using military equipment is not an impossibility, but it isn't the equipment that you use...it's how you use it.

        The FBI has been more behaved than the NSA as of late and I wholeheartedly trust that Federal Agency over the NSA itself.

        The basic reason for refracting the information is likely due to the fact that they don't want their methods known so a weakness cannot be spotted.

        If it is agent names and technical flight data and routes, that information does need to be redacted. This is especially true because it may put an FBI agent and his or her family at risk.

        There is more to it than transparency in this case. We have a story, the FBI saved a kidnapped person, and they rescued her by tracking the assailant with a UMAV. I don't care how it was done as long as the apprehension was done legally.

        Also, this method usually saves money for the FBI because doing an aerial search with a helicopter is quite expensive.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

          The road to hell is paved with good intentions

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

          The road to hell is paved with good intentions
          ....
          this is interesting
          ...
          if I add more to it, maybe it will not be held for review?

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2013 @ 3:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

          Or it could be that kidnappers and criminals might take advantage of procedural information making it more difficult for the FBI to identify legitimate crimes and solve them.

          That's not why the government has the power to hide information from its constituents. They are only allowed to hide it in order to protect national security. We are not overrun by drone-outsmarting kidnappers. Personally, until that becomes a serious annoyance, I would rather leave secrecy to real matters of national security.

          but it isn't the equipment that you use...it's how you use it.

          Fine, but until we're given details on that, we are not able to make much in the way of decisions about it.


          The FBI has been more behaved than the NSA as of late and I wholeheartedly trust that Federal Agency over the NSA itself.

          How do you know that? The only reason why the public at large is aware of the NSA's 'behavior' is because the information was leaked, against their will. How can you compare the severity of two organizations' actions, when you know scarcely little about one of them?


          The basic reason for refracting the information is likely due to the fact that they don't want their methods known so a weakness cannot be spotted.

          Yes, I remember when you said that before. My concern, however, is with the value placed on keeping criminals in the dark, and the lack of value placed upon keeping the American public in the loop. Keeping criminals in the dark can't be a trump card to hide any old bit of information. They should have to justify what is being hidden to the people they are hiding it from.


          If it is agent names and technical flight data and routes, that information does need to be redacted. This is especially true because it may put an FBI agent and his or her family at risk.

          Names?? I seriously doubt anybody would be bothered if they blocked out agent names inline. Flight routes, on the other hand, are something that they have no business hiding. If the drones are flying in America, you have not only a right or privilege to know where and when government furnished equipment if flying about, but a DUTY, as you and every other member of the voting public are responsible for voting, in or out of power, public officials who will determine the use of this technology.

          There is more to it than transparency in this case.

          Okay...

          We have a story,

          Well, part of one.


          the FBI saved a kidnapped person, and they rescued her by tracking the assailant with a UMAV.

          What else happened?

          I don't care how it was done as long as the apprehension was done legally.

          Did you read the letter? They glossed over the details of what they did to a Senator, with what I'd call marketing speak. What if you were audited by the IRS, Wally, and you responded with a letter of this sort? "Dear honorable Internal Revenue Service, I promise I did not cheat on my taxes. In one case, I paid my taxes in full, and saved a little girl from being kidnapped! I promise I will never give you the wrong amount of money, Sincerely Wally." Do you think the IRS would let that fly?


          Also, this method usually saves money for the FBI because doing an aerial search with a helicopter is quite expensive.

          I'd like to see the figures on that. Can you produce those for me?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2013 @ 1:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

            I think it's just best best to leave it be. It's clear the FBI isn't going to share the type of drones it used, even with a senator. Maybe they redacted the names of the victim and her family members so they could live in peace after such a traumatizing experience. I simply just don't care either way as long as the victim was returned safely to her family.

            It should be noted that some members of Congress are extremeły wary of the NSA and in their minds, the NSA is the same agency as the FBI. You see, unlike the NSA, the FBI investigates and carries out the laws and are there to provide multi-jurisdictional assistance when the local law enforcement can't provide sufficient help.

            If the Senator in question is to dumb to realize a kidnapping victim is safe, that the criminals were apprehended and that they have their rights (note FISC wasn't involved in the approved use of the equipment, a local judged granting a warrant did), I don't think it unnecessary for the FBI to protect the rights of the criminals by not releasing how their names or how they were detained. It's standard procedure because of "innocent until proven guilty".

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 5:24am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Of course, they follow that up by also saying they can't really talk about how they use drones, because, you know, that's secret.

              Yeah - they absolutely could not have accomplished this effort without the drone usage. Amirite?

               

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 6:24pm

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions

     

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    Thomas (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 7:34pm

    Government spooks

    whether the FBI, NSA, or any of the othrs, believe they are not bound by such silly things as laws or constitutional protections. They fully believe that anything they feel they want to do it's perfectly all right to do so.

     

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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:14pm

    again with the drones...

    Really? Again?
    "If God had wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings!"
    "Them AI Hunter-Killer dronzez is gonna git us!"
    You guys know that the Military drones are remote-controlled, right?
    When you finally see an autonomous drone, it's prolly gonna ring your doorbell and drop off a pizza.
    And you'll be shaking your fist, yelling, "HEY you damn drone, git offa my airspace!!!"
    You're all a bunch of silicon-bigots. No wonder Sky-Net hates you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:26pm

    Hey I totally believe them! After all, I myself has used drones to save the entire world from global thermonuclear war, and the proof is [REDACTED].

     

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      Ray, Jul 27th, 2013 @ 7:49am

      You can't fix stupid

      Those tired old lines don't work anymore. As our government has sunk into criminal behavior unparalleled in our history, they had to use them too many times and always with the same result-it was not for the kids.

      I can understand not wanting Islamic Law in the US but the way to prevent that is to offer something more moral and better. False flag terrorist attacks and every manner of lying, cheating and profiting from it all is not going to get us there. They might win a battle that way but will eventually lose the war. We need moral leadership, not blackmailed puppets.

       

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    Andrew D. Todd, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:25pm

    Fly Along Now-- Nothing To See From the Air

    Well, I discussed this point a while back:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130705/17154023725/border-patrol-drone-fleet-straying-fa r-from-borders-when-not-being-loaned-out-to-whatever-agency-comes-asking.shtml#c342

    What it comes down to is that there aren't very many things which it makes sense to do in the back yard instead of the basement. Drones aren't very good at observing basements.

    The kidnapping case in Alabama involved a man who had built a bunker in his back yard, complete with firing slits, and Law Enforcement needed a map to figure out how to approach it.

    Of course, what the drones are mostly doing, in one form or another, is the War on Drugs. The illegal drug industry produces products which are ultimately measured in milligrams. It is a piece of clumsiness on their part to employ processes bulky enough to be detected from the air. Sooner or later, the illegal drug industry will catch up with Moore's law, and will probably wind up selling the apparatus rather than the drug. In fact, they might be the same thing, ie. a genetically tailored yeast which lives in and on sugar-water, and which can be partly consumed, and partly used to make more. At any rate, air surveillance will become irrelevant.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2013 @ 5:05am

    this 'save a child' reason is wearing a bit thin! everything that the various security agencies do is so as to save the children, all the other things that just happen to be done at the same time are pure coincidence. yeah!! right!! about time this and the UK government that uses the same excuse wrote a new script!!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2013 @ 9:13am

      Re:

      Yes, the "Save The Children" mantra rings a bit hollow in light of the many who starve, lack proper medical treatment and languish in squalor. Then there are those who actively attack the education of youth claiming some sort of high ground, which apparently only they can see. And this is not in reference to the Taliban in Afghanistan or Pakistan ... no - it is reference to those in the US who turn their backs on the needy, many of whom are children, whilst proclaiming that which they do is "For The Children". It's disgusting and the only people they are fooling are those who mindlessly follow lambasting any contrary thought, opinion or fact.

       

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    Jim P. (profile), Jul 27th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    Droning On

    The claim a drone was used in "support" of a kidnapping rescue is weasel-speak for "We had one, we used one but it didn't add anything significant to the real effort."

    I used to write reports like that when I was int he government.

     

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    Pragmatic, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 6:16am

    abigail222

    Mike/admins, please can you block abigail222 and remove all her posts? She's spamming with adverts for her website, she's not even bitching about you or this site.

    For trolls bitching about you and this site because you won't look to see how high they're going on the swing, etc., the report to hide button is sufficient.

    Thanks in advance.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:41am

    It's a bird, it's a plan, it

    "...the FBI used UAV surveillance to support the successful rescue of the 5-year-old child who was being held hostage in an underground bunker..."

    Wait. UAV provides useful surveillance into an underground bunker?

    The background. Dykes kills bus driver and kidnaps kid around 3:30PM on Jan 29, 2013. Promptly heads to 6x8 underground bunker on his property. FBI shows up AFTER Dykes calls them on 911 to establish negotiations. At some point, they introduced a hidden camera through a ventilation pipe. On Feb 4, FBI breaches the bunker, kills Dykes, rescues kid.

    So the reason they can't tell you how the drone helped in that situation is... it didn't.

     

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