Drone surveillance – FBI style

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published the FBI’s drone licenses and supporting records for the last several years.

Earlier this week, Wired broke the story that the FBI has been using drones to surveil Americans. Indeed, FBI Director Robert Mueller even let slip that the FBI flies surveillance drones on American soil, although he subsequently attempted to claim the Bureau’s drone program “is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized leads.”

“[The] EFF received these records as a result of our Freedom of Information lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the licenses the FAA issues to all public entities wishing to fly drones in the national airspace,” EFF rep Jennifer Lynch wrote in an EFF blog post.

“As detailed in prior posts and on our drone map, we have already received tens of thousands of pages of valuable information about local, state and federal agencies’ drone flights. However, unlike other federal agencies, including the US Air Force, the Bureau has withheld almost all information within its documents—even including the dates the FAA’s Certificates of Authorization (COAs) were issued.”

Given the FBI’s past abuses and the information recently revealed about how the Bureau exploits specious interpretations of federal law to help out the NSA’s spying program, Lynch said the EFF has “good reason” to be concerned about the lack of transparency.

“We hope Senator Feinstein will follow up on her concerns about the FBI’s apparent lack of ‘strictures’ in place to protect Americans’ privacy in connection to FBI drone use and demand a full accounting of how, when, where and why the Bureau has been using drones to monitor the public,” she added.