Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has asked the FBI to explain why it is using drones to spy on American citizens, noting that Director Robert Mueller admitted in a recent appearance before Congress it’s being done with no operational guidelines.
“How long has the FBI been using drones without stated privacy protections or operational guidelines?” the senator asked in a letter to Mueller. “Why is the FBI only now beginning to develop guidelines for the use of drone surveillance?”
In March, Paul engaged in a filibuster in the U.S. Senate over President Obama’s apparently willingness to carry out a drone strike on an American citizen under certain circumstances.
Paul forced the administration to admit the president is not authorized to order Americans killed.
But he wasn’t any more pleased with the response from Mueller when the FBI chief appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
“You confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses drones for the surveillance of American citizens. You also confirmed that the FBI is currently utilizing these surveillance tactics in the absence of any operational guidelines,” he wrote.
“I am disturbed by the revelation that the FBI has unilaterally decided to begin using drone surveillance technology without a governance policy, and thus without the requisite assurances that the constitutional rights of Americans are being protected,” he wrote.
Paul wants to know, “Is the FBI working in consultation with Congress in developing operational guidelines?”
The senator also asks, “What measures do you intend to adopt to protect Fourth Amendment and privacy rights?”
- “Will the FBI make publicly available all rules, procedures and operational guidelines for drone use?”
- “Given that they have already been used, what has the FBI done with information already collected by drones? What are the rules governing storage of information collected via drone?”
- “In what circumstances would the FBI elect to use drone surveillance? Does this surveillance require a warrant?”
- “How many drones does the FBI possess? Is the FBI seeking to expand its inventory of drones?”
- “Are these drones armed? Do they have the capacity to be armed? If so, what guidelines will be put in place regarding the arming of drones and the use of armed drones?”
- “Is there ever a scenario you can envision where the FBI would seek to arm its drones?”
- “Does the FBI currently prohibit federal grant funds under its jurisdiction from being used by recipients to purchase drones?”
- “In the future, I hope that your agency intends to be more forthcoming with information on its use of drone surveillance.”
The Electronic Privacy Information Center said it already has been trying to get information on the administration’s use of drones, petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a public rulemaking procedure to address the threat to privacy and civil liberties.
The organization also said it petitioned the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection this year to establish privacy regulations for its use of drones.
WND reported Paul declared that “1984,” the George Orwell novel about ultimate government disinformation, manipulation and control, is here.
“Dystopian novels were just that, bad utopias,” he said, “but not practically possible. One could always sigh in relief that such surveillance, such invasion of privacy, was not technologically possible.
The senator also recently told radio host Aaron Klein that the Obama administration may have made promises about drones that fly above U.S. soil, but “there still exists a question” on exactly how the White House does plan to use the unmanned, armed vehicles.
“There is a difference between being in combat and not being in combat,” Paul told Klein. “For example, if you’re an American and you’re in Afghanistan and you’re fighting with the Taliban and you’re shooting at us, there’s not going to be any due process in that situation. … You fire back.
“The question is: What happens when you’re not involved in combat, but you’re thought to be conspiring to attack the United States?”
Hear Paul’s interview with Klein:
After Paul’s lengthy filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder said: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”
Previously, in response to a question from Paul, Holder said the U.S. never has carried out a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on American soil and that it would be “unlikely.”
However, Holder also said he could not rule it out entirely.
“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder’s letter said.
The attorney general said Obama “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.”
Paul said Holder’s ultimate response was exactly what he wanted during his nearly 13 hours speaking on the U.S. Senate floor.