New U.S. drone strike provisions in the works

October 1st, 2013

A recent report published by the United States Department of Justice’s watchdog affiliate documented the spending of over $3 million on drone attacks or reconnaissance missions by the FBI. As a result of this report, the U.S. Department of Justice is calling for immediate regulations to be put in place. Though the use of drones in destroying terrorist bases and gathering foreign intelligence is no surprise to the American people, the publication of this statistic reveals a huge gap in defense regulations. This ground breaking report also cited the FBI’s unregulated use of drones on domestic soil, which came as a shock to American citizens and many government officials.

According to the Justice Department, the use of drones presents unique regulatory challenges that need to be met with clear guidelines before any federal agencies utilize the unmanned aircraft. The biggest concern, according to BBC News, is that the privacy of American citizens has been compromised by the deployment of domestic drones.  The watchdog report states that the FBI has been utilizing drones, on both domestic and international missions, since 2006, with little or no regulations to follow. Though the FBI has assured the Justice Department that none of the drones sent on domestic missions had projectile capacities, the calls for reform were not silenced.

Though this revelation is alarming, New York Times reporter Massimo Calabresi points out that “the problems associated with domestic drone use are less threatening and more typical of government dysfunction.”

That is, the Department of Justice is calling for strict guidelines that will be applicable across many FBI departments, to prevent oversights and constitutional violations. These regulations would put universal qualifications in place for the authorization of an unmanned reconnaissance mission, would establish a check-and-balances system between departments that utilize drones and would hopefully regulate the fair allocation of federal funds to drone research and deployment.

The watchdog report also found that $1.2 million was spent to give local law enforcement agencies the resources to produce drones for investigative purposes, though the FBI failed to track how the money was spent. Based on this finding, the Department of Justice is stressing the importance of instituting these regulations before other federal agencies begin to utilize drones. The FBI has declined to comment on the watchdog report, but points to an earlier congressional testimony by then director Robert S. Mueller in June, which publicized the FBI’s use of drones on domestic soil.

The 35-page report cites the FBI as using drones to do reconnaissance near homes of criminals, in hostage situations, and even to patrol U.S. borders near Canada and Mexico. According to the LA Times, one law enforcement officer explained that the unmanned planes were only used in situations where agents’ lives were at risk, but the FBI has not released an official statement to this effect.

This story has appeared in many international newspapers within the last week, and comes at a bad time for the Obama administration, which has already experienced international and domestic outcry for its use of drones in the Middle East.

Information from BBC News, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times were used in this news article.