According to a new report, the Pentagon has admitted to deploying military drones over U.S. territory.
The report, now public, is a result of the Freedom of Information Act, which said spy drones used for non-military missions have occurred fewer than 20 times between 2006 and 2015—and always in compliance with existing law.
Think: training purposes, disaster relief, and search and rescue missions. For example, the military used the Reaper, its biggest, baddest UAV, “to support incident awareness and assessment during fire season training with the Department of Energy.”
So, should we be donning our tin foil hats and hole up in underground sewers for fear of Big Brother flying its 2-ton war machines above our heads?
According to the Department of Defense (DoD)’s website: The “purpose of DoD domestic UAS operations is for DoD forces to gain realistic training experience, test equipment and tactics in preparation for potential overseas warfighting missions and on occasion support DSCA training and exercises.”
That being said, drone technology has been evolving at a rapid rate, and current laws may lag a step or two behind. The Pentagon first established interim guidance over the use of unmanned aircraft for domestic purposes in 2006, allowing drones to be used for homeland defense purposes and to assist civil authorities. These latter cases would have to be approved by the Secretary of Defense.
(Side note: While the full list of missions was not made public, the report does cite a few examples—including one case in which an unnamed mayor apparently asked the Marines to use a drone to scope out potholes in the mayor’s city. Really, dude?)
Shortly before the report was completed last year, the Pentagon issued a new policy governing the use of drones over domestic soil, requiring the Secretary of Defense to approve all domestic spy drone operations. It also stipulates that unmanned aircraft “may not conduct surveillance on U.S. persons.”
“It’s important to remember that the American people do find this to be a very, very sensitive topic,” senior policy analyst for American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Jay Stanley told USA Today.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense