According to a new report by a Pentagon inspector general, the Pentagon has in the past decade flown military spy drones over U.S. territory for non-military missions.
According to a new report by a Pentagon inspector general, the Pentagon has in the past decade flown military spy drones over U.S. territory for non-military missions. Gregg Zoroya states the report was made public under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Zoroya reports that the deployment of military spy drones over the U.S. between 2006 and 2015 were found to be in compliance with existing law. Further, the Pentagon has posted a partial list of the drone missions and the explanation of the use of the aircraft. The partial list publicly discloses 9 missions flown between 2001 and 2016. Zoroya reveals that the majority of the missions were to assist with the search and rescue of natural disasters or National Guard exercises.
There was an interim policy that the Pentagon established allowing spy drones to be used for “homeland defense purposes in the U.S. and to assist in civil authorities.” Zoroya further illustrates that the policy the Secretary of Defense or someone delegated by the Secretary has to approve the use of military drones for civil authorities.
There are other federal agencies that own and operate unmanned aerial surveillance. In 2013, Robert Mueller (then FBI director) testified before Congress “that the bureau employed spy drones to aid investigations but in a ‘very, very minimal way, very seldom.’ ”
The military primarily uses two types of drones: MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. The MQ-1B weighs 1,130 pounds (empty), 27 feet long, and costs $20 million. The MQ-9 Reaper weighs 4,900 pounds (empty), 36 feet long, and costs $56.5 million.
Zoroya reports the Pentagon issued a new policy shortly before the inspector general report was completed with regards to governing the use of spy drones. Further, Zoroya accounts, “It requires the defense secretary to approve all domestic spy drone operations. It says that unless permitted by law and approved by the secretary, drones ‘may not conduct surveillance on U.S. persons.’ ”