Though drones have become an essential tool for the CIA in battling militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, a new report reveals that the FBI has also relied on drones to fight domestic criminals since 2006.
A report by the Justice Department's watchdog organization, the Office of the Inspector General, shows that the FBI has spent over $3 million on drones since May. It also shows that the Justice Department has given $1.26 million to local police departments to use drones. (You can read the full report here.)
That means that the use of drones in the organization began earlier than had previously been acknowledged.
It also means that the FBI risked violating US citizens' privacy, the BBC said, given the lack of regulations on the domestic use of drones.
"No agency, including the FBI, should deploy domestic surveillance drones without first having strong privacy guidelines in place," said Jay Staley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, according to Reuters.
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The 35-page report predicts that the use of drones will expand to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The ATF has already tested several unmanned vehicles.
Drones were deployed by the FBI during a recent standoff in Alabama, when a 65-year-old Vietnam War-era veteran Jimmy Lee Dykes held a 5-year-old boy hostage in a bunker. The drone was used to watch the entrance of the bunker before law enforcement agents broke in and killed Dykes.
The inspector general's office said that new guidelines were needed to deploy drones domestically in order to protect privacy and administer the proper collection of information.
Its report said that legislation is needed to require court orders before deploying drones and to ban the use of armed drones.