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FBI uses drones in America, director Mueller admits

But domestic drone use is limited to few instances with a small 'footprint,' FBI director tells senate hearing.

Robert mueller fbi drones in america 06 19Enlarge
FBI director Robert Mueller testifies at the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. Mueller confirmed that the FBI uses drones for domestic surveillance during the hearing on FBI oversight. (Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images)

While the FBI uses drones on American soil, it only does so in rare instances and with a very small “footprint,” director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Speaking to the judiciary committee for likely the final time, Mueller acknowledged drone use in the United States needs further debate.

“It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident when you need the capability,” Mueller said, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“It is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs.’’

He said the most recent, obvious example was from the six-day hostage taking in Alabama earlier this year.

Domestic drone use is a contentious issue, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and a small group of colleagues holding an hours-long filibuster questioning their legality.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have called for increased limits and guidelines for domestic drone use.

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That, Mueller agreed, is underway.

“We are in the early stages of doing that, and I will tell you that our footprint is very small, we have very few, and have limited use. And we’re exploring not only the use, but the necessary guidelines for that use,” Mueller said, according to NBC News.

Mueller also spoke about other topics, including the investigation of the Internal Revenue Service and National Security Agency internet and cellphone monitoring.

Mueller, who is set to retire in a few weeks, defended such tactics and warned senators that the US faces increased terrorist attacks without vigilant monitoring.

“Communications are the soft underbelly of terrorist (operations),” Mueller said, according to USA Today. “If that goes dark on us, we will be sitting waiting for the next attack.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130619/fbi-uses-drones-america-director-mueller-admits