Pentagon Flew Drones Over U.S. For Domestic Spying Missions, Reveals Report

Pentagon Flew Drones Over U.S. For Domestic Spying Missions, Reveals Report — Though ‘Legal’, Laws Will Have To Be Revised, Say Experts

Pentagon conducted domestic spying missions over U.S. using drones, revealed a report. However, all of the missions were in strict accordance with the law.

The Pentagon flew drones over American territory to conduct domestic spying missions. The missions were conducted between 2006 and 2015. All of the missions were non-military. The flights have been completely legal and in strict adherence to local laws, noted the report by a Pentagon inspector general. The inspector general analysis was completed March 20, 2015, but not released publicly until last Friday, reported MSN.

The report confirms the Pentagon deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory, but the missions conducted in the last ten years had been rare and completely legal. The report was made public under a Freedom of Information Act request. It clarifies that the spy drones flew over American territory “fewer than 20 times” over the past 10 years. While all of the missions were in complete compliance with existing law, experts argue that given the pace of the technology, a majority of the laws need to be revised.

The report does not detail exactly what prompted the Pentagon to deploy the spy drones over the United States territory. However, it does note that it takes the issue of military drones used on American soil “very seriously.” Noting that though the missions being in accordance to the law is a relief, the advancement in technology mandates a revision in the laws that deal with such drones, said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU.

“Sometimes, new technology changes so rapidly that existing law no longer fit what people think are appropriate. It’s important to remember that the American people do find this to be a very, very sensitive topic.”

There have been numerous cases when miniature drones have been used by citizens to conduct amateur spying. However, when the Pentagon gets involved, the scale and sensitivity of the projects as well as the size and sophistication of the drones takes a quantum leap. Incidentally, according to Fox News, these drones flew over American soil to offer assistance to public service companies. The non-military missions included helping first responders extinguishing raging forest fires out West, and helping to arrest the recent flooding of the Mississippi River.

Interestingly, one of the missions that the drones were requested to complete was identification of potholes. Apparently, an unidentified mayor had asked the Marine Corps to fly a drone over his city to find potholes. According to Popular Science, U.S. Marine Corp UAS unit holds a community leadership program each month. During the meeting, local politicians are invited to view and learn about the capabilities of the various aircraft on base. When asked if the drones could assist the city in identifying potholes on the roads, the UAS unit initially supported the unique challenge, stating it could provide realistic training for their pilots and sensor operators, but local commanders determined, “under the interim guidance, requesting SECDEP approval to conduct a UAS mission of this type did not make operational sense.”

One of the most publicized non-military missions involved neutralizing suspected armed cattle thieves, reported News Max. Evidently, a Sheriff’s department in North Dakota had requested U.S. Customs and Border Protection about the availability of a Reaper drone to keep an eye on a ranch where these thieves were hiding. Using the stealth drones, the Sheriff’s office was able to storm the ranch when the thieves were asleep.

The drones deployed by the Pentagon are completely different from the ones being bought by civilians. Armed with powerful and sensitive instruments, these unmanned aerial vehicles possess extraordinary vision high above ground. Equipped with powerful batteries and sometimes solar arrays, these drones can hover hundreds of feet above the ground for quite a few hours and sometimes days, silently monitoring the activity below.

Interestingly, before the inspector general’s report was finished last year, the Pentagon issued a new policy for spy drones, requiring the defense secretary to approve all domestic spy drone operations, reported USA Today.

[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]

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