Published On: Thu, Jul 25th, 2013

Rand Paul not satisfied with FBI drone policy response, sends another letter

In a follow up to June 20 and July 9 stories, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sent to letters to FBI Director Robert Mueller requesting that he address a list of concerns in a set of questions regarding the FBI’s use of surveillance drones without operational guidelines.

Rand Paul I will speak Filibuster Facebook photoToday, Paul received two letters from director of legislative affairs at the FBI, a classified and an unclassified letter, to answer the Senator’s questions.

However, the answers included in both letters were not sufficient to answering all of Sen. Paul’s questions, prompting him to send the yet another correspondence to the FBI this afternoon.

In the unclassified letter, the FBI acknowledges using drones in very limited circumstances, eight criminal cases and two National Security cases.

They say that every request to use a drones goes through legal counsel to ensure there are no Fourth Amendment of privacy concerns. “Without a warrant, the FBI will not use drones to acquire information in  which individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” The FBI says there has yet to be a need to get a search warrant.

Other points were addressed.

Dr. Paul responded to the FBI response with another letter:

The FBI’s unclassified response letter maintained that the Bureau would acquire a warrant before using a drone to acquire information when an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  While I agree that warrants should be used to approve information collection-including information collected through drone surveillance-this protection could be undercut by the Bureau’s interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Of note, the Bureau’s response also mentions that “there has been no need” to seek a warrant or court order to use a drone in past examples.  Instead of seeking court orders, the Bureau defers to an internal approval process it uses to protect privacy.  Given that, first, the FBI will only seek a warrant if a reasonable expectation of privacy is assumed and, second, that the FBI has not felt it necessary to seek a warrant during past drone operations, it is important that you clarify your interpretation of when an individual is assumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  I am concerned that an overbroad interpretation of this protection would enable more substantial information collection on an individual in a circumstance they might not have believed was subject to surveillance.

For that reason, I ask that you provide me the Bureau’s definition of when an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  I further ask that you provide me with copies of any guidance documents-including, but not limited to, educational and training material, field manuals, legal memorandum, etc.-used by the Bureau to define when a reasonable expectation of privacy would or would not be assumed in a given situation.  Further, do those rules or interpretations differ by information collection platform?  If so, please provide an explanation of the additional considerations when using drones.


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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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