Documents Raise Further Questions About Domestic Drone Use To Spy on Americans_Featured_, Big Brother Friday, August 24th, 2012
(By Raven Clabough | New American)
Despite assertions by the federal government that domestic drones would not be used to spy on Americans, government documents seem to tell another story. A Freedom of Information request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation has revealed documents by the Federal Aviation Administration, a component of the Department of Transportation, that give strong indication the drones will be used for surveillance purposes.
In April of 2011, the EFF filed a Freedom of Information request on the use of the drones, but the Department of Transportation failed to release the information requested. The EFF then filed a lawsuit against the department in January “demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.” Certifications by the FAA are required for anyone who wishes to operate a drone in the United States over 400 feet.
In its complaint in the lawsuit, the EFF wrote,
There is currently no information available to the public on which specific public and civil entities have applied for, been granted or been denied certificates or authorizations to fly unmanned aircraft in the United States.
[The EFF] has exhausted the applicable administrative remedies with respect to its FOIA request referenced herein, [but the DOT] has wrongfully withheld the request records from [the EFF].
Jennifer Lynch, the EFF staff attorney who filed the suit, said in a statement that the use of drones for non-military purposes is “raising significant privacy concerns.” She added,
Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities. As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.
Months later, that lawsuit helped to uncover 125 drone certificates and accompanying documents from the FAA totaling thousands of papers. It also revealed all the entities licensed to fly domestic drones, which include police departments from Seattle, Washington, to Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as 10 public colleges and universities, and several federal agencies such as the USDA and the Department of Energy.
The EFF reports that a cursory glance at the technology of the drones reveals that the most notable finding is that the prime purpose of the unmanned vehicles is surveillance: