Our Own Military Is Using Drones to Collect Info on Us Without a Warrant

Illustration for article titled Our Own Military Is Using Drones to Collect Info on Us Without a Warrant

The government is in the process of rewriting regulations so that private citizens and law enforcement agencies can fly drones willy-nilly through the skies. The proposition has a lot of people very nervous that the government will be increasingly monitoring us from above. Turns out they've probably been doing it already.


New documents obtained by CBS Los Angeles reveal that under current regulations, it is possible for Air Force drones to gather information on American soil without a warrant. Technically, Air Force drones aren't allowed to perform surveillance in US airspace under most circumstances. (They can only be used to fight back against foreign intelligence operations, the war on drugs, and for counter-terrorism.) However, if in the process of conducting other missions an Air Force drone happens to capture information, it's not immediately tossed out.

What has critics alarmed is that data collected by drones accidentally, under the guidelines, can be kept by the military up to three months before being purged and can also be turned over to "another Department of Defense or government agency to whose function it pertains."


In other words, what the Air Force accidentally captures might just end up in the hands of local law enforcement or anyone else that might find what you're up to interesting. But what exactly constitutes accidentally? Drones could be misused under the guise of a mishap and there's very little we could do about it. Yikes. [CBS Los Angeles]

Image credit: Gwoeii/Shutterstock

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The law has been like this for some time. Executive Order 12333 allows for the examining of any information on US persons collected incidentally while in the pursuit of legitimate foreign intelligence. The law is that the data may be held for up to 90 days to determine if it may be legally used by the federal government. If it can, it is handed off to the proper agency, if not, it must be deleted. It has to be pretty heavy stuff to be held onto, though. And the agency collecting it has to be able to prove that the US person incidentally collected on was not the target. US agencies are expressly forbidden from reverse targeting, which is targeting a foreign entity legally with the true intent of capturing that incidental US communication.

This is not new. These regulations have been on the books for some time now, and US agencies actually follow them. After the nasty stuff the NSA was caught doing in the 60s and 70s, believe me, they take it very seriously.