- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Pentagon has deployed spy drones to fly over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade, but the flights were few and lawful, according to a new report. 

The domestic drone flights have occurred less than 20 times between 2006 and 2015 and were always conducted in compliance with existing laws, according to the report by the Pentagon Inspector General which was made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, according to USA today. 

The Pentagon did not provide details of the domestic spy missions, but said it takes the issue of military drone flights over America soil “very seriously.” 

The list of domestic drone operations was not made public in the report, but some examples were cited. 

In one case, an unnamed mayor asked the Marine Corps to use a drone to identify potholes in the mayor’s city. The Marines denied the request because obtaining the required approval from the defense secretary to “conduct a UAS mission of this type did not make operational sense.” 

The issue of unmanned aerial surveillance drone flights over the U.S. first arose in 2013 when then-FBI director Robery Mueller told a Congressional committee that the bureau employed spy drones to aid in investigations, but in a “very, very minimal way, very seldom.” 

According to the report, which was completed in March 2015, the Pentagon established guidance in 2006 governing when and whether drones could be used domestically. 

The interim policy allowed spy drones to be used for homeland defense purposes and to assists civil authorities. 

However, the policy said that any use of military spy drones for civilian authorities must be cleared by the Secretary of Defense or someone delegated by the secretary. The report found that the defense secretaries never delegated that responsibility, according to USA Today. 

But the desire for domestic drone operations is growing, according to the report. Military units that operate the drones told inspectors that they would like more opportunities to fly them on domestic missions, even just to give pilots more experience. 

Shortly before the report was completed a year ago, the Pentagon issued a new policy on the use of spy drones requiring the defense secretary to approve all domestic drone operations. 

Unless permitted by law and approved by the secretary, drones “may not conduct surveillance on U.S. persons,” under the new policy. 

 

 

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