Republican investigators demanded answers Tuesday from the Federal Aviation Administration over its decision last week to impose a ban on drone flights near the Texas migrant camp that sprang up on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Kentucky Rep. James Comer and fellow Republicans on the House Oversight Committee said the ban was “totally devoid” of a justification and, given the details, it’s tough to avoid the conclusion that the FAA was trying to protect the Biden administration from embarrassing images.
“Using government resources to conduct such blatant censorship is exactly the kind of abuse of power that must be rooted out of our government — to say nothing to the basic lack of transparency,” the House Republicans wrote in a letter that The Washington Times obtained first.
The drone ban went into effect the night of Sept. 16, just as the camp was swelling to 5,000 people and as media interest was growing. Federal authorities were keeping the public away from the site on the ground, but aerial images captured the size of the gathering. The ban lasts until Sept. 30.
In the announcement, the agency said drones that break the ban could be destroyed in a “security action” by the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department or even the Defense Department.
The FAA, in a statement to the Times, said the Border Patrol requested the ban “due to drones interfering with law enforcement aircraft on the border.”
The agency said news agencies are able to get exemptions, and Fox News, Reuters and the Associated Press have applied and been approved.
The Del Rio camp reached about 16,000 people over the weekend, before federal and state authorities managed to head off new arrivals and begin to cut into the numbers by speeding up processing.
Mr. Comer said drone footage of the camp was proving embarrassing to the administration, serving as a visual encapsulation of Mr. Biden border failures.
“The images show the abrupt reversal of the Trump administration’s deterrent policies has led to a continued crisis with months of historically high illegal crossings,” the Kentucky congressman wrote.