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Privacy The Military Crime Government United States

Pentagon Admits Deploying Spy Drones Over US, Claims All Were 'Lawful' (msn.com) 86

lightbox32 writes with this excerpt from MSN News confirming what many people suspected with the proliferation of military and law-enforcement drones would happen, already has: A report by a Pentagon inspector general, made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, said spy drones on non-military missions have occurred fewer than 20 times between 2006 and 2015 and always in compliance with existing law. ... The use of unmanned aerial surveillance (UAS) drones over U.S. surfaced in 2013 when then-FBI director Robert Mueller testified before Congress that the bureau employed spy drones to aid investigations, but in a "very, very minimal way, very seldom." The inspector general analysis was completed March 20, 2015, but not released publicly until last Friday. ... The report quoted a military law review article that said "the appetite to use them (spy drones) in the domestic environment to collect airborne imagery continues to grow, as does Congressional and media interest in their deployment."
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Pentagon Admits Deploying Spy Drones Over US, Claims All Were 'Lawful'

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  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @03:52PM (#51667675)
    The National Guard does have law enforcement powers in their state. The federal military does not.
    • Posse commitas. Google it.
      You are right about Feds. But The pentagon would not be allowed to use its national guard reserve authority to evade the restrictions on the Feds so that's not an out here.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Posse comitatus.

        • The Federal Gov't doesn't do things that are illegal, because they are illegal. Therefore, whatever the Federal gov't does is legal. Q.E.D.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        Probably does not apply in this case. Getting aerial imagery for the use of law enforcement would be seen more as a supporting role than law enforcement. Kind of like using military radar to track a hijacked airliner over the US or using a the road on a military base as a shortcut by the police in a high speed chase.

    • The National Guard does have law enforcement powers in their state. The federal military does not.

      No they don't. Not in ANY state. When the governor activates the NG they support law enforcement. Even when we did bridges & tunnels missions (when Blade II came out) we could not arrest anyone.

  • As far as I know, aerial photography has been legal for a very long time. And ultimately, that's all a UAV is doing here.

    Perhaps there should be tighter restrictions, or at least stricter rules on disclosure - but at the moment there simply aren't.
    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @04:28PM (#51667925)

      As far as I know, aerial photography has been legal for a very long time. And ultimately, that's all a UAV is doing here.

      While aerial photography is legal, use of the military to enforce domestic policies within the US is generally illegal under the terms of the Insurrection Act and Posse Comitatus Act. With only a handful of exceptions (e.g. a state's National Guard forces can act at the request of their governor, MPs can enforce the UCMJ against military personnel, there's the threat of a nuke going off, etc.), the US military is barred from acting in any sort of law enforcement capacity within the borders of the US. Surveilling or gathering intelligence on civilians in the pursuit of aiding law enforcement is not in the list of exceptions.

      • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @05:12PM (#51668185) Homepage Journal

        Surveilling or gathering intelligence on civilians in the pursuit of aiding law enforcement is not in the list of exceptions.

        With 20 missions over the past 10 years, I could see an average of 2 missions a year for 'non-military' purposes also being unrelated to law enforcement. Search & Rescue and map updating also aren't law enforcement use.

        • I agree -- less than 20 times in 9 years is hardly "proliferation". "Military drone flight" does not equate to "law enforcement". And there are many more uses for such hardware than SAR and mapping. Disaster relief, for example. How much damage was done by that flood, and where?
          • by Atryn ( 528846 )

            I agree -- less than 20 times in 9 years is hardly "proliferation".

            It sounds even better if you say it was only 20 times since 1997. That's only 20 times in 18 years and just as true a statement! I'm more interested in the trend year-over-year. Is it increasing, at what rate and why?

            • I'm more interested in the trend year-over-year. Is it increasing, at what rate and why?

              A good question. I think what's going on is that the capabilities are increasing, cost is decreasing, and the 'total package' is becoming better known.

              For my example of military drones being used for S&R - The first use would be the hardest. However, once an organization has forged the ties with a local(enough) military base to get them to launch a drone for S&R, it becomes easier in the future. When word spreads, other S&R organizations could start reaching out.

              Because drones still aren't th

      • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
        Yeah, but as we all know, things are only illegal if you get caught. So as long as the Pentagon doesn't actually admit... whoops...
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        It's a little flaky. I was not an MP. I was a chaster/escort (transportation office) and we had a bunch of civilians on-base. One was drunk and belligerent and wanted to fight a bunch of Marines. He was initially detained by an MP. The MP loses authority when they step off the base with a civilian. The guy and I spent a few hours together while he was my prisoner. I waited for the locals to arrive. I filled out some transfer paperwork. They took my prisoner with them after I confirmed their ID and orders. I

    • As far as I know, aerial photography has been legal for a very long time. And ultimately, that's all a UAV is doing here.

      Aerial photography is legal. Law enforcement is legal. Aerial photography by the military for military purposes is legal. Aerial photography by the military for law enforcement purposes is emphatically not legal, and for very good reasons. If military personnel were involved in operating these drones, and they were being operated for law enforcement purposes, they were in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

      We can probably assume that usage of the drones over US soil by the military was for military pu

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @04:50PM (#51668043)

        The military can be called on to assist law enforcement efforts in a support role, such as operating equipment like this. What they absolutely may not do is run these flights under their own authority or for their own purposes and without the direct supervision of a Federal law enforcement agency.

        These are not military flights, they are FBI flights "contracted out" to the military for their ability to operate the equipment. The FBI still has to follow the law for their recon activities and the military still cannot do any of this in the US without civilian LEO involvement.

        This is not illegal under Posse Comitatus. The District Court ruled in US. v. Red Feather (1975): http://law.justia.com/cases/fe... [justia.com]

        "It is clear from the legislative history of 18 U.S.C. 1385 and the above cases, the intent of Congress in enacting this statute and by using the clause "uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise", was to prevent the direct active use of federal troops, one soldier or many, to execute the laws. Congress did not intend to prevent the use of Army or Air Force materiel or equipment in aid of execution of the laws."

        More specifically:

        "Activities which constitute a passive role which might indirectly aid law enforcement are: mere presence of military personnel under orders to report on the necessity for military intervention; preparation of contingency plans to be used if military intervention is ordered; advice or recommendations given to civilian law enforcement officers by military personnel on tactics or logistics; presence of military personnel to deliver military materiel, equipment or supplies, to train local law enforcement officials on the proper use and care of such material or equipment, and to maintain such materiel or equipment; aerial photographic reconnaissance flights and other like activities. Such passive involvement of federal military troops which might indirectly aid civilian law enforcement is not made unlawful under 18 U.S.C. 1385 and therefore is not relevant or material and not admissible to disprove the third element of the 18 U.S.C. 231(a) (3) charge against the defendants."

        • The Military also has a law enforcement presence at extremely sensitive terrorist targets during times of heightened alert. For example, Grand Central Station in New York occasionally has a few soldiers on duty. Considering the ripple effect it would have on the world economy if you took it out at the wrong time of day, this is actually extremely sensible, but requiring them to work in coordination with law enforcement is entirely appropriate and consistent with the United States philosophy of a civilian-

      • "It's hard to imagine the military having a military need for all that many flights." Drone testing and training guarantees there will be quite a few drones flying around.

    • fewer than 20 missions a year could amount to a combination of training, research, and special non-law enforcement taskings.

      Keep in mind that a training flight is still a "mission", it's just not an operational one. Still, let's figure that training & research are still considered "military"

      Some 'non-military' uses I can think of that are also not law enforcement.
      National Forestry service wants some updated imagery of one of it's parks. Solution: Run a drone over it real quick, done. Other options i

  • of conservative groups by the IRS? that's just one which came to mind.
  • 1983 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @04:09PM (#51667805) Journal

    You have no idea the Orwellian things coming down the pike [radiolab.org].

    • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
      That is absolutely no different than keeping years of meta data about phones, phone locations, car license plates, CCTV photo/videos, etc. This is just one more implementation of the exact same concept. Record everything, then pinpoint through time who was there. Arrest said person, even if it's the wrong person. Orwell was prescient.
  • "there's not much Spam in it!"

    • Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your spam. I love it. I'm having spam spam spam spam spam spam spam beaked beans spam spam spam and spam!
  • clearly they're not counting all those flying in counter narcotic operations, or those flying along the border watching for illegal border crossings. Or those flown by various police departments across the country. I guess those don't count as "spy drones".

    • The article is referring to the US military drones. Not everyone else's.
      • Also doesn't include border control or Coast Guard. Those are different. Both can operate within 200 miles of the coast and navigable waterways of a certain size, and that includes inland. Think about how far that is.

      • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )

        Neither was I. Counter narcotics are operated, quite often, by the military. The border patrol stuff is operated from the same locations (in some instances) as other operations and include the same operators, oftentimes. I'll give you that the police don't fall under the military but is it really any different? The military develops these things and then we just hand them out to any government agency that comes up with a bullshit justification. This should scare the shit out of every citizen in the cou

  • USNavy and Marines, USArmy, USAF and the 9 military spy agencies of which you have heard of five.

    Listen carefully to what they said. They're only talking about the first four.

    The other nine don't exist. And monkeys fly out of my butt.

  • Guess how many results are found? Zero as of this posting. There is one man that can stop this and who is ultimately responsible for this. You people make me sick.

    • There is one man that can stop this

      Stop what? Once ever couple of weeks, one civilian agency or another borrows a piece of specialized military hardware so they don't have to waste all of our tax dollars procuring that same piece hardware redundantly for only occasional use? Or would you rather waste your tax dollars on flying specially outfitted manned aircraft for when those agencies need some on demand aerial imagery?

      You people make me sick.

      Let me guess. You're one of the nearly half of the people in this country that pays no income taxes, so you'd rather thos

      • Remember when a million people marched in Washington DC to protest warrantless wiretapping? They knew who to blame then. Why does the commander in chief no longer bear any responsibility for the actions of the executive branch?

        • So in other words you'd rather change the subject and rant about something unrelated in order to avoid addressing the actual topic at hand? No surprise.
          • I'm not changing the subject. That's exactly what I was talking about in the parent.

            • Right. You're avoiding the topic. One agency of the government borrowing equipment owned by another agency of the government is nothing more than common sense. Because you're fixated on a particular agenda, you can't wrap your head around the fact that dozens of federal agencies make use of aerial imaging in order to do what they do. Every time a camera in an aircraft takes a picture of something, it's not the Eeeeeevil Gubmint looking over your shoulder through your kitchen window to see which Japanese ten
              • I have no problems with government agencies sharing equipment. This story has nothing to do with that. This story is about the DoD surveilling Americans on American soil.

                • I have no problems with government agencies sharing equipment. This story has nothing to do with that. This story is about the DoD surveilling Americans on American soil.

                  No, it's not. You have a fundamental reading comprehension problem.

                  This is EXACTLY about such equipment being put to non-DoD-surveillance use. You're pretending it's about something else because that helps you find a way to talk about the think you're obsessed about the evil gubmint doing despite your tinfoil hat, and such. Military aircraft have been used for such alternate tasks for as long as there have BEEN military aircraft. You just see the word "drone" and lose all critical thinking skills. Does

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2016 @05:17PM (#51668221) Homepage
    There is a huge difference between "lawful" as in 'We did nothing that any civilian could not also do, without any special authorization." and "lawful" as in "our lawyers, whom we pay and have previously said that drowning someone is an acceptable information gathering technique, claim is consistent with the law".

    Basically, the word "lawful" is not in any way helpful without further explanation. It's the equivalent of saying "Nah, nah, my mother said it's OK."

    You want to convince me it's lawful, state the supreme court ruling or specific law that allows it. Otherwise, don't talk about it being lawful, it just makes you look like a fascist.

    • Furthermore, if it's OK, then why do they repeatedly emphasize that the total number of employments was small? If it's lawful, then it doesn't matter how many times they did it.
      • Furthermore, if it's OK, then why do they repeatedly emphasize that the total number of employments was small?

        Because it makes the people who claim that this is a "proliferation" look like nuts. OMG, 20 times in nine years! The world is coming to an end.

    • You want to convince me it's lawful, state the supreme court ruling or specific law that allows it.

      What a sad world you live in that you want specific laws to exist to allow you to do something legally, instead of having specific laws to make specific things illegal.

      Otherwise, don't talk about it being lawful, it just makes you look like a fascist.

      Which system of government is it that would require a law to make something legal?

      By the way, nobody said that drowning anyone was legal. Hyperbole does not make your argument stronger.

      • You have radically misreprenesnted what I said.

        We have a multitude of laws preventing government espionage. I did not make the claim that what they did was unlawful, they made the claim that what they did was lawful.

        The said world we live in is a history of governments lying about what is lawful. As such, their blatant word must be supported, not the other way around. They gave no such support.

        Again, I don't think laws are necessary to make things lawful, that simply is a lie you said. I claimed a

        • You have radically misreprenesnted what I said.

          I quoted you verbatim. How can I misrepresent what you said when they are your words in the order you said them? I may not have gotten the meaning from them that you intended, but sir, I did not misrepresent you in any way. And from your response here, I know that I did not misinterpret them.

          Again, I don't think laws are necessary to make things lawful, that simply is a lie you said.

          You demanded that someone show you a law that makes what they are doing legal. It isn't much clearer than that. If you DON'T think that laws are necessary to make things legal, then how can you demand that someone show

    • So your main problem is that you think the ACLU is under the control of the agencies who borrowed the equipment/systems? You think the ACLU was somehow forced to lie when they reviewed the FOIA-ed info and concluded that indeed there was nothing untoward in the use of the systems?

      don't talk about it being lawful, it just makes you look like a fascist

      You don't actually know what that word means, do you? Nor how to use it in any sort of useful context? When local search and rescue teams borrow a military truck in really foul weather, do you start screaming "Fascists!" every tim

      • I do know what the word "fascist" means, but you don't have to know. You have made a major mistake by relying on definition instead of history. First and foremost, if you took your head out of your a$$, you would realize I did not say they were fascists, I said they sounded like facists - which is true.

        Historically, the fascists governments lied about what was lawful.That was the aspect of fascism I was referencing. They would routinely make claims about x being lawful. So anyone that just says "wha

  • As there are unjust men.- Gandi I'm getting tired of people using new (or old) unethical (and in many cases immoral) laws to justify bad behaviour. All of this basically means the government agencies are saying they can come onto your property with no cause, no warrant, and no reason. Just because they think you may be trouble. There is also the spirit of the law as well as the letter. Wonder what would have happen if a federal judge had to deal with this. Of course they respond to the political climate so
    • Which bad behavior are you talking about? Which of the 20 uses, reviewed and blessed by the ACLU after the FOIA request, do you consider to be the "bad behavior" part of civilian agencies avoiding the huge expense of procuring specialized aerial imaging equipment or services for rare use by simply borrowing it from another department for a bit? Please be specific.
  • The U.S. government can and has used bacteria in experiments against the general populace that sickened and killed people...and it was legal. Putting natural born citizens in concentration camps on the basis of ethnicity, legal.

  • From long ago
    __

    "I speak now, to the leaders and administrators of this county. You are not the first to have sought world supremacy, others have gone before you. And each has been finally brought down by very same disregard for the will of the people that you condone and encourage."

    Your time is coming...

  • Come on.

    When have you ever heard governments say they did anything illegal or say they didn't do something because it was wrong or illegal.

    At best they lose in court.

  • A link to the story/article, etc would be rather useful.

  • People keep wondering why the FAA is being difficult about writing rules to allow unmanned aircraft operations in the US? This is why. The DoD is falling all over themselves out of desperation to get these things in the air. They won't be satisfied until there's a Global Hawk watching every inhabited square mile of the continental US 24/7. Safety for everyone else in the air be damned.

"Open the pod bay doors, HAL." -- Dave Bowman, 2001

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