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FBI says the Government Is Spying on Americans with Drones, Too

EPIC, is currently suing the FBI over its refusal to publish its privacy impact assessments, is completely baffled by the collective shrug offered by these two agencies -- one which is supposed to craft and publish its assessments and that's supposed to provide (obviously needed) oversight. Both seem equally uninterested in fulfilling the requirements of their jobs.

I am really getting sick of this crap the federal alphabet agencies are pulling and that more people don't understand what damage they are doing to the whole damn country.

FBI director Robert Mueller said the government has used surveillance drones in the U.S. — though “in a very, very minimal way, very seldom” — at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. “It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident when you need the capability,” Mueller said before the judiciary committee. “It is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs.” He said he did not know what happens to the images the drones capture.

Mueller’s answer came following questioning from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said drones were the “biggest threat to privacy” in America today. This is funny, because Feinstein had just given a rousing defense of the National Security Agency’s program to collect the metadata on all phone calls made by all Americans. Feinstein is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and since Edward Snowden leaked the NSA programs, has dismissed concerns that the government is spying on Americans. At Wednesday’s hearing, Feinstein said the NSA collects “not the names, but the data. Not the content, but the data.” A drone wouldn’t collect the content of your conversation, either. It would only show exactly where you are and when. Which is what your phone call metadata says, too.

Related: Underground America is back online. How to beat the police, CPS, DEA, FBI, IRS and NSA. How to beat any drug test, police sting and how to beat your court case and more.

from the federal-bureau-of-(deliberate)-ineptitude dept

The FBI's assessment of its drones' impact on the privacy of Americans has never been made public. It's been nearly a decade since it first deployed drones, and the agency has yet to provide anything on the subject. FOIA requests (there are several out there) have been greeted with nothing -- every single page withheld under the government's go-to exception, b(5).

Now, it's telling FOIA clearinghouse MuckRock that its obfuscatory efforts have buried the documents so deep
even the FBI doesn't know where its Privacy Impact Assessment is.
Six months ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation refused to release its plans to tackle privacy risks posed by drone surveillance. Now the agency claims it can’t track them down at all. So does the one Justice Department office responsible for making sure such reports get filed in the first place.
As Shawn Musgrave of MuckRock points out, the FBI's continued secrecy runs contrary to both the FOIA and its own obligations to the general public in terms of its surveillance programs' impact on the American public.
Last week, the Justice Department confirmed that neither the FBI nor OPCL had been able to find anything despite “an adequate, reasonable search for such records.”
So… did the FBI toss the troublesome document into the nearest shredder (as if it isn't stored online somewhere within its internal network)? Or is it simply uninterested with fulfilling the minimal requirements of its accountability to the public? The latter appears to be the likeliest answer. In an update to MuckRock's original post about the MIA PIA, Shawn Musgrave reports that the DOJ has issued a statement suggesting MuckRock go fuck itself try the same thing that resulted in zero released pages six months ago.

Recently, the White House set vague privacy policies for government agencies using drones. Obama issued a directive that sets limits on how unmanned aircraft may be used by federal agencies to gather information on people.  The White House said government drones must be used lawfully and “consistent with the Constitution,” and gathering information on American citizens may only be done for an “authorized purpose.” 

That doesn’t really restrict what law enforcement can use drones for, or even require a search warrant from a judge.

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