Agencies Borrowing Drones More Than We Thought

Customs and Border Protection has loaned them out almost 700 times

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 15, 2014 4:47 PM CST

(Newser) – Domestic law enforcement agencies have flown a lot more drone missions than they let on, according to newly uncovered data. Customs and Border Patrol lent out drones from its fleet for almost 700 surveillance missions from 2010 to 2012, the agency has revealed, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Originally, CBP had that number at around 500, but with a major court hearing pending, the agency said it "discovered that it did not release all entries" from its reports.

The missions were flown on behalf of the DEA, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local law enforcement. CBP refused to identify specific local agencies, nor would it say much about the nature of the missions, or why its earlier figure was so far off. The former acting head of the agency tells the Washington Post that as one of the few agencies with access to the robots, they were swamped with requests. But he says they were granted only in pressing situations. "There was a sensitivity attached to this."

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows an unmanned drone used to patrol the US-Canadian border.   (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection, File)
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