House demands Pentagon disclose details about domestic drones
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator. (Reuters)
The United States House of Representatives is demanding that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel explain to Congress details pertaining to any domestic spying missions conducted by Pentagon-operated surveillance drones.
The House voted this week on a lengthy appropriations bill that, tucked deep within, contained a provision ordering the Department of Defense to disclose information about a little-known drone program that could be collecting images of unknowing Americans.
Citing heightened concerns over the aircraft, the House approved a measure that said in part that the secretary of defense must report on the policies and procedures in place within the military regarding the collection and usage of data picked up by Pentagon surveillance drones. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, Sec. Hagel will have 90 days to submit a report to Congress explaining what policies and procedures are in place across the military to ensure that the constitutional rights of Americans are not violated by any Pentagon drones flown in America.
“The conferees understand that the Air Force has policies and procedures in place governing the disposition of UAV collections that may inadvertently capture matters of concern to law enforcement agencies. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure constitutional protections and proper separation between the military and law enforcement,” begins the measure. “However, it is unclear if other Services and Defense agencies have similar policies and procedures in place, or if these policies and procedures need to be revised or standardized. Therefore, the conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on the policies and procedures in place across the Services and Defense agencies governing the use of such collections and to identify any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that such policies and procedures are adequate and consistent across the Department of Defense.”
In all, the appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013 was approved by a vote of 267-151, with the majority of support coming from members of the Republican Party. Also included in the bill is congressional approval for $982 billion to fund the government during the fiscal year, with separate appropriations concerning the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The vote comes amid heated discussion in Washington over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and what rules the Obama administration has adopted to ensure that the safety and security of Americans are not put at risk while more UAVs enter the sky.
Little to any information is publicly known about drones operated by the Air Force, let alone the rest of the Armed Services. As RT reported earlier in the week, however, the US Department of Homeland Security has a fleet of unmanned aircraft for patrolling purposes that are deployed to America’s borders. Those aircraft, though unequipped with missiles like the drones used overseas, are outfitted with technology that could be engaged to intercept communication signals within the United States.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder told Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) that an “extraordinary circumstance” could exist in which the president of the United States would be prompted to use missile-equipped drones to execute an American citizen on US soil. Sen. Paul responded by launching a filibuster during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan, demanding for the White House to respond in greater detail about the alleged justification for an extrajudicial execution. On Thursday, Mr. Holder and the president’s spokesperson issued statements saying, no, American citizens cannot and will not be killed within the homeland using military force.