A little more than a decade ago the border patrol started using surveillance drones. The technology and the mission were a perfect match, and few did any worrying—almost no one objects to closely monitoring America’s southern border.
The belief that the federal government was using drones to conduct domestic surveillance inside the United States, though, could get a person labeled a paranoid lunatic as recently as 2012. Yet by then, the border patrol had lent its drones to other agencies 700 times. And the Department of Homeland Security was actively developing a domestic drone fleet, egged on by at least 60 members of Congress. “This bipartisan caucus, together with its allies in the drone industry, has been promoting UAV use at home and abroad through drone fairs on Capitol Hill, new legislation and drone-favored budgets,” the Center for International Policy reported.
In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a staunch defender of NSA surveillance, declared that drones are “the biggest threat to privacy in society today.” Under her questioning, the FBI admitted to using surveillance drones in “a very minimal way.”
What did Feinstein know that the FBI wasn’t telling us? Perhaps that the federal government gave local police departments $1.2 million to spend on drones that year.