The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to more than double its fleet of Predator drones for surveillance missions inside the United States, Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports.
The DHS recently signed a contract with General Atomics —worth as much as $443 million — to purchase up to 14 Predator drones, which would add to its current fleet of 10 if Congress appropriates the funds.
Timm notes that the DHS Inspector General issued a report faulting the DHS for wasting time, money and resources on drones, and chastised the agency buying two drones last year despite knowing these problems.
The DHS uses the drones not only to patrol U.S. borders (through Customs and Border Protection), but also flies drone missions on behalf of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with little oversight. Last month EFF sued DHS under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about details of the secretive program.
Plus, the DHS has launched a $4 million program to "facilitate and accelerate the adoption" of small, unmanned drones by police through becoming the middleman between drone manufacturers and law enforcement. The agency is in a favorable position to make deals since the drone business is booming.
In September the Congressional Research Service released a report warning that domestic drones—which will soon have the capacity to see through walls and ceilings — may be able to bypass constitutional privacy safeguards because of their high level of sophistication.
Earlier this year the Federal Aviation Authority said it expects 30,000 of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to fill U.S. skies by the end of the decade.
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