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US FBI Chief Says Drones Used Domestically

Scale model drone displayed at aviation demonstration, Sacramento, Calif., April 15, 2013.
Scale model drone displayed at aviation demonstration, Sacramento, Calif., April 15, 2013.
The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says the agency is occasionally using drones over the U.S., but did not say what the purpose of the surveillance is.

The U.S. for years has used drones to monitor activity along its southern and northern borders. But at a congressional hearing Wednesday, FBI chief Robert Mueller said the agency is deploying drones over the U.S. for other purposes.

He described the domestic use of the drones as "very, very minimal, very seldom." But he said the top U.S. criminal investigative agency is only in the "initial stages" of developing policies for when drones can be used.

"I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few and of limited use, and we're exploring not only the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use."

As details of U.S. surveillance programs to thwart terrorists have emerged in recent weeks, some lawmakers have voiced staunch support for the government's monitoring of telephone records of Americans and Internet messages sent by foreign nationals. But some critics in Congress have also said that the monitoring has gone too far and is threatening the civil liberties and privacy of Americans.

Mueller said domestic use of the drones is "generally used in a particular incident where you need the capability," but did not indicate when such an occurrence might arise.
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