> our title:

Concerns About Domestic Drone Surveillance

> original title:

Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses


Source: Congressional Research Service


Ref: R42701
Issued Sept.6, 2012
23 pages in PDF format


The prospect of drone use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the extent of government surveillance authority, the value of privacy in the digital age, and the role of Congress in reconciling these issues.

These unmanned aircraft are most commonly known for their operations overseas in tracking down and killing suspected members of Al Qaeda and related organizations. In addition to these missions abroad, drones are being considered for use in domestic surveillance operations, which might include in furtherance of homeland security, crime fighting, disaster relief, immigration control, and environmental monitoring.

Although relatively few drones are currently flown over U.S. soil, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that 30,000 drones will fill the nation’s skies in less than 20 years.

Some Members of Congress and the public fear there are insufficient safeguards in place to ensure that drones are not used to spy on American citizens and unduly infringe upon their fundamental privacy. These observers caution that the FAA is primarily charged with ensuring air traffic safety, and is not adequately prepared to handle the issues of privacy and civil liberties raised by drone use.

This report assesses the use of drones under the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

N.B.: As the CRS has no public website, this report is hosted by the Federation of American Scientists.

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