Published on May 9th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson0
“Accidental” Surveillance By US Drones Kept For 90 Days
It is loudly proclaimed that the US doesn’t use its constantly growing drone fleet for surveillance within the borders of the United States, except there’s a slight problem with that statement – there’s a loophole.
According the Air Force policy, or rather a clause within that policy, any photos and videos of US citizens taken without their consent can be kept for 90 days. This is conveniently referred to as “accidental surveillance” and it can, and will be, analyzed to determine if those images or video can be kept under current domestic spying laws.
Needless to say this has caused some concern, and quite rightly, among concerned parties like Steven Aftergood, a member of the Federation of American Scientists and the person who came across the clause. To those looking into this the wording is just a fancy way of getting around the law because the Air Force can claim “accidental surveillance” but still be able to investigate the footage using the claim that they have to verify if it can be kept or not.
Even if you avoid the cynical proposition that an Air Force engineer might be tempted to “accidentally” leave the cameras rolling during a test flight over a sensitive area, the idea of investigating evidence for wrongdoing after it’s been collected is something like justifying a search warrant with the drugs that a DEA agent discovered after illegally entering a private residence.
If the evidence collected by the Air Force is indeed found to incriminate US citizens, it can be shared with law enforcement agencies with a court order. The Air Force’s domestic interests only extend to terrorist activities and large-scale drug enforcement, but there’s no stipulation of what purpose the surveillance has to serve if it’s passed around.
So, who’s watching the watchers?