The Department of Homeland Security flew drones equipped with video cameras over the United States–away from border and coastal areas–for 1,726 hours from fiscal 2011 through this April,according to the Government Accountability Office.
At times, the drones–or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)–were being used for purposes other than border or immigration enforcement. But the GAO does not have a full accounting of when and where the drones were flown, or what they were used for during the flight hours spent in “other airspace.”
In a series of briefing slides provided in August to the staffs of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on homeland security (andpublicly released this week), the GAO examined whether DHS’s use of drones complied with U.S. privacy and civil liberty laws. In the slides, the GAO noted that DHS border patrol drones, which are primarily used to “support border security operations,” were sometimes flown away from the border “in support of other federal, state or local law enforcement activities and for emergency humanitarian efforts.”