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Interim Report on DOJ Use and Support of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

DOJ OIG -  Interim Report on the Department of Justice’s Use and Support of Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Report 13-37, September 2013.

“While both the FBI and ATF have developed procedures guiding how to receive approval to operate UAS, officials with both components told us they did not believe that there was a need to develop specialized UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) privacy protocols. During our review, FBI and ATF officials stated that they did not believe there was any practical difference between how UAS collect evidence through aerial surveillance as compared to manned aircraft. Consequently, we found that the FBI has been applying its existing aerial surveillance policies to guide how agents should use UAS. ATF officials told us that, as of May 2013, the ATF was developing a standard operational checklist to guide how its agents should use UAS. However, we found that the techno logical capabilities of UAS and the current, uncoordinated approach of DOJ components to UAS use may merit the DOJ developing consistent, UAS-specific policies to guide the proper use of UAS. Unlike manned aircraft, UAS can be used in close proximity to a home and, with longer-lasting power systems, may be capable of flying for several hours or even days at a time, raising unique concerns about privacy and the collection of evidence with UAS. Considering that multiple DOJ components are using or have the potential to use UAS, we believe the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG), which has responsibility within DOJ for formulating cross-component law enforcement policies, should consider the need for a DOJ-wide policy regarding UAS uses that could have significant privacy or other legal implications.”

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