Recently released government logs document that multiple law enforcement agencies tap into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s extensive and sophisticated fleet of drones for domestic surveillance use, according to the Washington Post. Between 2010-2012, the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) flew 700 drone missions for other government agencies. The logs, obtained through a Freedom of Information lawsuit, brought by the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, reveal that the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Agency and immigration authorities are using CBP drones at frequency rates higher than previously disclosed. A spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned that the extensive drone use raised serious privacy issues. These are the same concerns raised by the ACLU of Illinois in support of the Illinois’ Freedom From Drone Surveillance Act, enacted last August to off-set possible privacy abuses by government drones. The Post reports that:
Because they (CBP drones) have sophisticated cameras and can remain in flight for many hours at a time, drones create novel privacy challenges. Civil libertarians have argued that these aircraft could lead to persistent visual surveillance of Americans on private property. Government lawyers have argued, however, that there is no meaningful legal distinction between the use of unmanned and piloted aircraft for surveillance.