After writing to FBI Director Robert Mueller expressing concerns about the FBI's use of surveillance drones, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) received a letter from Stephan Kelly, the assistant director at the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, in which Kelly denied that the bureau required a warrant to conduct aerial surveillance by means of drones.
Kelly also said that the FBI did not intend to use drones for general surveillance, writing to Paul: “The FBI does not, and has no plans to use [drones] to conduct general surveillance not related to a specific investigation or assessment.”
Citing Supreme Court rulings, Kelly also asserted that warrants were not necessary for the FBI to conduct aerial surveillance. “The Court held that aerial surveillance was not a search under the Fourth Amendment requiring a warrant because the areas observed were open to public view and, as a matter of law, there was no reasonable expectation of privacy,” wrote Kelly.
In response to Kelly’s letter, Sen. Paul stated:
The FBI today responded to my questions on domestic use of surveillance drones by saying that they don’t necessarily need a warrant to deploy this technology. I disagree with this interpretation. However, given the fact that they did respond to my concerns over drone use on U.S. soil, I have decided to release my hold on the pending FBI director nominee.
The nominee in question is James B. Comey, Jr., named by President Obama to succeed Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director. Comey was previously the U.S. deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and, before that, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Back on July 20, when he had not yet received an answer to his first letter to Director Mueller, Paul stated in a second letter: “Without adequate answers to my questions, I will object to the consideration of [Comey’s] nomination and ask my colleagues to do the same.”
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