The FBI uses drones to watch specific targets within the United States, bureau Director Robert Mueller revealed on Wednesday.
The news seemed to catch lawmakers by surprise, prompting calls for more oversight and scrutiny of the FBI’s use of unmanned aircraft for domestic surveillance.
Mueller, making what will likely be his final appearance on Capitol Hill as FBI director, tried to reassure members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau uses drones infrequently for surveillance in the U.S., and only in regards to specific investigations.
“Our footprint is very small,” Mueller said. “We have very few and have limited use.”
But with trust in the intelligence community slipping after revelations about secret surveillance at the National Security Agency, lawmakers indicated they would not let the subject drop.
After the hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter requesting more details about the use of drones by the FBI and other Justice Department agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).