Pentagon Secretly Flying Drones in US Airspace

Thousands of pages detailing plans for the domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have been released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The San Francisco, California-based EFF published a trove of military and police files on Wednesday that they obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests for documents pertaining to drone programs across the United States.

“These records, received as a result of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and — for the first time — three branches of the US military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency),” explains the EFF.

Although drones are deployed regularly overseas for both surveillance purposes and in hunting enemy combatants, the use of UAVs within the US has been a topic that has been rarely acknowledged, let alone discussed, by agencies across the country. And while even the EFF is still making sense of the vast collection of drone documents they’ve obtained through their FOIA suit, a preliminary analysis offers a good insight into just how serious some agencies are about putting drones in American airspace.

“While the US military doesn’t need an FAA license to fly drones over its own military bases (these are considered “restricted airspace”), it does need a license to fly in the national airspace (which is almost everywhere else in the US),” the EFF’s Jennifer Lynch explains on the organization’s website. “And, as we’ve learned from these records, the Air Force and Marine Corps regularly fly both large and small drones in the national airspace all around the country.”

“This is problematic,” Lynch writes, “given a recent New York Times report that the Air Force’s drone operators sometimes practice surveillance missions by tracking civilian cars along the highway adjacent to the base.”

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