Lawmakers Want To Know Why DHS Used Drones To Surveil Protestors


Congress continues to seek answers from federal agencies regarding their response to nationwide protests.

Several Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform want answers from the Homeland Security Department regarding the use of a Predator B drone to surveil protesters in Minneapolis on May 29.

In a June 5 letter to DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf, the lawmakers, led by Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., suggested the drone deployment violated federal law and questioned whether the agency captured full-motion video of the protesters or employed facial recognition technology on them.

The lawmakers called DHS’ deployment a “gross abuse of authority” and demanded “a full accounting of its activities by June 11.”

“The drone that was flown on May 29, 2020, was reportedly also flown far outside the bounds of [Customs and Border Protection’s] jurisdiction. Federal law authorizes CBP to conduct its missions within a ‘reasonable distance,’ not to exceed more than 100 air miles inland, from an external boundary of the United States,” the letter states.

The letter is the latest in a series of Congressional inquiries regarding the Trump administration’s response to civil unrest and nationwide protests following the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by police in Minnesota last month.  On June 2, lawmakers from the Committee on Homeland Security sought answers from Wolf and FBI Director Chris Wray regarding data and intelligence on the participation of extremists groups in the protests, as well as specifics regarding federal law enforcement response.

Maloney’s letter adds to prior requests, and seeks a list of jurisdictions that requested DHS assistance, jurisdictions that received DHS assistance and how many personnel from DHS agencies were deployed nationwide.