Privacy advocates have raised the alarm on the US police deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out surveillance against the American people.
Local police say they have used two unmanned Predator drones based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June, according to a recent Los Angeles Times report.
The law enforcement's previously unreported use of spy drones has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate, the report said.
The UAVs are said to belong to the US Customs and Border Protection, which claims to use its drones to assist local, state and federal police.
According to the report, Michael C. Kostelnik, a retired Air Force general who heads the office that supervises the drones, has said, however, that Predators are flown "in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis."
But former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), who sat on the House homeland security intelligence subcommittee at the time and served as its chairwoman from 2007 until early this year, said no one ever discussed using Predators to help local police serve warrants or do other basic work.
Using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake, Harman said.
Advocates say the high-resolution cameras, heat sensors and sophisticated radar on the border protection drones can help track people's activities in the United States, just as the CIA uses Predators and other drones in other countries.