Homeland Security Dept. Continues to Fight Disclosure of Where it Flies Drones

Saturday, November 09, 2013
Customs and Border Protection Drone (photo: Gerald Nino, CBP)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is still battling in federal court over releasing information that would show where it is flying drones in the United States.


In a civil case first filed in 2012, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been trying to get DHS to reveal areas under surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles.


EFF won a partial victory when the presiding judge ordered the agency to turn over three years of “daily reports” revealing that it had arranged more than 500 drone flights for various law enforcement organizations.


But DHS redacted portions of the documents it released, claiming it could not divulge more without compromising the effectiveness of drone operations.


Disclosure of more information could allow someone to “piece together the locations” where agency drones “operate or do not operate,” DHS lawyers argued in a brief filed with the court.


“This would present a serious threat to future law enforcement investigations and would risk circumvention of the law,” they further argued.


EFF countered that releasing location information pertaining to drones would not aid suspected criminals.


The civil rights group cited the example of Arizona, from which the government flies at least four Predators. Counties there are so large, with an average size of 7,573 square miles, that criminals could not possibly avoid detection by drones even if they knew which county was being watched at certain times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Fight for U.S. Drone Flight Details Heats Up (by Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service)

Electronic Frontier Foundation v. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. District Court, Northern California) (pdf)

Drone Flights in the U.S. (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Border Patrol Set to Weaponize Drones (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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