Pentagon admits conducting spy flights over US soil

Pentagon admits conducting spy flights over US soil
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The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. soil for non-military missions over the past decade, but the flights have been rare and legal, the Pentagon inspector general says.  

The report, made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, said fewer than 20 flights occurred between 2006 and 2015, and all have been in compliance with the law.  

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Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union, told USA Today that while there were no legal violations, current laws may need to be revised to account for the new technology. 

"Sometimes, new technology changes so rapidly that existing laws no longer fit what people think are appropriate," Stanley said. "It's important to remember that the American people do find this to be a very, very sensitive topic."

The report was completed in March 2015 but not released publicly until Friday, according to USA Today. 

The report said the Pentagon established interim guidance for drone flights in 2006, which allowed flights for homeland defense purposes in the U.S. and to assist civil authorities. 

The use of military drones for civil authorities had to be approved by the Defense secretary, according to the policy. 

The report said military units would like to conduct more spy missions for no other reason than to obtain more practice to improve their skills.  

"Multiple units told us that as forces using the [unmanned aircraft system] capabilities continue to draw down overseas, opportunities for UAS realistic training and use have decreased," it said. 

Although not all flights and requests were detailed, one example of a flight was an unnamed mayor asking the Marine Corps to use a drone to find potholes in the mayor's city. 

The Marines denied the request since it did not "make operational sense." 

The Pentagon issued new policy shortly before the inspector general's report was completed a year ago, according to USA Today.  

The new policy requires the Defense secretary to approve all domestic spy drone operations. It bans the use of armed drones over the U.S. for anything other than training and testing.