Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Grassley leads Finkenauer by 18 points in hypothetical matchup: poll 62 percent in Iowa disapprove of Biden, poll shows MORE (R-Iowa) on Wednesday pressed Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group Democrats look to state courts as redistricting battle heats up On The Trail: Census kicks off a wild redistricting cycle MORE for more information about the FBI’s use of drones and questioned whether he has been holding back information from Congress.
Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Holder to provide more information about the number and types of drones used by the FBI, the rules that govern their use, and whether they’re capable of being armed.
The letter to Holder comes after FBI Director Robert Mueller testified earlier on Wednesday — in response to questions from Grassley and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns MORE (D-Calif.) — that the FBI uses drones to conduct surveillance operation within the U.S.
“It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident where you need the capability,” said Mueller.
In his letter, Grassley refers to a series of answers that Holder had submitted to the committee for the record after an oversight hearing last week.
Grassley questioned whether the nation’s top cop had been completely honest with the committee in his answers, because he made little mention of the FBI’s drone use after being asked whether any Justice Department entity uses, or plans to use, drones in the U.S.
“This exchange with Director Mueller raises some concerns about the completeness of the previous response you provided to my written question,” wrote Grassley. “Specifically, if the FBI is actively using drones on U.S. soil, why was that fact not included in a detailed format as was done with the DEA and ATF information?”
Holder told the committee that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had acquired two “robotic miniature helicopters with video capabilities” and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has six Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS’s), which it uses for crime scene and surveillance purposes.
But Holder did not specifically mention whether or not the FBI used drones within the U.S., beyond stating that “the FBI's use of UAS’s must comport with the attorney general's guidelines for domestic FBI activities and the FBI's own domestic investigations and operations guide.”
Grassley called this response “cryptic” and pressed Holder in his letter on Wednesday for more information about how often the FBI uses drones and in what types of operations. He also wants to know what limitations are placed on their use and whether warrants are required.