Some Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform queried the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on what it termed “the use of DHS resources,” which include drones and armed uniformed officers, to “surveil and intimidate
peaceful protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights to protest the murder of George Floyd,” by the Minneapolis Police Department.
The lawmakers wrote a letter to the Acting Secretary of DHS, Chad Wolf, citing the deployment of a Predator Drone CPB104 in late May, which circled over Minneapolis at 20K feet, flying above the protesters.
According to the letter, the existence of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) was confirmed by Customs and Border Protection (CPB).
The Predator B drone captures full-motion video and synthetic-aperture radar imagery for surveillance. While the Predator has been used domestically for humanitarian, emergency and recovery purposes, it is primarily used to counter illicit cross-border activities along the northern and southern borders.
The drone that was flown in May was also flown far outside the bounds of CPB’s jurisdiction. Federal law authorizes CPB to conduct its missions within a “reasonable distance,” not to exceed more than 100 miles inland, from the boundary of the United States.
The lawmakers, led by Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., called a recent confirmation by DHS that both CPB and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would be deployed nationwide to help monitor growing protests “particularly alarming given that for almost a year, the Committee has been investigating racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments made by CBP employees in secret Facebook groups.”
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.