A group of House Republicans has called on federal agencies to shed light on drones used by police across the country to surveil and enforce Covid-19 lockdowns, arguing that Chinese devices could compromise “sensitive US data.”
The 14 GOP representatives, all on the House Judiciary Committee, penned two letters to the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday sounding alarms over the drones, produced by Chinese tech firm Da Jiang Innovations, or DJI.
“Although federal law enforcement agencies have warned of potential information security concerns with DJI drones, it is not clear whether state and local law enforcement agencies are fully aware of these issues,” the lawmakers wrote in the letters, portions of which are identical.
DJI announced in April that it had donated some 100 surveillance drones to police departments in 22 US states to assist with social distancing enforcement amid the Covid-19 crisis, but the lawmakers accused the company of “selectively targeting” both public and private entities to “exploit sensitive US data.”
Citing a DHS report from last year – but notably no evidence – the 14 reps also warned that Chinese-made drones in general present a “potential risk [to] an organization’s information.”
Congress and a number of federal agencies have voiced similar concerns about the drones before, with the Department of the Interior banning all non-emergency flights for its fleet of DJI devices in January, while the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibited all branches of the US military from buying or using the company’s drones.
Requesting a response by May 27, the lawmakers asked both departments to explain their stance on DJI devices, whether any agency is keeping tabs on how police departments have used them and what rules are currently in place for the devices.
The inquiries came soon after the Senate rejected a proposed anti-surveillance amendment earlier on Wednesday, which would have limited law enforcement’s ability to snoop on American citizens and search their internet records without a warrant. One additional vote in favor would have given the amendment the three-fifths majority it needed to pass, but it was ultimately struck down.
With Covid-19 containment measures and stay-at-home orders still imposed in dozens of states, police and state governments have resorted to stepped-up surveillance, both to punish lockdown violators and trace coronavirus contacts. In New York and Washington, thousands of “contact-tracers” have been hired and effectively deputized to root out the infected, some vested with the power to order individuals to stay in their homes.
While waxing dire about the threat posed by alleged Chinese spy drones, the lawmakers’ letters made no mention of the scale of intrusive surveillance on US citizens by their own government.
Paul Joseph Watson joins The Alex Jones Show to break down the dubious numbers being used to lock down society and cause more deaths than the coronavirus.