Unarmed U.S. Shadow Drone
Unarmed U.S. Shadow Drone Reuters

The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Wednesday that the agency uses drones inside the United States for surveillance purposes.

FBI Director Robert Mueller assured senators that the agency's use of drones is minimal but said guidelines for their use are still being developed.

“Our footprint is very small,” Mueller said. “We have very few and have limited use.”

Mueller stressed again that their domestic use of drones is “very, very minimal way” and “very seldom.”

On the issue of the limits of drone use and protections for Americans’ privacy, Mueller said the FBI was in the “initial stages” of developing those policies. “We’re exploring the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use,” he said, responding to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Mueller said he was not aware that the FBI is working with other agencies such as the Department of Defense, though some communication is necessary over the use of air space.

The comments came under questioning from Grassley during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.