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Homeland Security seeks license to kill drones deemed dangerous

Homeland Security worries drones could be used for terrorist activities in the US.

A drone carries two grenades over the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in a test flight by Iraqi forces, which aim to use it against Islamic State group fighters.
Aris Messinis / AFP/Getty Images

The US Department of Homeland Security wants new legal authority to track drones deemed threatening and destroy them if necessary.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday that DHS needs "clear legal authority to identify, track and mitigate drones that could pose a danger to the public and to DHS operations.

"Our enemies are exploring other technologies, too, such as drones, to put our country in danger. ISIS has used armed drones to strike targets in Syria, and we are increasingly concerned that they will try the same tactic on our soil," she said, according to a Reuters account of the hearing.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to give DHS and the Justice Department the authority to "to protect buildings and assets when there is an unacceptable security risk to public safety posed by an unmanned aircraft." The bill would authorize officials to disrupt communications of threatening drones, seize control or destroy them if necessary.

While drones are being used for legitimate purposes such as film production, search-and-rescue operations and structural or crop inspections, they're also being enlisted for increasingly elaborate crimes such as burglaries, smuggling and searching for gaps in facilities' security forces.

Last winter, an FBI hostage rescue team was harassed and surveilled by a swarm of drones, causing the team to lose situational awareness of its target during a crisis.

At the request of the US national security and law enforcement agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a directive last year that prohibits flights of unmanned aerial vehicles within 400 feet of monument boundaries. Previous flight restrictions include prohibitions against flying over military bases and airports.

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