GOP House Judiciary Ask DOJ and DHS About Police Using Chinese-Made Drones to Enforce Lockdown Rules

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Posted: May 13, 2020 5:40 PM
GOP House Judiciary Ask DOJ and DHS About Police Using Chinese-Made Drones to Enforce Lockdown Rules

Source: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Wednesday to inquire about American law enforcement using drones made in China to enforce stay-at-home orders and social distancing policies during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

The lockdown orders, which are either being gradually lifted or extended depending on the state, encourage people to stay at home and to not congregate with other people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The letter, which was obtained by Townhall, cites concerns from a 2017 Homeland Security Investigations' warning about the drones, mostly made by Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), likely "'providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to [the] Chinese government.' That alert 'assesse[d] with high confidence [DJI] is selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within [infrastructure and law enforcement sectors] to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.' In May 2019, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security issued a similar warning that Chinese-made drones pose a 'potential risk of an organization’s information.'"

The GOP Judiciary Committee members have asked the DOJ and DHS for the following by May 27:

  • A list of all state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies receiving federal grant funding to purchase or operate DJI drones covering the period from January 1, 2017, to the present.
  • Please explain what policies and procedures grant recipients must have in place to receive federal support to purchase or operate DJI drones, including any restrictions and exemptions that apply.
  • Please explain whether any concerns about DJI drones have arisen during Department-wide UAS working group activities since January 1, 2017.
  • Please explain whether the Department is monitoring DJI’s recent provision of drones to state and local law enforcement agencies during the coronavirus pandemic and what actions, if any, the Department is taking in response.

The letter points to how many American law enforcement agencies and some branches of the U.S. military have banned the use of DJI's drone. The concern is being raised after DJI donated 100 drones to 45 police, fire, and public safety organizations in 22 states.