The U.S. has been using drones to keep an eye on the border with Mexico for several years now. These drones have been doing observation only, letting officials know what is going on in vulnerable spots along the border. The purpose of the drone program is not only to catch undocumented workers sneaking into the U.S., but also to help stem the drug trafficking tide. The drones used in that program are currently benign, collecting and transmitting video and photos with specialized cameras.
But now a newly-unearthed document from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) reveals that the U.S. has the capability of, and could be at least considering, arming those same drones in some fashion.
The 107-page report was obtained by the Electronic Freedom Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. It is heavily redacted, but one section dealing with the kinds of equipment those drones could carry noted that:
“Additional payload upgrades could include expendables or non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize [targets of interest].”
The CBP has dismissed the discovery within the report. In a statement to Fox News Latino, they said:
"CBP has no plans to arm its unmanned aircraft systems with non-lethal weapons or weapons of any kind. CBP’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) support CBP’s border security mission and provide an important surveillance and reconnaissance capability for interdiction agents on the ground and on the waterways. Current UAS were designed with the ability to add new surveillance capabilities, accommodate technological developments, and ensure that our systems are equipped with the most advanced resources available."
The CBP has eight Predator drones patrolling the northern and southern borders of the U.S., with two more in the Caribbean. The CBP has not said specifically what kinds of of non-lethal weapons its Predator drones could support, if they were to decide to do so.