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For the First Time, Predator Drones Participate in Civilian Arrests on U.S. Soil

• Clay Dillow via

A somewhat strange story emerged yesterday involving an extremist antigovernment group, a North Dakota sheriff’s office, and six missing cows, but there’s a much larger story behind this brief legal tangle between local law enforcement and the Brossart family of Nelson Country. When Alex, Thomas and Jacob Brossart were arrested on their farm back in June after allegedly chasing the local Sheriff off their property with rifles, they became the first known U.S. citizens to be arrested on American soil with the help of a Predator drone, Stars and Stripes reports.

They will not, however, be the last. Most U.S. citizens are aware that US. Customs and Border Protection owns and operates a handful of aerial drones along the nation’s northern and southern borders (eight Predators to be exact), but when Congress authorized the use of drones along the borders in 2005 it was thought that they would be used strictly to curb illegal immigration and to detect smuggling routes.

But a provision allowing for “interior law enforcement support” is being given fairly liberal interpretation by both the Customs and Border Protection crews that operate the drones and local law enforcement that sometimes wants to borrow CBP’s aerial assets. Local police in North Dakota say they’ve called upon the two Predators operating out of Grand Forks Air Force Base at least two dozen times since June.

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