MEMORANDUM FOR: HEADS OF THE BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO,
FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES
THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
THE UNITED STATES MARSHALS SERVICE
THE JUSTICE MANAGEMENT DIVISION
THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS

FROM: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

SUBJECT: Guidance Regarding Department Activities to Protect Certain
Facilities or Assets from Unmanned Aircraft and Unmanned
Aircraft Systems

 

Law enforcement and security agencies play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and secure
integration of drone technology into the airspace. As recognized in the Department’s 2019
Policy on the Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, drone technology has transformative potential
as a valuable law-enforcement and public-safety tool, including for use in crime scene
investigations, search and rescue operations, and security assistance. As drones become more
powerful and capable, however, they also become a more attractive tool for criminals, terrorists,
and other bad actors to cause disruption and destruction. Unfortunately, the threat is not
theoretical.
· To assist the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Department of Homeland Security
(“DHS”) in combatting these threats, Congress passed the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of
2018 (codified at 6 U.S.C. § 124n) (“the Act”). The Act provides DOJ and DHS with a tailored
grant of authority for authorized Department components to take certain counter-drone actions,
notwithstanding certain provisions of federal law that could potentially constrain necessary and
appropriate actions to mitigate credible drone threats to designated facilities and assets.

Today, I have issued guidance under the Act entitled, Department Activities to Protect
Certain Facilities or Assets from Unmanned Aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“the
Guidance”). As authorized components, your counter-drone activities conducted under the Act
will be governed by the Guidance. The Guidance outlines the process by which your
components may seek approval for the use of counter-drone technologies and request designation
of facilities or assets for protection. As a general rule, not every facility or asset will qualify for
protection. Only those considered “high risk and a potential target” for drone activity – and
relate to one of the authorized DOJ missions enumerated in the Act and the Guidance – will
qualify.
Additionally, the Guidance reflects the Department’s commitment to working with the
Federal Aviation Administration to address potential barriers to safe and secure operations in the
National Airspace System. As required in the Act, the Guidance was developed in coordination
with the Department of Transportation and contains a number of provisions designed to
minimize any effect on aviation safety, civilian aviation and aerospace operations, aircraft
airworthiness, and the use of airspace.
Importantly, the Guidance contains explicit protections for privacy, civil rights, and civil
liberties, including limitations on the retention and use of any data collected during the course of
counter-drone operations. Component actions taken pursuant to the Act must be consistent with
the First and Fourth Amendments, and the Guidance requires each component deploying
counter-drone technologies to train personnel on privacy and civil liberties in the counter-drone
context.
To fully effectuate the Guidance, components must develop component-level guidance and
policies, and fulfill interagency and inter-department coordination standards and requirements
for procurement, training, and testing.
Your counter-drone operations under the Act, consistent with this Guidance and your
component-level guidance and policies, should serve as a model for responsible use of counterdrone authorities. Even as you seek to minimize the risk to the airspace and follow strict
requirements to respect privacy and civil liberties, the Act and the Guidance should empower
your components to take appropriate and lawful action against drones that threaten the safety of
the skies, the public, or your missions.

 

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