US uses drones to protect envoys

January 31, 2012 01:54

WASHINGTON - The US State Department said on Monday it has used unarmed drones to help protect its diplomats overseas and The New York Times reported that the program had outraged senior Iraqi officials.

The department's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said its Bureau of Diplomatic Security had a program to use small aircraft known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to take pictures of US facilities and personnel abroad.

At her daily briefing, Nuland declined to say where the drones had been deployed or whether they were still in use. An annual report for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security said they had been successfully tested in Iraq.

The New York Times, which first reported the program, said the State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis and stepped up their use after the last American troops left Iraq in December.

The newspaper quoted a senior US official as saying talks were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations in Iraq.

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