Reporting from Washington— The chief of the Homeland Security Department’s drone aircraft program is facing an ethics investigation for joining the board of directors of the largest industry group promoting the use of unmanned aircraft, officials said Monday.
The internal affairs office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reviewing whether Tom Faller, director of unmanned aircraft systems operations, violated internal rules when he took an unpaid position as a board member of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International on Aug. 16.
Faller oversees eight Predator B surveillance drones that are chiefly used to help search for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers on the northern and southwestern borders.
In some cases, the drones also have been used to assist the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations, and to survey damage after floods and other natural disasters.
After inquiries from the Los Angeles Times last month, Faller notified the group on Nov. 23 that he was resigning from the board, said Melanie Hinton, a spokeswoman for the drone group. She said Faller did not attend any board meetings.
“Internal affairs is reviewing issues related to an employee’s outside associations,” Joanne Ferreira, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman, said Monday in response to questions about Faller. “We are unable to comment on any ongoing investigation.”