A Predator Drone, the same aerial vehicle used by the CIA to track down and assassinate terrorists and militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was used to hunt down the Brossarts, a North Dakota family who allegedly wouldn't give back three cows and their calves that wandered onto their 3,000-acre farm this summer.
The head of the Brossart family are Susan and husband Rodney, who live with seven of their eight adult children in a compound which includes a house, trailer and two RVs
Daughter Abby allegedly hit an officer during the arrests, which included brother Alex, after the family was spied on by a government drone
Sons Thomas and Jacob were also arrested in the bust after a 16-hour stand off, which stemmed from the half dozen stolen cows
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The Brossarts are the first known American citizens subjected to Predator Drones that the federal government has made available to some local sheriffs and police chiefs - all without Congressional approval or search warrants.
Local authorities say the Brossarts are known for being armed, anti-government separatists whose sprawling farm is used as a compound.
When the cattle wandered onto the Brossarts' land, Sheriff Kelly Janke, who patrols a county of just 3,000 people, rounded up some sheriff's deputies and arrested Brossart for failing to report the stray livestock.
They also took away his daughter, Abby, after she allegedly hit an officer during the arrest.
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When cops returned to collect the lost cattle, three of Brossart's sons (Alex, Jacob and Thomas) confronted Sheriff Janke with rifles and shotguns and would not allow officers on the farm, saying the unregulated use of the drones is intrusive.
That's when the sheriff summoned a $154 million MQ-9 Predator B drone from nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base, where it was patrolling the US-Canada border for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Using a handheld device that picked up the video camera footage from the spy plane, Sheriff Janke was able to watch the movements of everyone on the farm.
During an 16-hour standoff, the sheriff and his deputies waited until they could see the remaining Brossarts put down their weapons. Then, dressed in SWAT gear, they stormed the compound and arrested the three Brossart sons. No shots were fired.
Susan Brossart, the matriarch of the clan, was later arrested, as well.
Police also recovered the cattle, valued at $6,000.
The family faces several felony charges and have repeatedly not shown up for court after posting $250,000 bail.
US Customs and Border Protection agents fly eight Predator remote-controlled aircraft to patrol the American borders with Canada and Mexico, searching for smugglers and illegal immigrants.
Allowing local sheriffs and police chiefs access to spy planes happened without public discussion or the approval of Congress. And it has privacy advocates crying foul, saying the unregulated use of the drones is intrusive.
"There is no question that this could become something that people will regret," former Rep Jane Harman, a Democrat, told the Los Angles Times.