Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Associated Press: FBI Using Low-Flying Planes To Spy On You

Cedar Posts took a good amount of flack over tweets and blog posts about certain low flying planes over Charlotte recently. The comment that I need to "adjust my tinfoil hat" was a reoccurring theme.

Well non-believers guess what, the AP says it is a fact:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology - all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes' surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge's approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool in criminal, terrorism or intelligence probes. But the program raises questions about whether there should be updated policies protecting civil liberties as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.

U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services.

Even basic aspects of the program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department's inspector general.

Screen Grab of a flight over South Charlotte on May 17, 2015
 
No doubt this Beechcraft King Air was not up sightseeing at 1 am a few weeks ago. Looking up the aircraft "N" number is a dead end as it too leads to a fictional company with only a post office box.
 
More from the AP story that broke this morning:
 

"The FBI's aviation program is not secret," spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. "Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes." Allen added that the FBI's planes "are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance." But the planes can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over for prosecutions.

Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they're not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is rare.

Details confirmed by the FBI track closely with published reports since at least 2003 that a government surveillance program might be behind suspicious-looking planes slowly circling neighborhoods.

The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights since late April orbiting both major cities and rural areas. One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side.

AP Photo of a Cessna with more than the normal amount of antenna


A federal budget document from 2010 mentioned at least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, in the FBI's surveillance fleet.

The rest of the AP story is here: FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over US cities

3 comments:

jeff a. taylor said...

So, part of the final stages of the MS-13 round-up last month? Certainly matches with reported locales of gang members. http://www.fox46charlotte.com/story/29113349/fbi-conducting-suspect-roundup-in-charlotte

Anonymous said...

Yawn....

Anonymous said...

This was Rodney Monroe collecting information on officers who are writing to Cedar!! He is in control of the world I tell you...the world!!! (key maniacal laughing)