If you’ve ever seen a small Cessna airplane circling your neighborhood, it’s possible you weren’t looking at a rich person sightseeing, you were looking at a secret FBI surveillance plane.
The FBI operating a fleet of secret planes might not sound like a big deal, but the implications are far more concerning than you’d think.
The AP has discovered that 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 planes are rarely used with a judge’s approval, and the FBI says they’re only used for ongoing investigations. If that’s the case, the FBI must have a lot of investigations going on, because according to the AP, “In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country.”
“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.”
Even though the FBI says these planes are not for mass surveillance, doesn’t mean they don’t have the capability to do so. In fact, they have done so in the past:
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.
Officials say cellphone surveillance is rare, although the AP found in recent weeks FBI flights orbiting large, enclosed buildings for extended periods where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection. Those included above Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
If it’s so rare, why would these planes circle the Mall of America and the Reagan Airport? The fact that we’re just finding out about this now is outrageous. The American public has the right to know whether or not its privacy is being violated.
You can read the full article HERE to get even more information on what the FBI’s been up to.