Monday, June 08, 2015

FBI - Their Small 'Air Force'

"How the FBI is using a ‘small air force’ to track suspects" PBS NewsHour 6/2/2015

Reminder, the public highway is NOT private.  Anyone can observe your car.

Also, you have news copters, fire department copters, Highway Patrol copters, on and on.  We should not expect anything in the open to be private.


SUMMARY:  According to the Associated Press, the FBI operates a fleet of undercover planes equipped with video cameras, some of which can also gather cell phone data.  The FBI says these flights target suspected criminals, and that a warrant is not necessary in most cases.  Gwen Ifill learns more from AP reporter Jack Gillum.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Even if Congress reined in government surveillance powers today, evidence of a different sort of privacy concerns surfaced, this time at the FBI.

The Associated Press reported that the FBI operates a fleet of undercover planes shielded by fake company names that flew surveillance over at least 30 cities in 11 states during a 30-day period.  They’re equipped with video cameras and sometimes equipment to gather cell phone area.

The FBI says the flights target suspected criminals and that, in most cases, a warrant is not necessary.

Jack Gillum is one of the reporters at the Associated Press on the story.

Describe the secret fleet that you guys wrote about.

JACK GILLUM, Associated Press:  Well, most often, if you were going to look up a tail number — that is the number that is emblazoned on the back of the plane — you might go to the FAA’s database of that aircraft.  Sometimes, it might say it belongs to Jack Gillum or a corporation, maybe Google, Microsoft, a corporate jet of sorts, but all of these aircraft belong to these sort of strange-looking companies, M.G. Research being one of them, a mix of letters, sometimes the word research, sometimes other names, that all trace back to a bunch of P.O. Boxes.

Now, this came to light after this aircraft was spotted and reported by The Washington Post in early May during some civil unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.  Now, what we found is we wanted to look and see, are there are more aircraft like this, and started digging through FAA records and other air flight radar patterns to see just the full scope of this operation.

GWEN IFILL:  So, let’s go back to this idea of dummy corporations.  What’s the point of shielding the owners of these planes?

JACK GILLUM:  The FBI says that when they want to do this sort of fictitious company, it’s that they don’t want to give criminals on the ground a heads-up that when they look at the sky above they’re going to see a plane that belongs to the FBI or to the U.S. government.

They also say that they want to keep operational security.  So if you have — if know that it’s an FBI plane, you know where it takes off and lands, you might be able to sabotage it.  Now, that doesn’t really sit well in the minds of a lot of people for whom these planes are circling above overhead, and sometimes they get very concerned, even calling 911, asking who is this guy above my house and what is he doing?

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