In early June 2015, the Associated Press revealed that the FBI uses a fleet of at least 115 planes listed under at least 13 phony companies in a civilian air force that surveils humans, organizations and cellphone information in the United States.
In fact, the FBI’s private air force is merely one of several, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with 92 aircraft as of 2011, and the U. S. Marshals Service with an air fleet equipped to seize data from thousands of cellphones.
The FBI’s aerial equipment includes high-tech cameras capable of sharp video at great distances, even in the dark, and technology that mimics cell towers so cellphones will transmit basic subscriber information. The heavily redacted FBI information does not publicly reveal much else. In fact, the Obama Administration had been urging secrecy about the use of technology and pressing prosecutors to drop criminal cases in order to safeguard the technology’s use. Now the FBI reportedly obtains warrants for the use of this technology.
The Associated Press claims that just within the past few weeks, with fake company names such as FVX Research and KQM Aviation, more than 100 flights occurred above 11+ states and the District of Columbia, most notably over such areas as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle and Southern California.
There are obvious privacy concerns for citizens not involved in criminal activity. As Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) states, “…whenever an operation may also monitor the activities of Americans who are not the intended target, we must make darn sure that safeguards are in place to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans.”
Despite privacy concerns, the FBI asserts that their planes are not designed or used for bulk collection or mass surveillance and that the phony companies guard pilots’ protection and the planes’ identities so suspects will not know about the surveillance.
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