FBI Aviation and Policy Guide Sheds Light on Aerial Surveillance

FBI Aviation and Policy Guide Sheds Light on Aerial Surveillance

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A recently declassified internal FBI document has shed light on certain aspects of the Bureau’s aerial surveillance program but large redactions still leave much to speculate.

The document, titled Bureau Aviation Regulations Policy Directive and Policy Guide (BAR for short), was released as part of a North Star Post Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in May of 2015.

The BAR discusses many aspects of the FBI’s aviation program from maintenance and safety policies to staffing requirements.

The FBI has three separate teams as part of their main aviation program. Surveillance and Aviation Section (SAS) is the main entity behind the aviation program, and Investigative Specialists/Aerial (ISA), MobileSurveillance Teams (MST) and Armed Mobile Surveillance Teams (MST-A).

Large portions of the document are redacted due to multiple exemptions cited by the FBI including, executive orders, trade secrets, active investigation efforts as well as well as “geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.”

However, there is new information in the document which was previously unknown.

For example, planes, which are a part of the FBI’s aviation fleet, can also act as personal transport for the Director of the FBI. Family members or “other non-federal persons” are allowed to accompany the director onboard for the price of a “full coach equivalent” of the airfare.

The FBI’s fleet might also not be entirely owned by the FBI, according to the document.

“Any flight operation that lends or leases an aircraft to the FBI must have an Aviation Safety Council approved ASMS,” the document says.

The FBI also uses its aircraft to track “laser activity.” FBI planes can stay in the vicinity of an area where law enforcement is trying to find a “laser assailant.” However, the document states FBI planes may not act as “bait” in these situations.

Much more is still left to speculation due to full pages being redacted. There is no mention of surveillance tech capabilities within the document, most likely due to redactions.

In the acronym section just after the acronym CRM (Crew Resource Management) is a redaction. One could infer this redaction could be CSS (Cell Site Simulator), a form of surveillance technology.

North Star Post will be appealing the redactions in the hope to learn more about the FBI’s aerial surveillance program.