FBI Flew 46 Surveillance Aircraft in Seven Days Over American Cities
September 15th – 21st the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operated 46 of their domestic spy-planes over U.S. soil. The aircraft fleet, which was exposed on May 26 of this year, totals 100 aircraft equipped with very high resolution imaging technology as well as cellphone surveillance gear such as the mysterious StingRay device.
The imaging technology, is likely much similar to that which was detailed in a PBS documentary. This tech is capable of spying on every moving thing in a wide square mile area below the aircraft, and is surprisingly simple to manufacture and thus proliferate.
The FBI and other federal partners are quite tight lipped on any information in regards to the StingRay and other cellphone surveillance equipment, so secretive in fact that they would rather have court cases dropped than reveal any critical details about the technology. The basic operating principle behind these cellphone surveillance technologies is clever, in a most devious way. The StingRay, which is very portable in that it is about the size of a briefcase, will trick cellphones into connecting to it just like they would connect to a cellphone tower. Cellphones “ping” towers very frequently with detailed information including location, these “IMSI catchers” are capable of connecting to a great many cellphones simultaneously.
Several pieces of legislation were drafted following the exposure of this surveillance program including legislation that would require a search warrant for the use of IMSI catchers.
In response to the Associated Press, a week after this surveillance program was exposed, the FBI stated that these flights are completely above the board. That is a somewhat shallow proclamation given that, as far as the public is concerned, there is no judicial review process, no warrants are required for these operations, and the FBI has not said what it does with the data obtained during these flights.
During September 15th through the 21st the FBI flew these aircraft over 124 times. Many of the targeted locations have been overflown repeatedly since the Post began doing these audits. Burke, Virginia most notably, which has been under near constant aerial surveillance for months now. Other heavily surveilled cities include San Diego, California which is very near the U.S. – Mexico border. Minnesota did not appear to be overflown by these aircraft during the time period audited and was most recently on September 11th and 14th. Check out the FBI aerial surveillance flight data gallery for more targets and examples of flight patterns.
Other notable flights from the previous week include several in the Phoenix area specifically over highway I-10 which was the scene of recent shootings. It is possible the Arizona Department of Public Safety enlisted the assistance of the FBI in order to find the shooter.
Stay tuned to the North Star Post as our investigation into this domestic surveillance program is on-going. Freedom of Information Act requests and other methods of research are beginning to piece together answers to various questions with major civil liberties and constitutional consequences.