Florida Law Enforcement Surveillance Operation Hidden Behind Front Company

Florida Law Enforcement Surveillance Operation Hidden Behind Front Company

– Frequently airborne surveillance aircraft in Florida registered to non-existent company, the phone number of which rings the desk of an analyst at the Southeast Florida Fusion Center.

– Miami-Dade Police Department is not allowing information requests pursuant to surveillance operations, aerial or otherwise, and at this time has not confirmed or denied that the aircraft in question is operated by law enforcement.

Cessna aircraft N786TF has been airborne most recently [upon last check] on July 30th over Pompano Beach, North of Fort Lauderdale.

– [Update: August 6th, 1030am]
Broward Sheriffs Public Information Office denied our inquiries “Any information revealing surveillance techniques or procedures or personnel is exempt,” from public information requests.

The North Star Post has been tracking the flights of Cessna aircraft N786TF during June and July. Most recent audit of flight data showed that the surveillance aircraft was most recently airborne on July 30th, flying circles above the Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area, and paying particular attention to Pompano Beach.

The aircraft is registered to “American Corporate Executive Services,” lead by “Doug Maroone.” American Corp. Exec. Services is a company that exists solely to be a placeholder for registration purposes of aircraft N786TF, and does not exist outside of sparce online business listings.

A phone call to the telephone number listed on a public business directory website rings the desk of a state contracted intelligence analyst at the Southeast Florida Fusion Center.

On August 3rd, a Public Information Officer at the Southeast Florida Fusion Center said, “I assure you that we don’t have aircraft.” The officer, who billed himself as the second-in-command of the Center then advised that the Post contact the Broward County Sheriffs Department for more information.

An email to the Post was received at 10:30am on August 6th. Keyla Concepción of The Public Information Office at the Broward Sheriffs Office wrote “The information requested is not public per FS 119.071(2)(d) – ‘Any information revealing surveillance techniques or procedures or personnel is exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.'”

These are concrete denials that the aircraft is being used by that criminal and national security intelligence sharing Fusion Center, who are undoubtedly appraised of the techniques, capabilities and technology used by surrounding law enforcement agencies. The officer we spoke with at the Fusion Center, given his placement within the chain of command of the facility would be aware of any such tools.

Fusion Centers were created after 9/11 to promote intelligence sharing and information flow between Federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies. When pressed about the fact that the phone number used to register the aircraft rings the desk of a Florida state contracted intelligence analyst at his facility; “People have spoofed [law enforcement phone numbers] before.”

Following these developments, and in the interest of tracking down exactly what law enforcement or other agency is behind the operation of this surveillance aircraft, the Post contacted the Miami-Dade Police. The Miami-Dade Police Department handles many information requests from media. Before confirming anything about the aircraft, David Ferrin, Detective and Press Liasion for the Miami-Dade Police Department emailed saying, “Exempt from public records request are surveillance tactics/equipment. Due to the Florida State Statute Chapter 119 we are not allowed to discuss your request.”

That makes a total of three independent and official denials that N786TF is being used by these agencies.

The practice of registering aircraft to companies that do not actually exist was one of the reasons it was possible to “discover” and disclose the entire fleet of Federal surveillance aircraft. The FBI, in a response to the Associated Press questioning the practice of hiding operations behind fake companies said, “[The FBI] uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft, shielding their identities from would-be suspects on the ground.”

While that sounds reasonable, logic indicates that suspects on the ground would not be concerned with the registration of an aircraft circling them.

The decision to conceal the true identity of those operating the aircraft behind a few thin layers, enables missions to be conducted semi-covertly, away from public scrutiny and in a gray area. It also affords to operators the convenience of plausible deniability, at least until they are concretely linked to the cover company.

It is hard to find another instance that can clearly demonstrate an American law enforcement agency concealing operations behind a shell company; a practice that most assumed would be reserved to Federal agencies. The implications of this are vast, and it is a shame that secrecy is so pervasive in the current atmosphere of all levels of government within the United States.

In the estimation of this reporter, the residents of Florida would be understanding of airborne law enforcement investigative operations, they are quite used to helicopters and other low flying aircraft. The decision to hide such activities from their scrutiny only serves to raise suspicion and alarm at a time when mistrust of Federal surveillance programs is at an all-time high.

The North Star Post will continue pressing these agencies for information, specifically surrounding the legal arguments the aircraft operators are using to justify such secrecy, and the specifics of the technology used in conjunction with their aerial surveillance operations.

Follow Sam on Twitter.