Once again, it has been revealed that agencies of the United States government are monitoring the population, using secretive technology with little oversight.
The Associated Press recently reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has been flying at least 100 planes across the country that are equipped with video and audio surveillance equipment. This includes the controversial StingRay cellphone surveillance technology.
Even more interesting is the fact that these planes are operated by fake front companies used by the government and are rarely given judicial approval. Some of these companies include FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services. As the AP reported:
“The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. The FBI said it uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft.
It also shields the identity of the aircraft so that suspects on the ground don’t know they’re being watched by the FBI.
In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.
The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights since late April orbiting both major cities and rural areas.
One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side. A federal budget document from 2010 mentioned at least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, in the FBI’s surveillance fleet.”
Following these latest revelations, the FBI held a confidential briefing with Congress to explain the program. Government officials present at the briefing told the AP that the operation was standard operating procedure and had only been used five times in five years.
Despite the program being unclassified, the FBI declined to release details on how many spy planes are in operation. The bureau did reveal that around 85 percent of the aircraft use infrared cameras. The remaining 15 percent use binoculars for surveillance.
During the mass demonstrations following the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore resident Benjamin Shayne noticed a curious plane flying overhead, circling the area repeatedly.
Shayne decided to ask the internet what it thought, tweeting, “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the last few nights?”
A former employee with the American Civil Liberties Union happened to see the tweet and was able to identify the plane, a Cessna 182T, and its exact flight path and registered owner, NG Research, based in Bristow, VA.
The former ACLU employee contacted the ACLU in Maryland, which then passed it on to the national ACLU. Around this time, the AP began analyzing flight data and flight patterns. The AP review found that at least one FBI flight circled above at least 40,000 residents during a single flight over Anaheim, California.
Was the FBI gathering cell data from these 40,000 residents? It is completely possible (and plausible in the Age of Surveillance) that the FBI and/or other government agencies were using cell phone surveillance devices inside the planes to gather metadata.
In late 2014, the Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of a cell-phone monitoring program operated by the U.S. Marshals Service using small planes. The program involved the Marshals using Cessna planes mounted with cell-site simulators, also known as Stingrays (for more information check out this Guide to Stingray Technology).
In response to the spy plane revelations, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information request with the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service seeking information about these flights. They also filed a FOIA request with the FAA to attempt to obtain the flight plans.
While the public remains largely ignorant of the extreme level of surveillance in the United States, the situation seems to be escalating quickly. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union told Medium that he believes the technology could already be used in tandem with drone aircraft.
The results he said, would be a “nightmare scenario for drones: wide-area mass surveillance and location tracking of entire cities and towns.”
“I wrote recently about ARGUS, the high-flying drone technology capable of capturing super-high-definition video of a 15-square mile area and automatically tracking all moving vehicles and people within that area,” he said.
It should be painfully obvious that 1984 is here. The State has eyes and ears in all corners of your world. Freedom is Slavery. Patriots are Terrorists. What will you do? Spread this information and keep the fight for freedom alive.