The Associated Press reported new details on secret surveillance flights being conducted by the FBI, including how the agency registers aircrafts with fake companies to conceal their role.
A recent review conducted by the AP found that over a “recent 30-day period” the FBI flew over 100 flights over 30 cities in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Most of the missions were with Cessna 182T Skylane aircrafts. They were flown over Boston, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle and parts of Southern California.
The planes carried video surveillance equipment as well as Stingray surveillance equipment or cell-site simulator gear, which creates a dragnet and enables the FBI to trick cellphones in a given area into providing identification information to agents.
Unlike the agency’s drone fleet, piloted aircraft is not subject to the Justice Department’s policy barring drones from being used to monitor “First Amendment activities,” which may partly explain why the secret flights have been spotted over cities where communities have protested killings by police.
Sam Richards, an independent journalist, first reported that the FBI was flying secret missions over cities with aircraft registered to fake companies.
“The aircraft have been registered to corporations that do not exist, and the purpose of the aerial operations is not known at this time. The flight patterns of the aircraft indicate they are most likely conducting surveillance, much like the controversial aircraft caught flying circles over the city of Baltimore which has seen many protests recently,” Richards reported on May 25.
Richards searched “aircraft registration” in Bristow, Virginia, and found many “three-letter acronym companies.” A few of the aircrafts listed were “registered explicitly to the Department of Justice.” He decided the companies had to be fake when his searches for information on the Internet were “fruitless.” He also noticed that the flight patterns—repeated circles around a city—indicated these planes were likely involved in surveillance missions. (more…)