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Dept. Of Justice Flying Secret Airplane Fleet Over American Cities

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MINNEAPOLIS — When a friend happened to spot a surveillance flight over his neighborhood, it led Sam Richards, an independent journalist, to uncover a fleet of secret airplanes registered to fake corporations apparently created by the Department of Justice.

While their purpose remains unknown, Richards has uncovered 100 of the aircraft and traced regular flights over major American cities.

Richards, who writes under the nom de plume Sam Renegade, first published his findings on his Twitter account, @MinneapoliSam, before gathering them into a report on Medium. In his report, published on Monday, he outlines how each of the planes is registered to a fake corporation with a three-letter acronym for a name, such as “OBR Leasing,” which doesn’t seem to otherwise exist as a viable business from Internet or public records searches. Richards reveals that dozens of these aircraft, from front corporations like “FVX Research” and “KQM Aviation,” are registered at the same Bristow, Virginia, post office boxes used for planes which are openly registered to the DOJ.

Using flight tracking websites, Richards tracked these airplanes’ flights over several major cities, including Minneapolis, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle and Baltimore. Almost all of the aircraft are common models of small planes manufactured by Cessna. The flight patterns, in which the airplanes repeatedly circle part of a city, suggest surveillance activities.

https://www.popularresistance.org/dept-of-justice-flying-secret-airplane-fleet-over-american-cities/

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Star Tribune:

Aviation buff John Zimmerman was at a weekly gathering of neighbors Friday night when he noticed something peculiar: a small plane circling a route overhead that didn’t make sense to him.

It was dark, so a sightseeing flight didn’t make sense, and when Zimmerman pulled up more information on an aviation phone app he routinely checks, he had immediate concerns.

The plane’s flight path, recorded by the website flightradar24.com, would eventually show that it circled downtown Minneapolis, the Mall of America and Southdale Center at low altitude for hours starting at 10:30 p.m., slipping off radar just after 3 a.m.

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The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool in criminal, terrorism or intelligence probes. But the program raises questions about whether there should be updated policies protecting civil liberties as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.

U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services. Even basic aspects of the program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general…

[continues at AP via Yahoo News]

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The FBI is now acknowledging that they are the ones gathering the surveillance and that everything being gathered is for ongoing investigations. Richards isn’t so sure about that, and he is working on a follow-up story.

“I have been getting a lot of email and messages on Twitter and elsewhere from people who are interested,” he said.

The FBI isn’t saying which investigations this plane’s surveillance is linked to or what kind of data it’s collecting.

The agency admits the planes can be equipped to identify thousands of people on the ground through their cell phones, even if they’re indoors.

http://minnesota.cbs...old-journalist/

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