An in-depth investigation has revealed the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security conduct surveillance flights using planes and helicopters over several American cities.
The presence of the flights were uncovered by BuzzFeed News,
and they show patterns of planes flying in circles for hours at a time. Other flights appear to show suspects being followed.
BuzzFeed put together an interactive map with flight paths over a four-month period that ended last December.
Many of the aircrafts, according to the report, are Cessna planes that fly roughly 4,000-6,000 feet up. They have noise-reducing mufflers, cameras, and software that overlays street names and individual addresses on the readout screen.
Most of the DHS flights were along the U.S. border with Mexico above California, Arizona, Mew Mexico, and Texas. The investigation also reveled that within two hours of the San Bernardino terror attacks in December, two planes were circling the home of the two terrorists. Planes began circling a mosque one of them attended the following day.
The planes, according to BuzzFeed and other reports in the past, sometime have cell phone tracking devices that act as a tower. These devices
go by many names, including Stingrays, and are used by many in the law enforcement community.
Most of the surveillance flights did not occur on the weekends or federal holidays.
"It should come as no surprise that the FBI uses planes to follow terrorists, spies, and serious criminals," FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano said last summer. "We have an obligation to follow those people who want to hurt our country and its citizens, and we will continue to do so."
The FBI has at least 13 front companies, according to an AP investigation
last summer, that operate at least some of the planes.
The FBI recently made headlines when it found a way to access
one of the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhones without the help of Apple, which balked at providing assistance out of privacy concerns.
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