The Associated Press learned this morning that the FBI has been operating its own surveillance air force, which has been monitoring cell phones and capturing video in cities across the country, including Minneapolis.
The FBI uses fake aviation companies as fronts for ongoing investigations in over 11 cities in the past 30 days, FBI spokespeople said, according to information obtained by the Associated Press.
The Star Tribune reported last week that a low-flying, ‘mystery’ plane was seen circling around downtown Minneapolis and two malls for several hours. Reporters questioned whether the plane was carrying government surveillance equipment, but the FBI declined to comment to Star Tribune reporters.
Some of the aircraft may have used equipment able to identify cell phone users even when they are not using their phone, according to the Associated Press.
Officials told the Associated Press that use of this type of technology is rare.
Government surveillance programs have been shown to give pause to Americans . According to a recent PEW research study, 65 percent of Americans said they felt few limits exist on what information the government can collect through internet and phones.
“The fact is there are several very powerful surveillance technologies that are deployed by fixed-wing aircraft circling over cities,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU to the Star Tribune. “These are powerful surveillance technologies that we think the public ought to have a role in discussing and debating.”