The FBI is flying hundreds of small planes above American cities armed with video and cell phone surveillance to spy on citizens without a judge’s approval, according to an Associated Press report.
They’re armed with technology that allows them to identify people through the cell phones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or are out in public.
The FBI spy planes come from hidden fake companies that are government fronts, so people on the ground can’t tell they’re being spied on.
If that sounds like something out of a spy novel, it’s not.
The AP confirmed with the FBI, the spy plane program has been in operation since 2003 and is responsible for the suspicious low flying planes seen slowly circling some neighborhoods and rural areas, according to Yahoo News.
The AP report says the FBI flew the small spy planes above 30 cities in 11 states during the last month, with 100 flights taking place since April.
So if you think you’re being spied on, maybe you are.
The FBI admits to using the small spy planes for specific investigations, but they can also capture other video of unrelated activity that can be turned over to local police.
Although public information on the spy plane program is severely limited, FBI spokesman Christopher Allen told the AP the planes aren’t designed for mass surveillance, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret. Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes.”
The spy program is supposed to adhere to internal agency standards, but much of that information is blacked out in public records.
So what about our civil liberties and the freedom to privacy?
American Civil Liberties Union analyst Jay Stanley called the spy plane flights a significant concern, according to CBS News.
“These are not your grandparents’ surveillance aircraft. If the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft.”
In a similar report by the Wall Street Journal in November of last year, the paper describes the technology used to capture user’s cell phone data.
The term “Dirtbox” is used to describe the fake cell phone transceivers attached to the small spy planes that can capture user information from the phone, according to the Inquisitr.
FBI agents are then able to eavesdrop on phone calls, examine text messages, disrupt service, and track user’s locations using the “Dirtbox.”
The spy planes, usually Cessnas, fly about a mile off the ground in a counter-clockwise, left-handed, pattern.
If this program makes you feel threatened, you’re not alone.
President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate over domestic surveillance, but with little civilian oversight, it’s anyone’s guess what the FBI is up to.
[Photo by Jason Kirk / Newsmakers]