(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Mysterious planes circling over Baltimore during the Freddie Gray protests put the internet’s flight-tracking community in an upright position. Now, a month later, the Associated Press appears to have cracked the code.
The FBI confirmed to AP reporters that it was the agency operating the surveillance planes. The flights stretch much further than Baltimore, with planes spotted over more than 30 cities over the last month. In fact, the Baltimore flights were just an example of the FBI lending local law enforcement a hand.
The planes carry surveillance equipment including video and cellphone tracking technology, neither of which are used with a judge’s approval, the AP found. In a confluence of hotly-debated government surveillance devices, it sounds like there might even be Stingrays aboard:
Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is rare.
And here’s the kicker: the FBI operates the planes behind a network of shadow companies, and they don’t plan to stop. The Bureau didn’t want to release the names of the companies to reporters because it would simply cost taxpayers more money when they created new ones.
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