The FBI used an advanced spy plane to conduct long-range surveillance on Black Lives Matter protests in Washington D.C.
According to Buzzfeed News, the FBI used the plane the same day the Secret Service shot tear gas at protesters so President Trump could take a photo outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1. Twelve days later, the Secret Service finally admitted it used tear gas on protesters.
The plane used by the FBI is a one-of-a-kind spy plane, outfitted with advanced long-range cameras. The plane repeated its flight pattern circling the city the following two days and took a shorter surveillance flight on June 6. A BuzzFeed review of flight tracking records in April and May of 2015 also notes the same aircraft was used in the protests in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.
The FBI has a fleet of more than 120 surveillance planes registered to alleged front companies. According to Federal Aviation Administration registration records, the plane that flew over the Black Lives Matter protests is registered to the National Aircraft Leasing Corp.
The spy plane has been used for some of the agency’s most important surveillance missions, providing an eye in the sky during the arrest of major drug traffickers or violent gang members.
The news has concerned many due to the fact the agency repeatedly says it does not monitor activity protected by the First Amendment.
“It’s now been well documented that a number of federal agencies wildly overreacted to protests in DC in deeply troubling ways,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology, told BuzzFeed News. “To learn that the FBI deployed its state-of-the-art surveillance plane to watch these historic protests raises additional troubling questions.”