And, it would seem, sponsored by all levels of government. You’ll remember the issue of media overflights during the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson. Overflights involving the FBI have been seen during the protests in Baltimore and are now the subject of inquiry…
Discovery of the flights — which involved at least two airplanes and the assistance of the FBI — has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to demand answers about the legal authority for the operations and the reach of the technology used. Planes armed with the latest surveillance systems can monitor larger areas than police helicopters and stay overhead longer, raising novel civil liberties issues that have so far gotten little scrutiny from courts.
Civil libertarians have particular concern about surveillance technology that can quietly gather images across dozens of city blocks — in some cases even square miles at a time — inevitably capturing the movements of people under no suspicion of criminal activity into a government dragnet. The ACLU plans to file information requests with federal agencies on Wednesday, officials said.
“A lot of these technologies sweep very, very broadly, and, at a minimum, the public should have a right to know what’s going on,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU specializing in privacy and technology issues.
The FBI declined to comment on the flights. Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, a Baltimore Police Department spokesman, referred questions about the flights to the FBI.
A government official familiar with the operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not approved for public release, said the flights were aerial support that Baltimore police officials requested from the FBI. ...WaPo
Of course, it’s not just about the local police. Private companies are involved in overflights to gather information their own use or as federal government contractors. Where there’s a buck to be made, civil liberty becomes a side issue, or so it appears.