by Robert G. Yetman, Jr., Managing Editor, The James L. Paris Report
If the government wants to reassure us that it’s not really interested in spying on us average citizens, the latest revelation about the activities of the FBI are hardly a step in the right direction. An investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that the FBI is essentially operating its own air force, of sorts, deploying numerous, low-flying small aircraft over a multitude of American cities, aircraft armed with a variety of high-tech surveillance equipment. The AP’s review of the agency’s activities found that the FBI operated these aircraft over more than 30 cities in 11 of these United States. What’s more, the AP learned that the FBI is cloaking this activity behind a veil of fictitious companies…with names like KQM Aviation and NBR Aviation…that are effectively serving as fronts for the agency’s surveillance activities.
According to spokesman Christopher Allen, the planes in use “are not equipped, designed, or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.” The conclusion we, as citizens, are supposed to draw is the same one that we’re supposed to draw whenever something like this comes to light: that the agency doing the surveilling is specifically…and only…looking for truly bad guys, people the rest of us are fine seeing ferretted out by these kinds of operations. The fact is, however, that the equipment utilized on these planes is quite capable of not only taking video of basically anyone (not just real bad guys), but, in some cases, of even identifying people on the ground by way of their cell phones…even if they’re not making a call!
Since 9/11, especially, privacy experts have been particularly concerned about the government’s inclination to basically do whatever it pleased in the manner of surveilling its citizens. The belief is that because Americans can see a clear and present danger in the form of Islamic terrorism, they will be more tolerant of “gray area” efforts by the government to keep an eye on things. As worrisome as this newest information is about FBI behavior, it is only the latest in a long line of privacy intrusions by federal agencies that seem to be picking up steam as the ostensible justifications (the prospect of ISIS in America, for example) for it become more prevalent. Nevertheless, one has to imagine (hope?) that a vocal majority of Americans will soon…finally…express their great displeasure, in no uncertain terms, about the efforts by their own government to keep watch on those it likely now sees as its subjects.