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So Much For Oversight: FBI Creates Its Own Surveillance Air Force, Congress Doesn't Notice

The FBI was using fictitious companies to secretly operate what the AP called “a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cell phone surveillance technology.”
So Much For Oversight: FBI Creates Its Own Surveillance Air Force, Congress Doesn't Notice
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For the life of me, I can't understand why Americans are so docile about our ever-expanding surveillance state. These stories just infuriate me:

Last week, Americans learned that even as the NSA collected information on their telephone and Internet behavior, the FBI was using fictitious companies to secretly operate what the AP called “a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cell phone surveillance technology.”

The news organization reported that surveillance flights may be more than a decade old, and identified “more than 100 flights since late April orbiting both major cities and rural areas.”

The merits of this program will now be debated.

What’s already clear, however, is the anti-democratic nature of keeping it hidden all these years. The U.S. is supposed to be governed by the people. Whether Americans want a federal law-enforcement agency using planes to conduct surveillance on vast swaths of the country is a question properly aired and debated.

It is for Americans to choose.

Instead, an executive branch that has grown alarmingly powerful since the September 11 terrorist attacks, or perhaps even before, imposed its preferred policy in secret. The vast majority of Americans were completely unaware of its choice.

This made voter accountability on the issue impossible.

And many of the FBI’s ostensible overseers in Congress don’t know much more than the public, either. This is evident from letters that legislators have written in recent days. Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee,demanded to be briefed no later than this week on “the scope, nature, and purpose of these operations… and what legal authorities, if any, are being relied upon in carrying out these operations.”

Sixteen House members wrote to the FBI, pointing out that the president had just signed a reform ending the bulk collection of phone records. “It is highly disturbing,” they wrote, “to learn that your agency may be doing just that and more with a secret fleet of aircraft engaged in surveillance missions.” They asked for the FBI to identify the legal theory used to justify the flights, the circumstances surrounding them, the technologies on the aircraft, the privacy policy used for data collected, and the civil liberties safeguards that had been put in place.


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Senator Al Franken has posed ten questions of his own to the FBI.

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