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Maps Showing Where FBI Planes Are Watching from Above (buzzfeed.com)
377 points by prawn on Apr 10, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments



For anyone who wants to see the live data for themselves, go to http://www.adsbexchange.com/, click 'Global Radar View'. Then click 'Menu', 'Options', 'Filters', then enable the 'Interesting' filter.

It's a Sunday, so there's not too much activity. However there's currently an FBI Cessna circling west of Washington D.C. [0] There's also a plane gridding east of LA. [1] It's registered to Dynamic Aviation Group out of Virginia, a company that provides aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), among other things. [2]

[0]: http://i.imgur.com/8c0RQ9H.png

[1]: http://i.imgur.com/Yki2UTs.png

[2]: http://www.dynamicaviation.com/flight-solutions-and-services...


This assumes that surveillance aircraft have their ADS-B transponder on. It's not required until January 2020 (https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/programs/adsb/faq/).


Running without ADS-B around major airports would be unacceptable. I think drones are going to be required to have them before 2020 which makes me think that isn't quite right.


With ATC notified, the helicopter could revert to Mode-C [0] transponder mode, using an assigned transponder code and ATC would still track them safely. TCAS [1] would also still function safely when interrogated by secondary radar.

ADS-B reduces controller workload as they don't have to manually tag individual aircraft, especially in a high traffic area. ADS-B also works without secondary radar interrogation.

When there is a high speed chase near an airport, sometimes the tower controller will request the helicopter remain under a certain altitude or clear of a specific area.

Additionally, websites like FlightAware.com have limited direct ADS-B coverage and also display the FAA 5-minute delayed feed. I've never heard of a "criminal" in the US using an ADS-B receiver to evade police helicopters in real time.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_transponder_interroga...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_collision_avoidance_sy...


Flight aware just announced real-time flight tracking data (US & Canada). [1] Also, they will be adding MLAT data. (US)

[1] https://flightaware.com/news/article/Realtime-Flight-Status-...


I wonder if a $12 TV Tuner RTL-SDRs can listen in to secondary radar triggered TCAS responses? (I wonder how much trouble you'd get in for setting up a USDR or HackRFOne to transmit your own "secondary radar" signals to make the TCAS respond?)


TCAS "responses" are only sent during a Resolution Advisory.

Mode-C and Mode-S responses are sent when interrogated by secondary radar. ADS-B transponders with "Extended Squitter" transmit regularly while active, so no need to transmit your own interrogation pulses.

Its possible to monitor Secondary Radar pulses, and Mode C returns. It would require multiple geographically separated receivers to triangulate. I don't think FlightAware supports Mode C, only Mode S(MLAT) and ADS-B.

If you transmitted your own "secondary radar" pulses, the FAA and/or the FCC would probably launch a criminal investigation, with the FBI involved. Making your own "secondary radar" would be pointless and high risk.


Interfering with radar equipment by transmitting in a controlled, safety and security critical band? On a bad day, that could land you a truckload of terrorism charges.


I track several of these aircraft a week, and they usually don't have ADS-B. I track them via multilateration, combining my receiver's data with data from several other receivers (as part of the Flightaware network: http://flightaware.com/adsb/)


Many commercial operations don't have ADS-B installed (I wish! That would make my life easier.). They use other systems like MLAT and primary radar to track them.


If they make drones carry ADS-B transponders, it will only be heavy and high-flying drones. Signal becomes noise after so long, and they don't want to overcrowd 1090MHz.


How would traffic controllers handle them over US or busy cities? Just see them on radar, would they know that this object is not someone drone? Or would they rely on matching with a flight plan and expect it.


I work at a large airport near where these operations have occurred. From what I understand the local FAA office is well aware of them. I've been told "Don't ask" when we see unusual flight patterns. Commercial aircraft tend to follow well established patterns (STARs and SIDs etc) near major airports. As long as these flights stay below certain altitudes and away from the arrival and departure paths I don't think it would be a big deal for ATC.


As long as these flights stay below certain altitudes and away from the arrival and departure paths I don't think it would be a big deal for ATC.

Exactly. Police helicopters fly low enough that unless they are on the final approach or departure path, its not a big deal.

Its a common misconception that because news helicopters following the chase are denied clearance to fly near an airport, the same would apply to the police helicopters.


Oh ok, makes sense. Thanks for explaining


I've observed the Dynamic Aviation aircraft flying those patterns over LA for over a year, and while at first I thought it could be related to their surveillance operations, I'm pretty sure they're actually Sterile Insect Technique flights: http://www.dynamicaviation.com/flight-solutions-and-services...

There's a lot of info online about Dynamic Aviation doing Sterile Insect Technique flights over southern California, and their contracts to do so.

There are other spooky defense contractors doing what may be imagery collection flights, though. Like KEYW: https://twitter.com/lemonodor/status/647109884488454144


Woah I did that, zoomed all the way out, found one aircraft over the "Firth of Clyde" (west of Glasgow). -320ft/m. Then it disappeared. Data issue or did that thing just crash? Screenshot of the data: http://i.imgur.com/2zvH6qO.jpg


It's a data issue.


Hmmm, on Monday morning, under the "Interesting" listing, one of the planes flying:

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT - SAN BERNARDINO, CA

No location coordinates provided though. I wonder if this is anything related to an ongoing investigation, or just a coincidence?


Do you know why there is not a single military aircraft for Asia on the map?

Also, for the tag "interesting", I see only one (UK something).. Is it because I'm in Europe?

(Just curious)


You can also check out www.dxflights.com for realtime HFDL tracking on a map view.


That web UI doesn't seem to work in Chrome, but it did work in Firefox.


That's weird, it's working for me in Chrome. What particularly wasn't working for you?


I maybe have just been confused by the delay/lack of confirmation + the clunky UI. On the second try it worked.


wow, those are some poorly flown lines in [2]


reminds me of a radiolab episode: http://www.radiolab.org/story/eye-sky/

here's the summary,

> In 2004, when casualties in Iraq were rising due to roadside bombs, Ross McNutt and his team came up with an idea. With a small plane and a 44 mega-pixel camera, they figured out how to watch an entire city all at once, all day long. Whenever a bomb detonated, they could zoom onto that spot and then, because this eye in the sky had been there all along, they could scroll back in time and see - literally see - who planted it. After the war, Ross McNutt retired from the airforce, and brought this technology back home with him. Manoush Zomorodi and Alex Goldmark from the podcast “Note to Self” give us the low-down on Ross’s unique brand of persistent surveillance, from Juarez, Mexico to Dayton, Ohio. Then, once we realize what we can do, we wonder whether we should.


Point of Origin (POO) analysis believe is the tech term.


WAMI is another. Wide Area Motion Imagery.


POO would likely be a subset of WAMI analysis.


Radar has been used to do continuous ground surveillance since the 60s [0]. Most people associate it with anti-armor, but it was originally used to track humans beneath the jungle canopy. Systems had been developed to collect and integrate that data for event analysis long before its application in Iraq.

Ross McNutt is simply selling a product, and cameras are easier to sell than radar sensors.

[0] https://www.ll.mit.edu/publications/journal/pdf/vol12_no2/12...


Visible light imaging presumably offers easier perpetrator identification, though.


I think reliable tracking does a better job of identification than a picture of a fat man with a big nose in a blue shirt.


Here's my guess based on the following info:

- The article points out that the planes are typically only seen M-F, which suggests that what they are doing is usually not time-sensitive.

- They mention the planes have a very high quality camera on board.

- From the flight patterns, you can see they repeatedly circle the same location, but not apparently for hours and hours at time.

When Apple first released their Maps product, it was revealed that they also flew planes at low altitude to capture super high quality pictures of cities at different angles. They would then process the data later and create 3D models. [1]

Satellites are too expensive to use for this sort of thing, are affected by cloud cover and non-optimal angles, and won't be higher quality than what you can capture from a plane.

So my guess is they are doing exactly what Apple was doing: capturing high quality images of various points of interest and then creating 3D models in case they need to use them later.

Another thing they are probably looking for (from the mention of the FLIR camera) is people growing drugs in their basement or perhaps where people congregate in a building.

They probably find this useful for among other things, having very up to date photography of a particular area, and also in case they need it for some operation like a raid.

[1] http://www.applegazette.com/apple-inc/how-apple-creates-3d-f...


Using FLIR for drug growing detection requires a warrant.


So they're using it for some other purpose. It's just a coincidence that all growers on the flight path have been busted via "anonymous tips".


I assume that the 'coincidence' you mention is just hypothetical, but that would be a pretty interesting topic to research.


aka: parallel construction


It requires a warrant as long as FLIR is "a device that is not in general public use"[1]

That is changing.

[1] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/533/27.html


Interestingly, I immediately considered the use of FLiR looking for their modified exhaust systems - I wonder whether the current inexpensive Lepton FLiR modules could "see" the difference between "normal" plane and these ones with (presumably quite large/hot) underslung mufflers?


I heard from someone who worked for government contracts that they were told to 'do production testing on equipment' at the same time they wanted to use it in situations that would have required a warrant.


Most of the FBI planes (and DHS planes) I've tracked for the past year often do fly over one location for multiple hours. They may sometimes shift position slightly, or occasionally seem to follow someone along a freeway.


Can't balloons or drones be used instead of planes? I can't imagine their fuel must be cheap. Who pays for all this and what are they getting?


Taxpayers pay for it.

I'm not sure balloons could give adequate control, but drones are a great idea and I look forward to the day when they are so cheap that the same amount of tax money can pay for drastically increased surveillance from the sky.

Oh wait.


I'm sure they will eventually. Right now we're in the very early days of unmanned and manned aircraft sharing the national airspace system, and its still administratively easier to use a manned aircraft. But I'm sure in 10 years they'll be a ton of surveillance drones.


I'd assume the following reason: Planes are the "easy" default, clearly legal to operate, well-understood and most people don't think twice if they happen to see a Cessna somewhere.

Drones probably have legal issues, big ones (range, payload) are also quite expensive to build and operate and require more specialized skills (unless there are tons of ex-military drone operators to be hired cheaply?). Would also probably attract more attention.

Blimps have been proposed and tested for all kinds of surveillance tasks, but you'd get the main benefit again if they were autonomous. Seems to be in development, but not there yet.


I own a Cessna 182 that was originally owned by the Washington State Police. While they owned it they added an automotive-style muffler (planes don't normally have mufflers) to use it for stealth surveillance. They tore that all out before they sold the plane.

There's a pretty complete description of what they did in the Form 337 history: http://mike.laiosa.org/N6594E/Airworthiness.pdf - see in particular pages 27 and 55.


Neat plane, 182. I must have ~1500 hours in that model. Simple, normally aspirated, non retractable gear, constant speed prop, really good IFR training plane. Good trip plane, loading and fuel wise. Never a concern getting it into and out of small tenor gravel strip airports.

Police surveillance, makes sense, relatively inexpensive to operate, but good loading for whatever gear they're carrying.


Yeah it's a great plane, hard to beat for any operation where you don't need more speed more altitude. I'll bet law enforcement can operate them for about 2X a regular squad car.

Unfortunately most of my family gets horribly air sick, so mine is for sale - I'm looking for something cheaper to operate and cheaper to buy.


I think the muffler is more to carry the exhaust away from the surveillance equipment than to quiet the plane down.


Not likely. The exhaust normally comes out directly from the engine compartment, forward of the firewall. But the modification moves it farther aft - bringing it closer to where a survalence package would be mounted.

That said, this planes survalence package was probably a guy in the right seat with a 35mm camera. If a camera was mounted on the belly or a window for one installed, that would appear in the airworthiness history. And besides, the police operated this plane in the 80s and 90s, when taking a zillion pictures and sorting through them later wasn't economic.


I have to say, I'm really not against this. I used to read about privacy people getting pissed at all the CCTV surveillance in London, etc. And it concerned me.

But then I got into photography. And in that case, police were trying to trample on the rights of photographers. But the main idea is that photographers are allowed to photograph pretty much anywhere in public. And I agree with this. You can't make laws forbidding photographing a particular building, for example.

That got me thinking, if we can't forbid citizens from photographing in public, why should we forbid our government? In fact, when crimes happen, most of the time these days, video surveillance is a huge help.

If that data were made publicly accessible, would it be a problem that it was being recorded? What are the drawbacks of public surveillance?


>if we can't forbid citizens from photographing in public, why should we forbid our government?

I don't understand this comparison. The very fact that the surveillance is being done by the government changes the meaning of the action. Citizens don't have the power to do anything with the information they might gather through surveillance. Citizens don't have the ability to force all other citizens to pay them more money for funding surveillance programs of ever-increasing scope. Citizens have jobs which exist to serve a real need that exists in the economy, and so realistically wouldn't be doing anything of the same magnitude unless there was popular demand for it.


You're poisoning the well here. There's no evidence that the government is gathering surveillance for any nefarious purpose, or that they're doing it just for the fun of spending your (the taxpayer's) money.

In fact, your argument is somewhat ironic, as it is the same logic used by the police to prevent photographers from photographing in public, as descibed by the OP.


If you followed someone around taking photographs of them, it would be stalking. I don't understand how it's any better when the police do it.


> That got me thinking, if we can't forbid citizens from photographing in public, why should we forbid our government?

If we can't forbid citizens from promoting a religion, why should we forbid our government?

If we can't forbid businesses from cutting unprofitable departments, why should we forbid our government?

If we can allow businesses to be run by the same people indefinitely, why should we forbid our government?

etc.


I think the question is how the character of the surveillance changes when technology allows it to be done at larger scales with longer retention and more data mining. I think this a central question in modern privacy policy. You could argue that since its appropriate for the cops in a patrol car to look around, and cite someone they see jaywalking, it would be appropriate to install 360° high resolution cameras, to programmatically analyze the footage to cite everyone for jaywalking and other similarly trivial offenses, and to retain the footage indefinitely. Or you could argue that the aggregation and automation changes things.

It has taken society centuries to come to the notions of privacy and public rights against the state that we have today. If the aggregation, retention and analysis enabled by technology changes things, as I think they do, and I think many of us here think they do, then we as a society have our work cut out for us to update our notions of privacy.


Something like this is happening in Surrey, BC. They are in the process of installing 400 traffic cameras purely to stop crime, and the police will have 24 hour access to all cameras. Pretty much everyone is in favour of this, as they are fed up with the almost daily shootings.

The people in Surrey had to make a decision as to whether they prefer living in a crime-ridden shithole, or if they prefer 24-hour surveillance. They chose the surveillance.


It's interesting that my purely factual example got downvoted. Presumably because the facts of the situation in Surrey doesn't fit with some poeople's worldview?

The reality is that most people are happy with some level of surveillance if it is done to reduce crime. There seems to be an automatic presumption by some people on HN (which appears to be a majority of HN users, based on upvotes/downvotes) that the US government is like some kind of Stasi police state. The reality is that there is always pushback when the government oversteps its bounds. Some examples: investigations into torture by the CIA, the FBI now getting warrants for Stingray operations, the Snowden fallout, etc. I guess it's good that there is a strong libertarian contingent in the USA, which helps keep your government in check.


I agree to an extent, but doesn't the NYPD have trucks that go around and scan on the inside of buildings? There's no checks and balance in place right now to prevent them from abusing people's privacy...

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/the-nypd...


The problem being that it isn't public.


Citizens can't build a case against other citizens based on their photos. They also can't photograph tens of thousands of other citizens, tracking their exact locations and movements over hours and days.

We should forbid our government because they have power, and it ought to be limited.


What exactly are you saying they are doing? Is there any evidence (or even suspicion) that they are doing this? They say that these flights are used for "specific, ongoing investigations".

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/02/fbi-surveilla...


There is a large libertarian contingent on HN who automatically think the government is out to get them, so any time anything like this comes up you always get the inevitable "fuck the FBI" type comments, and downvoting of any attempt to look at the facts logically.


They made their code and data, along with notes on the analysis, available: http://buzzfeednews.github.io/2016-04-federal-surveillance-p...


Map shows right over my house, the conspiracy theorist in me says 'they're watching me!'


If a circle is dead center around your house then you are probably not the focus. Check out the gifs lower down after the San Bernardino attacks. The locations they were investigating -- mosque, workplace, home of Farook -- are all offset from the center for the best combination of angle / proximity.

Edit: Also, check out Los Angeles (if that's not where you are from). They are swarming LA! I'd be weirded out if I was in LA and NOT near activity.


I lived in an old house, in a rural area, where the previous owner had painted some concrete bright green. I was surprised by the amount of air traffic I saw, being as deep into the sticks as I was, until I actually started watching the aircraft. They were using my property as a landmark to turn on for final approach to a municipal airport several miles away. But I can see how that pattern could cause someone to jump to the conclusion that they are the subject of an incredibly expensive revolving tail.


Well, they are... the question is: are they "collecting" you?


Well, they are... the question is: when will they use it against them?


Not necessarily, govtspeak explanation[1]:

Normally, one would think that a communication that has been intercepted and stored in a government database as “collected.” But the government’s definition of what it means to “collect” intelligence information is quite different than its plain meaning.

Under Department of Defense regulations, information is considered to be “collected” only after it has been “received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component,” and “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”

In other words, the NSA can intercept and store communications in its data base, then have an algorithm search them for key words and analyze the meta data without ever considering the communications “collected.”

[1] https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/wordgames#collect


That C208 they're using via a front company has cargo space in the luggage area for radio and camera equipment and it's much less obvious than putting a radome below the fuselage.

Here's a fun clip of the Iraqis using a 208 to launch a hellfire. https://youtu.be/eSKsrILHxNM?t=57s


Why use front companies and hide their activities? They are domestic law enforcement and not intelligence; shouldn't what they do be mostly out in the open?


1. These are most likely not front companies but ISR contractors.

2. FBI is both a law enforcement and intelligence organization.


3. Money to rent a plane comes out of a different part of the budget than a capital expenditure to buy and outfit their own plane. And so it's easier to justify to the boss.


Specifically, since the FBI operates domestically and most other intelligence agencies "don't", Foreign Counterintelligence (which may take the form of "counterterrorism") is their bailiwick.


Is any intel of appreciable worth actually being gathered, or is this just a colossal waste of money and a massive invasion of privacy? What are these planes really achieving that you don't get from, say, a police helicopter that is tailing a suspect?


The main angle this article seems to take is that this surveillance is unfair because it may target Muslims. I see no problem with surveilling the mosque of two people who just committed a terrorist attack, in fact it would be risky not to do so.


The article also points out that FBI flights circled other muslim communities as well. However all of these attacks are perpetrated in the name of Islam (albeit bastardised Islam), so it seems reasonable for them to do this, even if politically incorrect. Also, we don't know if there were any suspects in those communities linked to the attackers.


FBI secrecy makes it hard to challenge these tactics, because it's not clear what "these tactics" are, and whose information is actually being gathered.

The last aerial surveillance case I can recall is California v. Ciraolo, which was about surveillance with the naked eye. I hope that these flights wouldn't survive a legal challenge, but I also believe that the FBI would be likely to launder anything gathered via parallel construction -- engineering a "normal" traffic stop, etc., based on gathered information.

As with the use of Stingrays, secrecy is used to thwart justice. I don't know how to stop it.


Is surveillance with the naked eye from the air illegal?

What objection do you have with the FBI tracking criminal suspects from the air?

Do you also object to the FBI staking out suspects from their cars?

(I'm not referring to Stingrays here, just surveillance from the air with cameras/eyeballs).


The point of California v. Ciraolo was that surveillence with the naked eye was lawful, and did not require a warrant.

"cameras/eyeballs"... you understand that those are two different things, right?

Large area digital data collection is not the same as observing an area with the naked eye.

Deployed networks of automated license plate readers are not the same as "the FBI staking out suspects from their cars".


>The point of California v. Ciraolo was that surveillence with the naked eye was lawful, and did not require a warrant.

I realise that, but you said "I hope that these flights wouldn't survive a legal challenge" so I inferred that you thought the judgement was incorrect.

>"cameras/eyeballs"... you understand that those are two different things, right?

I'm not sure if you're trolling here. The slash meant "or" in this case, which should be been patently obvious.

>Large area digital data collection is not the same as observing an area with the naked eye.

Of course, and it's not illegal AFAIK.

>Deployed networks of automated license plate readers are not the same as "the FBI staking out suspects from their cars".

The article doesn't mention "automated license plate readers".


The question should be about how targeted the FBI's operations should be. Collecting as much data as possible does not seem targeted to me. I also think the value to society is dubious.


Is that in fact what they are doing? The story says that all their operations were all related to specific suspects in serious crime investigations. There seems to be an automatic presumption on HN that the FBI are up to no good.


the map clearly shows super high density of DHS operations around the midtown Manhattan at the end of Sep 2015, when UN GA took place and the Pope gave a speech.


I guess beause of the UN GA they had to do both massive security ops and massive targeted surveillance at the same time :).


These were some of the drones and surveillance flights over South Bay during the Super Bowl: https://twitter.com/Johnie/status/696475657375625216


“I don’t know that they have ever done surveillance of churches or synagogues when people of those traditions have committed acts of criminality.”

Sounds like a crock if I ever heard one.


Curious, anyone know why the FBI takes the weekends off?


Because like most entities their employees are on a five day schedule, and most of those employees want M-F so they can family on weekends. Guess.


They still fly on the weekends, just not as much. I captured fr24 data for most of 2014 and pulled out the 80 planes that were originally id'd. Here's a time lapse of where they went that year and some stats on how often they flew: https://craigulmer.com/index.pl?id=alleged_fbi_surveillance_...


I thought these weren't "watching" as much as they were using stingrays to slurp up cellular location and metadata.


They say that that happens, but it is rare:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/02/fbi-surveilla...


The huge circle in Northern Virginia West of DC: is that George Mason University?


no.. that's a bit north/northwest of GMU


Any idea what is the altitude of these planes?


Typically 1500-6000 feet AGL, the kind of altitude one would want for that kind of collection of signals.


What were they doing over Canandaigua?!


Drugs or terrorism seems like the most likely candidates.


I have to admit, https://buzzfeednews.github.io/2016-04-federal-surveillance-... is not something I would expect from Buzzfeed.

Huge surprise.


I really think Buzzfeed is on to something. It's far more palatable to see an entertainment site foray in to legitimate journalism than to see a respectable news outlet stoop to clickbait headlines.


This comes up every time a buzzfeed article shows up on HN, but they have a real journalism arm now. That's what's producing this.


The authors even included their PGP fingerprints at the bottom of the article and invited readers to contact them securely.


The investigative side of BuzzFeed isn't given the credit it deserves, particularly from the HN crowd. When most major news organizations have reduced or flat out dissolved their investigative units BuzzFeed has been spending more and more money to produce high quality investigative pieces. It's been a while since they aren't just a "funny" listicles site.


Seriously, this is rather impressive for BuzzeFeed


We are at the point now where if you are surprised by the serious journalism going on at Buzzfeed, it just means you have not been paying attention.


It's very easy not to pay attention, when Facebook provide the "don't show me anything from XYZ" button.


Good on the FBI/DHS, I say.

Not everything is a conspiracy.


> Not everything is a conspiracy.

They are hiding it by using front companies, etc. So I think it qualifies as a conspiracy.


A conspiracy to (partially) hide their identity from the suspects they're tracking? Would you suggest they put FBI on the register instead?


It doesn't have to be a conspiracy to dislike it. Also, they tend to keep these actions secret, which doesn't bode well for government transparency and government trust.


Agreed. Circling surveillance planes are unsettling no matter if it is routine or not. I believe they should have warrants for these and maybe they do, maybe they don't. There is not enough transparency to know (even just a report of the number of investigations and outstanding warrants in cities or districts would be enough).


Why would they need warrants for watching a person in a public place? You don't have an expectation of privacy in that situation.


There needs to be further refinement as to what actually constitutes "watching", e.g. with respect to duration, frequency, information monitored, etc. US v. Jones held that installing a GPS device on a car constituted a trespass against one's "personal effects".

I think the similar argument here would be that a near constant observation of someone, even while in public, would amount to the same sort of search, even though one has a very low expectation of privacy while in public.


Jones was based on the classic idea that when the government does what would be a trespass if a private person did it, then a warrant is required. Observing someone in public is not a trespass, no matter how much you do it.


You are correct to say that you can't commit a trespass by observing someone in public. However, trespassing is not an exclusive test as to whether a search is permissible (though it was the applicable rubric for Jones). The Katz test still must be applied, above and beyond the trespassory test. The concurrences in the Jones opinion state "at the very least, “longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy.”

Swap "GPS monitoring" for infrared, EMF, video, audio tracking, whatever those planes are doing, and I think we are at the same level of "impinge(ment) on expectations of privacy."

Is it your opinion that Alito and Sotomayor are barking up the wrong tree? Is this sort of extensive (i.e. multi-modal (visual, EMF, etc.)), and evidently prolonged, monitoring not an impingement on typical expectation of privacy? Sure, this isn't a trespass, but if a private person was doing this to you, wouldn't you want to call the cops? (Oh, wait...)


My point is that Jones doesn't really help you: the majority opinion focused on the trespass theory, and did not rely on the consequences of longer-term GPS monitoring.

In my opinion, the whole "expectation of privacy" thing is reading words into the 4th amendment that aren't there. If you look at the phrasing of the text, which focuses on "searches" and "seizures" of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" it's clear that the 4th amendment prohibits the government from doing what would be a common law trespass (to the person, to real property, or to chattels). It's based on property rights, not privacy.


> Observing someone in public is not a trespass, no matter how much you do it.

That's because it would be stalking.


So it's completely legal to follow someone every place they go? I thought that was very illegal.


Harassing someone is generally illegal, which can include following them around, usually to intimidate them.

If you are following someone in the matter the police would they won't know they are being followed, which is part of what private investigators do.

Just don't harass them. If they catch you and tell you to stop and you don't - then you are veering into harassment territory.


According to California v Ciraolo, you don't even have that expectation in your own back yard.


Police investigations are generally secret for obvious reasons.


The problem with making public the methods they use to catch criminals is that criminals would then know how to evade the FBI...

You can't investigate a criminal/terrorist and simultaneously tell the public exactly what you're doing, step by step. It's not practical.

There are tradeoffs we all have to make. Idealism isn't compatible with the kind of work the fbi does.


Aren't the flight data and plane registrations public information?

Wouldn't it be dangerous to fly a plane "in-secret"?


Planes can be registered to companies and the companies contracted by the agency/agencies. Those can be dry leases (without crew), allowing the agency to have operational control without ownership of the plane/registration.

Of course, all of this supposes that it's important enough to be secret. It actually helps secrecy to fly some of these missions openly, meaning it's harder to find the ones that are clandestine.


Yeah, one of the example traces was around Farook's home and workplace. If you see a map like this and your home and workplace. There are several repeated circle patterns which probably represent specific investigations. If both your home and work are offset in the center of these circles you have to be wondering what you did.

Edit: and mosque home, workplace and mosque.


I really wish this weren't on Buzzfeed.


Why? They're putting out more and more quality material, and it could be argued that they're getting interesting topics in front of a broader audience.


That's true—I only discovered this after getting two down votes and putting in some research. I suppose it's cool, this new content. And you make a great point about a broader audience; this is definitely needed.

The reason I wrote the comment initially is because it seemed off to me—like showing up to a business meeting at a law firm in a pink and yellow plaid suit.

I was wrong.


The comments are saying that this is largely derivative of someone else's work.


It's not. I've been involved in this story since before anyone published anything. These Buzzfeed journalists have done some excellent, original work.


Looks pretty comprehensive to me and links to sources from what I could tell. And much of the journalism around the place is riffing off other work anyway.




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