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FBI aircraft program raises privacy questions as NSA loses phone data collection authority




An investigation by the Associate Press found that many small planes flying low over neighborhoods are part of an FBI civilian air patrol. The FBI created fake companies in order to obscure the true purpose of the aircraft and pilots, and to prevent suspects from being able to identify them.
An investigation by the Associate Press found that many small planes flying low over neighborhoods are part of an FBI civilian air patrol. The FBI created fake companies in order to obscure the true purpose of the aircraft and pilots, and to prevent suspects from being able to identify them.
Sherwood 411/KPCC

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Those single-engine planes that sometimes fly low over your neighborhood might be more than just a pilot tooling around in the local skies.

An AP investigation found that many small planes like this are part of an FBI civilian air patrol that gives air support ground operations. The investigation tracked at least 50 planes back to the Bureau, and also found over 100 flights in 11 different states during a 30 day period since late April. In addition, the FBI created fake companies in order to obscure the true purpose of the aircraft and pilots, and to prevent suspects from being able to identify them.

The news came the same day that President Obama signed a new law into effect that takes authority to collect millions of Americans’ phone records away from the National Security Agency. While the FBI program may raise questions for some about government surveillance, the FBI says that its aviation program is not a secret and that the planes used are not built for bulk data collection.

What do you think of the FBI aviation program? Were you already aware it existed? Do you think this is necessary for the FBI to conduct operations or does it give too much authority to surveil?

Guests:

Hanni Fakhoury, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Ron Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division; President, Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund