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Tag: planes

TSA: Batman Fans, Don’t Carry Your Superhero Weapons onto Planes

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 8.28.00 AMBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Sorry, Batman fans. You can’t carry your superhero weapons onto planes.

The TSA has reported an influx of people trying to bring aboard “batarangs,” which are sharp, bat-shaped weapons, NPR reports. 

The “batarangs” are being confiscated at airport security checkpoints.

The TSA said the weapons should be “placed in your checked baggage along with your grapple gun, bat-saw, collapsible bat-sword, and other utility belt items.”

The TSA said it occasionally has problems with people thinking they can bring superhero weapons on to a flight.

Other Stories of Interest

Concerns Raised About How Accused Shooter Boarded Commercial Airline

Kyle Odom

Kyle Odom

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A man accused of shooting a church pastor was able to board a commercial airline in Idaho despite an attempted murder warrant for his arrest, the Associated Press reports. 

Kyle Odom managed to board the plane without problems and traveled to Washington D.C.

The Transportation Security Administration said local law enforcement didn’t inform them of the arrest warrant until Monday evening, hours after Odom boarded the plane.

“TSA had not received a law enforcement bulletin to ‘be on the lookout’ for the suspect,” the agency said in a press statement.

Although TSA screens passengers on the government’s Terrorist Watchlist, it has no similar database for wanted criminals.

Odom, 30, who law enforcement said wrote a manifesto about Martians controlling Earth, was arrested after allegedly throwing items onto the lawn of the White House.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI: Pilots in Cleveland Reported Being Blinded by Laser Pointers over Labor Day Weekend

Light from a Laser pointer via Wikipedia

Light from a Laser pointer via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Pilots told authorities they were blinded by laser pointers over the Labor Day weekend in Cleveland.

WKYC reports that the FBI and local authorities are investigating five separate incidents from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6.

Laser pointers pose a dangerous threat to pilots, who can be flash-blinded by beams of light.

“Individuals often do not realize that traveling over hundreds of feet a tiny two-centimeter laser beam spreads to become approximately six feet of light that can block a pilot’s vision,” FBI officials said in a press release. “Most laser strike incidents reported occur at flights under 10,000 feet with the highest percentage being altitudes under 6,000 feet.”

Other Stories of Interest

Hamad: FBI Violates Trust with Arab Community over Surveillance Flights

By Imad Hamad
for Detroit News

The recent FBI surveillance planes that were observed flying over Dearborn a few days ago made many revisit the issue of trust between the Arab and Muslim American community and the federal government.

Did these planes fly over Dearborn because of its identity as the hub of the Arab and Muslim American community? Surveillance is an issue of concern to a community that has dealt with different unfortunate episodes, and has become aware of questionable federal law enforcement techniques.

The FBI responded to community concerns by stating that the aerial surveillance is real but its mission is legitimate law enforcement activity and not broad profiling of any particular community. Despite that, many could not help but perceive that the government was profiling the community.

There is a real and acute sense that Arab Americans and Muslim Americans are treated unfairly and viewed suspiciously as a group.

There is no doubt that the U.S. faces a real terror threat. And surveillance, when it comports with the law and the democratic traditions of the nation, is a legitimate and necessary law enforcement tool. The FBI planes are not solely an Arab or Dearborn issue, and portraying them as such is inaccurate and perhaps irresponsible as well.

Most importantly for the Arab and Muslim American community, the news of the FBI planes over parts of Metro Detroit came when the Wall Street Journal published on Aug. 5 a report about FBI efforts to counter violent extremism.

Imad Hamad is executive director of the American Human Rights Council.

To read more, click here.

Stejskal: FBI’s Use of ‘Unmarked Planes’ Is Nothing New, Not to Mention Legal

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

Greg Stejskal

 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

The Associated Press reported about a week ago that the FBI was using “unmarked planes” to conduct surveillances and other activities.This is not breaking news.

The FBI since at least the 70s has used “unmarked” planes to help conduct surveillances among other things. In the 70s, the FBI began establishing dedicated surveillance squads. These squads were used primarily to conduct surveillances of organized crime subjects, but also utilized in other investigations such as espionage, terrorism and kidnappings.

To keep the surveillance squads and their activities secret, offsite locations (away from FBI offices) were procured using fictitious business fronts, the vehicles used did not look like police cars and were registered to fictitious businesses. (This was necessary in some investigations because police were known to be cooperating with the bad guys.) The agents assigned to the squads wore “street clothes” and were allowed to be lax, by Bureau standards, in their grooming.

It became clear that there were situations where aircraft could be helpful in conducting surveillances. In fact there were situations when surveillances were impossible without the aid of aircraft such as watching a ransom drop-site in the middle of open country. The same procedures were used for the aircraft as were used for FBI vehicles – they were registered to fictitious entities and the pilots did not identify themselves as agents.

The use of “unmarked” aircraft has continued and is considered legitimate and legal investigative tool. If aircraft are used to help monitor wiretaps, etc., as the AP has reported, they do so pursuant to court orders and with the knowledge of the courts.

In the interest of full disclosure, the FBI has also used “unmarked” boats for various surreptitious activities. An “unmarked” yacht was used to entertain some of the subjects in the ABSCAM investigation.

Star-Tribune: FBI’s Use of Small Planes for Surveillance Crosses Line

By Editorial Board
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Last week, reports surfaced that the FBI had flown small single-engine planes over 30 cities across the U.S. The planes, outfitted with video and cellphone surveillance equipment, were registered to fictitious companies in order to shield the government’s role during this domestic surveillance operation.

Cellphone surveillance equipment, commonly known as Stingrays, mimics existing cellphone towers, forcing cellphones to connect to them. If Stingrays were deployed, any phone calls, text messages or data transmitted while the FBI was circling overhead were intercepted before being relayed to their final destination. The indiscriminate nature of Stingray technology ensures that cellphone data will be collected from innocent American citizens.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has expressed his concern to the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence, asking under what legal authority the FBI was operating and what equipment was on board those planes. The American people will likely never learn the answers to these questions, though the senator may be treated to a classified briefing. While this may answer his questions, Franken would be unable to disclose any information to the public.

Of course, this is not the first time the FBI has leveraged secrecy to overstep its legal authority. COINTELPRO was an FBI program that illegally monitored the activities of many Americans for 15 years. This program was used to “expose, disrupt, misdirect or otherwise neutralize” groups or individuals that the FBI deemed subversive, such as antiwar activists and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Given the lack of legislative or judicial oversight, former presidents also used this program to spy on political opponents.

The existence of COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971, when activists burglarized an FBI field office and published documents related to the program. The FBI’s response was to declare the program terminated and close many of its field offices. Closing offices and making bold statements does not change the secretive nature of the FBI, and many similar tactics became integrated into other operations.

Thirty years later, after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, the FBI dramatically increased the use of national security letters, or NSLs. These are essentially search warrants compelling the recipient to disclose information, such as customer records from companies like banks and Internet service providers. But unlike a search warrant, an NSL is not signed by a judge and it comes with a gag order preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing its existence. Over 300,000 NSLs have been issued since 2000.

To read more click here. 

Sen. Franken Drills Justice Department with Questions about Spy Planes

Al Franken

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Less than a week after the discovery that the FBI was using fictitious names of companies to conceal the use of small planes to spy on Americans, Sen. Al  Franken is demanding more information on the surveillance flights, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The small planes, mostly single-engine Cessnas, were used nationwide to assist in criminal investigations.

“Many Americans have been troubled by these reports, and as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, I believe it is important to ensure that these programs adequately protect Americans’ privacy while furthering public safety and national security,” Franken wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

Franken wanted to know what kind of technology was being used and what the legal basis was for the flights.

“What safeguards are in place to ensure that innocent Americans’ privacy is protected during aerial surveillance utilizing technology that collects data and personal information?” he asked.

The FBI and Justice Department have declined to comment.

FBI Flying Low-Hanging Surveillance Planes Using Fictitious Names

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has been operating a fleet of small planes equipped with video and occasionally cell phone surveillance technology, concealing the information from the public by registering the aircraft under fictitious company names, the Associated Press has found. 

What’s more, the surveillance is often used without a judge’s approval.

The AP found that the bureau flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states in a recent 30-day period.

The AP traced the aircraft, which the FBI acknowledged for the first time it was using, to at least 13 fake companies.

The technology allows the FBI to identify thousands of people on the ground through their cell phones.

The FBI says it’s doing nothing wrong.

“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” FBI spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. “Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes.” Allen added that the FBI’s planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.”