Jun 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

NYT: Black Lives Matter protests in over 15 cities were under surveillance by DHS

In this image, a crowd of protesters march. One sign reads "Black Lives Matter"
Protestors march across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan on June 19. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security monitored Black Lives Matters protests in more than 15 cities with airplanes, drones and helicopters, according to Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the New York Times.

Driving the news: The Air Force inspector general said on Thursday it plans to investigate the use of a military reconnaissance plane used to surveil demonstrations in multiple cities held in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

What they're saying: Officials at the CBP base in Grand Forks, North Dakota told the Times' Zolan Kanno-Youngs that the surveillance was "used to provide an eagle-eyed view of violent acts and arson."

  • Deployed unmanned aircraft, including a Predator drone sent to Minneapolis, were neither armed nor supplied with facial recognition software, unnamed CBP officials told the Times.
  • The aircraft "flew at a height that made it impossible to identify individuals or license plates," senior officials told the Times.
  • The CBP confirmed the Times reporting.

Details: AS350 helicopters monitored protests in 13 cities for over 168 hours, with the longest surveillance stretch at 58 hours over Detroit, the Times reports, citing data from Air and Marine Operations.

  • Aircraft filmed protests in New York City, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Dayton, Ohio along with other cities to send real-time footage to Air and Marine Operations control centers, the Times reports.

The backdrop: House Democrats on the Oversight Committee have called for the DHS to explain how it surveilled and intimidated peaceful protesters, including with drones and armed, uniformed officers.

Go deeper: House Democrats call for investigation into DEA protester surveillance

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