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A Black Lives Matter protest in Boston on June 17. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Air Force inspector general is investigating the use of a military reconnaissance plane used to surveil Black Lives Matter protesters in multiple cities, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.

Driving the news: The top intelligence official at the Department of Defense told Congress last week that he had not received orders from the Trump administration to surveil protesters gathering across the U.S., per the Times.

  • “Given the complex and classified nature of foreign intelligence collection, it is not always readily apparent to the American public how lawful foreign intelligence collection and analysis differs from unlawful intelligence activities rightfully prohibited by U.S. law and D.O.D. policy,” Joseph Kernan, under secretary of defense for intelligence, wrote in a letter to Congress, per the Times.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered a review last week of the National Guard’s response to demonstrators across the country, the Times writes.

The big picture: House Democrats on the Oversight Committee have called for the Department of Homeland Security to explain how it surveilled and intimidated peaceful protesters, including with drones and armed, uniformed officers.

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration, via a memo first obtained by BuzzFeed News, was granted temporary powers at the end of May to "enforce federal criminal laws in the wake of protests arising from the death of George Floyd."
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent a drone into Minneapolis in late May to take live footage of protestors at the request of federal law enforcement. The agency then recalled the unmanned predator drone, saying that police deemed it unnecessary. CBP did not specify why officers found the drone unnecessary or which agency requested it initially.

What they're saying: "Following discussions with the Secretary of Defense about shared concerns, the Secretary of the Air Force is conducting an investigation into the use of Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft to support civil authorities during recent protest activity in U.S. cities," General Pat Ryder, Air Force spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Axios. "The investigation is being led by the Air Force Inspector General. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time due to the ongoing nature of the investigation."

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

Go deeper

Trump nominates former Nunes aide to be intelligence community watchdog

Devin Nunes. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate National Security Council official Allen Souza, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), to serve as the inspector general of the intelligence community.

Why it matters: Trump fired the IC's previous inspector general Michael Atkinson for his handling of a whistleblower complaint about the president's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Atkinson's decision to turn over the complaint to Congress ultimately led to Trump's impeachment.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Congress passes $2.1B Capitol security funding bill

U.S. Capitol police officers testify during a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on July 27. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Xinhua

A $2.1 billion Capitol security funding bill is heading to President Biden for his signature after the House and Senate passed the legislation on Thursday.

Why it matters: The legislation provides funding for the Capitol Police, the National Guard and other agencies to cover the costs incurred during the Jan. 6 riot.

Biden details new vaccination initiatives as COVID cases surge

Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden detailed several new initiatives on Thursday to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

Why it matters: The plan outlines aggressive next steps from the federal government as COVID-19 cases surge across the country due to the contagious Delta variant and as demand for vaccines has tapered off.