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Official confirms FBI use of surveillance planes, front companies

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Posted at 10:42 AM, Jun 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-02 10:46:28-04

(CNN) — The FBI has a fleet of planes used for surveillance purposes and registered as fictitious companies, a senior law enforcement official tells CNN on Tuesday. This was initially reported overnight by the Associated Press.

In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found. “The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” 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.”

“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement to CBS News. “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.”

The official who spoke to CNN said the fake companies were used because “anytime you mask your activity for operational or safety reasons you use a front company,” the source told CNN. “You don’t want to put people on to what you’re doing — we know we’re going to need air aviation support for cases.”

The FBI confirms that they use the planes for two reasons.

They are utilized for their own investigations and also at the request of state and local officials.

The FBI does not need a court issued warrant to fly these surveillance planes because of rules established by the Department of Justice.

The same official says that before a plane is used, it is signed off on by various levels of DOJ.