Somebody’s watching you.
In Baltimore last year, after people poured into the streets to protest the death of Freddie Gray in the custody of police, it was the FBI watching - from above.
Aviation fans and journalists who noticed unusual flights over the city during the unrest asked federal officials about it. After the protests ended the FBI admitted to using aircraft for surveillance, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The Sun and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act to see the videos. For years the ACLU and other privacy organizations have raised questions about government surveillance of protests and what that could mean for protesters, the Sun reports.
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At the time of the protests FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson told the newspaper that aircraft were being used to provide information about potential criminal activity to police officers on the ground.
“The FBI aircraft were not there to monitor lawfully protected First Amendment activity,” she said.
This week the FBI released what it called the “complete collection” of surveillance footage from several nights of the protests. Hours of raw video are available at the FBI’s website. Click here to see them.
The videos appear to have been shot from traditional piloted aircraft. According to Gizmodo, it became public five months after the unrest that FBI planes using night vision and registered under fake business names had flown over the protests. This is the first time footage from those planes has been released.
What appear to be drones can be seen in many of the shots. But, as Gizmodo points out, it’s not known if the drones were flown by police, protesters, curious onlookers - or all of the above.
The videos, dated from April 29, 2015 to May 3, 2015, switch from infrared to traditional camera mode and occasionally zoom in, though it doesn’t appear than specific faces can be seen, Gizmodo reports.
The FBI late last month told the Sun that while 22 DVDs of the footage would be available for several hundred dollars in response to its FOIA request, the bureau also decided to make the footage public online, the newspaper reported.