FBI Spy Planes: Secrets Revealed?

Reading the Hunt for Jack Reacher thrillers can send us down a slippery slope of curiosity. As we follow Otto and Gaspar’s efforts to track Jack Reacher, we become aware of how much power they could have as FBI Special Agents. And how much access to data they could have as FBI insiders – if only they weren’t restricted by The Boss.


“We’re the FBI. The most sophisticated and best equipped and most comprehensive agency in the world.”
– Kim Otto, Don’t Know Jack

Otto knows. Gaspar, too. We especially want to know about FBI spy planes. What kind of gadgets and super-advanced technology is flying high in our skies?


Otto will never tell. And so far, FBI spokespeople haven’t either. What we do know is that the FBI has a fleet of spy planes that it uses to watch us in the United States. How do we know? Because the Associated Press told us so this month.

But the info about FBI spy planes pretty much stops there.

So maybe the FBI won’t tell us about their spy planes. But New York will. Sort of.

You see, New York City’s Police Department typically paves the way when it comes to U.S. security technology, which gives us at least a strong hint at what the FBI is working with. The NYPD has a spy copter, and we know some details about it because media got a tour of it in 2003.

NYPD Helicopter


The NYPD spy copter is used in regular crime-fighting and search-and-rescue scenarios around the city, as well as “anti-terrorism efforts.” So what does it feature?

  • It can capture clear images of people’s faces from a thousand feet away. A thousand feet. That’s pretty far. Squint and look toward the end of this road.
    1000 Feet(Photo Credit: PrisonPolicy.org)
    The man holding the sign is in the picture on the left is also in the picture on the right. The road ends at 900 feet. We can’t even see him. So imagine a camera that would let you see the details of his FACE from that distance.
  • The NYPD chopper also features… infrared night vision
  • The ability to use satellite technology to zoom in on any given address
  • Monitors in the chopper that can show images a mile and a half away
  • The ability to monitor targeted GPS trackers placed (secretly, or otherwise) on other vehicles

And all of this is what the plane featured in 2003. Imagine what the newest technology can do….

There’s word now that FBI spy planes have stingrays on them, which pick up signals from nearby mobile devices. Stingrays can not only track those mobile devices, but they can also find personal information about the mobile device’s owner. And more.

Impressive? From a technology standpoint, I certainly think so. Do you? Of course, all of this is not without controversy. Some people want to know what, exactly, the spy planes are being used for and when they become an unacceptable invasion of privacy. As you ponder the question, keep this in mind: A surveillance chopper with thermal imaging technology found the accused Boston Marathon bomber in 2013. Maybe authorities would have found him anyway — eventually. And maybe not.

Boston Bombing- Thermal Imaging

Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sums up his stance this way:
“It’s important that federal law enforcement personnel have the tools they need to find and catch criminals. But whenever an operation may also monitor the activities of Americans who are not the intended target, we must make darn sure that safeguards are in place to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans.”

To read more on the recently released details about spy planes, you can read the full article from the Associated Press HERE.

Meanwhile —

Caffeinate and Carry On!

Diane Capri

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One Response to FBI Spy Planes: Secrets Revealed?

  1. Dianna Slowey-Thomas June 16, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    while I understand the controversy,I can passionately argue both sides. Unfortunately in our world today there are American terrorist, and if the government fails to keep us safe all hell breaks loose. Yet, people understandably want their privacy. But it is such a fine line that it’s almost impossible to do both. If you’re a law abiding citizen then to me you have nothing to worry about. The problem arises because ultimately the human factor comes into play and that is an anomaly that we cannot ignore. NSA wasn’t spying on all Americans, a few people who had some control were abusing the system spying on ex’s and what not. The algorithm set to catch bad guys before they have a chance to do bad look for words, and picks up millions a day. Most are discarded without ever knowing who the speakers were. People must choose; safety or a possible compromise in privacy. There really can’t be both.

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