The Air Force Inspector General has launched an investigation into the use of military surveillance aircraft to monitor the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. An investigation by CNN revealed that flight path data showed that several aircraft, including National Guard RC-26 planes, conducted flyovers near the protesters in early June.
According to the New York Times, the West Virginia Air National Guard sent an RC-26B plane with full-motion video technology to monitor protesters in Washington, D.C. The advanced equipment on the aircraft allowed senior National Guard leaders to keep an eye on the protests in real-time using their cellphones.
Documents reviewed by the newspaper showed that the 188th Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard and Wisconsin Air National Guard both dispatched units to monitor the protests in Minneapolis.
The matter was brought to the attention of the Air Force after nearly three dozen members of Congress sent a letter to the heads of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and the National Guard demanding to know about the flights. They were concerned that the flights were "surveilling of Americans engaged in peaceful protests," which would be a "deep and profound" violation of Americans' First and Fourth Amendment rights.
"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," said Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the chief Air Force spokesman.
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