Part of the Rittenhouse Airplane with Extensive Surveillance

Madison, Wisconsin (AP) —A prosecutor working to convict Kyle Rittenhouse in three shots during a protest against police atrocities in Wisconsin turns thousands of feet above the turmoil. I introduced the surveillance video taken from the FBI airplane as evidence.

Rittenhaus killed Joseph Frozenbaum and Anthony Hoover during a demonstration in Kenosha in August 2020, injuring Gaiji Grosskreutz. His trial began on Monday. Rittenhaus claims he was fired for self-defense After a man attacks him; prosecutors say he has put himself in an unstable situation, and the video from the plane shows that he chased Rosenbaum.

Let’s take a look at the government’s efforts to track people’s activities from the air.

Did the government use planes to monitor past protests?

Yes. Aerial surveillance of protests is actually very common. According to a general report by the Air Force Inspector General in August 2020, National Guard used surveillance equipment to monitor demonstrations in Washington, DC, Minnesota, Arizona, and California after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May. bottom.

The FBI uses aircraft to monitor protests after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and tracks protests after Freddie Gray died in police detention in 2015. Used in Baltimore to do.Law enforcement agencies also used aerial surveillance to monitor a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. It has become deadly. At that time, Republican Donald Trump was president.

Associated Press Survey In 2015, the FBI discovered that under the Obama administration, during the spring month of the year, it built a fleet of at least 50 surveillance aircraft flying more than 100 flights in 11 states. AP has tracked the plane to at least 13 fake companies designed to hide the identities of the aircraft and pilots.

An AP review found that the Drug Enforcement Department had at least 92 surveillance aircraft under the Obama administration as of 2011. The United States Marshals Service also runs its own aerial surveillance program.

Ashley Gorsky, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who specializes in surveillance issues, said government agencies apparently did more aerial surveillance missions during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests when Trump was president. He said he had done it.

“The results here were particularly aggressive,” she said. “The reaction seems to have been unusual and unprecedented.”

What technology does the airplane use?

Pilots use standard cameras, infrared sensors to detect body temperature, building features, basic vehicle features, and light sensors with sufficient resolution to show the movements of walkers, cyclists, etc. You can shoot a video of the scene below. Airplanes can also be equipped with technology that mimics cell phone towers, allowing government agencies to track people’s cell phones, even when they are not on the phone or in public. Much of the technology was developed for use by the Iraqi U.S. military as part of a project named Gorgon Stare, named after a mythical Greek monster that could turn a man into a stone at a glance.

Even if the video images are blurry, government agencies can use them in combination with other data to discover the identities of people.

Is this legal?

In general, yes. William McGeberen, a law professor specializing in data privacy and free speech at the University of Minnesota, said aerial surveillance of people in public places is legal and no different than a video camera mounted on a pole. .. Government agencies do not need a warrant to carry out such surveillance, he said.

However, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that widespread long-term personal surveillance is illegal. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said that the Baltimore police station’s six-month aerial surveillance program was unconstitutional because the wide-angle camera on the plane kept virtually all city dwellers under surveillance 12 hours a day. Arbitrated in the month. The ruling was issued after a black activist sued the city.

Government agencies can also impose restrictions on their own programs. The Air Force reports that the National Guard has never obtained the necessary permits from the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the Army to initiate aerial surveillance of Floyd’s protests. A spokesman for the FBI’s Milwaukee field office in Kenosha did not immediately respond to the request for comment. The FBI’s national press also did not reply to the email.

What is the problem if aerial surveillance is legal?

Such surveillance helps police respond to violent demonstrations in real time, identify and arrest malicious individuals after the fact, and protect public safety.

However, civil rights advocates have seen such surveillance force government agencies to track every movement of people, fearing people leaving their homes, and dating others for political functions. I am afraid that it will lead to a constitutional violation of freedom of speech and guarantee of association. The presence of government aircraft alone can threaten ground aircraft. In Floyd’s protests in Washington last summer, two military helicopters made a noise and blew up the protesters with a high-speed wind from the rotor.

And the very existence of the program can undermine confidence in the government, especially among black leaders. For example, one black plaintiff in the Baltimore case argued that she would visit the murder scene on a daily basis and that surveillance programs would force police to collect certain information about her.

What is the impact of aerial video on Rittenhouse?

It’s too early to say. Prosecutors claim that the video shows that Rittenhaus chased Rosenbaum, Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse, and gnawed Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims before the situation reversed. Some infrared video prosecutors (taken from 8,500 feet) performed in court on Tuesday showed dozens of small, blurry, obscure images of people standing and moving along streets and sidewalks. rice field. Investigators could use the video in combination with other information to place certain people there, but no one seemed to recognize it due to facial features.

The person who shot the FBI video is expected to return later in the trial, suggesting that the jury will see more of it.


Kenosha’s Associated Press reporter Michael Term and Washington’s Gary Fields contributed to this report.