The Federal Bureau of Investigation is selling a plane it used to fly cameras over Black Lives Matter protests.
The X-15 Electromagnetic Aircraft is not considered to be combat aircraft, but rather used by the FBI to collect sensor data.
In October 2017, after a nationwide protest of police violence in response to the death of a white officer killed an unarmed black man named Philando Castile in Minnesota, the FBI began using its drone “to locate and document known demonstrations” at those demonstrations.
Soon after that, the FBI began soliciting bids on its website from businesses to sell it the “commercial X-15 aircraft” which one bidder is offering to lease to the FBI for $1,000 a month for two years, with security and handling fees being added on top.
The drone, which is “apparently functioning”, was built in the 1970s and had a range of 3,700 miles.
Activists were quick to express their surprise on social media that the FBI was using the recently-outfitted plane to conduct surveillance over protests, calling the FBI’s actions “obscene”.
At the end of October the FBI sent a letter to Philando Castile’s parents explaining that it acquired the plane “to protect ourselves and local law enforcement from violent protests by anarchists or persons intent on violence and unlawful activity.”
With the FBI owning the aircraft, the responsibility of keeping the images held by the unmanned drones out of the hands of private companies, an FBI representative said, was now “left to the FAA,” the United States’ public aviation authority.