Franken raises questions about FBI surveillance planes

U.S. Sen. Al Franken has pressed for answers to a series of questions about FBI surveillance planes flying over Minneapolis and other cities across the country in a letter sent Wednesday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey.

“Many Americans have been troubled by these reports, and as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, I believe it is important to ensure that these programs adequately protect Americans’ privacy while furthering public safety and national security,” Franken wrote in the letter.

Franken cited an Associated Press report indicating that the FBI had aircraft flying above 30 cities in 11 states during a 30-day period. The report comes as small fixed-wing airplanes have been spotted flying over downtown Minneapolis, the Mall of America and Southdale.

Franken previously raised concerns about the Department of Justice’s collection of Americans’ cell phone data from aircraft in a letter sent to former Attorney General Eric Holder in November 2014.

The senator posed 10 questions to Lynch and Comey about the policies regarding the surveillance planes, including what kind of technologies are used and what safeguards are in place to protect privacy and First Amendment rights, among other things. 

(Franken’s letter is linked below.)