Letter to Jill Tyson, Assistance Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Office of Congressional Affairs - Rush, Eshoo Lead House Colleagues in Demanding FBI, CBP Answer Questions About Surveillance of Protests
Dear Ms. Tyson,
Thank you for your response of July 1, 2020 to our letter of June 9, 2020, about the
troubling government surveillance of protests and the chilling effect it has on peaceful
protests. While we appreciate your response, the lack of any information in your letter is
worrying. For that reason, we write this letter including specific questions about the
recent actions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
As we stated in our letter, the First and Fourth Amendments protect protesters from
government surveillance. The reason our Constitution has such critical protections is that
government surveillance has a chilling effect on peaceful protests, and Americans should
not have to take proactive measures to protect themselves from government surveillance
before engaging in peaceful demonstration.
While your letter states it "would not be appropriate to disclose law enforcement
sensitive information about specific operations, methods, and assets," the total lack of
information in your letter ignores the important role of congressional oversight of the
Executive Branch, which is enshrined in the constitution. We believe the FBI can, and
must, share some information about recent activities without jeopardizing specific law
In order to understand the scope of potential surveillance of protesters by the FBI, we
respectfully request that you respond to the below questions by July 31, 2020:
(1) Press reports indicate that the FBI flew an RC-26B aircraft during protests in
Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, Nevada, and that the aircraft may have been
equipped with infrared sensors, electro-optical cameras, and "dirtboxes,' which
collect cell phone location data. Are these press reports accurate? If not, please
identify the inaccuracies with these press reports.
(2) Other than the reported Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, Nevada flights, did the
FBI use any aircraft -- or ask any other federal or state agency to use aircraft -- to
monitor or surveil protests since May 25th related to the murder of George Floyd,
the killings of other Black Americans by law enforcement officials, or Black
Lives Matter? If so, please also answer the following about any associated aerial
(a) For what purpose, and under what legal authority, did the FBI conduct
such aerial surveillance?
(b) How many flights for aerial surveillance over protests has the FBI initiated
since May 25th?
(c) How many law enforcement actions were investigated or initiated by the
FBI based on data collected during aerial surveillance?
(d) Has the FBI transferred any data collected through aerial surveillance to
other federal, state, local, or international agencies (including law
enforcement agencies), to private corporations, or to any other
organization? If so, please list what was shared and with which
(e) Other than the FBI, which federal, state, or local government agencies,
law enforcement or otherwise, participated in or conducted such
surveillance that the FBI is aware of?
(3) If the FBI did fly aircrafts over Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Nevada, or other
U.S. cities as described in question (2), what surveillance equipment did the
aircraft have on-board?
(a) Please identify whether or not each of following the types of equipment
was on-board the aircraft and whether each was activated during the
(i) fixed or mobile video surveillance systems.
(iii) thermal imaging devices.
(v) ground sensors.
(vi) dirtboxes, stingrays, other cell site mimicking equipment, other
radio frequency sensors, or other telecommunications interception
(vii) wide-area surveillance system.
(b) What is the maximum resolution of the camera system(s) attached to
(i) How many pixels does the imaging sensor possess?
(ii) Can any camera system discern specific vehicles or individuals,
even if it is not able to identify them on its own?
(c) Did any equipment on-board the aircraft include any equipment that has
associated software for facial recognition, other biometric identification,
or automated license plate reading? Was such software used during or
after the flight?
(4) What policies, protocols, and procedures -- including any Privacy Impact
Assessments and System of Records Notices -- does the FBI have regarding the
use of aerial surveillance? Please provide a copy of any associated documentation
for these policies, protocols, and procedures.
We would appreciate your prompt response to these highly important questions and
requests, and we thank you in advance for your cooperation.