Despite the weekend expiry of several provisions of the Patriot Act, the FBI illegally kept its surveillance plane scheme going unchecked, and without any attempts to get a judge’s approval for the program.
The low-flying spy planes comb densely populated parts of the United States, pretending to be cellphone towers in an effort to trick Americans’ cellphones into giving them private data by the thousands, and collecting that data en masse.
The program was in a serious legal grey area in the first place, resting on provisions allowing wholesale surveillance to try to root out “lone wolf” terrorists. Even when those provisions were off the books, however, the FBI kept the flights going, more illegally than ever.
The Senate had been looking into the matter before, complaining that wholesale targeting of Americans’ private data wasn’t okay just because the spy planes were in public airspace, and that effort will hopefully grow with the FBI thumbing its nose at any pretense of oversight.