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Customs and Border Protection Responds to Outrage About ‘Predator Drone’ Flying Over Minneapolis

Law & Crime logo Law & Crime 5/30/2020 Aaron Keller
a plane in the air: SIERRA VISTA, AZ - MARCH 07: A Predator drone operated by U.S. Office of Air and Marine (OAM), taxis towards the tarmac for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The OAM, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, flies the unmanned - and unarmed - MQ-9 Predator B aircraft an average of 12 hours per day at around 19,000 feet. The drones, piloted from the ground, search for drug smugglers and immigrants crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States. © Provided by Law & Crime SIERRA VISTA, AZ - MARCH 07: A Predator drone operated by U.S. Office of Air and Marine (OAM), taxis towards the tarmac for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The OAM, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, flies the unmanned - and unarmed - MQ-9 Predator B aircraft an average of 12 hours per day at around 19,000 feet. The drones, piloted from the ground, search for drug smugglers and immigrants crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States.

Hours after President Donald Trump tweeted that federal intervention may be necessary if riots in Minneapolis, Minnesota continued, outrage over a “predator drone” sighting swelled. Some noted that a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) drone took off on Friday morning, reportedly from the Grand Forks, N.D. area, and flew over Minneapolis before apparently returning to its base.

The information was not well received by many watching closely about the government’s response to demonstrations over the alleged murder of George Floyd.

In a Friday evening statement to Law&Crime, a CBP spokesperson claimed the “unmanned aircraft system” did nothing more than provide another set of eyes in the sky:

“Earlier today a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations unmanned aircraft system was preparing to provide live video to aid in situational awareness at the request of our federal law enforcement partners in Minneapolis. The unmanned aircraft system provides live video feed to ground law enforcement, giving them situational awareness, maximizing public safety, while minimizing the threat to personnel and assets.

After arriving into the Minneapolis airspace, the requesting agency determined that the aircraft was no longer needed for operational awareness and departed back to Grand Forks.

CBP AMO routinely conducts operations with other federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to assist law enforcement and humanitarian relief efforts.

AMO carries out its mission nationwide, not just at the border, consistent with federal laws and policies. During humanitarian missions AMO regularly deploys the unmanned aircraft system to assist FEMA in assessing hurricane affected areas, in coordination with the National Weather Service to capture imagery of storm impacted areas, and with federal, state and local partners to conduct search and rescue missions, in addition to its law enforcement mission.”

[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.]

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