The Air Force inspector general is investigating whether the military used a surveillance plane to track Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington DC and Minneapolis earlier this month, according to The New York Times.
The probe was launched after lawmakers expressed concerns the Defense Department officials that the use of a military aircraft may have violated protesters’ civil rights.
“Following discussions with the secretary of defense about shared concerns, the secretary of the Air Force is conducting an investigation into the use of Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft to support civil authorities during recent protest activity in U.S. cities,” said Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder.
Pentagon denied spying on protesters:
The investigation comes days after Joseph Kernan, the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence and security, told Congress that military intelligence agencies did not monitor protesters.
He told the House Intelligence Committee in a letter that he had received no orders to do so from the Trump administration.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has separately launched an investigation into the use of a helicopter that was used to try to disperse protesters in DC and a review of the National Guard’s response in the city.
Messages undercut claims:
Hours after National Guard helicopters buzzed the crowd on June 2, National Guard officials told their superiors that an RC-26B surveillance aircraft had been sent to monitor the protest, according to messages obtained by The Times.
“According to one military official familiar with the situation, senior National Guard leaders in Washington could watch the footage recorded from the aircraft on their cellphones in real time,” the outlet reported.
The document shows that National Guard units from Pennsylvania were dispatched to monitor protests in DC and Wisconsin and Arkansas units were dispatched to Minneapolis.