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CBP flew a Predator B drone over Minneapolis amid protests: report

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  • A Customs and Border Protection Predator B drone reportedly flew over Minneapolis Friday amid intense protests following the death of George Floyd.
  • The drone with call sign CBP104 was spotted circling the city by Jason Paladino, an investigative reporter at The Project on Government Oversight who tracked the drone using open-source flight data.
  • The exact mission of the drone remains unclear, and CBP has yet to clarify despite repeated requests for comment.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reportedly flew a military drone over Minneapolis amid continued protests in a city rocked by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for an extended period of time.

Jason Paladino, an investigative reporter at The Project on Government Oversight, tweeted Friday that CBP unmanned aerial vehicle #CBP104 out of Grand Forks Air Force Base is “circling over Minneapolis” at 20,000 feet.

The drone overflight was detected on using a flight tracking tool by the ADB-S Exchange, a group that monitors open-source flight data, Vice reported Friday. Vice verified the flight path for CBP104, confirming that the aircraft made several flights around Minneapolis along a hexagonal flight path.

CBP did not respond to Insider’s repeated requests for comment on the drones activities.

The drone with call sign CBP104 is an older Predator B belonging to Customs and Border Protection, which uses these assets for surveillance. The Predator Bs are manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

The drones in CBP’s inventory are all unarmed surveillance assets that can monitor an area for hours on end, providing quality imagery of an area.

CBP104’s reported activities Friday, the specific details of which are still unclear, have already drawn criticism from civil liberties advocates.

“CBP has no role in what’s happening in Minneapolis at all,” argued ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani in an emailed statement.

“This rogue agency’s use of military technology to surveil protesters inside US borders is deeply disturbing, especially given CBP’s lack of clear and strong policies to protect privacy and constitutional rights,” Guliani said. “This agency’s use of drones over the city should be halted immediately.”

George Floyd was killed on May 25 when Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for roughly eight minutes as Floyd was being arrested after allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill.

Four officers were fired and Chauvin has since been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

The charges against Chauvin come after days of protests against police brutality in Minneapolis and in some other parts of the country. In Minneapolis, the violence and destruction have been substantial.

CBP’s drone flight Friday, which lasted from around 10 am to 1:15 pm, was likely related to the ongoing protests, which have drawn national attention, including that of the president, but its specific mission remains unconfirmed.

If the drone spotted over Minneapolis Friday was monitoring the protests, it would not be the first time aerial surveillance technology has been used to do so.

In 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the FBI used manned aircraft to carry out surveillance activities over Baltimore amid the ensuing protests.

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