Washington, D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691
June 4, 2015

FBI Aviation Program: Purpose and Scope

The FBI routinely uses aviation assets in support of predicated investigations targeting specific individuals and, when requested and appropriate, in support of state and local law enforcement.

“It should come as no surprise that the FBI uses planes to follow terrorists, spies, and serious criminals,” said FBI Deputy Director Mark F. Giuliano. “We have an obligation to follow those people who want to hurt our country and its citizens, and we will continue to do so.”

Contrary to some recent media reporting, the FBI’s aviation program is not classified. Some of our aircraft are registered covertly because overt registration would put our aircraft and operations at risk of compromise. This covert registration is done under rigorous oversight of DOJ and in full compliance with the Attorney General Guidelines and the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide for undercover operations. The FAA is fully aware and supportive of this practice.

These aircraft are not equipped, designed, or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance, and are not routinely equipped with cell site simulators. With a court order, or under exigent circumstances such as a hostage situation, the aircraft can be fitted to include a cell site simulator. However, this is rarely utilized, and only with senior level approval. The FBI does not monitor lawfully protected first amendment activity.