Kim Lyons reports:
The city of Baltimore’s spy plane program was unconstitutional, violating the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search, and law enforcement in the city cannot use any of the data it gathered, a court ruled Thursday. The Aerial Investigation Research (or AIR) program, which used airplanes and high-resolution cameras to record what was happening in a 32-square-mile part of the city, was canceled by the city in February.
Local Black activist groups, with support from the ACLU, sued to prevent Baltimore law enforcement from using any of the data it had collected in the time the program was up and running.
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The en banc 4th Circuit ruled today that Baltimore’s warrantless aerial surveillance program violates the Fourth Amendment because it “enables police to deduce from the whole of individuals’ movements[.]” The Aerial Investigation Research program was a public-private partnership with Persistent Surveillance Systems that flew several surveillance planes above Baltimore, capturing detailed video of 32 square miles of the city per second. Using the AIR pilot program, Baltimore Police were able to track individual movements throughout the city for up to 12 hours a day. The pilot program was not renewed at the end of its 6-month term last year. EPIC joined an amicus brief in the case, arguing that under Carpenter v. United States the Baltimore Police Department’s ability to track individuals with at least 45 days of flight video augmented by automated license plate reader systems constituted a search. EPIC previously filed an amicus brief in Carpenter v. United States and has long fought to limit drone surveillance and other forms of aerial spying.