NSA Listens to In-Flight Mobile Calls Placed ‘Above 10,000 Feet’

Obama on the phone (Mandel Ngan / Getty)
Mandel Ngan / Getty

Material from Edward Snowden’s files that has heretofore been withheld from the public reportedly includes news that the NSA listens to in-flight mobile calls placed “above 10,000 feet.”

According to TechCrunch, a new report from Le Monde and The Intercept touch on this previously unreported information to show that “NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ have an entire program dedicated to tracking targets in the skies.”

The report explains that the surveillance measures are being used as airlines expand allowable usage of cell phones during flight. The only thing required to eavesdrop is that the plane reach an altitude above 10,000 feet.

The report explained GCHQ’s process:

To spy on a telephone, all that was required was that the aircraft be cruising at an altitude above 10,000 feet. Secret aerial stations on the ground could intercept the signal as it transited through a satellite. The simple fact that the telephone was switched on was enough to give away its position; the interception could then be cross-referenced with the list of known passengers on the flight, the flight number, and the airline code to determine the name of the smartphone user.

TechCrunch explains that “Air France appears to be the favorite surveillance target for this particular flavor of spying, but as of 2012, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates and more than 20 other commercial airlines were of interest due to easing restrictions around in-flight GSM phone use.” An NSA document that The Intercept obtained shows “entire flights by carriers Air France and Air Mexico have been designated ‘possible terrorist targets’ for more than a decade.”

Slides that illustrate the steps of such surveillance also explain how targeted suspects are apprehended. One slide explains, “We can confirm that targets selectors are on board specific flights in near real time, enabling surveillance or arrest teams to be put in place in advance.”

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of “Bullets with AWR Hawkins,” a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com.


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