AP Exclusive: Ferguson no-fly zone was deliberate effort to obstruct media coverage of protests

New Yorker Magazine Cover, by Eric Drooker (9-1-14 Edition)

attribution: New Yorker Magazine Cover Art by Eric Drooker (9-1-14 Edition)

AP Exclusive: Ferguson no-fly zone aimed at media

Associated Press
Nov.  2, 2014 10:04 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government agreed to a police request to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, for 12 days in August for safety, but audio recordings show that local authorities privately acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests.

On Aug. 12, the morning after the Federal Aviation Administration imposed the first flight restriction, FAA air traffic managers struggled to redefine the flight ban to let commercial flights operate at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and police helicopters fly through the area — but ban others.

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“They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. “But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.

At another point, a manager at the FAA’s Kansas City center said police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”…

Here’s an excerpt from New York Magazine’s analysis of this story…

FAA Officials Agreed to Help Police Prevent Media From Filming Ferguson Protests

Caroline Bankoff
New York Magazine
November 2, 2014   4:15PM

In the early days of this summer’s protests over the death of Michael Brown, the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to enforce a 37-square-mile no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri. This was done at the request of the St. Louis Police Department, which claimed that shots had been fired at one of its helicopters. (That claim was never substantiated.) Of course, the supposed safety ban on flights in the area had the side effect of preventing news helicopters from filming the clashes between cops and demonstrators from above. Now, an Associated Press report seems to show that the no-fly zone’s true purpose was to keep the press away, and local FAA officials knew it…

…The FAA enforced the no-fly zone until August 22. According to the AP, a St. Louis police captain tried to get it extended just before Brown’s funeral and the day Darren Wilson was identified as the officer who shot the teenager because those events were expected to “bring out the emotions.”

The AP’s report on the no-fly zone is hardly the first time that the police have been accused of violating the First Amendment rights of reporters trying to cover the events in Ferguson, but the apparent participation of the federal officials at the FAA makes this one especially troubling.

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Here’s a link to The Guardian’s delivery of the AP story, which also includes access to the full transcript of the FAA recordings. (h/t Kossack greenbird, in the comments.)

Ferguson police asked for no-fly restrictions to keep news helicopters away

Audio recordings released under Foia raise serious questions about whether police violated constitutional rights of journalists covering civil unrest in the wake of Michael Brown shooting

•    Read the full transcripts of FAA recordings

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From Kossack Publius 2008, there was this post, earlier on Sunday: “FGOTV, Tell Me What Your Govt Stands For.” (Some pretty shameless community commenting in this post, IMHO.)

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And, a few of my comment links from August, HERE

The fact is, the heavy-handed p.r……consciousness (and authoritarianism) of the locals was self-evident/telegraphed from almost the very outset of this travesty, when local law enforcement succeeded in getting an FAA ban on low-altitude flights over Ferguson.

And, it continues.

What “plays” in Peoria Ferguson doesn’t play too well on the national and international stage.

by bobswern on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 01:50:13 PM EDT


The moment the FAA started banning low……altitude flights over Ferguson, I realized the Feds were involved in this suppression effort–on a local basis–up to their necks!

by bobswern on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 01:05:05 PM EDT

Also: HERE and HERE.
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As I noted in a post here on August 14th

…let’s bring these new facts about foreign surveillance (on behalf of our government’s domestic surveillance efforts) back home as we start to close out this post, and focus upon some recent news stories that have gone mostly unnoticed in this community over the past few days.

As we already know, on the homefront it’s at our nation’s 78 Fusion Centers where the NSA works in conjunction with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and 15 other international and domestic U.S. intelligence and federal law enforcement organizations. These Fusion Centers also work directly with local law enforcement groups throughout the land. I’ve covered this story countless times in previous posts in this community, perhaps most extensively in a post here in March of this year: NYT (Breaking) Snowden Docs: “Raw Take,” Rampant Sharing of Domestic, “Unminimized” Wiretap Content.

In that diary, it was widely noted how the NSA, DHS and other federally-sponsored groups spend a considerable amount of time helping U.S. law enforcement with domestic surveillance of Americans, with regard to “ordinary crimes.” In fact, this massive, state surveillance infrastructure covers the full spectrum of “crimefighting”: from Occupy Wall Street protestors, to environmental activists, to even assisting the Ferguson, Missouri police department as they destroy maintain “the peace” in their small city, this week. AsTime Magazine has just noted it, in the name of “public safety,” even the FAA may have provided propaganda cover…

FAA Implements No-Fly Zone in Ferguson Amid Unrest Over Killed Teen

Denver Nicks
Time Magazine
August 12, 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri, Tuesday at the request of the St. Louis County Police Department.

The St. Louis County Police Department told TIME it asked the FAA for the flight restriction after a police helicopter was fired upon “multiple times” during civil unrest Sunday. Ferguson, located just outside St. Louis, Missouri, erupted in street violence amid demonstrations sparked by the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot and killed by police on Saturday.

The FAA order restricts flights over the Ferguson area below 3,000 feet to first responders only, including medical and police helicopters. Private aircraft, including news helicopters, are prohibited from flying below 3,000 feet in a 3-mile radius around the town. The rule doesn’t apply to aircraft landing at or taking off from the nearby Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, a major commercial hub. The restriction is in place through August 18.

The order says the flight restrictions were put in place “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities.” The FAA would not elaborate further on the reason for the St. Louis County Police Department’s request. “If you want it, file a FOIA,” FAA Spokesperson Elizabeth Cory told TIME, in reference to a Freedom of Information Act request.

It’s not unusual for local police departments to request flight restrictions over potentially dangerous zones, and it’s typically done to clear airspace for police helicopter operations. The Ferguson restriction, however, may make it more difficult for news media to get aerial footage of the town as the Brown story continues to develop…

I’ll let the Electronic Frontier Foundation explain other reasons why DHS-sponsored Fusion Centers “matter,” especially when it comes to our government maintaining “control”…

Why Fusion Centers Matter: FAQ

By Nadia Kayyali
Electronic Frontier Foundation
April 7, 2014

While NSA surveillance has been front and center in the news recently, fusion centers are a part of the surveillance state that deserve close scrutiny.

Fusion centers are a local arm of the so-called “intelligence community,” the 17 intelligence agencies coordinated by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The government documentation around fusion centers is entirely focused on breaking down barriers between the various government agencies that collect and maintain criminal intelligence information.

Barriers between local law enforcement and the NSA are already weak. We know that the Drug Enforcement Agency gets intelligence tips from the NSA which are used in criminal investigations and prosecutions. To make matters worse, the source of these tips is camouflaged using “parallel construction,” meaning that a different source for the intelligence is created to mask its classified source.

This story demonstrates what we called “one of the biggest dangers of the surveillance state: the unquenchable thirst for access to the NSA’s trove of information by other law enforcement agencies.” This is particularly concerning when NSA information is used domestically. Fusion centers are no different.

In fact, in early 2012, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FISC] approved the sharing of raw NSA data with the NCTC. The intelligence community overseen by the NCTC includes the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, the main federal fusion center partners. Thus, fusion centers—and even local law enforcement—could potentially be receiving unminimized NSA data. This runs counter to the distant image many people have of the NSA, and it’s why focusing on fusion centers as part of the recently invigorated conversation around surveillance is important…

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Of course, as we were also reminded over these past couple of days, another way our government maintains “control” is via taxpayer-funded propaganda…

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One comment

  1. agent provocateur · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Nevada State Personnel Watch.


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