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Mysterious plane circling Twin Cities raises concerns over surveillance

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The unusual pattern of a plane that has been seen circling above the Twin Cities has raised concerns that it is being used for government surveillance.

KSTP reports that flight patterns for a Cessna 182T Skylane, call sign N361DB, show it circling above various locations in and around the metro area, prompting a response from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which believes the plane is equipped with surveillance gear.

The FBI has refused to comment on whether it is using the plane as part of an investigation, but ACLU-MN legislative director told KSTP that its surveillance planes have the ability to "capture activity in an entire city in just a few swoops, including cell phone data and license plate readers."

The aircraft's history on FlightRadar24 shows it has circled above the west metro area on several occasions over the past 10 days – including over Minneapolis, Bloomington, Brooklyn Park and Burnsville.

MPR reports as well that last Friday the plane circled downtown and Powderhorn Park during rush hour in a route "so precise that it suggests the plane may have been on autopilot."

According to FlightAware, the plane is one of three Cessnas registered to a corporation named LCB Leasing based out of Bristow, Virginia.

The Star Tribune spoke to local aviation expert John Zimmerman, who found a report from the Washington Post stating that a plane registered to another company based in Bristow had been used by the FBI to circle Baltimore hours after the recent riots.

Similar flights have been seen above Chicago, Boston and in California.

The Star Tribune reports that police departments in Minneapolis, Bloomington and Hennepin County had no knowledge of the flight, while the FBI did not comment on who owned the plane and said it couldn't speak to "an operational matter." It has though previously acknowledged using planes above Baltimore.

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