FBI spy planes over Dearborn raise Muslim profiling concerns

There's word that FBI spy planes have been circling over local neighborhoods.

Some complain that Dearborn has become a target because of the large number of Muslims and Arab-Americans that live there.

Cessnas are used by the FBI for flying surveillance, while radar of the flight patterns has been tracked on the radar circling Dearborn. 

Last weekend the planes spent more than two hours over the suburb.

Dawud Walid  with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said he recently learned of the FBI spy planes and believes he needs to fight this policy. 

"It strongly leads us to believe that the FBI was not looking for a specific person or persons," he said. "But was involved in a type of surveillance or mapping of this particular area of the community and it's troubling.

"Our office today contacted the office of Congressman John Conyers and House Judiciary Minority side and asked them to launch an inquiry with the FBI in terms of their using of spy planes over the Dearborn-Melvindale area which has a high concentration of Muslims and Mosques."

When you study the FBI surveillance flight patterns you see the spy plane has been over many Michigan cities. 

"Every major law enforcement agency in the country has an aviation unit," said Andy Arena, retired FBI Detroit office director. "They are mostly used for surveillance of ground targets. I am sure that is nothing new."

Arena, currently the head of the Detroit Crime Commission, says in his experience surveillance must follow legal guidelines.

"If the FBI or any other agency trying to collect some type of telephone data or whatever," he said. "They have to have a valid court order. They can't go up in the air and start collecting on private citizens."

Walid believes spy planes are profiling.

"Do we want the FBI to follow actual criminal leads, absolutely," he said. "But do we want them in racial profiling - no. It infringes on privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens and it doesn't work. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"The FBI could be using its money much more wisely than mapping Muslims."

The FBI explained to Congress in 2010 they had 115 spy planes in the air.

"They aren't out there on a fishing expedition," Arena said. "They are looking at a particular person or place."

FOX 2 spoke with the FBI on its policy. A spokesperson said that they are not conducting mass surveillance and not targeting specific communities. They add that the FBI surveillance has "vigorous oversight by the Department of Justice."

The spokesperson said there is no credible threat at this time.