Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 30, 2023

Spy Balloon with U.S. Military Contract Passed above Indian Country, now over Canada

Photo courtesy Aerostar of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Today, on Monday evening, HBAL653 passed over New Foundland, Canada, after traveling across Indian country and the northern border in the U.S. Screenshot by Censored News.

A South Dakota company with a U.S. military contract has a surveillance balloon that passed over Indian country and has just passed above New Foundland, Canada.

By Brenda Norrell
Copyright Censored News
August 28, 2023

A balloon with a U.S. military contract passed over Indian country, including Oklahoma, Pueblos, Navajo, Hopi, Paiute Shoshone, and Fort Peck, before passing above the U.S. Canadian border. The surveillance balloon floated above Montreal, Canada, and Maine, and then offshore of New Foundland, Canada.

The balloon, owned by Aerostar of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, received a U.S. military contract on July 28 -- bundled in a $900 million Airforce contract for new technology. Aerostar said it carries out surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance. Documents filed with the FAA state surveillance balloons are searching for "threats to Homeland Security." The ACLU earlier expressed concern over this persistent surveillance.

This surveillance and data collection means spying on innocent people without a warrant.

The spy balloons have the ability to track cars and boats, and by backtracking can track where people arrived at a site from. When the balloons have cameras and video equipment onboard, they can provide surveillance of everything on the ground, according to documents filed with the FAA.

When the balloon surveillance began over Midwest states, the ACLU of South Dakota expressed its concerns over the violation of the right of privacy.

“We do not think that American cities should be subject to wide-area surveillance in which every vehicle could be tracked wherever they go,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. 
Stanley's comments to the Guardian four years ago came after documents exposed the balloons were being used by the military over Midwest states.

At that time, documents showed the international defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. supplied the U.S. military's Southcom with surveillance from the balloons -- from remote areas of Peru and other countries.

“Even in tests, they’re still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who’s driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer’s clinic,” he said. “We should not go down the road of allowing this to be used in the United States and it’s disturbing to hear that these tests are being carried out, by the military no less.”

Raven Aerostar, the company that supplied the balloons for Southcom’s tests,  launched the balloons from its facility in South Dakota. Aerostar told the Guardian that balloons can remain aloft for nearly a month.

The balloons began with Project Loon in 2011, which was operated by a subsidiary of Google's owner, Alphabet. Project Loon was down Project 2021. The balloons had been used in an attempt to deliver internet service to remote areas, according to Project Loon.

Now, with U.S. military contracts, Aerostar and other balloon companies say the balloons are better for surveillance than drones, which fly lower, and better than satellites, which fly higher, move faster and are more expensive.

(Below) Aerostar's HBAL643 balloon is shown below above the Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation, Grand Canyon, Paiute and Shoshone lands in Nevada, as it traveled across Indian country last week.

Below: One spy balloon, HBAL649, no owner shown on registration, was centered above Nez Perce Nation, then Coeur d' Alene Nation. The second balloon, owned by Aerostar of Sioux Falls, traveled across Montana and centered above Fort Peck. From there it traveled along the northern border to Montreal, Maine and New Foundland, Canada. The second balloon traveled above Indian country, above Oklahoma, Pueblos, Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation, and Paiute Shoshone lands, before reaching Montana. (Screenshot Censored News)

Below: Aerostar's balloon, HBAL653, traveled across Indian country last week. Launched from its base near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Aerostar's balloon passed above Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. From there it traveled across the northern border.

                                      An Aerostar balloon fully inflated in the stratosphere. Courtesy photo.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. May not be used without written permission or for any commercial or revenue-producing purposes.

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