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Army Spy Plane May Have Snooped on Bomber: Report

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Investigators were able to track wannabe terrorist Faisal Shahzad through his anonymous, pre-paid cell phone--exactly how, they won’t say. But there was a tantalizing explanation posted--and then quickly yanked--from the website of WCBS TV. “In the end, it was secret Army intelligence planes that did him in. Armed with his cell phone number, they circled the skies over the New York area, intercepting a call to Emirates Airlines reservations, before scrambling to catch him at John F. Kennedy International Airport.”

Jeremy Scahill, relying on a source in U.S. Special Operations, says those planes were likely RC-12s, equipped with a Guardrail Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) system. The planes are designed to pluck all kinds of communications from the air. But from the ground, they could easily be mistaken for an executive aircraft. The RC-12 is based on the Hawker-Beechcraft King Air B200 suit-carrier. And while earlier versions of the aircraft were covered in odd-looking antennas, the latest aircraft are far less conspicuous.

Variants of the planes are at the center of “Project Liberty,” a crash project by the Air Force to send more airborne spies to Afghanistan. The first of an estimated 37 aircraft began flying there last December.

From Wired
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