June 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force inspector general is investigating whether the military used reconnaissance aircraft to monitor recent protests in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd.
An Air Force spokesman said late Thursday the inspector general's office is running the inquiry and is looking to determine if Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft supported civil authorities during recent demonstrations.
Joseph Kernan, under secretary of defense for intelligence and security, said in a letter to the House intelligence committee he'd received no orders from the Trump administration to use spy planes against mostly peaceful protesters.
A group of lawmakers -- including Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Bobby Rush, D-Ill. -- demanded in a letter earlier this month that any such surveillance be stopped.
The letter indicated that there had been reports of surveillance by multiple federal agencies at events protesting Floyd's death and police brutality against African Americans.
"We write to you to express our deep and profound concerns that the surveillance tactics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Guard Bureau, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Customs and Border Protection during the recent protests across the U.S. are significantly chilling the First Amendment rights of Americans," they wrote. "We demand that you cease any and all surveilling of Americans engaged in peaceful protests."
Public flight data show a twin-engine RC-26B often used by the FBI and National Guard performed about 50 circles above Washington, D.C., for nearly four hours during demonstrations on June 2. A similar plane flew over Las Vegas around the same time.
Protesters demand justice in police killing of George Floyd
Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo