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FBI Informational request

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Old 10-04-2004, 06:01 PM
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50+AirYears
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Default FBI Informational request

At our club meeting yesterday, our club prez reported that he had been approached by someone from the local FBI office for information about RC flying, including questions apparently about range and size. He spent something over a half hour with the agent.
This seems like it might be tied in with requests some hobby shops were getting last year for info on their customers, and the problems model rocketry had with attempts to close it down.
Has anybody else had any requests like this, or heard of anything else?
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Old 10-04-2004, 06:34 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

There is an item on the AMA site addressing these inquiries. The AMA has just changed web hosting services and the link is currently broken. IIRC, the gist of the advisory was to be helpful, but, to engage your brain before you engage your mouth. There have been several reports of such inquiries on this forum and in the Clubhouse http://www.rcuniverse.com/forum/Got_...2137401/tm.htm

If the link is restored on the AMA site, it is here: http://www.modelaircraft.org/secadvise.asp
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Old 10-04-2004, 10:26 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Hi 50 +, I've been approached in a similar manner. I was amazed at how little he knew about our capabilities. What I didn't question at the time was how or why he was seeking me out? It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that "the man" wants to know more about what is going on here. What IS SURPRISING is that "he" doesn't already know all there is to know!
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Old 10-05-2004, 07:05 AM
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Matt Kirsch
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

I was approached by the NYS Police "counterterrorism unit" earlier this year.

The correct course of action to take in such a situation is to direct the person asking the questions to Jay Mealy at AMA headquarters. He is prepared to answer the questions that they inevitably ask, like "How big?" "How high? "How far?" People's general tendency to boast, rather than provide logical answers, could cause some eyebrows to be raised in the wrong places, and our hobby to be considered a "threat to national security."
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Old 10-05-2004, 07:09 AM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Combatpigg
What IS SURPRISING is that "he" doesn't already know all there is to know!
Sometimes they know the correct answers, they may just be looking for different ones.

Ed M.
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Old 10-05-2004, 11:48 AM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

ORIGINAL: Matt Kirsch

I was approached by the NYS Police "counterterrorism unit" earlier this year.

The correct course of action to take in such a situation is to direct the person asking the questions to Jay Mealy at AMA headquarters. He is prepared to answer the questions that they inevitably ask, like "How big?" "How high? "How far?" People's general tendency to boast, rather than provide logical answers, could cause some eyebrows to be raised in the wrong places, and our hobby to be considered a "threat to national security."
Hi Matt

The AMA has, somewhat, modified it's suggested response. The link to the Security Advisory of 8/31/04 is now functional at http://www.modelaircraft.org/secadvise.asp .


combatpigg

If you want to know something you ask questions. If you want to know the answer to 2 questions, you ask 10, the answers to 8 of whcih you already know. This allows you to determine the credibility of the respondent.
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Old 10-05-2004, 12:45 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

ORIGINAL: Matt Kirsch

I was approached by the NYS Police "counterterrorism unit" earlier this year.

The correct course of action to take in such a situation is to direct the person asking the questions to Jay Mealy at AMA headquarters. He is prepared to answer the questions that they inevitably ask, like "How big?" "How high? "How far?" People's general tendency to boast, rather than provide logical answers, could cause some eyebrows to be raised in the wrong places, and our hobby to be considered a "threat to national security."
Matt-

I would think that would be exactly one-eight-zero from the correct course of action. Evading the questions by deferring to somebody with a canned, sugar-coated response is much more likely to raise eyebrows than direct answers are. "I'm taking the 5th - talk to my lawyer." Wrong answer.

Abel
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Old 10-05-2004, 01:18 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Are you sure he was an FBI agent?

Ed S
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Old 10-05-2004, 01:33 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

ORIGINAL: Ed Smith

Are you sure he was an FBI agent?

Ed S
Good Question
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Old 10-05-2004, 01:38 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Our Prez said his return phone number when he called for an appointment matched the local office number, and he presented correct ID when he showed up.
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Old 10-05-2004, 02:13 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

I can see it coming...a national license to own and/or operate an RC airplane or helicopter.
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Old 10-05-2004, 02:28 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

We have it now almost. It's called an AMA Card.
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Old 10-05-2004, 07:23 PM
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Matt Kirsch
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

ORIGINAL: abel_pranger

I would think that would be exactly one-eight-zero from the correct course of action. Evading the questions by deferring to somebody with a canned, sugar-coated response is much more likely to raise eyebrows than direct answers are. "I'm taking the 5th - talk to my lawyer." Wrong answer.
Would you rather plead the 5th or incriminate yourself? After the typical person, myself included, gets finished answering those questions, we've practically confessed to flying 20' wingspan, 100+lb airplanes capable of flying well over two miles carrying dozens of pounds of explosives or biological agents.

Of course, you can handle the situation like a human being, not an accused criminal.
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Old 10-05-2004, 07:56 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

ORIGINAL: Matt Kirsch

ORIGINAL: abel_pranger

I would think that would be exactly one-eight-zero from the correct course of action. Evading the questions by deferring to somebody with a canned, sugar-coated response is much more likely to raise eyebrows than direct answers are. "I'm taking the 5th - talk to my lawyer." Wrong answer.
Would you rather plead the 5th or incriminate yourself? After the typical person, myself included, gets finished answering those questions, we've practically confessed to flying 20' wingspan, 100+lb airplanes capable of flying well over two miles carrying dozens of pounds of explosives or biological agents.

Of course, you can handle the situation like a human being, not an accused criminal.
That's really the point, Matt.......I'm presuming one would handle it like a reasonably intelligent human being, which fits nearly all modelers I know. I don't know why one would be dodgey about such inquiries. I think most of us have considered the viability of using a model airplane as a weapon, since Dave Brown made an issue of it and got his paranoia jammed into the AMA SC. Have you thought of any or do you know of any potentially workable schemes for doing this; workable in the sense of having a real potential for creating widespread fear among the populace, killing a high profile public figure, causing economic upheaval, etc? Maybe I'm lacking in imagination, but having been a both a developer cog in the military/industrial machine and a modeler for over four decades, I can't. Not saying it can't be done, but given the many other, proven, simple ways to create mahem, why?

Abel
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Old 10-05-2004, 09:45 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

ORIGINAL: abel_pranger
.....snip...... Have you thought of any or do you know of any potentially workable schemes for doing this; workable in the sense of having a real potential for creating widespread fear among the populace, killing a high profile public figure, causing economic upheaval, etc? Maybe I'm lacking in imagination, but having been a both a developer cog in the military/industrial machine and a modeler for over four decades, I can't. Not saying it can't be done, but given the many other, proven, simple ways to create mahem, why?

Abel
That's a spot-on observation, Abel. Although not directly IN the "machine" I do work closely with it (on the CBW/WMD defense side)and in my, and many other's, opinion there is just not enough bang for the buck with hobby R/C aircraft. Not enough payload and it just won't yield maximum impact with minimum manpower. While thought of or perhaps feared as a poor-man's cruise missle I believe that many in the counter-terrorism biz are beginning to realize that this is not the case.

Larger and easily obtainable weapons abound such as gasoline tankers, propane delivery trucks and any number of easily hijacked vehicles transporting flammable and explosive materials. It only takes one wired martyr to set off BIG fireworks. Of even more concern are Belsan copycats and similar operations. The fact that we have not had a suicide-bomber detonate in a crowded shopping mall or any of a number of terrorist exploits strengthens my hope and belief that those charged with protecting our homeland safety are, for now, up to the task.

Q
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Old 10-07-2004, 01:34 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Per the original post....... I was the person interviewed here near Cleveland.

I posted a description of those events in here about a month ago. I forget off hand what thread it was in.

Yes, the FBI agent clearly identified himself. He initially came to my home. I was at work. He contacted me, and we arranged a meeting at a local FBI field office. The gentleman was very polite, and I believe I contributed a great deal to his understanding of our sport., and I left knowing he had a good grasp of the on the local, national, and international nature of r/c aviation. At the conclusion of our interview, I suggested that the agent contact the AMA offices for additional information on our national organization, and their current activities with respect to our discussions.

The proper way to handle any interview like this is polite, courteous answers. Consider yourself an ambasador to your sport, your local club, and the hobby in general. There is no need to be deceptive or quiet or in any way condisending.... there is no value in that what so ever. Also, do not JUST blow them off and have them call the AMA offices. They are looking for local info, and they are using the social/buddy/club/community aspect our sport is well know for to gather those seeds of information.

If you do not feel comfortable with an interview and questions.... that is ok too. Tell the agent that, and perhaps suggest another person/club member who may be better suited for the activity.

As I noted in that other thread, it gives me quite a bit of comfort to know that the FBI is taking the approach of asking, investigating, and learning the facts... which is pretty much their charter. It is good to see that they took the time to become involved with key local modelers and the r/c community. It was also reassuring that they have both the best interest and security of our country AND the best interest of our sport under in mind.

Those that think its the end of the world (per a few posts)...... licenced R/C Aircraft and such or having R/C aircraft banned in the US ..... don't get your panties in a knot. Its not going to happen, and this FBI information activity is not a prelude to it.

One thing of note.... their concern was mainly not over terrorists killing an individual or destroying a structure using a model aircraft as a bomb or contact weapon. It was more along the lines of the capabilities models might have to distribute agents/chemicals/etc. Either actual, or simulated/inert. You can imagine if someone flew a plane over a stadium somewhere, and unload just a bag of flower.... as the white powder fell on the crowd..... you can imagine the chaos, panic. Even if one flew over with nothing more than a real good smoke system. I believe you all understand what the results might be.

I will not go into the complete details of the discussion, but I believe this covers the jist of it.

The AMA maintains a positive PR campaign within goverment and to some extent in the media. It is most helpful for local clubs and individuals to foster that postive image among their local media and with their local governments as well. If you are seen as a 'part of the community' the possiblity of being seen as a 'threat' is somewhat reduced.

Bob Brassell
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Old 10-14-2004, 06:45 AM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Those that think its the end of the world (per a few posts)...... licenced (sic) R/C Aircraft and such or having R/C aircraft banned in the US ..... don't get your panties in a knot. Its not going to happen, and this FBI information activity is not a prelude to it.
Bob, I believe you are sincere in your comments, but a precursor to severe restrictions or (more likely), an eventual ban is now visible. I can see it coming, and I don't even wear panties.

Bill Parker
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Old 10-14-2004, 03:37 PM
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Default RE: FBI Informational request

Bill......

You may be right.. you may be wrong... if something goofy happens...

r/c aviation as we know it nearly vaporized just after 9/11. Fortunately, cooler, intelligent heads prevailed.

who knows....but consider this.

In the long run, there is a good understanding by the "government" about our sport, its economics both nationally and on the local level and the amount of international trade that goes on as part of our sport. Nobody in government is going to take the plunge to single out and completely shut down (or restrict) an entire commercial industry in the US, and put thousdands of people out of work. Not to mention, the tens of thousands of us here in the US that would absolutely demand some political heads.

Could it happen. I grant you....... yeah... anything can happen. But I see it as unlikely at this time.

And, the Govt understands that this is not a US source hobby. Its greatly international... and nearly everything we use comes from overseas. If they ban sales of equipment here, it does them little good in the big scheme of things. "they" understand this.

Also consider.....
Nobody has taken to shutting down gun shops, firing ranges, "Spy stuff" stores, car dealerships or bus transport lines. By their nature, any of those, on the surface to the public, pose more of a threat to national security than we do. Yes, guns and some weapons are indeed regulated by government...but I believe they are good example of how complex such regulation can get, and on occation how ineffective they can be in any case.

Besides..... the whole idea of terrorists is to disrupt lifestyle so people live in fear and without liberties. Shutting us (or anyone) down or severely limiting our activities.....would mean the terrorist win.

At the worst case, we may find limits on operation based on time of day, proximity to sports venues, airports, etc. There have already been such restrictions (most temporary, some permanent). And for the most part they were understandable and reasonable. That reasonable-ness tends to be reassuring.

Thanks for the reply. Its good to know some folks take the time to think about this.

Bob
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