Reporters use ADS-B Data to Uncover the Role US Private Contractors Play in East African Air Operations

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) have recently run a story about how they have used ADS-B aircraft data to uncover the role that US civilian aircraft contractors are playing in the East African "kill chain". The investigation began over concerns that while civilian contractors do not pull the trigger, they may be becoming too involved in the process of determining exactly who will be killed in combat via data collection and analysis through their high tech surveillance aircraft. In the article they also note how many of these civilian contractors hide their true owners behind a chain of multiple LLC companies, thus reducing any accountability for their actions.

OCCRP also supports the Dictator Alert project which we have posted about in the past. In a related article titled "Mapping the Secret Skies: Lessons Learned From Flight Data" Emmanuel Freudenthal who helped setup the Dictator Alert project discusses how censorship free ADS-B tracking is helping journalists uncover new stories. In the article he notes how he uses uncensored ADS-B data together with the leaked Paradise Papers to reveal the true owners of aircraft hidden behind multiple LLC and shell companies. Regarding the "kill chain" article Emmanuel's post also explains how the story came to be:

An upcoming OCCRP story focuses on U.S. surveillance flights over Somalia. The U.S. military operates out of a small air base at Manda Bay just over the border in Kenya. We had a tip that it would be worth checking on planes in the area, so we set up an antenna nearby, which fed us information about planes taking off and landing from the base.

We eventually had to take down the antenna due to security concerns. But we managed to collect data on a number of planes that had been purchased by obscure shell companies and modified with advanced surveillance equipment before being sent to Kenya.

Why is this article posted on this blog? ADS-B data from aircraft is most often received these days via RTL-SDR dongles due to their low cost, so it is interesting to see to what extent cheap SDRs may be affecting the world via this type of reporting.

We note that ADS-B Exchange is the only censorship free ADS-B data aggregator available. All other online flight trackers censor flights from the government as well as from some private jets that may be owned by high profile company directors or in some cases dictators. The argument for censorship is that ADS-B data collection may be made illegal otherwise.

In a previous post we also discussed how censorship free ADS-B data from ADS-B Exchange revealed how military Blackhawk helicopters and Predator drones were used for surveillance during the early Black Lives Matter protests. 

Emmanuel installs an ADS-B antenna in Liberia

9 comments

  1. Jeff Stennett

    You critics of this article are real quick to write everybody on “our side” off as Good Guys beyond reproach, undeserving of oversight, because there’s all those “Bad Guys” out there deserving to be killed. The point of this article, and the mentioned “project” is how much of a slippery slope it is to have “terminator” power over anybody on the planet, and how easy it would be for that to be abused just because we tell ourselves we’re the “Good Guys” in the white hats. How many times, while in theatre, did you bad mouth the incompetent brass feeding you shit intel , but now, under criticism, you pretend it’s all perfect ?

    The other HUGE point of this article is uncovering how INSIDE our own nation we have military surveillance of civilian political protest. All it takes is some Ahole labeling a protest group like AntiFascist (AntiFa) “subversive” or “terrorist,” exactly what Putin and Kil Il Sung do against the slightest dissent, and without blinking an eye of Constitutional conscience, you think that justifies the use of military against the civilian population ? If so, you are one trigger-pull from the same thug group-think as J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI or Hitler’s Gestapo.

    We have Constitutional principles to uphold that do NOT support “The End Justifies the Means.”

    • Jack

      …you seem to have your countries mixed up. This article is “about” a group of people/reporters in a 3rd world country attempting to expose people/resources that are in the area to defeat “the terrorists, the dictators, >THE< bad guy – by attempting to try to apply US/first world morals / constitutional rights / freedom of the press etc. These don't exist there, the bad guy doesn't like you taking pictures of him, he's going to walk up to your car and shoot you in the head and then go crack open a cold one. Any retard that assumes he/she has some god given right to "expose" an operation like this which involves good people placing there own lives in danger to help people who may not have the resources to help themselves …..deserves a bullet.

  2. Mike

    Odd how certain people attack our Law Enforement efforts along with the struggle against terror – “revealing” the brave effort by our military and civilian patriots.

    The same people who will often whine when they feel their privacy has been violated.

    Can we have a ‘tracking traitors around the world using SIGINT article” 🙂

    And you had to take down a small discreet ADS-B antenna due to ‘security concerns’ You were not violating any local laws, were you ?

  3. Damon

    As a US Army combat veteran and retiree, I can tell you with certainty, you should be thankful the US has private contractors out there doing this work, helping other forces to further safety and security where we can’t send US assets – mostly due to cost, authorities, and the crippling bureaucratic morass our government has become. I personally fought tyranny overseas and our government continues to do so. This isn’t some Blackwater mercenaries out there working for some dark lord billionaire for his globalist reign. These folks are on the other side of that fight.
    Regardless, I love the all of these ADS-B capabilities that our RTL-SDRs can contribute to.

      • Jeff Stennett

        Yep…typical uniformed thugs who believe “the End Justifies the Means.” That’s EXACTLY WHY we have civilian oversight and command of the military. Constitutional principles and restrictions seem to be over their heads, just give them an order they don’t have to think about. Funny how there’s that UCMJ Catch-22 about “illegal orders,” where even the lowly E1 is expected to know and understand our Constitution to recognize that illegal order in the first place.

      • Jeff

        Besides our own U.S. Constitution, there’s that pesky thing called morals” and “morality,” and touting the U.S. as “Christian.” It’s not about “foolish Green Haired Dreamers,” it’s about being told “NO !” in no uncertain terms in the Garden of Gethsamanee, out of the very mouth “Christains” claim to swear allegiance to.

        I’m under no delusion that we don’t have to temper that ideal with Black Ops when necessary, but never forget the dark and slippery razor’s edge we choose to walk when we create this Kill system, and what sociopath ends up in office commanding it.

  4. Jack

    Great, yet another “the world is a wonderfully safe place and everything and everyone is out to *help* each other with a handshake and hugg…” get real dood. Without command and control and black OPs’ you’d already have your hands cut off and most likely be in a ditch with a half a million other dead bodies.

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