Military: Midwest balloon flights didn't spy on civilians

The Aerostat balloon is equipped with 24-hour surveillance and communication equipment. (Photo is Public Domain; Courtesy of Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin of the U.S. Army)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The military says recent high-altitude balloon flights over South Dakota and other Midwest states complied with federal laws against conducting surveillance on civilians.

Pentagon spokesman Chris Mitchell says two test flights that launched from Baltic, South Dakota, recently were part of a project to develop all-weather radar-imaging capability from the stratosphere. He says no tracking information was collected during these flights, and none will be collected in future flights.

But the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday it still has many questions about the imagery and how it will be used.

Policy Director Libby Skarin says the Pentagon statement seems to contradict filings, first reported by The Guardian , saying the balloons were meant to provide persistent surveillance to locate drug trafficking and homeland security threats.

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