- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2014

Come October, the Pentagon will be flying the Maryland skies with two blimp-like crafts tasked with conducting surveillance operations and protecting Capitol Hill and surrounding jurisdictions from attacks.

The crafts, called aerostats, are lighter than air and will remain tethered to the ground, The Washington Postreported. They’ve been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and on the Mexican border, and are valued primarily because they are equipped with radars and surveillance systems that allow for the spotting of other flying objects 340 miles away.

They’re also capable of tracking movements on the ground, Fox News reported.

The $2.7 million surveillance project will span three years and will center on the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground property in Baltimore.

In a statement to The Post, the Army said, “The primary mission … is to track airborne objects. Its secondary mission is to track surface moving objects such as vehicles or boats. The capability to track surface objects does not extend to individual people.”

Despite assurances from the military that there’s nothing to worry about, American Civil Liberties Union officials aren’t comfortable and say the blimp-like spy craft can track vehicles up to 140 miles away.

“That’s the kind of massive persistent surveillance we’ve always been concerned about with drones,” Jay Stanley, a privacy expert for the ACLU, told The Post. “It’s part of this trend we‘ve seen since 9/11, which is the turning inward of all these surveillance technologies.”