The U.S. Armed Forces has deployed four spy planes across Latin America, Scout Warrior reports, kicking off a long-term aerial surveillance campaign.
The Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System planes, known as EMARSS, was deployed by the U.S. Armed Forces’ Southern Command for “operational missions.” The U.S. plans to field up to 24 EMARSS aircraft in the region within the next few years.
“You’re bringing the ability not only to detect and exploit the target, but then, also to process all that information and get it out to the people who need it, so that they can take the appropriate action,” Lt. Col. Sean Smith told Scout Warrior.
EMARSS come equipped with cameras, software and antennas for intelligence gathering on “targets of interest” and “enemy movement.” The U.S. has not revealed specific targets for EMARSS use in the region.
U.S. plans to collect intelligence on “enemies” using EMARSS resemble techniques used during Operation Condor, a Cold War-era campaign of violence across Latin America. Through the campaign, which resulted in mass activist deaths, the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, used aerial cameras and radio antennas to collect information on leftist movements.
The CIA then handed over their collected intelligence to right-wing governments in the region that persecuted the leftist activists.
Similar to how EMARSS are being tested to collect information “enemies,” the CIA referred to movements in opposition to right-wing military governments as “terrorists.”
“The U.S. definitely had knowledge of the existence of the operation and even provided a communications station in Panama for the intelligence services of the six nations involved to communicate with each other,” Argentina’s Centre for Legal and Social Studies executive director Gaston Chillier told The Guardian in a 2016 interview.
The six nations Chillier cited were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, all of which had right-wing military governments through Operation Condor.
Today, U.S. Southern Command provides communications stations and technology for the right-wing governments of Mexico, Honduras and Colombia. In recent years, these three countries have witnessed a significant rise in assassinations of leftist activists.
“Constant Hawk,” an EMARSS aircraft being tested in the region, includes wide-area surveillance technology used for intelligence gathering in the Middle East.