Senator Kelly Loeffler’s husband rents an airport hangar from the US Marshals Service for what appears to be a home surveillance operation – at a very good profit – in a deal shrouded in secrecy.
This operation, a national mobile phone surveillance campaign first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2014, sparked an uproar from Oregon’s Loeffler colleagues last year, after local media discovered that a Marshal’s Service plane circled for hours over an anti-racist protest in Portland June 13.
Three days later, flight records show the exact plane landed at the Fulton County Airport in Atlanta, Georgia – where the Marshals Department leases space from Fulton County Hangar Services, part of the vast business empire led by Loeffler’s husband Jeffrey Sprecher. The federal government renewed its rental relationship with the company that same month.
The hangar at 4165 South Airport Rd. Northwest, which Loeffler identified as one of her husband’s holdings in his first financial disclosure after his Senate appointment last year, sits along a scarred service road at the Fulton County Airport, off the main thoroughfare of Martin Luther King Drive.
The General Service Administration, which leases space on behalf of other federal agencies, confirmed to the Daily Beast that it has paid Fulton County Shed Services nearly $ 250,000 a year since 2014, when Loeffler was still on duty. executive in her husband’s company, Intercontinental. Exchange, which also owns the New York Stock Exchange. The GSA added that it extended the lease for three years last summer.
But the details of the arrangement are shrouded in layers of government and corporate opacity. Fulton County Hangar Services is a registered federal contractor, but their contracts cannot be viewed in any public database. The Rewards Management System, a government search engine for tracking DC business transactions, classifies company information as “restricted.” When pressed by The Daily Beast, the GSA declined to answer which agencies are stationed in the hangar and for what purpose, citing the “mission sensitivities of the federal tenants at this facility.”
The Federal Aviation Administration operated out of the hangar until November 2019, but told the Daily Beast that it is now a US Marshals facility.
The Marshal’s Department declined to answer questions about its presence and activities in the hangar, and neither Loeffler, Sprecher, Intercontinental Exchange, nor Fulton County – which owns the Fulton County Airport and rents hangars there to tenants. private – did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The public archives give some clues. The Daily Beast discovered that several small Cessna planes registered with either the Marshals Service or Early Detection Alarm Services, a Buzzfeed company exposed in 2017 as a front for the agency’s cellphone aerial surveillance activities. law enforcement, flew to or from Fulton County. Airport.
One such craft is the Cessna Caravan the Wiliamette week A newspaper spotted in the sky over Portland, shaken by unrest last June, and which annoyed the senses. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as several other Oregon Congressional Democrats. Tracking site FlightRadar24.com has identified at least eight flights that this aircraft, with tail number N1789M, made to or from the municipal airfield in 2020.
On three occasions, FlightRadar24.com shows the propeller-driven Cessna making extended loops around Atlanta or other parts of Georgia similar to those seen on the West Coast, although The Daily Beast cannot correlate these trips with ground specific events.
Finally, the County of Fulton gives L3Harris Technologies a small tax bill each year for the personal belongings of the hangar occupied by the Marshals. One of the largest contractors in the federal government, L3Harris manufactures the Stingray for the service of marshals and other government agencies. The Stingray collects information by mimicking a cell phone tower and tricking mobile devices into revealing their location and other sensitive data, which law enforcement can use to track its owners.
L3Harris did not respond to repeated questions about receiving the tax bill, or about its assets or access to 4165 South Airport Road Northwest.
The contract between the federal government and Fulton County Shed Services preceded Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s appointment of Loeffler to the Senate seat by approximately six years, and there is no evidence that she was played a role in its initial negotiation or its renewal last year. The Daily Beast found records of aircraft belonging to Early Detection Alarm Systems flying at Fulton County Airport as early as 2009 – when the GSA said it was leasing the same hangar from a North Carolina-based real estate company – and the FAA directories date from this agency. presence on the site until 1990.
However, Fulton County Hangar Services is federally registered with her husband’s name and personal contact details, and the address of the lavish home they share in Atlanta.
The Daily Beast also found no evidence of a financial arrangement directly between Fulton County itself, which appears to own the hangar along with the rest of the airport, and Fulton County Hangar Services, although the documents from the previous agreement with North Carolina. real estate agency are available on its website.
Instead, online records show a lease between the county and an Intercontinental Exchange subsidiary called ICE 4165 LLC for one and a half hectares of land at the airport from 2016, two years after the contract between GSA and Fulton County began. Hangar Services. The county ground lease grants ICE 4165 use of the space for 20 years with two automatic five-year renewals, at an annual rent of $ 20,597.16, plus a 3% increase every half. decades.
This is about 1/12 of what the GSA pays Fulton County Hangar Services annually for the use of 4165 South Airport Northwest. The lease shows no history of a bidding process, but cites the need to “ensure continuity of rental income for the county”. The rate is, however, comparable to what the North Carolina company paid the county over the previous decade.
“I think Loeffler and the US Marshals Service should answer some questions about the lease and what’s going on outside of that space.“
– Scott Amey, Government Oversight Project
Transparency experts marveled at the strangeness and impenetrability of the deals between Sprecher’s companies, Fulton County, and the federal government.
“Weird and secretive, which is a bad mix!” noted Scott Amey, general counsel for the nonprofit Government Oversight Project. “It would be great news if they are involved in violating people’s privacy or civil rights and the Senator is making money from these activities.
“I think Loeffler and the US Marshals Service should answer a few questions about the lease and what’s going on outside of that space,” Amey added.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Government Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists, has suggested that the tangle of public-private relations resembles the kind of “cover” the United States has used to cover up military operations and secret espionage. What makes this particular situation unusual, he said, is that the federal government body involved is the Marshals Service.
“It is a security measure used mainly by intelligence agencies. It’s not something you would immediately associate with the US Marshals, ”Aftergood said. “The primary use of the facility may be to support clandestine surveillance operations, which could explain the extraordinary secrecy.”
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