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Task force officer: FBI conducted aerial surveillance of Ibragim Todashev in Orlando

If you've been paying attention to the events surrounding the May 22, 2013 law enforcement killing of Ibragim Todashev, you may know that FBI officials conducted close surveillance of the former friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev for weeks before an agent killed him. Now we know a little more about that surveillance.

During the course of the Florida state's attorney's investigation into his death, the Orlando Joint Terrorism Task Force officer who worked on the surveillance detail and was reportedly outside the apartment when Todashev was killed slipped up and accidentally revealed something significant. According to the officer—whose name, like the names of the other officials involved in Todashev's killing, is redacted—the FBI was not only following Todashev around in black SUVs. It was also monitoring him from the sky.

The partially redacted transcript of the state's attorney's interview with the Orlando JTTF officer includes the following:

Officer: "We were conducting surveillance on the individual and they had, they had a…"

Investigators: "Being, Mr. Todashev?"

Officer: "Mr. Todashev, I'm sorry."

Investigators: "Ok."

Officer: "Um, and they, ah, the FBI, we had a, ah, aerial surveillance and…"

Investigators: "You don't, I, let me, let me stop you there for a minute. I don't need to know, um, particulars of how the information maybe was achieved, out of officer safety issues and things of that nature."

Might that aerial surveillance have come from one of the FBI's drones? Or perhaps it was one of the FBI's single-engine Cessna planes? Either way, can we expect that the FBI aerial surveillance team took video of Todashev beating the crap out of someone in a fight over a parking space, as agents on the ground reportedly watched? Maybe an enterprising journalist wants to find out.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.