U-2 Spy Planes Used for What?

Over at the Huffington Post, Radley Balko has been promoting his upcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop with a “Raid of the Day” featuring highlighting outrageous overreach by police.

A few days ago he highlighted raids undertaken in the mid-1980s as part of California’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) initiative. Along with the raids themselves is the level of coordination with the US military to plan the raids,

It effectively turned parts of California into a military zone. CAMP sent U-2 spy planes over the skies to search for pot, then sent — literally — black helicopters full of armed National Guard troops, drug cops, and sometimes even volunteers to cut down the plants. Anyone who happened to be nearby could be detained, often at gunpoint.

According to a 1987 LA Times story, the U-2 spy planes didn’t work out very well,

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which takes part in CAMP, acknowledges using infrared devices to spot cocaine labs in the jungles of Latin America, but DEA officials insist that efforts in 1983 to draw an infrared map of California’s marijuana plantations from a high-flying U-2 spy plane were unsuccessful.

The U-2 costs about $30,000/hour to operate, so that was likely a costly failure (like the entire war on drugs).

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