NSA Spy Blimps May Be Hovering Overhead

It’s called the “Hover Hammer” — and, according to a document obtained by Edward Snowden, it could be flying 10,000 feet or higher above your house right now, keeping you under surveillance.

According to The Baltimore Sun, a document in the trove of classified material obtained by Snowden reveals that the National Security Agency had launched a surveillance airship from a southern Maryland airfield back in 2004.

The document had been reviewed and posted Monday by The Intercept, an online source that has been verifying the material it received from the former NSA contractor. The information came from an internal newsletter published in 2004.

“Back in 2004, a division of the NSA called the National Tactical Integration Office fitted a 62-foot diameter airship called the Hover Hammer with an eavesdropping device,” The Intercept reported.

Here’s how the newsletter opened: “It’s got dual airbags, three engines and one of the most sophisticated audio systems around. No, it’s not the latest sports car from Europe — it’s Hover Hammer, a steerable airship that may become one of the (multi-intelligence) platforms of the future.”

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After it was launched from “an airfield near Solomons Island” in Maryland, the ship was able to intercept “international shipping data emanating from the Long Island, New York, area” via spy equipment referred to as Digital Receiver Technology.

There are two incredibly worrying things involving the Hover Hammer. The first is that there’s very little publicly available information about the drone blimp. The second is the fact that even back in 2004 — 13 years ago — there were plans to develop the Hover Hammer into a very potent surveillance machine.

The initial flight was at an altitude of 10,700 feet, according to the New American. But the NSA had plans to go much higher, making for increased intelligence-gathering capability.

“The current plans are to develop the airship for unmanned operations at altitudes of approximately 20,000 feet for up to 48 hours,” the document read. “Future variants are planned to be 200 feet in diameter and will operate at 68,000 feet with mission durations of up to six months.”

The NSA did not respond to The Baltimore Sun requests for comment, so there’s no telling where the program stands now, but a lot’s probably happened in the 14 years since this newsletter was published in terms of the craft’s capabilities.

The Hover Hammer was also described as being “constructed of Spectra, the same material used to make bullet-proof vests … It ‘hovers’ above small arms fire, has a negligible (infrared) signature, and radar can’t detect it.”

We know that the NSA has already surveilled Americans with this blimp. While that could be considered a test, one doubts that this is the only time it’s been used that way.

Given how potent a tool of domestic surveillance this could be in the wrong hands, America needs to know more about the Hover Hammer — including whether we are currently the target of its surveillance abilities.

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H/T The New American

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