FBI Admits To Using Drones To Spy On Americans

from the feeling-safer? dept

Most people in the US still associate government use of drones with far away places. But they might want to start paying more attention to what's happening over their own heads. The FBI has now admitted that it uses drones for surveillance purposes domestically. Though FBI director Robert Mueller said that it was done in a "very, very minimal way, very seldom," this is still the first admission that it has happened. Mueller seemed open to having Congress legislate how it can use drones. Oddly, members of Congress who seem unconcerned about the NSA's mass dragnet of information, are apparently concerned about domestic drone use:
Dianne Feinstein, who is also chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said the issue of drones worried her far more than telephone and internet surveillance, which she believes are subject to sufficient legal oversight.
I would argue that both are worrying, in large part because the use of both have been secret to the American public until recent revelations. At the very least, these kinds of surveillance deserve a very public debate about whether or not they are appropriate.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    I'm sure horse_with_no_name will be around to tell us how this isn't really a big deal, cuz y'know terrorists and stuff.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Watching hearing now

    I'm watching the video of this morning Senate Judiary Committee's hearing Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation right now on C-SPAN.

     

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      icon
      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Watching hearing now

      I'm sitting at my desk reading your comment about watching the Senate hearing right now. Just thought you would like to know.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:29pm

        Re: Re: Watching hearing now

        I'm sitting at my desk reading your comment…
        So where's the link to your webcam?

        … Just thought you would like to know.
        Yes, I would like the url for your webcam feed.

         

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    anonymous dutch coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:37am

    china

    So again, what was the difference between China and the US?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:42am

      Re: china

      From Seattle, around 4400 miles.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re: china

        Is that around the Earth or through it? Because the Prenda Tunnel to China has to be complete by now.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: china

          It was across it. But I wasn't aware that Prenda finished the tunnel.

          Hell, that could save alot of miles.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:11pm

      Re: china

      Ummm... [Quickly removes tinfoil hat, dons thinking cap.] China physically occupies a different continent? Yup. That's the correctest answer. I'm sure. Ahhh... Is this a trick question?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:44am

    This isn't related to the article or anything, but, how much does a surface-to-air missile launch system cost? Or perhaps a radar guided AAA?

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      [H]ow much does a surface-to-air missile launch system cost? Or perhaps a radar guided AAA?

      Price in Syria for a Russian “export” grade system?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:04pm

      Re:

      A couple of millions maybe with the missiles going for 4 figures a pop, you better off developing your own radar and tracking system to zap mosquitoes of course.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    The FBI and NSA need to kill everyone. Then, there'd be no more terrorists. It's the only solution.

     

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    Janey, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:48am

    Feinstein should be impeached and removed from office immediately. It is obvious that she is no longer willing to uphold the Constitution.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      actually the drones are far less worrying. They are just a convenient way of removing the focus from the real surveillance problems.

      Btw. Merkel was digging a bit at Obama in Berlin on the surveillance cases: "There needs to be a balance and we will continue to work with USA to find the right balance."
      Obama instantly answered that "USA already had found the right balance."...

      Given how this balance is individual for every person on earth I call bull on that...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    Feinstein is worried by some 'security' measure? Must be truly diabolically terrifying for that to be the case given her usual position.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    So what's the law regarding Lasers and Drones?
    I know on Airplanes it's illegal due to pilot blinding, but that shouldn't be an issues with drones.

    http://biglasers.com/1w-blue-laser-pointer

     

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    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

    You are ready for the next stage, have given up -- or worse, don't even grasp that you should be -- fighting Google.

    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    Masnicking: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

     

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      FormerAC (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:11pm

      Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

      You keep repeating this as if it were relevant.

      Here are a few reasons, off the top of my head, why it isn't...
      1.) I don't have to use Google. I can use different products.
      2.) Google is a private company. They cannot arrest me.
      3.) The FBI/NSA are part of my government. They have the power to arrest me.
      4.) The FBI/NSA have a long history of lying about who they are spying on and abusing their powers.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:13pm

      Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

      I imagine people are aware of the pitfalls of google and how it makes money. However, others don’t feel the need to put on foil hats and shout in the streets incoherently. Google’s antics are the price of free. You can limit what they take from you, or you can avoid their services all together. Though, I think it’s well enough to work within their system, but still retain some assembly of yourself. I’m not sure Google is dragging the sky down on top of us like you seem to betray it.

      That you go full conspiracy theorist with your ranting’s, it discredits your arguments. Your message ends up getting ignored and you get belittled. You do more harm than good. You accomplish nothing except to thrust people further into the arms of google.

      If you’re actually concerned about google and want people to know about its follies, you’re doing an awful job. If you’re a troll just trolling to troll, well than, you’re doing a bit better at that. Perhaps if your true intentions are to enlighten people on google, you should consider just doing it to be a troll. Least than you’d be somewhat successful in your dealings.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

        Your message ends up getting ignored and you get belittled. You do more harm than good.


        Indeed. Speaking as a person who is highly critical of Google and encourages people to be wary of them, Blue's attempts are counterproductive in the extreme. He comes off as a lunatic, and so allows people to write off folks who point out the real trade-offs Google presents as just one of the lunatic crowd.

        If Blue really wanted to raise awareness about Googly issues, he'd be well advised to talk like a rational person. Or, if that's impossible, to at least shut up and let others do the job.

         

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          Mason Wheeler (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

          You know, you might just be on to something!

          Counter-conspiracy-theory: Blue actually works for Google, who have hired him as a paid shill to discredit legitimate people seeking to expose their nefarious deeds.

           

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          Pragmatic, Jun 20th, 2013 @ 5:37am

          Re: Re: Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

          The Crazy Copyright lady will never shut up. Whatever they did to get her panties in a wad she's gonna carry on till the day she dies, using Google daily and complaining about it here.

          Why? A desperate ploy to get attention, perhaps.

          Epic butthurt over something so trivial she's unwilling to talk about it in public?

          Whatever it is, Cathy is so deranged she can't even get the other trolls on board.

          Let's stop responding to her. She's too nuts to pay attention to anyone who doesn't immediately agree with everything she says.

           

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      weneedhelp (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:42pm

      Re: Umm, Google has you all accustomed to its spying.

      WILL YOU JUST STFU ALREADY.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    I don't know you guys. These comments feel a bit lonely without the usual cast of characters trolling it up. Where's my best buddy here screaming about mike milking it? I'm worried he has fallen and can't get up. We should send some help. Maybe the FBI (Or NSA for that matter) can help us locate him.

     

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    Edward Teach, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:11pm

    Where can I torrent the "best of surveillance" video?

    I bet that there's a lot of surveillance of topless beaches, clothing-optional beaches, beaches in general, and swimming pools in expensive parts of the towns where drones are based.

    I bet there's just *tons* of surveillance done over by sorority row, too.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:16pm

      Re: Where can I torrent the "best of surveillance" video?

      Have to calibrate those cameras somehow and what better than perky nipples?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    Have another report vote ootb for another post having no bearing on the topic.
    ------------

    I have come to the realization that nothing involving the present day scandals can be believed when I hear politicians mouths move.

    The investigations into the NLS have already shown that any time the system can be abused it will be.

     

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    Boojumbunn, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:14pm

    Lots of room to debate drones

    Honestly, there is a lot of room to debate when and how the use of drones is appropriate inside the US and what is done with the data after a drone is flown.

    I know it's not against the law for an unmarked police car, for example, to follow me down the road as I drive. A manned drone seems, on the surface, to be an extension of this. However a drone is not restricted to the same paths and views that a car is (which is one of the strengths of a drone.) In my mind, this raises the following questions.

    1. If a person is nude sunbathing in the privacy of their own, fenced, backyard and a police drone flies over.. what protections exist to prevent that part of that video from being kept, perused, taken home, posted on youtube, etc... Can an FOI be used to get copies of drone flight video's?

    2. If damage is done by a drone (breaks window, shorts power line) who is responsible?

    3. What type of encryption will be used to protect flight controls for drones from being hacked? What sort of encryption for video streams to prevent from being recorded by third parties?

    4. What restrictions will be placed on the correct use of drones? can building and safety use it (as they have been using google maps) to look into peoples backyards for code violations? Will a warrant be needed to use them? Can they only be used to follow individuals or can the forestry service use them to look for fires/drugs/poachers/etc?

    5. What laws will be in place for private use of drones? To the best of my knowledge, if your not using them for commercial purpose you can fly video drones right now below 500ft. but if your using them for commercial purpose then it's against FAA regulations.

    So in my mind, there are lots of questions that need to be asked BEFORE we begin general use of drones within the borders of the united states. I hope they are being considered.

    Boojum the brown bunny

     

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      weneedhelp (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:43pm

      Re: Lots of room to debate drones

      Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan Google then read.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:59pm

        Re: Re: Lots of room to debate drones

        Living
        Under
        Drones:
        Death,
        Injury, and
        Trauma to
        Civilians...civilians should be changed to "Everyone".

         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 4:44pm

      Re: Lots of room to debate drones

      All of these same issues also could apply to helicopters, which are over our heads every day, as well as small planes flying low and "monitoring" traffic.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 4:49pm

        Re: Re: Lots of room to debate drones

        The main difference is that the drones are stealthy. You wouldn't necessarily know if one is circling over your yard. Helicopters, etc., are not.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 7:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: Lots of room to debate drones

          A helicopter can be a mile or more away and still zoom in on your privates and you won't hear or see it.

           

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      art guerrilla (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 8:01pm

      Re: Lots of room to debate drones

      1. i can imagine drones making a VERY useful technology for society in general...

      2. with the exception of search & rescue ops (which should not necessarily be a police/military function), i can ONLY imagine horrific consequences for this technology in the hands of the police-military (difficult to tell apart these days: our mercenaries, oops, military 'police' countries a half a planet away, and our police make war on the citizens here...

      3. all we have to do to understand how police-military use of drones within the US, is to see how they are used on the rest of the world... which many legal minds and moral leaders (all four of them!) make an arguable case for the use of drones constituting war crimes...
      if its a war crime 'over there', why ain't it a war crime 'over here' ? ? ?

      4. lastly, the MOST scary prospect in this inhumane drone usage (and -not coincidentally- 'warrantless wiretapping', 'TIA' shit), is establishing the 'legal/moral principle' (sic), that use of unobtrusive, undetectable surveillance techniques make the 4th amendment obsolete...

      *aside* from the mere factoid that 99%+ of our kongresskritters piss on the constitution and bill of rights on *at least* a three-month basis; *aside* from how our modern 'papers and effects' have mutated to a digital world unanticipated, BUT WHICH SHOULD STILL BE COVERED; and *aside* from the dubious value of these insane systems; i am looking in my popular science speculation crystal ball, and it ain't too long out where we have 'nanobots' of various scales...
      if we establish the 'principle' that unobtrusive surveillance is 'okay', then what is to stop The They (tm) from putting a nanobot up your butt ? ? ?

      nothing but a threadbare pair of tidy whities...

      art guerrilla
      aka ann archy
      eof

       

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      me, Jun 20th, 2013 @ 5:08am

      Re: Lots of room to debate drones

      Some will reserve the right to down such drones. Alsi if they using them they will eventually arm them.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:18pm

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:27pm

    Who cares. They already have helicopters and satellites that can look down upon you. If they send up a helicopter it probably takes 3 cops. If they send up a drone, it takes one with a joystick. Saves the taxpayers money.

    What do you honestly think they are going to do with these drones? Spy on you? Are you really that important? I'll bet my left one that they will use them to watch the borders for illegals, Chase bank robbers, Watch known drug houses, etc etc. Wow what a horrible idea.

    If you don't want to be seen nude in your backyard than don't go outside without clothes on.

    Stop bitching about everything that the government does. You elected them. If you don't like it than run for your local seat.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

      Re:

      And if you don't say something and spread the awareness, the government will figure the populace don't care. With that in mind, I can see them doing far worse over time.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:03pm

      Re:

      If they are restricted to flying over 'dangerous' territory, i.e. desserts, mountains and forests, then I see no real problem with them. That is flown over territory where a crash is unlikely to hurt anyone, and if a manned aircraft went down rescue attempts would be expensive and difficult.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

      Re:

      If they send up a helicopter it probably takes 3 cops. If they send up a drone, it takes one with a joystick. Saves the taxpayers money.


      No, it doesn't. It just means that they'll do three times as much surveillance.

      What do you honestly think they are going to do with these drones? Spy on you? Are you really that important?


      As with the other spying issues, the point isn't that you, or I, in particular are being surveilled. It's that massive surveillance has a large number of detrimental effects to society as a whole, and that the cops & spy outfits have repeatedly demonstrated, over a period of many decades, that they will inevitably use their new power to do things like suppress legitimate dissent, punish political enemies, etc.

      If you don't want to be seen nude in your backyard than don't go outside without clothes on


      This is a stunning statement. So now we have to refrain from legal activity in the privacy of our own land just so cops get to play with their new toys?

      Stop bitching about everything that the government does


      I don't bitch about everything the government does. I bitch about the things I see the government doing wrong. This is not only my right, but it is my responsibility as a citizen.

      For the record, I don't think the drones issue is nearly as big of a deal as the telephone spying, but there's no reason not to call out both of these as issues that need to be addressed.

       

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      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      I'll bet my left one that they will use them to watch the borders for illegals, Chase bank robbers, Watch known drug houses, etc etc.

      It is the "etc. etc." that concerns any rational person...mainly because that is the same description of the extent to which their surveillance is limited.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 1:47pm

    she would change her mind pretty quick if she found out that she was on the list to be spied on. she would then learn how the rest of us feel!

     

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    corwin155 (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:43pm

    How long before

    How long before we have Nazi "education centers"
    Nazi Prison work camps
    Nazi Death camps
    soon , its in the works

     

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    Anonymous, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:54pm

    The FBI is gay and so are its drones.

     

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    ScytheNoire, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 3:58pm

    The Real Enemy

    Obviously the US Government feels that the real enemy is the American people. They have systematically set out to attack them at every opportunity and destroy that which they are suppose to uphold, the American Constitution.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 4:56pm

    Police and news copters

    We've had them for decades and we all rely on them to bring us the latest high speed chase.
    Maybe with drones we can get a closer view.

    Looking on the positive side, it's very possible that if they see me without my clothes in my backyard they may not come back.

     

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    McCrea (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 5:15pm

    Of course, seldom

    It was done in a "very, very minimal way, very seldom,"
    because "We have very few and have limited use."

    I'm sure that if they had a couple hundred thousand, it would have rather been done in a "very, very maximal way, very liberally."

     

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    identicon
    MAC, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 7:57pm

    What is seldom?

    What exactly do they mean by seldom or limited?

    What exactly do they mean? 0.005 percent seems like a reasonable figure for seldom and limited.

    If it is just 0.005 percent of the population was watched by a drone then do the math:
    300,000,000 X 0.005 = 1500000.

    That's 1.5 million people!

     

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    identicon
    MAC, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 8:05pm

    From Star Wars...

    We are witnessing the death of the Republic to thunderous applause.

    However, in our case, it's probably apathy and indifference.

    No time for politics, gotta make my car payment, mortgage payment, get next to the cute blond, take the kids to school...

    There are so many excuses.

    Then, all of sudden and before you know it:

    It's 3 am:
    KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! BAM!
    Don't worry sir, this is for your own protection. Just put your hands behind your back while we put this black hood over your head...
    Your family? What family...

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Jun 20th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Drones

    Honestly, I don't get the current obsession over drones. What does it matter which type of *vehicle* they use for surveillance? Whether it's a drone or a helicopter or satellite is irrelevant; the surveillance is the same.

    They've been looking down on us for years with satellites, but now that they've used a drone to do the exact same thing, suddenly we all clutch our pearls in horror? Makes no sense.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    anonymous, Mar 4th, 2014 @ 7:19am

    Today's government

    In today's America the government is corrupt it nukes us its spy on us they even threaten to kill any body that find out there secret.
    Hopefully people realize that we could overthrow the government
    like it says in the constitution

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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