Missing Emails Add to Mystery of Baltimore Aerial Surveillance

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Police and city officials in Baltimore said they cannot provide the emails of a top police commander who oversaw a controversial aerial surveillance program this year because his email account was not properly configured at the time and the records were not retained as required, reports the Baltimore Sun. The lapse is under review. Marcos Zarragoitia, former chief of the police department’s Homeland Security Division, resigned this fall after the city’s agreement with contractor Persistent Surveillance Systems became public. Zarragoitia oversaw the program. PSS flew an airplane over  the city over the course of several months, collecting more than 300 hours of surveillance of more than 32 square miles of the city. The program was not initially disclosed to the public, and city officials rebuked the department for lack of transparency.

Police are now reviewing the pilot program, and considering whether to make it permanent. Police officials have declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding Zarragoitia’s resignation after a year on the job. The Sun filed requests for any emails mentioning the program that were sent to or from several top police officials, including Zarragoitia. In response, Brent D. Schubert of the police legal affairs division provided about 16 pages of emails, which revealed little about the program. Schubert said the response did not include any emails from Zarragoitia because Andrew Jaffee, the department’s IT director, “could not access” those emails. Officials later said Zarragoitia’s emails were “not configured in the archive manager.”

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