The American surveillance state puts Orwell to shame
By End the Lie
Recently I published a relatively long article entitled, The invisible surveillance state: DHS and the end of America as we know it, which breaks down the invisible prison-like system that is the United States has become and how the Department of Homeland Security is diverting public funds into programs that would make Orwell’s Big Brother look like a joke.
Some of this information is nothing short of unbelievable. It seems so ludicrous that it is easily dismissed as conspiracy theory or paranoia. Unfortunately, everything I detailed is heavily documented to the point that it is simply irrefutable.
I really wish the high-tech American police state was just a conspiracy theory, but it is not and we are doing ourselves, and our nation, a disservice by pretending otherwise.
Furthermore, we would be making a grave mistake to not take this behemoth system seriously and to confront the egregious breaches of privacy that it creates.
This is not something we can wish away with logic like, “Well, as long as I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care?”
Nor is it something that we can reconcile with logic like, “Well, as long as it is stopping the terrorists and keeping us safe, why should I care?”
These systems rob you of your right to privacy regardless of your criminal status and in doing so essentially criminalize the act of being in America.
Just by being an American citizen nowadays you are subject to constant surveillance, indefinite detainment without charges via the PATRIOT Act and all that would come along with being a full-fledged criminal. Only, here you don’t have to do anything wrong.
Part of this megalithic, monstrous surveillance state is the widespread implementation of surveillance cameras.
As I covered in my previous article, technology is moving away from simple surveillance and towards intelligence gathering along with creating so-called “threat assessments.”
As such, you are no longer just being photographed by cameras, your photograph can then be entered into a facial recognition database which can then be used to create a 3D model of your face for even more tracking via everything from surveillance cameras to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) better known as “drones.”
In order to grasp the true nature of this system, one must actually read into it and do the research for oneself.
Please, don’t take my word for it. Click the links I provide in my articles and do your own digging. You just might be surprised by what you find.
This article will be exploring one tiny aspect of the far-reaching system: the growing usage of federally funded surveillance cameras in cities across the nation.
Take, for instance, the 250-300 surveillance cameras, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that were erected in downtown Houston, Texas in 2010.
Or there is Ohio state-wide surveillance network which links cameras trained on targets varying from roads and schools to employee break rooms, announced in 2010.
This system allows the government to look at any camera, public or private, that is hooked into the system, in real time.
The Ohio system was based on the model of “Virtual Alabama,” a program initiated in 2005 which leverages a Google Earth-like platform to monitor just about everything and compile it into a single system.
Virtual Alabama has 3D imagery of most of the state along with building schematics, access to video surveillance, GPS data on all state troopers and more to give the government total “situational awareness.”
More on Virtual Alabama can be found in an important book, Surveillance in the time of Insecurity by Torin Monahan and published by Rutgers University Press, available for free here.
Another apt example is the $6 million worth of cameras put on San Francisco municipal buses with the help of the Department of Homeland Security’s grant.
These cameras were installed on 358 buses along with wireless networks, computers and servers at three separate bus yards which, according to city documents “will enable SFMTA personnel to view, download and store the captured video images wirelessly and view them in real-time or through the Internet.”
There is also the DHS Imaging System for Immersive Surveillance (ISIS) which can capture high definition surveillance video in 360 degrees. The resolution capability is up to 100 megapixels, which is “as detailed as 50 full-HDTV movies playing at once, with optical detail to spare”, according to a Department of Homeland Security press release from 2010.
Keep in mind that when this was posted the creators of ISIS “already [had] their eyes on a new and improved second generation model, complete with custom sensors and video boards, longer range cameras, higher resolution, a more efficient video format, and a discreet, chandelier-like frame – no bigger than a basketball.”
ISIS has already been rolled out and was undergoing a pilot test at the Logan International Airport in 2009.
Of course all of these technologies are sold with the assurance that they will prevent crime and terrorism, but is this really true?
Actually, it is not. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) points out, “In the past decade, successive UK governments have installed over 1.5 million cameras in response to terrorist bombings. While the average Londoner is estimated to have their picture recorded more than three hundred times a day, no single bomber has been caught.”
“Some of the arguments invoked by law enforcement authorities to justify their use of video surveillance are that it helps prevent crime and that there is no expectation of privacy in public spaces. Evidence, however, has shown that video surveillance cameras have limited, if any, effects on crime prevention. In most cases, surveillance merely enhances people’s sense of security rather than their actual physical security. There is, thus, concern not only about the amount of images and information collected, but its uses and the length of time it is retained. Many also question whether this surveillance impinges upon free speech and freedom of association – especially when it is used to monitor political protests and rallies.”
So, with all of the evidenced stacked against these surveillance systems, wouldn’t it make sense to cease pursuing such ineffective, inefficient and costly programs?
The government of the United States of America doesn’t seem to think so.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request is just as bloated as always, and one of the more notable and disturbing features of their request is $236.9 million to be spent on 3,336 Behavior Detection Officers, or BDOs.
This includes 350 new BDOs which would be rolled out to assist the TSA by “providing a non-intrusive means of identifying individuals who may pose a risk of terrorism or criminal activity.”
Of course this is just as unreliable and faulty as the other so-called “threat assessment” systems which are far from reliable and trustworthy and essentially erode whatever semblance of “innocent until proven guilty” that we have left in America.
One cannot grasp the true nature of the DHS until one actually goes through their budget requests and documents. At only 11 pages, this year’s budget request is a must-read for anyone concerned about the direction our country is taking.
Part of their new systems being implemented by the federal government is the “Intellistreets” system.
This technology is yet another instance of our government running with technology that would make George Orwell take a look at 1984 and decide that it was far too mild in its depiction of a future dystopian surveillance state.
As per usual, the technology is marketed under the guise of being an energy saving device that could save your life and reduce crime.
There’s also the added bonus that they can “monitor conversations” and “take pictures” according to Fox Charlotte.
As I have shown previously, this is the direction we are heading and rest assured that the ability to play music will not be used just to give a nice ambience on a summer evening.
Obviously these speakers could broadcast Soviet and Nazi-style propaganda or just the famous American fear mongering that we have come to know all too well.
The man behind Intellistreets, Ron Harwood, insists that they are not a type of “spook technology,” spook being a colloquial term for covert intelligence agents.
Yet, they not only record video and take pictures, they can also detect movement and determine the nature of the moving object, be it car, person, or stray cat.
Fox Charlotte also says, “Late at night, if there’s too much movement, the light will notify police.”
This is a great way to enforce curfews so often associated with the “nanny state” towards which America is heading.
Let’s not forget that the fact that the Intellistreets devices are “capable of recording conversations” according to a local ABC affiliate WXYZ.
In a somewhat ludicrous claim, Harwood said, “This is not a system with spook technology. It’s much more transparent. It can talk to you and say, don’t fall over Niagara Falls”.
Sorry, Harwood, that isn’t what transparency means. That just means that it can provide a platform for law enforcement to further harass and frighten innocent Americans.
Harwood really needs to brush up on his English.
“A city official, city employee, or police office could ask to retrieve an image. But they have to ask to retrieve an image in the form of a picture of what was going on at that pole or two poles or at the intersection,” Harwood told Fox Charlotte.
One can effectively discount any and all claims made in terms of privacy when it comes to these types of technologies.
Even the so-called naked body scanners’ images can be removed, contrary to the assurances made by Homeland Security and the manufacturers.
One individual interviewed by Fox Charlotte gave a great insight into the mind of individuals who will accept this type of technology despite the obvious privacy concerns.
“They could probably spot potential trouble before it starts. Especially with kids… they like to go in big groups and crowds. If the police can see that before anything happens, that’s a good thing,” Takara Edwards told Fox Charlotte.
What about big groups and crowds engaged in, say, a protest or a plethora of other legal activities? Would that not make them easier to locate, track and harass?
As I have shown in this article, the correlation between lowered crime and the presence of surveillance cameras is arguable, at best.
Yet the most disturbing part is when Fox Charlotte asked the Charlotte Deputy Chief of Homeland Security about the Intellistreets technology.
He said that if street lights with surveillance capabilities were ever installed in Charlotte, “you would never know.”
This Deputy Chief is literally saying that we do not have the right to know where our tax money is being allocated, even if it is not only questionably effective but also a breach of our privacy.
I don’t know about you, but I find this nothing short of offensive.
Not to mention the fact that a “basic light starts at $3,000” which likely doesn’t include all of the useless bells and whistles that bureaucrats would eagerly spring for.
Even worse, WXYZ says that “By Spring of next year there is a good chance you could see them pop up in your city.”
This gives the impression that it is a foregone conclusion and cities across the country will be picking up this technology that would put Big Brother to shame.
Intellistreets devices are already being deployed in cities across metropolitan Detroit, Michigan, along with Chicago, Illinois and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to the Intellistreets commercial shown later in this article, they are also targeting college campuses, which would greatly increase the coverage and amount of information that they could take in on behalf of Homeland Security.
Harwood also told WXYZ that he is working with Homeland Security although the current units are apparently being funded by the Department of Energy.
Intellistreets is boasting that their technology could save cities 75% of their energy costs and uses this to push the impression that they are not primarily designed for Homeland Security applications.
In a press release clearly intended to damage control the fallout after their advertisement went viral, Intellistreets wrote, “This is why the Department of Energy (not the DHS) funded hundreds of municipalities with “grant” money to begin the process of saving energy.”
Okay, Harwood, then why are you working with Homeland Security? Furthermore, why did your advertisement promote the Homeland Security applications of Intellistreets?
Even more ridiculous, why would you clearly target Homeland Security in your press release?
They wrote, “DHS needs American entrepreneurs to develop the technologies that can better keep our citizens safe. Importantly, DHS is intrigued by Intellistreets’ potential. They see the tremendous opportunity to add a level of safety and security into our public environments utilizing infrastructure that already exists.”
You can see the hilariously blatant attempt at damage control by reading their press release entitled Intellistreets: Big Brother or Big Idea? via their official website here.
You can view the original commercial below:
Keep in mind that, as the Charlotte Homeland Security official pointed out, you will not be notified if these are rolled out to a city near you.
Just like the rest of the invisible surveillance state, this does not require or seek your consent or knowledge.
Like most of the Department of Homeland Security’s systems, this is implemented covertly on our dime with no say from the American public whatsoever.
There are also several questionable applications for the Intellistreets lights which have not yet been highlighted.
The Intellistreets system could have the “threat assessment” technology integrated with their cameras, which would create threat assessments of any person walking down the street.
These individuals could be targeted for harassment or detainment if they are suspected of having “malintent.”
The system could also be used with so-called “enhanced driver’s licenses” which contain an RFID chip for even easier tracking which wouldn’t require the computer resources involved in processing images for facial recognition.
The system could also easily be hooked into centralized systems at local fusion centers where surveillance data is collected from the many interconnected cameras I outlined above.
This could then be used to build a more in-depth threat assessment including a list of people you associate with, products you buy, places you go, times you walk around, etc.
I wish I could say this is far-fetched and ridiculous but I would be lying to you. When drones can track you through a crowd after only catching a glimpse of your face and when cameras can collect nearly all of your biometric information on the fly, is anything out of the realm of probability?