Records reveal CBP drones used in US can intercept electronic communications, identify people

By End the Lie

(Image credit: Malaysia Flying Herald)

(Image credit: Malaysia Flying Herald)

Disturbing documents recently obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is operating drones in the United States that are capable of intercepting electronic communications along with recognizing and a person on the ground.

CBP, a child agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is itself quite fascinated with drones, is just one of many public entities in the United States operating drones domestically.

While we know the number is quite large and growing, it is impossible to how many entities are authorized to fly drones over the US or if the Obama administration claims the authority to kill Americans on US soil without charge or trial as has been done abroad since they refuse to answer that question.

Others flying drones over the U.S. include National Guard units (more listed here), the military in concert with law enforcement agencies around the country, the Marshals Service and so many others that universities and colleges are expanding drone piloting programs to keep up with the domestic drone boom.

While we already knew that the domestic drone program was massive beyond comprehension, EPIC most recently revealed that CBP is “operating drones in the United States capable of intercepting electronic communications,” evidenced a document from 2010.

Another document from 2005 shows that “the ten Predator B drones operated by the agency have the capacity to recognize and identify a person on the ground.”

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this is that “Approximately, 2/3 of the US population is subject to surveillance by the CBP drones.”

Indeed, this is due to what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls a “Constitution-Free Zone” which essentially means little to no constitutional protection for the majority of persons living in the United States.

One of the documents obtained by EPIC reveals that the drone sensors are capable of “identifying a standing human” and “recognizing a backpack” but, according to The New York Times Bits blog, a CBP “spokesman said they cannot identify a particular individual. They can only tell if it is a person or something else.”

It’s hard to know all that much about the CBP’s claims and their truthfulness since large portions of the document have been redacted.

Furthermore, the documents at issue are from 2005 and 2010, it is impossible to know what technology has been acquired since then.

Perhaps most important of all, we now know that the former press secretary for the Obama White House was told to deny the existence of the government’s drone program. In other words, he was told to lie.

If the White House spokesman was told to lie through his teeth, why would we think other agencies and their spokespersons suddenly have some kind of deontological devotion to truth?

The 2010 document also states under section 3.1.2 that, “To readily acquire state-of-the-art technology upgrades and improvements to the commercial products and services, CBP OAM may solicit or the contractor may independently propose changes, upgrades or enhancements to the aircraft, equipment, components, or other requirements to reduce costs, improve performance, save energy or improve safety.”

Put simply, if CBP or the contractor thinks technology capable of directly identifying someone may “improve performance” – which it arguably would – then it could be implemented.

In a statement to the Huffington Post, the CBP spokesman claimed that signal interception capable of eavesdropping on cell phone calls and reading text messages hasn’t been deployed yet.

“Any potential deployment of such [drone] technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights/civil liberties and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices,” said spokesman Michael Friel.

One must wonder why, in 2005, the CBP said that the initial payloads should include signals interception if they truly had no interest in deploying it for at least seven years.

“The agency has said that they’re not using the signals intercept technology, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of doing it, said Ginger McCall, director of EPIC’s Open Government Program.

If they did use the signals intercept technology, “It seems like it would be in violation of federal privacy laws and potentially the Fourth Amendment — and we haven’t seen any sort of privacy regulations come out from the Department of Homeland Security or any other agency about the drones.”

“Notably, she added, the agency has also left open the possibility that it could one day use facial recognition technology, which would raise additional privacy concerns,” according to the Huffington Post.

All we can be comforted by is a CBP spokesman claiming they don’t engage in communications surveillance along with the following reassuring statement given to the Bits blog.

“This is not an aircraft that’s looking through windows,” the spokesman said.

Read the documents linked below for a troubling look into what one Department of Homeland Security – which claims jurisdiction over a disturbingly high number of Americans – agency has been up to with their drone program.

2010 CBP document (original here)

2005 CBP document (original here)

UPDATE: CNET points out that one of the documents says the drones “‘shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,’ meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle.”

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.

Please support our work and help us start to pay contributors by doing your shopping through our Amazon link or check out some must-have products at our store.

Top Search Terms Used to Find This Page:

4 Responses to Records reveal CBP drones used in US can intercept electronic communications, identify people

  1. Anonymous April 13, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    I honestly can’t even believe this is for real. But it is. Wow.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Drones with facial recognition technology create privacy concerns

  3. Hide Behind May 29, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    Be positive.
    This is good tech because when someday A dozen or more collateral bodys are found after a then current #1 bad guy is taken out by a local drone strike they will know the identiy of collateraly damaged citizens.

    Reply
  4. Against USA Drone June 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    Wow This Is Crazy Cant Believe Our Govenrm

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Advertise on End the Lie

Would you like to have your business or service exposed to thousands of people every day here at End the Lie? We have a wide variety of options available all at unbeatable prices. At the same time you will be supporting a truth-oriented alternative news outlet as well as hardworking independent journalists across the United States and the world.

If you would like to know more please email us and please be sure to include the details of what you are advertising, what your budget is and what type of advertising format you are looking for, including size(s), length of advertising period and any other pertinent details. The more information you give us, the more accurate the quote will be. We might also be able to work out some unique advertising tailored to your needs so feel free to contact us with questions and ideas.

Note: our advertisers have absolutely no input in what we cover or how we cover it. If this is problematic, you might want to seek out another news outlet. Here at End the Lie we put the truth first and thus no sponsor will be able to control our content. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone and we will not advertise pornography, gambling, drugs, alcohol, tobacco or anything that might otherwise be illegal.