If you think the NSA is the only Government agency that is interested in spying on you … then you need to think again.
In addition to the NSA, due to a couple recent news stories we now know law enforcement agencies of all types are getting into the spying and surveillance game.
The FBI & US Marshalls (and at least 10 others) at a Federal level and now many, many local police agencies are spying on you too …
As we’ll see in just a moment, these law enforcement agencies are using just a little more technology than cameras and video recorders for doing your normal “stake out” and suspect surveillance.
In fact, they now have technology so powerful and capable of spying on innocent people that the NSA would be proud!
Call it “trickle down” surveillance state. Let’s see how the power hungry Feds have inspired Government at all levels to spy on American citizens …
FBI Spy Planes Spotted Over Virginia …
The Associated Press (AP) broke a news story that they discovered “scores” of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies.
Basically, AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. Here’s a pic of one …
For decades, the FBI has been using the planes to support surveillance on the ground (assumingly, the typical “car stake out” type where officers are surveilling a suspect) …
But now the planes have even more technology including high-tech cameras and other video recorders. But that’s not even the scary part. More on the scary technology in a moment …
The NYPD Spy Helicopter …
As early as October 2003 the NYPD had a spy helicopter codenamed “23” that cost about $10 million …
The helicopter was acquired through a Justice Department grant, and customized with a photo- and video-surveillance system capable of capturing clear images of license plates—or the faces of individuals—from 1,000 feet away. It could even, a regional NYC newspaper story noted, “pick up the catcher’s signals at Yankee Stadium.”
By 2008, an NBC news story reported the cameras and videos onboard were displaying Statue of Liberty sightseers from a mile and a half away.
It also described the high-powered camera, mounted in a turret below the chopper’s nose, that had infrared night-vision capabilities and satellite navigation to zoom in on any address typed into its computer. The system could beam live footage to police command centers below or to wireless devices in the hands of police commanders in the field.
The NYPD Spy Plane Sex Tape …
Funny enough, a privacy advocate interviewed raised concerns that the helicopter’s spying technology might be abused. Of course John Diazo, crew chief for the aircraft, replied, “Obviously, we’re not looking into apartments. We don’t invade the privacy of individuals. We only want to observe anything that’s going on in public.”
Of course, he lied and the technology and power was abused.
On the night of August 27, 2004, an officer aboard the helicopter was supposed to be monitoring several thousand street protestors prior to the Republican National Convention but instead for nearly four minutes he lingered on a music executive and his girlfriend having sex on the terrace of the executive’s Second Avenue penthouse.
It was dark outside and the guy and his girlfriend were shielded by a wall of shrubs, but the camera’s thermal imaging system saw right through those obstacles and recorded their private time.
(Of course, the NYPD didn’t admit to wrongdoing. The surveillance only came to light because one of the street protestors on the ground was arrested and demanded to see footage from the helicopter’s camera.)
Other cases of abuse might exist, but the NYPD has fought efforts by the ACLU and others to obtain information about its spy aircraft, so it’s hard to know for sure.
Isn’t This Just Another Form Of Suspect Surveillance?
Now, I’ve read some good comments from LEO friendly people that cessna airplanes and helicopters are simply another form of suspect surveillance …
In other words, if a cop can’t follow a bad guy through traffic, it helps to have “eyes in the air” to follow and surveil the suspect.
They also point out that the fuel limitations alone keep the planes from being used for mass surveillance of every day Americans and that makes sense. After all, how long can a plane or helicopter stay in the air? Certainly not long enough to record all of us all the time … right?
And of course these are cops trying to covert about tracking and surveillance so it makes sense that all these planes are registered under fake corporations and shell companies and the like.
“Wide-Area Surveillance” … it’s like “Bulk Data Collection” but for Police!
The Washington Post writes about another mass surveillance technique that uses aircraft that appears to be developed for the battlefield and is now being brought home to your local police station. Known as “Wide-Area Surveillance,” it involves high-resolution cameras installed on planes to monitor entire cities.
The Post writes:
” … Every moving pedestrian and vehicle can be tracked: the beginning and end of everyone’s journeys, and the route taken in between. This gives the authorities the power to press “rewind” on anybody’s movements, and learn a lot of intrusive things about how they live their life. Among the companies offering this technology are major defense contractors working for the Pentagon and an Ohio company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, which is trying to sell it to local police departments.”
Here’s a somewhat accurate picture of the technology being used to record everything in a given area.
Others have described it as “Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city.”
Now imagine what happens in 10, 15, 20 years when drone technology is so advanced and inexpensive that Police have hundreds of drones in the air all over the United States recording absolutely everything.
The scary NSA-like technology that Police use to spy on you using your cell phone …
Meet the Stingray.
The Stingray is a brand name for a device, sometimes called an IMSI catcher ordirtbox, that simulates a cell phone tower in order to trick mobile phones and other devices into connecting them and revealing their location.
Stingrays don’t just affect targeted phones; they pick up signals emanating from every mobile device in an area and allow authorities not only to track the devices but, with additional information, to identify who might be carrying them.
Let me be clear, the technology on these planes can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public.
These devices are in FBI cars but they’re really more powerful inside the spy planes they fly around because they have a better “reach” and can gather more data.
The U.S. Marshalls are collecting your cell phone info too
A Washington Post story reads, “The U.S. Marshals Service is harvesting large amounts of data from Americans’ cellphones through devices mounted on airplanes in an effort to locate fugitives, according to two individuals familiar with the activity.”
The Wall Street Journal wrote, “The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.”
According to the Journal, the planes are also equipped with two-foot-square devices — sometimes called “dirtboxes” — that mimic cell towers and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information and general location.
Of Course, The Local Police Want This Power Too …
The ACLU put together a page to figure out what state and local governments are using Stingray tracking devices.
The ACLU writes, “The map below tracks what we know, based on press reports and publicly available documents, about the use of stingray tracking devices by state and local police departments … The ACLU has identified 53 agencies in 21 states and the District of Columbia that own stingrays, but because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy, this map dramatically underrepresents the actual use of stingrays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.”
And here’s a pic of Federal Agencies known to use the cell site simulators (as of June 2015):
So what can you do?
With so much surveillance and so much technology, it might seem like there’s no way to protect your privacy anymore …
And in some ways you’re right.
With the power and money behind Federal and State Governments and the technology and legup they have on you …
If you ever find yourself the “target” of someone high up–you’re kind of screwed. If they want to find and track you it’s going to happen.
However, for the MILLIONS of other Americans that are being surveilled for no reason at all there are dozens of things you can do to make yourself a “hard target”.
In my next article, I’ll share many of those things with you.