How Police Use Military Technology to Secretly & Persistently Track You
By Gaius Publius
Jan 13 2017
We could make some grand statement about the nature of surveillance in 21st Century America — there’s certainly a grand and frightening statement to be made — but that would obscure the detail. (Do note, though, when you watch the videos, how much the American need for extreme Public Safety — “Daddy, keep us safe” — is invoked in justifying these intrusions.)
That said, from a recent Rolling Stone report on surveillance in Baltimore, here is just the detail, how Americans are being watched by cops of all stripes.
▪ Large urban areas are constantly photographed from 10,000 feet. Using multiple cameras in a plane flying at 10,000 feet and computer-driven “image stitching” software, police can photograph all open traffic and human interactions in five-mile square urban area for hours — and archive everything for later use.
This creates a storable, searchable, time-lapse wide-area “movie” of all street movement. Watch the video above to see it in action. Note that only at the end of the video are privacy issues even mentioned. Note also that the “events” discussed aren’t just planned events, like parades and demonstration, but also events not announced ahead of time, like murders. “Pre-event forensics” assumes constant “just in case” surveillance.
This kind of surveillance is happening now in at least one American city, Baltimore. Benjamin Powers, writing at Rolling Stone (emphasis mine):
Eyes Over Baltimore: How Police Use Military Technology to Secretly Track You
“They view people as enemy combatants,” says activist, as cops adopt surveillance, tracking, facial recognition programs designed for war zones
When protesters took to the street after police shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, they were greeted by law enforcement in full body armor, flanked by armored vehicles. In the two and a half years and countless shootings since, militarized police have become an all too familiar sight. In response, citizens have overwhelmingly begun to film these interactions on their smartphones, making the technology the eyes of our nation. But as we watch the police, they also watch us – only they don’t use an iPhone. Often, they use military grade surveillance equipment that gives them a much broader view than simple cell phone cameras ever could.
The city of Baltimore has, in many ways, become ground zero for the military surveillance technology that is slowly making its way from the battlefields into the hands of police departments across the country. From January to October of last year, police monitored Baltimore’s citizens using a Cessna airplane outfitted with military grade surveillance technologies multiple times, without their knowledge, that were developed for overseas war zones. The Baltimore Police Department has used surveillance technology such as large-scale aerial surveillance, advanced cell phone tracking and facial recognition technology on Baltimore’s citizens, yet these technologies have had little to no oversight from city government, and most have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Examined together, these surveillance technologies demonstrate an extended record of secret surveillance by the Baltimore Police Department. In August of 2016, the Department of Justice reported that the BPD needed greater oversight and transparency.
Yet police using military surveillance technology is increasingly common.
There’s much more about these cameras, and who is financing their use, in the article. But cameras are just the start.