Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above
Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.
It must be the NSA or the CIA or the FBI, right? They must have a warrant, right? They must be deleting the video after a certain period of time, right?
It’s the Baltimore Police Department. The article and accompanying video clarify the motivation of the company providing the technology and the service to BPD. Founder Ross McNutt says he hopes technology like his will have a deterrent effect on crime in cities where its deployment is disclosed. That’s a good goal but it’s not the BPD or the company’s founder I’m worried about.
Anything on a hard drive that isn’t air gapped is vulnerable to exfiltration by hackers. That includes a massive digital video recorder covering an entire city for an indeterminate amount of time.
Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program
Devlin Barrett reports at The Wall Street Journal:
The program cuts out phone companies as an intermediary in searching for suspects. Rather than asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect, which law enforcement has criticized as slow and inaccurate, the government can now get that information itself. People familiar with the program say they do get court orders to search for phones, but it isn’t clear if those orders describe the methods used because the orders are sealed.
DHS wants to track license plates
ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen, on the license plate tracking system recently proposed by the Department of Homeland Security:
It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise, and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government.
Because the government never compels commercial enterprises to give it data.
U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans
John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, reporting for Reuters Washington bureau:
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial.
This goes well beyond spying. This is, I would argue, exactly why people object to such domestic spying.
The logic is that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. However, the “Special Operations Division” probably isn’t infallible, since, well, no one is, and that means that you may have nothing to hide, and think you have nothing to fear, and be completely wrong.
Innocent people may have been convicted as a result of what appear on their face to be unconstitutional, extrajudicial practices.
Those arguing that the price for protection from terrorists and other would-be evil doers is letting the National Security Agency have a peak at our Gmail will have a much more difficult time making the same case for falsifying an evidence trail.
The defense was often held in the dark and, apparently, at least in some cases, investigators misled both the prosecution and judicial evidentiary discretion.
Oh, and as a cherry on top, here’s a gem from near the end of the Reuters story:
A DEA spokesman declined to comment on the unit’s annual budget. A recent LinkedIn posting on the personal page of a senior SOD official estimated it to be $125 million.
The monitoring of internet communications for sensitive information, it would seem, goes both ways.
German railroad mulling anti-graffiti drones
With US authorities pushing for easier backdoors into electronic communications systems, a network of anti-graffiti drones looks like a good front for general state-wide surveillance. The German privacy ethic runs deep, but it may provide an interesting model for US authorities to consider in the long-term.
Obama May Back F.B.I. Plan to Wiretap Web Users
Charlie Savage of The New York Times:
the new proposal focuses on strengthening wiretap orders issued by judges. Currently, such orders instruct recipients to provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies, leaving wiggle room for companies to say they tried but could not make the technology work. Under the new proposal, providers could be ordered to comply, and judges could impose fines if they did not.
Concerns that this would prompt similar measures from repressive governments abroad are not overblown. If we expect foreign companies to submit to these procedures, their governments will expect US companies to do the same. I’m surprised this article doesn’t mention anything about what the Obama administration’s diplomats and international law folks think about all of this.
Non-interfering citizens should be able to videotape on-duty police
If someone is videotaping a police incident, but not interfering therewith, there is no lawful justification for police interference. I’m not always in agreement with the ACLU, but this harassment must end. A nation where state surveillance is only increasing must be open to the right of citizens to turn the lens in the other direction.