Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Whistleblower Blows Lid on Surveillance Technologies

Last week, writing for The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Margot Williams exposed the surveillance state for what it is:  an unconstitutional, extra-legal apparatus designed to manifest total awareness through covert monitoring of targets' cellular device activity and geolocation.  A whistleblower provided the journalists with documents showing an extensive array of technologies utilized by federal and local authorities for intercepting electromagnetic data.

Of special interest to me are the DRT boxes as they are called, digital receivers capable of mimicking cell towers that capture thousands of targets' data.  They are called cell-site simulators and there's been a flurry of attention and activity over the issue this past year.  Background on the DRT boxes and the issues they present can be found here and here.  Interestingly, in March 2015 a New York State Supreme Court ruling by Erie County Judge Patrick NeMoyer found the FBI and the Erie County Sheriff's Office at fault for failing the disclose material information about the use of the cell-site simulator technology under a Freedom of Information Act suit.  That ruling can be read here.  Apparently, the decision has been appealed and the NY ACLU is still waiting for the documents to be disclosed.

While it may seem blasé to remark about the fact that we live in some overarching surveillance state, the balance of our right to privacy to completely tipped in favor of the procurers of these invasive technologies.  It fundamentally strips you of any right to privacy when these devices are used.  Locally, the FBI routinely flies planes with these technologies.  The Department of Homeland Security also operates surveillance planes and helicopters locally, both doubtless outfitted with similar technologies.  Most importantly, it's the fact that almost nobody knows about these issues, much less cares.  It's the apathy that surrounds us that is most astonishing.  Perhaps it's the level of powerlessness people feel.  People rarely look up to notice anything - the sky, the surveillance, the weird weather.  There's the overriding contention that everything is normal, everything has always been this way, but this couldn't be further from the truth.  We live in strange times.  

The level of discourse and understanding of almost anything is so low it's nearly impossible to talk about a subject like this in polite company.  Why?  Because people see no value is discussing subjects like this.  There's such an immediate wall built up surrounding any discourse that requires critical thought, action, or facing uncomfortable facts.  We live in a society that has engineered itself to find no value in facing reality.  Maybe because it's so fucking twisted at this point, I don't know.  Regardless, when I look around and assess the level of awareness people have about what's happening around them, sometimes I feel like I'm swimming in a sea of jellyfish.  They just want to go with the flow, blend in and stick with the herd.  Well, not me.  I won't be led to slaughter all because there's been some weird expectation placed on me that truth has no value and nothing is important.  I prefer to live a life defined by a pursuit of truth rather than cowardice.  

FBI Surveillance Plane

DHS Surveillance Plane, N839SA

DHS Surveillance Plane Circling over Lackawanna ISIS man's house, July 2015.

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