It is not just federal agencies that may be violating your constitutional rights. Some local police and sheriff’s departments have surveillance operations as sophisticated as those at the NSA.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is deploying an array of cutting edge technologies in an attempt to track the movements of citizens, as documented in a recent LA Weekly expose by Darwin Bond-Graham and Ali Winston.
“LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff are monitoring the whereabouts of residents whether they have committed a crime or not,” the two wrote of surveillance efforts in the nation’s second largest city. The monitoring utilizes what the two call “militarized surveillance technology” in an effort to monitor citizens’ movements.
“In fact, Los Angeles is emerging as a major laboratory for testing and scaling up new police surveillance technologies,” the reporters noted. “The use of military-grade surveillance tools is migrating from places like Fallujah to neighborhoods including Watts and even low-crime areas of the San Fernando Valley, where surveillance cameras are proliferating like California poppies in spring.”
Other Cities, Too
It’s not just Los Angeles. Police in Tallahassee, Fla., reportedly tracked a suspect using his cell phone signal and then searched his home – all without a warrant, Watchdog.org reported. They were using a device called a “Stingray.”
The Jewish Journal reported that a team of high level LAPD officers recently visited the corporate headquarters of Nice Systems, “an Israeli security and cyber intelligence company that can intercept and instantly analyze video, audio and text-based communications.”
Nice Systems has developed software that can capture and store billions of telephone calls, emails, instant messages and social media posts, Yaron Tchwella of Nice Systems told the Journal.
One LAPD official was quoted as telling Nice Systems officials, “Let’s be honest … We’re here to steal some of your great ideas.”
Some of the LAPD ‘s current surveillance efforts include license plate recognition cameras and software that track car movements using cameras mounted on police cars, roofs and streetlights, and the information is stored in a massive database. LA Weekly reported that 24 law enforcement agencies have access to the database, which contains 160 million pieces of information about license plates.
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Additionally, the police department is employing:
- The use of 460 traffic cameras the California Department of Transportation uses to monitor freeways for police surveillance. This would presumably include license plate tracking.
- Predictive Policing, a technique based on anti-insurgency tactics developed by the US Army in Iraq. The idea is to use data in an attempt to predict who will commit a crime.
- Data mining software from a CIA-linked company called Palantir to generate “suspicious activity reports” about citizens.
- A high tech war room which allows police to monitor activities throughout the city via TV cameras, traffic cameras and data mining.
“We have some real-time tools that help us analyze crime as it’s happening,” the war room’s commander Capt. Sean Malinowski told TV station KCAL. “And then we feed that information out to the geographic areas and to patrol divisions.”
The LAPD also is looking into the use of drones. The journal said Perez and Horace Frank, the head of the LAPD’s Information Technology Bureau, was excited about the potential of Hover Mast, a tethered drone manufactured by a company called Sky Sapience. Hover Mast is a silent drone that can carry cameras or devices to intercept Wi-Fi and cellphone signals as it hovers over the city.
A Sky Sapience spokeswoman said Hover Mast also can carry cameras that employ facial recognition software. Hover Mast can look into windows and see what is happening inside a building, she said.
Additionally, an LAPD policy called Special Order 1 requires officers to document and monitor legal activities deemed suspicious, Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition alleged. The “suspicious activities” including taking pictures of public buildings.