Border Surveillance Tools Could Become Ubiquitous Nationwide: Report

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Drones, towers, licence sheet readers, and different surveillance tools comprise a “digital borderline wall” that threatens privateness and civilian liberties, according to a caller study from 3 immigration advocacy groups.

The Deadly Digital Border Wall report criticizes instrumentality enforcement’s surveillance of the U.S.-Mexico border, but the tools described successful the study could be—and person been—used against each American residents arsenic the authorities ramps up programs to antagonistic domestic extremism.

The report—published by Mijente, Just Futures Law, and the Rio Grande Valley No Border Wall Coalition—details 2 main tools instrumentality enforcement uses to way migrations: drones and towers. Additionally, the authorities uses a wide array of surveillance systems and databases to way each radical who transverse U.S. borders—illegally oregon otherwise.

According to the report, determination are astatine slightest 55 surveillance towers on with Southwest border. These structures are 80 to 140 feet gangly and are equipped with time and nighttime cameras and a radar that tin place radical six miles away, the study said.

There are besides much than 360 distant video surveillance systems—smaller, relocatable surveillance towers—and dozens of mobile surveillance systems. Each mobile strategy consists of a motortruck with telescoping poles successful the furniture that widen up to 35 feet successful the air, outfitted with thermal and video cameras and a laser illuminator, the study explained.

Meanwhile, the authorities is rolling retired its newest surveillance tool: an autonomous operation powered by artificial intelligence, which tin beryllium utilized without the nonstop power of a quality operator, the study said.

“The relocatable towers are 33 feet gangly and suited to enactment successful distant environments with small maintenance, since they run disconnected the grid and astir the clock, utilizing star panels for energy,” the study said, adding that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans connected installing 200 of them by fiscal twelvemonth 2022.

The increasing fig of towers is complemented by a fleet of drones on the borderline successful the Southwest. The study said CBP has much than 135 drones, with plans to procure different 460.

“Nearly 600 operators were trained to alert them, and the bureau aimed to treble that fig successful 2021 with a grooming programme successful West Virginia,” the study said, adding, “Since 2016, CBP has expressed involvement successful processing drones with facial designation capabilities.”

While the abovementioned tools are ostensibly designed to way amerciable borderline crossings, the study besides details galore surveillance tools utilized to way each travelers crossing U.S. borders.

For instance, the study raised concerns astir the forthcoming Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART), which the Department of Homeland Security is implementing to regenerate a bequest system.

“Hosted by Amazon Web Services, the caller strategy volition aggregate, link, and comparison facial designation images, DNA profiles, iris scans, integer fingerprints, and dependable prints connected unsocial profiles of hundreds of millions of people,” the study said.

“The planned database volition cod this invasive idiosyncratic information from divers national agencies similar ICE, CBP, FBI, and the Department of Defense, arsenic good arsenic from section and authorities instrumentality enforcement, and from overseas governments including Mexico, the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, and the Five Eyes alliance.”

Another surveillance instrumentality that has travel nether scrutiny is the automated licence sheet reader, which tracks sheet numbers, precise dates and times, images, geolocation information, and different data.

“This information tin beryllium utilized to find the question patterns of idiosyncratic drivers,” the study said. “Most importantly, the sheet information tin beryllium matched with a car’s proprietor to way their movement, and stored and shared among antithetic instrumentality enforcement agencies.”

Along with documenting the methods and tools utilized by the government, the study besides tracks the backstage contractors that person been profiting disconnected the increasing surveillance state.

According to the report, Motorola Solutions has a $54.6 cardinal declaration with CBP for licence sheet scholar technology, portion ICE is paying Thomson Reuters $22.8 cardinal for akin services done 2026. Israeli subject contractor Elbit Systems, meanwhile, has a $239 cardinal declaration with CBP for surveillance operation improvement and maintenance, and General Dynamics has been awarded $153 cardinal done 2023 to grow the system, according to the report.

The astir costly strategy successful the study is the HART biometric database strategy astatine an estimated $4.3 billion. Military contractor Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $143 cardinal declaration to make the archetypal increment of this system, the study noted.

According to the report, authorities and large tech are becoming progressively intertwined erstwhile it comes to borderline surveillance.

“The integer partition relies connected cutting-edge, for-profit surveillance technologies developed by subject contractors, large tech companies, and Silicon Valley start-ups,” the study said.

“As borderline enforcement agencies go progressively reliant connected exertion to monitor, detain, and deport immigrants, multi-million-dollar contracts are being signed to make tools for the region.”

Lest radical deliberation that these tools are solely being utilized to curtail amerciable immigration, the study explained that full populations are being swept up successful the surveillance dragnet.

In 2017, for instance, CBP stationed a operation successful San Diego to show a protest, according to the report. Last year, CBP drones were deployed connected Black Lives Matter protestors successful astatine slightest 12 cities, the study added.

“Border communities consciousness the interaction of this surveillance acutely. The surveillance towers supra their towns don’t conscionable show the border, they show their backyards too. The drones flying overhead are an ever-present oculus successful the sky, watching radical arsenic they walk, bike, and thrust successful their neighborhoods,” the study said.

A caller suit from the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation further backs the report’s claims, astatine slightest erstwhile it comes to licence sheet readers. The suit revealed that 1 instrumentality enforcement section shared specified accusation with much than 600 different agencies.

“Specifically, the sheriff’s bureau shares and transfers ALPR accusation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 18 different national agencies, and 424 out-of-state instrumentality enforcement agencies,” the lawsuit says. “This includes instrumentality enforcement agencies located arsenic acold afield arsenic Enfield, Connecticut; St. Louis, Missouri; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Newton County, Georgia.”

The study warned that borderline surveillance is conscionable a sensation of what could travel for the remainder of the country.

“The proliferation of checkpoints is simply a changeless reminder that the full borderline portion is, successful the eyes of DHS, a warzone. Border communities person go a morganatic people for surveillance and enforcement—a sensation of what whitethorn await the remainder of the state arsenic these technologies are rolled retired nationwide.”

Ken Silva

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Ken Silva covers nationalist information issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting inheritance besides includes cybersecurity, transgression and offshore concern – including 3 years arsenic a newsman successful the British Virgin Islands and 2 years successful the Cayman Islands. Contact him astatine [email protected]

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