According to Wired, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into employing technology used in war zones for near-constant surveillance on American soil.
Wired explained that DHS is seeking industry feedback on what involves Wide Area Surveillance System, which can monitor four square miles for unprecedented lengths of time:
The Department of Homeland Security says it’s interested in a system that can see between five to 10 square kilometers — that’s between two and four square miles, roughly the size of Brooklyn, New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood — in its “persistent mode.” By “persistent,” it means the cameras should stare at the area in question for an unspecified number of hours to collect what the military likes to call “pattern of life” data — that is, what “normal” activity looks like for a given area. Persistence typically depends on how long the vehicle carrying the camera suite can stay aloft; DHS wants something that can fit into a manned P-3 Orion spy plane or a Predator drone — of which it has a couple. When not in “persistent mode,” the cameras ought to be able to see much, much further: “long linear areas, tens to hundreds of kilometers in extent, such as open, remote borders.”
The request for industry feedback from DHS states that it is looking into using such technology for Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard. But Wired takes issue with even this use:
Even if the wide-area surveillance DHS is after is just used at borders or airports, those are still places where Americans go about their business, under the presumption that they’re not living in a government panopticon.
Wired points out that citizens from Iraq and Afghanistan, where such technology has been used, weren’t protected under the Fourth Amendment rights, like those held by citizens of the United States.
The system DHS describes in its draft RFP states:
The surveillance system shall have an electro-optical capability for daylight missions but can have an infrared capability for day or night operations. The sensor shall integrate with an airborne platform for data gathering. The imagery data shall be displayed at a DHS operations center and have the capability for forensic analysis within 36 hours of the flight.
DHS states on its website that it is not requesting a proposal or capability statements; it is simply looking to “obtain industry feedback on the draft Wide Area Aerial Surveillance System RFP.”
On a similar note, last month, The Blaze reported that although military drones have held a strong presence abroad, a new study revealed that they were being used more and more by local law enforcement in the U.S.
Also related to increased drone use by local authorities, CBS 2 in New York reported that drones are being discussed to keep tabs on the Big Apple as well:
“We’re always looking at technology,” said NYPD Spokesman Paul Browne. “Drones aren’t that exotic anymore. Brookstone sells them. We’ve looked at them but haven’t tested or deployed any.”
Former NYPD officer Gary Weksler said drones make sense.
“Not only would it be a form of intelligence gathering to protect the public, it also in many respects removes the officers, who might be attempting to identify issues, from harm’s way,” Weksler said.
Although it’s not a done deal, CBS 2 reports that security experts expect drones will remain a discussion point as the city seeks to prevent terrorism.