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Covert cameras installed in streetlights across nation by DEA, ICE; contractor touts constant spying

Photo illustration of surveillance cameras. (ROLAND WEIHRAUCH/AFP/Getty Images)

The DEA and ICE are hiding covert surveillance cameras inside an undisclosed number of streetlights around the nation, an investigation by Quartz has revealed.

What is going on?

Records show the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has paid about $22,000 to Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC of Texas for “video recording and reproducing equipment,” according to the report. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has paid about $28,000 to the company over the same time frame.

“ICE offices in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio have provided funding for recent acquisitions from Cowboy Streetlight Concealments; the DEA’s most recent purchases were funded by the agency’s Office of Investigative Technology, which is located in Lorton, Virginia,” according to the report.

The owner of Cowboy Streetlight Concealments declined to discuss details of the contracts.

“We do streetlight concealments and camera enclosures,” Christie Crawford, who owns Cowboy Streetlight Concealments with her husband, a Houston police officer, told Quartz. “Basically, there’s businesses out there that will build concealments for the government and that’s what we do. They specify what’s best for them, and we make it. And that’s about all I can probably say.”

Crawford touted the government's ability to constantly surveil anyone.

“I can tell you this—things are always being watched," she said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the street or visiting a friend, if government or law enforcement has a reason to set up surveillance, there’s great technology out there to do it.”

Additionally, the DEA is soliciting for “concealments made to house network PTZ camera, cellular modem, cellular compression device.” The agency intends to award the contract to Obsidian Integration LLC, an Oregon company that is a federal law enforcement contractor.

Earlier this month, the Jersey City Police Department awarded a contract to Obsidian Integration for “the purchase and delivery of a covert pole camera.”

Anything else?

Additional details were not immediately available. Obsidian, and the Department of Justice did not respond to Quartz’s requests for comments.

It’s not yet clear where federal agencies have installed the streetlight cameras.

Other DEA projects have included installing covert surveillance cameras inside traffic barrels and a network of digital speed display road signs with built-in automated license plate reader technology, according to the report.

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