BY KEVIN SAWYER – The Baltimore police department secured money from a billionaire to put into place a spy plane secret surveillance operation of the city that operates 24 hours a day. The spy plane travels around the city and uses a wide angle lens camera that captures everything and sends it off to gigantic hard drives located on gigantic servers.
The program has been filming the citizens of Baltimore in a Big Brother 1984 scenario that no one seems all that concerned about. Billionaire hedge fund managers John and Laura Arnold of Texas gave the Baltimore foundation called The Baltimore Community Foundation $120,000 from which the funds were secretly funneled to buy the spy plane and hire a private “security” company to run the operation.
The technology, of course, is weaponized military technology and was first put into place in Iraq. Ross McNutt, founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems, who operates the program, has been wanting to bring this military spy technology on a mass scale to the United States. His motive, of course, is profit. Profit, it seems, trumps individual liberty as politicians and judges regularly refuse to defend the Constitution or see the destruction of privacy and freedom of assembly and speech as anything to get all that riled up about. With the secret funds, the Baltimore PD saw no reason to inform the City Council, or anyone else, as to what they are doing.
The secret surveillance operation may have gone on forever without anyone knowing if not for a recent article published at Bloomberg Newsweek that has blown the thing wide open. The politicians of the Baltimore City Council postured and babbled for the TV cameras and said they were going to set up hearings into the matter but have not decided when exactly they intend to hold the “hearings”. The judges, as usual, are no where to be found in Baltimore.
The U. S. Supreme Court justices are all over the road with regard to surveillance technology and whether or not it should be illegal or even violates any current laws. As has been the case these last many years, judges all over the country, including the Supreme Court, have, for the most part, refused to actually examine and defend the Constitution. In previous surveillance cases, the Fourth Amendment seemed to be the focus of the discussion. It may be considered a search without a warrant and, perhaps, even the minor infraction of trespassing.
There are other case in which the justices have brought up that the Fourth Amendment is violated when authorities stomp on an expectation of privacy that citizens consider to be reasonable. In Katz v.The United States (1967) the then Supreme Court ruled that, “The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places…” The decision, for the most part, applied to the illegal use of wiretapping devices by the police on, then, public telephones.
The final argument put forth may be the one that will get the most attention. It is known as the “Mosaic Theory” and it suggests that while a single photo of a person in public isn’t a privacy or search and seizure violation, a “mosaic” of hundreds, or even thousands, of personal images could be analyzed to create such an intimate biography of a person’s life that the state simply can’t be allowed to do it without a proper warrant as specified in the Fourth Amendment.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is one justice that sees a dark precedent being set that may just tip the balance between the state and the citizenry. She said that, “The government can store such records and efficiently mine them for information far into the future.” Sotomayor sees this as a frightening situation because it “may alter the relationship between citizen and government in a way that is inimical to democratic society.”
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