By Kevin Samson – MAY 16, 2016
It seems that every rock overturned reveals a new depth to government spying on its own citizens – in this case, literally.
Major cities have uncovered several secret operations in recent years that have sparked outrage. In 2013, Seattle police were forced to deactivate a hidden WiFi mesh network system that was funded by Homeland Security. This past month a Phoenix, Arizona resident documented a strange box that appeared on his utility pole; it was later claimed by the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice – the ATF would neither confirm nor deny ongoing surveillance in the area.
Now the heavily populated Bay Area of San Francisco, home to nearly 1 million residents and countless millions more visitors, has been exposed to have been part of an ongoing operation to secretly record public conversations, perhaps dating from 2010. Emphasis added:
Jeff Harp, a KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI special agent said, “They put microphones under rocks, they put microphones in trees, they plant microphones in equipment. I mean, there’s microphones that are planted in places that people don’t think about, because that’s the intent!
Worse, it appears to have been done without a warrant as part of an investigation into alleged fraudulent activity committed by a group of real estate investors. Why exactly this should subject the public at large to potentially have their private conversations recorded as well has not yet been fully explained.
The expectation of privacy while in public space is becoming more hotly debated as continuous data collection is increasingly accepted as part of our digital world. I have previously written about the specific threat to civil liberties that blanket WiFi coverage poses. New York City is turning thousands of its payphones into WiFi hotspots, while “Smart Pavement” is set for a massive roll-out across the UK. This is occurring at the same time that NY senator Schumer has called for a federal investigation into high-tech billboards that spy on the public through facial recognition and mobile phone location data. Some assume all of this is being done for advertising purposes, but it’s also been revealed that many countries are using this to measure and manipulate political opinion.
We are clearly heading into very dangerous territory as all of our data is being opened up for scrutiny by government, while its own operations are being done in secret using the malleable framework of crime and terrorism to justify the means to its ends.
The good news is that an increasingly aware public, as well as a rising number of courageous whistleblowers, are shining new light about the depths to which our civil liberties are being erased.
Stay vigilant and take something from the government’s playbook – if you see something, say something.