Living in an Imperial World: Bloomberg's Eye-in-the-Sky
Coming soon to a town near you (if it isn't already there) - manned orbiting surveillance platforms:
NEW YORK (AP) - On a cloudless spring day, the NYPD helicopter soars over the city, its sights set on the Statue of Liberty.
A dramatic close-up of Lady Liberty's frozen gaze fills one of three flat-screen computer monitors mounted on a console. Hundreds of sightseers below are oblivious to the fact that a helicopter is peering down on them from a mile and a half away.
"They don't even know we're here," said crew chief John Diaz, speaking into a headset over the din of the aircraft's engine.
The helicopter's unmarked paint job belies what's inside: an arsenal of sophisticated surveillance and tracking equipment powerful enough to read license plates—or scan pedestrians' faces—from high above the nation's largest metropolis.
Police say the chopper's sweeps of landmarks and other potential targets are invaluable in helping guard against another terrorist attack, providing a see-but-avoid-being-seen advantage against bad guys.
"It looks like just another helicopter in the sky," said Assistant Police Chief Charles Kammerdener, who oversees the department's aviation unit.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that no other U.S. law enforcement agency "has anything that comes close" to the surveillance chopper, which was designed by engineers at Bell Helicopter and computer technicians based on NYPD specifications.
The chopper is named simply "23"—for the number of police officers killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The $10 million helicopter is just part of the department's efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology for its counterterrorism operations.
The NYPD also plans to spend tens of millions of dollars strengthening security in the lower Manhattan business district with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and license-plate readers posted at bridges, tunnels and other entry points.
Police have also deployed hundreds of radiation monitors—some worn on belts like pagers, others mounted on cars and in helicopters—to detect dirty bombs.
Kelly even envisions someday using futuristic "stationary airborne devices" similar to blimps to conduct reconnaissance and guard against chemical, biological and radiological threats.
Civil rights advocates are skeptical about the push for more surveillance, arguing it reflects the NYPD's evolution into ad hoc spy agency.
Read the whole thing, especially this "we would never do such a thing/look at the cool stuff we can do" dichotomy:
...From a privacy perspective, there's always a concern that 'New York's Finest' are spending millions of dollars to engage in peeping tom activities," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Police insist that law-abiding New Yorkers have nothing to fear.
"Obviously, we're not looking into apartments," Diaz said during a recent flight. "We don't invade the privacy of individuals. We only want to observe anything that's going on in public"...
...The chopper has helped track down fleeing suspects, including a recent case of a gunman who had shot his wife in Queens. As officers on the ground worried about how to approach the suspect's car, the camera in the sky hovered overhead, peeked inside the vehicle and found that he had already shot and killed himself...
So we are supposed to believe the people who brought you Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell that although they can "scan pedestrians' faces" and see inside vehicles from their airborne surveillance aircraft, such technological tools would never be used to "invade the privacy of individuals"?
It sure is a good thing that none of that Orwellian silliness - be it omnipresent government surveillance or the use of doublespeak - could ever happen here in America, home of the (not very) brave and the land of the (increasingly less) free.
Any patriot who isn't teaching herself to think about OPSEC in terms of the sky doesn't understand how late the hour is.