For the past month, a government agency spy drone has been hovering menacingly over the heads of Sacramento California residents, recording everything it sees. “We initiated the drone program in order to enhance the safety and security of our residents,” LaTanna Jones, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency’s assistant director, insists. The surveillance may be “legal,” or at least serve a law-enforcement purpose, but that does not make it right or acceptable.
Unsettled citizens in the impacted neighborhoods don’t feel safer. They are downright scared. “It just doesn’t feel good,” said Ben Allen. “It hovers around. You don’t know what they’re looking at and monitoring.” Infamously liberal Bay Area residents are furious now, but they never once considered the ramifications of idiotically voting the “party of slavery” into the majority — time and time again.
Democrat Governor Jerry Brown had a chance to prevent the abuse before it ever happened and blew it. Brown approved the Orwellian espionage by vetoing a privacy concern bill that would have prevented it.
Big Brother keeps a watchful eye on the “free” citizens living in the Alder Grove and Marina Vista communities. The first time John Mattox noticed the unmanned reconnaissance was around a month ago. “The drone would fly over here, come over my neighbor’s house, fly over our house right here,” he relates.
Not just a singular curious occurrence, it instantly became a regular and annoying pattern. “You come home from work, it would be operating, go to bed it was still operating and this would repeat day after day. It wasn’t long before the whole neighborhood was buzzing about it.
Nobody ever heard of SHRA until questions about the drone arose. The tiny agency manages the two housing developments, which are reported to have unusually high levels of crime.
The body of the UAV is about five feet long and it takes to the air from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night. According to Mr. Jones, the patrols have already “spotted illegal dumping and trespassing.”
Jones acknowledges the residents’ privacy concerns but claims they have addressed them. “The drones are programmed so that they do not catch any footage until they get to about 200 feet in the air.”
As a comparison, the law that Governor Brown threw in the trash can would have prevented recording below 350 feet.
Even though the housing agency claims to have the legal right to use the technology, neighbors are skeptical. They assert that invading the privacy of their residential community isn’t good for anyone and is a complete waste of taxpayer money. “This is not an appropriate way to police the community,” Mr. Mattox notes.
The price tag just for the 90-day test phase of the project is $20,000. Now that the community is aware of the program, they are demanding the City Council in Sacramento to pull the plug.
As outrageous as all of that is, aerial surveillance of the public by government agencies isn’t anything new.
In the wake of the liberal riots in Baltimore, Maryland back in May of 2015, Benjamin Shayne noticed a small plane “looping low and tight over West Baltimore.” Right over the same location “Freddie Gray” riots happened a few days before.
He decided to ask the “Twittersphere.” Shayne soon got back a screenshot “of the Cessna 182T’s exact flight path and also the registered owner of the plane.” He chuckled to his wife, “the internet is an amazing thing.”
He didn’t realize his question was about to blow the lid off a “previously secret, multi-day campaign of overhead surveillance by city and federal authorities during a period of historic political protest and unrest.”
The American Civil Liberties Union was soon filling out lawsuit forms, hammering for answers on what legal authority the government had and demanding to know just how far reaching the technology being used was.
Defenders of civil liberties, in general, are especially concerned “about surveillance technology that can quietly gather images” over “square miles at a time.” The gear “inevitably” captures “the movements of people under no suspicion of criminal activity into a government dragnet.”
In March of 2016, the public was again outraged to learn through Freedom of Information Act requests that the U.S. Marshals Service “and perhaps other agencies” have been equipping their Cessnas with “cell-site simulators” called “dirtboxes” or “stingrays.”
By spoofing cell towers, they “capture the locational data of tens of thousands of cell phones during a single flight.”
Worse, the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, “the records we received confirm the agencies were using these invasive surveillance tools with little oversight or legal guidance.” They have been using the technology more and more since it first started in 2007.
By the following month, everyone was visiting the flightradar24 website to track the unfriendly skies. By then it was common knowledge that “government aircraft take to the skies and slowly circle over American cities.”
The planes are known to be equipped with “high-resolution video cameras, often working with ‘augmented reality’ software that can superimpose onto the video images everything from street and business names to the owners of individual homes. At least a few planes have carried devices that can track the cell phones of people below.”
At least 30 American cities are known to have regular surveillance programs. Northwest of Phoenix, Arizona, an amateur security blogger has made a detailed study of one such typical FBI surveillance operation.
He has recorded thousands of hours of data cataloging the flight paths and patterns, aircraft numbers and reported transponder data of every plane flying over his head, current through today.