Pearl River The big reveal on protests now is an admission of what many have known or suspected for years: domestic surveillance is real and it’s all around us.
According to press reports, the Department of Homeland Security deployed helicopters, airplanes and drones over 15 cities where demonstrators gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, logging at least 270 hours of surveillance, far more than previously revealed, according to Customs and Border Protection data. The rationale for the huge budget of the department, especially after 9/11, was to protect the US homeland from foreign terrorists. Now we find out that even low-level DHS operatives can call for air support to monitor domestic protests. It is even hard to imagine the security rationale. They claim it had to do with identifying arsonists and vandals, but that is actually the job of local police, right? What’s the federal scope for domestic spying on that order? Is this an antifa hunt or just standard operating procedure, now exposed.
DHS is quick to claim that they were not using facial recognition software and that their equipment was not up to the task of recording license plate numbers for example. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the march of technology will make that denial moot PDQ. Of course, none of us were born yesterday, so it strains credibility to believe that they were using all of this airpower supposedly to identify arsonists and other miscreants but they can’t really identify them. This is a vacuous head fake. Presumably, if they did see something from the air, they could turn it over to the myriad local police departments that do in fact use recognition software to handle that part of the spying protocol.
The cities targeted by DHS included Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Minneapolis of course. The longest flyover was in Detroit, where one administration after another has been scared to death that black rebellion could breakout at any minute for more than fifty years. Not scared enough to actually solve any of the embedded and structural issues, mind you, but scared enough to spend billions over these decades to police problems governments have been unwilling to solve.
Now that the USA under Trump is on its way to becoming the new China, the pandemic is providing a small silver lining during this tragic and depressing time by making mask wearing mandatory. We need to follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong and make masks, hats, and even googles semi-standard wear for protests and demonstrations. We should do so not because we anticipate violence from the police and national guard, but to dissuade the chilling effect of mass surveillance for any wary of standing for justice in the streets.
For some of us, we can come as we are, now that any remaining doubt of all of such domestic spying has been confirmed as common knowledge in police and security circles at all levels.