(TMU) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the city of Baltimore from rolling out a disturbing aerial surveillance program.
The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of a group of Baltimore community activists who have raised concerns about the introduction of a controversial technology known as wide-area aerial surveillance which involves stationing an aircraft equipped with ultra-high-resolution cameras over a city to track all visible pedestrians and vehicles within that city.
The ACLU writes:
“Imagine a day in the future when everyone, from the moment they step outside their home, has to live with the knowledge that their every movement is being recorded by powerful cameras circling in the skies above. Not just where they work, shop, eat and drink, and whose homes they visit, but details about their political, religious, sexual, and medical lives—all captured and stored in databases without a warrant and available to law enforcement upon request.
That day is here.”
The ACLU states in the lawsuit that the program would violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to freedom of association and privacy. The rights group argues that government tracking of everyone in a city would violate the Constitution’s ban on “general warrants,” which authorize searches under broad and vague criteria. The ACLU states that the systems violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and the First Amendment’s guarantees of the right to assemble. The ACLU also notes that the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the courts’ role when interpreting new technology is to protect the “degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.”
The wide-area aerial surveillance technology—originally used for monitoring citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan in a program called “Gorgon Stare”—is yet another example of tools from the U.S.-led Global War on Terror making their way to American cities. Coincidentally, the company behind the technology, Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), was founded by Ross McNutt, a former colonel in the U.S. Air Force who worked on similar programs in the military. McNutt and PSS are now preparing to roll out the same technology in the skies above Baltimore.
The company has been promoting the technology to local police for years. However, the Baltimore police department is the first to embrace the idea.
The ACLU warns that if McNutt and PSS succeed, the flood gates will be opened and additional companies would likely join the market. This would likely lead to a roll out of even more powerful technologies, including automated AI analysis, multi-spectral imaging, and night vision capabilities, not to mention much higher camera resolutions. The lawsuit also warns that the monitoring program would likely put activists, protesters, and dissidents of all kinds under surveillance.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots think-tank that advances the public policy interests of Black people in Baltimore, Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 project to end gun violence in the city, and Kevin James, a community organizer and hip-hop musician.
This is not the first time surveillance planes have caused controversy in Baltimore. In November 2015, internal documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed the agency flew surveillance planes over Baltimore and Ferguson, MO during highly-publicized protests. The planes also operated thermal imaging equipment. The documents, obtained by the ACLU via Freedom of Information Act requests, outline how the bureau is using planes equipped with infrared and night vision cameras.
The release of the documents came after FBI Director James Comey confirmed to Congress that the agency flew surveillance aircraft over Ferguson and Baltimore during the protests following the police killings of both Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
According to the FBI’s own flight logs, the agency flew 10 surveillance flights over Baltimore from April 29 to May 3, 2015, comprising a total of 36.2 flight hours. The flights took place mostly at night and typically involved a Baltimore Police Department representative and an FBI agent. Evidence logs show that at least half the flights conducted video surveillance, and the FBI is apparently holding on to copies of these videos. Still other flights conducted “electronic surveillance,” but specific details were redacted.
Additionally, in September 2015, Anti Media reported on the existence of a fleet of surveillance aircraft operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that has been flying over various locations within the United States, as well as foreign destinations.
The ACLU’s lawsuit is an attempt to stop the expansion of these types of programs over American cities. If they fail and there is no public push back, Americans will soon have to contend with the reality that surveillance drones are watching their every move.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.