BY MICHAEL WEBSTER: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER. NOV 10, 2008 at 9:00 PM PDT
Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) and Space-Based Domestic Spying Surveillance technology the U.S. Government is now watching American citizens under the guise of disaster management and controlling the U.S. Mexican border. The Reaper/Predator B UAV’s robotic killing machines are currently in operation with the USAF, US Navy and the Royal Air Force. In addition non military users of the Predator B include: NASA and Homeland security though the US Customs and Border Protection agencies.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) space-based domestic spy program run by that agency’s National Applications Office (NAO) is now in full operation.
Indeed during Hurricane Ike, U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the first time flew the Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle in "support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s relief efforts," the insider tech publication reported.
Tom Burghardt in a recent article wrote that the Predator B carries out "targeted assassinations" of "terrorist suspects" across Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The deployment of the robotic killing machines in the United States for "disaster management" is troubling to say the least and a harbinger of things to come.
Despite objections by Congress and civil liberties groups DHS, in close collaboration with the ultra-spooky National Reconnaissance Office , the agency that develops and maintains America’s fleet of military spy satellites, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency that analyzes military imagery and generates mapping tools, are proceeding with the first phase of the controversial domestic spying program.
NAO will coordinate how domestic law enforcement and "disaster relief" agencies such as FEMA will use satellite imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by military spy satellites. Burghardt wrote earlier this year, unlike commercial satellites, their military cousins are far more flexible, have greater resolution and therefore possess more power to monitor human activity.
Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project, called for a moratorium on the domestic use of military spy satellites until key questions were answered. Steinhardt said, the domestic use of spy satellites and UAV’s represents a big brother monster and we need to put some restraints in place before it grows into something that will trample Americans’ privacy rights.
This program now is providing federal, state and local officials "with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery." Steinhardt said
As we have seen however, the use of satellite imagery during "national security events" such as last summer’s political conventions in Denver and St. Paul may have aided FBI and local law enforcement in their preemptive raids on protest organizers and subsequent squelching of dissent. One wonders if this is what DGI refers to when they write that the company "performs work in the national interest, advancing public safety and national security through innovative research, analysis and applied technology".
There are real questions being asked, do these spies in the sky surveillance systems comply with privacy laws and doesn’t violate the Posse Comitatus Act?
The 1878 law prohibits the military from playing a role in domestic law enforcement. Since the 1990s however, Posse Comitatus has been eroded significantly by both Democratic and Republican administrations, primarily in the areas of "drug interdiction," "border security" as well as "Continuity of Government" planning by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).
Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border
Protection (CBP) is the lead agency charged with securing our nation’s borders.
United States Border Patrol (USBP) is charged with detecting and preventing the entry of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, and unauthorized aliens into the country, and interdicting drug smugglers and other criminals.
The USBP already utilizes advanced technology to augment its agents’ ability to patrol the border. The technologies used include, but are not limited to, sensors, light towers,mobile night vision scopes, remote video surveillance systems, directional listeningdevices, various database systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's). These so called “force multipliers” allow the USBP to deploy fewer agents in a specific area while maintaining the ability to detect and counter intrusions and are increasingly becoming a part of the USBP’s day-to-day operations. There are two different types of UAV's: drones and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). Both drones and RPVs are pilotless, but drones are programmed for autonomous flight. RPVs are actively flown remotely — by a ground control operator. UAV's are defined as a powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry lethal or nonlethal payloads. UAV’s have played key roles in recent conflicts.
Historically, UAV’s have been used in various military settings outside of U.S. borders.
UAV’s have provided reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, search and rescue, and battle damage assessments. In the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, UAV’s have been used for surveillance purposes and to attack enemies. The Predator UAV, for example, was armed with anti-tank weapons to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda members.
UAV’s have also been used in domestic settings. The NASA-sponsored Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program has produced civilian UAV's to monitor pollution and measure ozone levels. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is involved in developing Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and video camera guidance for using UAV's to locate and identify toxic substances. Lastly, the Department of Energy recently announced that it will test UAV’s. They can also be outfitted with radiation sensors to detect potential nuclear booms, suite case nuke, dirty booms and reactor accidents. Thousands of National Guard troops are deployed along with U.S. Border Patrol to protect the US border and are flying unmanned aircraft system (UAS), out of bases in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
As reported earlier this year in the Laguna Journal that a special U.S. Military Task Force has been created to protect our southern border with Mexico. Members of this task force are preparing to secure the border by responding with specially trained fast response U.S. Army task force military units. These forces are already in place with the heart of the power being concentrated in El Paso and Southern New Mexico with a far reaching responsibility from East Texas to Southern California.
USAF General Victor E. Renuart Jr.
They are being staged and immediately available as emergency "on call" units for use against terrorist threats on the nation's border and local disasters, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of United States Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Commander.
The Ft. Bliss 1st Armored Division soldiers, as well as a new missile defense unit that are being created at Fort Bliss. America's first air defense and believed by Jane's Intel Web Report to be the owners of the sky where ever they fly. These F-22 Raptors that are stationed at Holloman Air Force Base will be available to defend homeland security, Renuart said.
Renuart, who visited Joint Task Force-North, which is under his command, declined to discuss any details of threats uncovered along the border with Mexico, but he said many agencies, including JTF-North, have made "it a very difficult border for someone to take advantage of." That would explain why there have been recent reports of U.S. military being seen on the border.
As previously reported in the Journal the federal government acknowledged that the United States-Mexican border region has been experiencing an alarming rise in the level of criminal cartel activity, including drug and human smuggling, which has placed significant additional burdens on Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
Dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped, held hostage and killed by their captors in Mexico and many cases remain unsolved. Moreover, new cases of disappearances and kidnap-for-ransom continue to be reported.
"It is prudent for us to assume that any of these established trafficking routes, whether it's human trafficking or drugs or arms or money, any of those could be used, and so we want to keep our eyes and ears on all of those to ensure that they are not used in that regard," Renuart said.
Both the F-22 and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile -- designed to destroy short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles as they re-enter Earth's atmosphere -- are recent additions to the nation's arsenal. A THAAD unit is being created at Fort Bliss.
"Our job at NORTHCOM is to ensure that if there's a seam or a gap there that we're thinking of how we could fill that with some other capability out of" the Defense Department, he said. "What that has forced us to do is think about, 'How do you solve that time/distance problem, even on a short-notice event. And so I have access to capabilities now that I didn't have a year or two ago that I can move very quickly to fill that need.
The MQ-9 Reaper will employ robust sensors to automatically find, fix, track and target critical emerging time sensitive targets. In the MQ-9 the SAR was replaced with the An/Apy, replacing the TESAR with more advanced high resolution radar-imaging system. The ground control segment of the Predator B is common with all previous Predator systems. The US government is developing the ability to operate multiple aircraft from a single ground station, in effect, multiplying the overall combat effectiveness over the battlefield.
U.S. Army Joint Task Force-North
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Holloman Air Force Base
Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of United States Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Commander.
U.S. Soldiers on the ground.
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