I'm sure many of my readers are familiar with the "Gorgon Stare" program. Briefly, it developed an early wide-area surveillance technology that could observe up to dozens of square miles of any given area, using only one (unmanned or manned) aircraft to carry the sensor(s). It allows its operators to track an individual, or a vehicle, or a given property, over time, to see who goes there, who leaves, who meets who, which route(s) they follow, what vehicles they use, where they go next, and so on. It was initially used to trace those planting improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has since been developed to track anything or anyone, anywhere in the area under surveillance. Its current capabilities are classified, but undoubtedly exceed those of the latest published specifications. There are many more such systems in existence, including some that are probably so highly classified they're unknown to the public.
The beauty of Gorgon Stare and similar technology, from the point of view of intelligence collectors, is that it doesn't have to target anyone in particular. It targets everyone it can see. Their every action, interaction and movement is available to be called up and studied for months or years after the event, if necessary. No search warrant is needed, either, because the surveillance is not specifically directed against an individual or place. They just happen to be caught up in the general data capture. If, later, evidence is needed against them, it's already been captured and can be retrieved in seconds. Modern computer storage, retrieval and analysis systems make the process effortless.
The recent revelation of almost two terabytes of police surveillance data, gathered through the use of such systems, demonstrates that we have no real privacy left outside our homes. Wired reports:
The transparency activist group Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoSecrets, posted a 1.8-terabyte trove of police helicopter footage to its website on Friday ... The footage ... shows helicopters operating during the day and at night, capturing everything from vistas high overhead to cars lined up at a McDonald's drive-through, and individuals standing in their yards or on local streets. The leak illustrates the inherent risk of collecting and retaining sensitive footage that could be breached.
. . .
The vast majority of the leaked footage appears to come from the Dallas Police Department ... A smaller subset of the data appears to come from the greater Atlanta area ... Georgia State Patrol did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment by publication. GSP’s Aviation Division has 15 helicopters and one Cessna 182 airplane used for operations that include search-and-rescue missions. On its website the division lists other activities, including “aerial photography” and “aerial surveillance.”
. . .
... law enforcement agencies have used helicopters in aerial surveys and monitoring for decades. But the footage released by DDoSecrets illustrates how effective helicopter-mounted cameras can be at capturing extremely sharp and detailed video close to the ground. Helicopters can also carry heavier surveillance equipment than what can be affixed to basic quadcopters or other types of low-cost drones.
“People think of police helicopters as traffic copters, but they're so much more than that,” DDoSecrets’ Best wrote. “They carry technology that lets police watch people who have no idea they're being watched. It's important for people to understand what police technology is already capable of and what it could be capable of soon. There can't be informed discussions or decisions otherwise.”
There's more at the link.
Consider that the FBI had aerial footage of the Kyle Rittenhouse affair, in high definition, that it and the prosecution hid from defense attorneys until literally the last minute - and then only provided them with a low-resolution version of the footage. They used the high-resolution original in an effort to sway the jury to see things their way. This was unconscionable, of course; along with the prosecution's many other deliberate errors, I hope and trust it'll lead to the disbarment of more than one of their attorneys. Nevertheless, the mere existence of that footage reveals that the authorities knew a lot more about the Rittenhouse affair than they were willing to let on. I'm willing to bet that sending aircraft or UAV's to obtain such footage of any area affected by riots or demonstrations is now standard operating procedure for Federal and state law enforcement agencies, and for major urban police departments as well.
Consider, too, what this means if you take steps to defend your property and/or your neighborhood against the approach of a threatening mob. If such surveillance footage is taken of your area (and you have to assume it will be, in a high-tension situation), the authorities will be able to watch every move you make outside your home. If you form groups; if you openly carry weapons; if you coordinate your movement and activities using short-range radios or cellphones that can be intercepted (see my first blog post this morning); any or all of that information can and probably will be used against you. Imagine standing in the dock, hearing the prosecutors say this about you:
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this was not self-defense at all, but a planned, premeditated attack on a group of peaceful demonstrators. Ignore their signs and shouted slogans - those are irrelevant! Look, we have footage of the defendant gathering with other criminals, all openly carrying weapons and getting into obviously prearranged positions. They set an ambush on a suburban street, into which the victims walked without warning, to be slaughtered without mercy by vigilante domestic terrorist racist killers like the man in the dock this morning!"
If you think that interpretation won't be placed on the footage by politically correct, "woke" prosecutors, you must have been asleep or unconscious over the past couple of years. See my articles from last year:
That's the reality of what we face today, and the reality of the evidence prosecutors can and will deploy against anyone who dares to defend himself, his family and his home against the mob. That doesn't mean we should not defend ourselves, of course. It merely means that we'll have to "box clever" and plan ahead.
- Consider ways to move from your home to an interdiction point without exposing yourself to surveillance; or, if that's not possible, consider ways to disguise yourself so that you won't be recognized. COVID-19 "plague masks" are a good start. So are umbrellas, raincoats, ponchos or anything else that breaks up the outline of your body. Consider pebbles in your shoes to change the way you walk, because gait analysis can reveal your identity as surely as your face.
- Don't carry what are obviously weapons, or containers that are the right size to conceal weapons. Rather position them ahead of time, in secure "stashes" where they're unlikely to be found. Just in case some are found, it's not a bad idea if they're "off paper": weapons that can't be traced back to you, and don't have your fingerprints on them or the ammunition, etc. they contain. Multiples of such weapons are useful, in case one or more is found and/or confiscated and/or held by police for ballistics tests. (Preferably leave no material behind that can be tested. Fragmenting ammunition is very hard to test for rifling and other marks, and brass catchers are your friend!)
- Consider combining with friends to deceive surveillance. Let's say 5 of you need to get together in a group. If 20 people leave their homes at the same time, and walk around a neighborhood, passing and re-passing each other, exchanging burdens, forming small groups then splitting up again, using cover such as trees and the shadows of buildings to change direction... it may not stop surveillance, but it'll make it a lot more difficult to follow people and know what they're doing. A technology that can back-track suspects may be able to unravel such maneuvers, but only after the fact.
There are many other ways to protect yourself, including certain technologies and accessories that those with recent military service will know more about than I. Learn from them if you get the chance.