New Documents Reveal U.S. Marshals’ Drones Experiment, Underscoring Need for Government Transparency
The use of surveillance drones is growing rapidly in the United States, but we know little about how the federal government employs this new technology. Now, new information obtained by the ACLU shows for the first time that the U.S. Marshals Service has experimented with using drones for domestic surveillance.
We learned this through documents we released today, received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents are available here. (We also released a short log of drone accidents from the Federal Aviation Administration as well as accident reports and other documents from the U.S. Air Force.) This revelation comes a week after a bipartisan bill to protect Americans’ privacy from domestic drones was introduced in the House.
Although the Marshals Service told us it found 30 pages about its drones program in response to our FOIA request, it turned over only two of those pages—and even they were heavily redacted.
Here’s what we know from the two short paragraphs of text we were able to see. Under a header entitled “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Man-Portable (UAV) Program,” an agency document overview begins:
USMS Technical Operations Group’s UAV Program provides a highly portable, rapidly deployable overhead collection device that will provide a multi-role surveillance platform to assist in [redacted] detection of targets.
Another document reads:
This developmental program is designed to provide [redacted] in support of TOG [presumably the agency’s Technical Operations Group] investigations and operations. This surveillance solution can be deployed during [multiple redactions] to support ongoing tactical operations.
These heavily redacted documents reveal almost no information about the nature of the Marshals’ drone program. However, the Marshals Service explained to the Los Angeles Times that they tested two small drones in 2004 and 2005. The experimental program ended after both drones crashed. More…
Federal IDs For All U.S. Workers: A Trial Balloon?
According to an article in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal (2-21-13) the Senate is considering a bipartisan plan to require all working people in the United States, citizen as well as non-citizen workers, to carry a biometric ID card with their finger prints or other markers in order for them to “prove” they have a right to work in this country.
This plan has come about as a result of bipartisan negotiations on an immigration bill. It was originally proposed for non-citizens but the senators involved, including Democrats as well as Republicans, decided the entire working class should be biometrically IDed. Some civil libertarians suspect the real function of the card is to create a national identity card that could be used to track and locate people wherever they happen to be– at work, at home, in hospitals or airports, on the road, etc (the card could have a chip for this purpose– Big Brother indeed!). More…
VFS Global – Spying on Citizens, Gathering Biometric Data?
With 708 Visa Application Centres (VACs) and operations in 83 countries across five continents as at 30 June 2012, VFS Global serves the interests of the diplomatic missions of 38 sovereign governments including Australia and has raised suspicion of spying being outsourced by foreign intelligence agencies to Indian company
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The Indian company “VFS Global” is under suspicion of acting as a biometric data and spying agency acting for a foreign agency — some allegations are of the Israeli terrorist MOSSAD agency while others say it is the CIA.
Already severe security lapses were brought to the attention of the world through the actions of one determined individual who exposed these lapses to British authorities which then took no action. Subsequent investigations sanctioned the British Foreign Office for neglect in using VFS and is now banned from doing so. More…
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) said it needed to increase its airborne “surveillance and reconnaissance”.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as drones, are commonly launched on land – but deploying them at sea is harder because they need to refuel.
They currently require large aircraft carriers with long runways.
The new project has been dubbed Tern (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) after a sea-bird known for its endurance.
Darpa programme manager Daniel Patt, said: “Enabling small ships to launch and retrieve long-endurance UAVs on demand would greatly expand our situational awareness and our ability to quickly and flexibly engage in hotspots over land or water.” More…
New video camera sunglasses for police
The videos will be stored and monitored by an outside company
Silent Circle, The New Encryption App That Is Terrifying The Government
The idea is to “democratize encryption” by making it available to the non-tech-savvy with the push of a button. Will this be used for good or evil? Slate‘s Ryan Gallagher explains:
The startup tech firm Silent Circle’s groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button—photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it—sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.
The technology uses a sophisticated peer-to-peer encryption technique that allows users to send encrypted files of up to 60 megabytes through a “Silent Text” app. The sender of the file can set it on a timer so that it will automatically “burn”—deleting it from both devices after a set period of, say, seven minutes. It’s a game-changer that will almost certainly make life easier and safer for journalists, dissidents, diplomats, and companies trying to evade surveillance.
When a user sends a picture or document, it will be encrypted, digitally “shredded” into thousands of pieces, and temporarily stored in a “Secure Cloud Broker” until it is transmitted to the recipient. Silent Circle, which charges $20 a month for its service, has no way of accessing the encrypted files because the “key” to open them is held on the users’ devices and then deleted after it has been used to open the files. More…