Speaking of espionage- but really quietly of course, here in public, about mission creep and bleed-over into a dying Constitutional Democracy.
“There not using them that way- they’re using them here…”
Background: Consensual Surveillance is what the DHS, ICE, FBI and even state level agencies call their secret warrantless cellphone surveillance. They have been monitoring and manipulating the communications of Americans via Cessna airplanes using technology called Stingrays and Hailstorm here in America since before 2006.
My first encounter with this form of warrantless surveillance by air was in 2011 or so when a little yellow Cessna airplane followed me everywhere, for hours, across a mid-western city. Then, I pulled my phones battery for the first time ever- and the plane disappeared.
Low and Slow is the way to go when monitoring American’s speech : off-the-radar, “push-broom” hyper spectral imaging is more than picking up chatter.
The Beechcraft King Air turbo-prop is a beautiful bird. And it’s used to fly domestic surveillance missions in the U.S., and scoop up data about Americans
So- there’s this guy who worked on the electronic navigation and stability systems that are in MRAPs, the spectral imaging and photographic capabilities of FBI spy planes that currently monitor the phones of many Americans without a warrant or even probable cause; and the heavier military grade spectral and thermal imaging systems of CIA, DEA, and USAF surveillance aircraft. He particularly was fond of his work on the Beechcraft King Air line. How could those planes NOT be an engineers favorite- the name alone is so retro and air-crafty.
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He said “These things can look down through the roof of your house, and draw a multi-tiered 3D heat map and watch you move through your house in real time.” He really thought highly of those Beechcraft Surveillance planes.
I met him at a Japanese restaurant in November of 2014, a tonkatsu ramen and saki place in a strip mall next to a hotel where he was a regular; at least, as much of a regular as a guy who moves around a lot, working for military contractors and weapons manufacturers.
At the time, I was surprised that he was telling me, a virtual stranger, about domestic surveillance in the U.S. done TO Americans by intelligence agencies, BY the #goodguys at every level. I always thought the #badguys and the #otherguys did that stuff in their countries, to their peoples. Turns out some of those guys are training on those same planes as I write.
And, I would love to tell you more, but it might be illegal to do so, cuz, national security and stuff-you know: the Chinese or the North Koreans- maybe the Syrians or ISIS!! might get a leg up,catch us with our pants down, and tap all our phones, or follow us around with airplanes to get at all of our phone data and stuff.
Also, because we know that main stream journalists are so reputable and all, after President Obama authorized the dispensing of propaganda on the American public in 2011. A main stream media so reputable that they forgot to question the surveillance state as it was being built above my head. There are plainly too many military industrial surveillance state ‘official sources’ to wine and dine for stories- real inside scoops about cute puppies, or a stadium or something. Busy busy busy hungry hungry hungry officials: the #goodguys busy and hungry together.
Anyways, these MRAPs were designed for military use,in theaters of war, but somehow ended up parked next to your local donut shops all across America.
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Well: once upon a time on a phone long since stolen, I was making a case in the public’s interest about how airplanes are being used domestically to spy on Americans phone calls, and possibly looking through our roofs. I used Gmail and kept notes and contact info there. And, that story literally got scooped out of my Gmail account, then somehow hit the newspapers- in Minnesota.
And this guy- I’ll call him Jack- was a mess. He was hammered- absolutely shitfaced; he was all tore up about missing his aged mother- how he wanted a ghostwriter to tell her story to the world.
“Let me tell you- there are good mothers and then there was her: my mother was the best mother ever- anyone could see it. She was like a saint…” and so he went on about his mother.
And he was weeping. Weeping about how his inventions were being mis-used. You see, he works for many of the weapons dealers and arms suppliers that build the bombs and the drones and the MRAPs there in front of your house. He is a military industrial complex engineer.
Here is a project he worked on:
And this doozy which he made note of:
His biggest problem seemed to be that he felt that he had no say in the fact that these tools were being used to target civilians.
“I never gave my consent…they never told me they would be used this way…” and so on. He was horrified when he found out that the multiple agencies were using his toys and tools to target practice on American citizens, here, in America. That the FBI et al were training their pilots and their resources using Americans for practice, without warrants.
There’s this point between men where boundaries become demilitarized- where we drop our guard, and empathize: where we try to comfort another man, which is always awkward. And, where one wonders if the weirdness might be a whole ‘nother level of weird.
Well, the guy stumbled towards me in his stupor, head hanging in his hands- and he was literally slobbering as he gasped one of those horrid sort of drunk guy gasps that precedes horrible crying, and then sprang at me and was in my arms, where he found a slobbery nook on my shoulder to weep into.
Awkward indeed- blurring boundaries, blurring stories, one minute on about his mother the next, talking about how the technology he designed for Beechcraft could “look through your ceiling and create a 3D image model” of you as you take a shit in the privacy of your own home. ( Update: here is a story that ran in Popular Science on , shortly before I wrote this story herein, and shortly after I spoke with a confidential informant: http://www.popsci.com/fbi-planes-used-augmented-reality-to-watch-america)
I said ” Well, these are the kind of tools we need in a war.” He gasped a cry and said “There not using them that way- they’re using them here…” and more weeping.
I couldn’t help but feel my lifelong revulsion to men, and weeping men, but especially- weeping men slobbering snot on my shirt.
But, in some conversations, I guess I overlook my own biases and listen for the story that really matters. And he seemed nice enough, provided an interesting story full of details.
In this case, it was that one detail- that military grade photo-thermal imaging was being used on American citizens.
That seemed important.
Within a day, I bumped into anther guy in the hallway carrying a Stingray sized briefcase- one of those metal kind that you see in the movies. And, the next night, a long black Suburban with no license plates of any kind parked under my motel window. Within three months, the phone where I kept my research and notes about this incident disappeared from my car.
And- the story about how the FBI is using these technologies broke almost immediately after my ability to report it had been erased. This has been the nature of my journalism for over a decade and counting; and why I provide these stories to others now- because control of my personal narrative begins and ends with this strange idea of my personal ‘right to privacy- my right to be left alone.’
But also, it coexists along with the public’s right to know.