Just Like RED China: The Deep State Right in Your Own Home

 

“Alexa, it’s Sunday and I feel like going to mass. Please find me a church”You are now on a list…”What list?”…It’s not a good idea to protest…”But then I am inviting over some parishioners to watch football”…The smart meter is ready to determine how many will actually be present…The video cameras outside will get their license plates…

 

 

How Amazon will take over your house

By Erica Pandey

August 1, 2019

In recent years, Amazon has made a series of investments, acquisitions and R&D moves in the smart home industry. None seemed particularly consequential on its own, but with a real estate deal last week, Amazon appears to have captured first-mover advantage in one of the most important new industries on the planet.

Why it matters: With the deals, Amazon has taken a pioneering lead in what has come to be called “surveillance capitalism,” which includes some of the biggest businesses of the future, like 5G, autonomous vehicles and smart cities. Now, the behemoth, with its edge in this new economy, is positioned to explode its revenue.

“Amazon has entered the surveillance capitalism domain with a very big bang,” says Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.” “Once you have this as your lens, and you look at Amazon, you will never look back.”

  • The company has “already got all of this behavioral data flowing every which way,” she says. “Now they’re thinking, ‘We can be a Google or a Facebook on top of what we’ve already got. Not only do we know what they know, but we know stuff that they don’t know. We don’t have to infer that you’re interested in a white T-shirt with a big rose on the chest. We actually know because you bought one.'”
  • Other tech giants aren’t “even in the same universe as Amazon,” says Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute. “We’re talking about an entirely new ecosystem that is literally being born in front of our eyes.”

What’s happening: Amazon’s newest offering, a deal announced last week with Realogy, connects homebuyers to real estate agents and gives them $5,000 in smart devices and services when they close the deal. The huge upside for Amazon is unchecked access to the data-rich interiors of our homes.

  • On paper, Amazon is giving out cool stuff for free. But the company is also getting “extremely inexpensive access to record some of the most intimate parts of your life,” says Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of the AI Now Institute.
  • “There are hundreds of millions of marketing dollars that go into presenting these as sleek, convenience devices, but smart home is a misnomer. We’re really talking about a surveillance home” that feeds tech firms data that is far more personal and valuable than what is garnered from an Instagram like or an online purchase.

Speaking to Axios, Amazon says that its speakers and cameras can be turned off at will and come with lights that signal when they are recording. It also says customers can log onto portals and delete whatever they want.

  • Amazon is actually “ahead of the curve on transparency” compared to its rivals, says Adam Wright, an Internet of Things analyst at the International Data Corporation.
  • Still, there’s a chasm between what the company says it does and what is technically possible, Whittaker says.

And there’s more.

  • Amazon has rolled out Echo, its smart speaker, Ring, its camera doorbell, and dozens of other Alexa-enabled smart appliances. And Amazon is winning: about 70% of people who own smart speakers have Amazon’s devices, according to a recent report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
  • It partnered with Lennar, the country’s largest homebuilder to put up houses that have internet “built into the walls and floors,” making them the perfect shells for smart devices from Alexa to Ring, reports CNBC. And these homes aren’t just for the rich. There are affordable versions being propped up in blue-collar neighborhoods. too, Webb says.
  • Amazon has also invested in Plant Prefab, a startup which constructs smart houses.

The result, per Webb, is “Amazon in literally every nook and cranny of our home because either it built us the home, or it has got devices in the home, or it helped sell us the home.”

  • This plays into Amazon’s hands because consumers are increasingly likely to buy into one stack of devices instead of a patchwork, says Wright. “There’s less friction, and the further you get into the Amazon ecosystem, the less likely you are to switch over to Google or Samsung or another competitor.”

Once Amazon has planted its flag in a house, there’s a lot it could do, experts say.

  • For example, emails obtained by Vice revealed that Amazon has teamed up with over 200 U.S. police departments in a partnership that — with owners’ consent — lets officers see which homes have Amazon’s video doorbell, Ring, and request footage from the owners of those devices. “Police do not need a warrant to ask for footage,” writes Vice’s Caroline Haskins.
  • Look for the company’s advertising business to keep pushing up against that of Google or Facebook as it gets smarter about predicting human behavior, says Zuboff. Amazon could also use the data it collects from conversations and movements inside customers’ houses to entice them to spend more money on its site by getting better at figuring out what they want to buy
  • On top of that, the company is wading into selling health insurance. Surveillance could theoretically reveal if a prospective insurance buyer has a pre-existing condition or mental health issues.

What to watch: Amazon is ahead, but “this isn’t a one-horse race yet,” Wright says. Google, for instance, is working with construction firms to pre-install its WiFi in new homes and set the stage for its devices.

Go deeper: A closer look at the surveillance economy

 

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Amazon subsidized by the American Taxpayer!

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Xi Jinping Ramps Up Religious Persecution

“There’s only one allowed religion in China, and that’s secular socialism,” Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, tells National Review. “And the Church is the community party, the acolytes, its members, and their pontiff, Chinese president Xi Jinping himself.”

Important Information

 

GO RED CHINA! GO RED CHINA!

And for Fascism, which rides in from the left, a great way to maintain control is to control the communications and total control via surveillance. Now to the checklist.

 

NSA – Daily Revelations, the Review, and the Toolbox

Editor’s Note – As the days roll into the new year, each seems to shed new light on the activities of the NSA. The excuses no longer hold water, and we all know of the lies and secrecy. Now two different courts disagree on the legality of the NSA activities but you can be sure of one thing, there is no more privacy. In the following articles you will find the latest revelations beginning with a report from a German publication, Der Speigel.

Next we see that NSA employs a mighty toolbox and ancillary effects on our daily lives. Then we see how the NSA hacks your I-Phone followed by a critique of the NSA Review report.

NSAUtah

German magazine claims NSA hacking unit uses powerful methods to obtain data

From Fox News

A German magazine, citing internal documents, claims the NSA’s hacking unit uses James Bond-style spy gear to obtain data, including intercepting computer deliveries and outfitting them with espionage software.

Der Spiegel’s revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

Citing the internal documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO’s mission was “Getting the ungettable,” and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen.”

“During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries — nearly everywhere in the world,” the report said. “In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.”

Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

The NSA doesn’t just rely on the Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described by Der Spiegel exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the Internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world’s leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Inc. and China’s Huawei Technologies Ltd., the magazine reported. (Read the rest here.)

More Editor’s Notes – The following story, also originating at Speigel, we see just how intrusive the NSA can be, and its not just hacking. Have you had weird things happen to your phone or computer like we have? Did your garage door open or remain locked without you initiating it? They sure do have a mighty toolbox. We’d love to hear your experiences, so please comment below the following articles:

Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit

From Speigel

In January 2010, numerous homeowners in San Antonio, Texas, stood baffled in front of their closed garage doors. They wanted to drive to work or head off to do their grocery shopping, but their garage door openers had gone dead, leaving them stranded. No matter how many times they pressed the buttons, the doors didn’t budge. The problem primarily affected residents in the western part of the city, around Military Drive and the interstate highway known as Loop 410.

In the United States, a country of cars and commuters, the mysterious garage door problem quickly became an issue for local politicians. Ultimately, the municipal government solved the riddle. Fault for the error lay with the United States’ foreign intelligence service, the National Security Agency, which has offices in San Antonio. Officials at the agency were forced to admit that one of the NSA’s radio antennas was broadcasting at the same frequency as the garage door openers. Embarrassed officials at the intelligence agency promised to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and soon the doors began opening again.

It was thanks to the garage door opener episode that Texans learned just how far the NSA’s work had encroached upon their daily lives. For quite some time now, the intelligence agency has maintained a branch with around 2,000 employees at Lackland Air Force Base, also in San Antonio. In 2005, the agency took over a former Sony computer chip plant in the western part of the city. A brisk pace of construction commenced inside this enormous compound. The acquisition of the former chip factory at Sony Place was part of a massive expansion the agency began after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. (Read the rest here.)

More Editor’s Notes – Here is another example of that mighty toolbox:

NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware

From Leak Source

After years of speculation that electronics can be accessed by intelligence agencies through a back door, an internal NSA catalog reveals that such methods already exist for numerous end-user devices.

When it comes to modern firewalls for corporate computer networks, the world’s second largest network equipment manufacturer doesn’t skimp on praising its own work. According to Juniper Networks’ online PR copy, the company’s products are “ideal” for protecting large companies and computing centers from unwanted access from outside. They claim the performance of the company’s special computers is “unmatched” and their firewalls are the “best-in-class.” Despite these assurances, though, there is one attacker none of these products can fend off — the United States’ National Security Agency.

Specialists at the intelligence organization succeeded years ago in penetrating the company’s digital firewalls. A document viewed by SPIEGEL resembling a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry — including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell. See: Cisco / Dell Comments Re: NSA Backdoors

These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.

This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets’ data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000.

(See the complete catalog and read more here.)

More Editor’s Notes – The following article compliments the previous article which if you go to that link exposes what Tyler Durden explains here:Dropoutjeep Original_0

How The NSA Hacks Your iPhone – Presenting DROPOUT JEEP

From Zero Hedge’s Tyler Durden

Following up on the latest stunning revelations released yesterday by German Spiegel which exposed the spy agency’s 50 page catalog of “backdoor penetration techniques“, today during a speech given by Jacob Applebaum (@ioerror) at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress, a new bombshell emerged: specifically the complete and detailed description of how the NSA bugs,remotely, your iPhone.

The way the NSA accomplishes this is using software known as Dropout Jeep, which it describes as follows:

“DROPOUT JEEP is a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted.”

The flowchart of how the NSA makes your iPhone its iPhone is presented below:

  • NSA ROC operator
  • Load specified module
  • Send data request
  • iPhone accepts request
  • Retrieves required SIGINT data
  • Encrypt and send exfil data
  • Rinse repeat

More Editor’s Notes – Finally for today’s post on the NSA, the New Yorker took a stab at explaining the recent report from the NSA Review Panel. Again, you be the judge:

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE N.S.A. REPORT: THE GOOD AND THE BAD

From John Cassidy at the New Yorker

On several occasions this year, I’ve criticized the Obama Administration for its obfuscations on intelligence matters and its overly defensive reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations. At this stage, the President needs to fess up and say that the intelligence agencies went too far—a fact confirmed by Friday’s revelation, courtesy of Snowden’s documents, that the N.S.A. and C.G.H.Q., its British counterpart, have been snooping on international charities and aid groups, such as UNICEF, the United Nations’s children’s charity, and Médecins du Monde, a French humanitarian organization.

But a bit of credit where it is due. In commissioning an independent report on the National Security Agency’s activities, the White House didn’t follow the oft-used tactic of stuffing the outside review panel with yes men who could be relied upon to produce a whitewash—or, if it did, the ruse didn’t work. The report of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which came out on Wednesday, is lengthy and thoughtful. Its forty-six recommendations are, in some ways, surprisingly far-reaching. If fully enacted, they wouldn’t put an end to domestic surveillance. Far from it. But they would change how the N.S.A. operates, and, especially, how its activities are overseen.

Most of the news stories about the report restricted themselves to the executive summary, which is understandable. The rest of the report runs to nearly three hundred pages, and it covers a lot of complex areas. Its five authors were all experts on intelligence, constitutional law, or both: Richard A. Clarke, who served as the national coördinator for counter-terrorism in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Michael J. Morell, a former deputy director and acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago; Cass R. Sunstein, a Harvard law professor who served in the Clinton administration; and Peter Swire, another former Clinton official, who is now a professor at Georgia Tech.

Read the rest here, and further discussion here at the Guardian.

U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate – act or NSA will

Editor’s Note – Once again we have to ask, do you believe what Washington tells you or do you need a new, more reliable source to understand what is taking place affecting our liberties and privacy? Then ask, why does our government need such widespread investigative tools when it clearly crosses the line on our freedoms?

How the U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate on surveillance

Officially, Uncle Sam says it doesn’t interfere.

But behind the scenes, the feds have been trying to browbeat Internet firms into helping with surveillance demands.

By wielding a potent legal threat, the U.S. government is often able to force Internet companies to aid its surveillance demands. The threat? Comply or we’ll implant our own eavesdropping devices on your network.nsa-square

Under federal law, the National Security Agency can serve real-time “electronic surveillance” orders on Internet companies for investigations related to terrorism or national security.

These orders, authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are used to feed data into the NSA’s PRISM software program that was revealed last month by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. PRISM documents indicate that the NSA can receive “real-time notifications” of user log-ins.

Some Internet companies have reluctantly agreed to work with the government to conduct legally authorized surveillance on the theory that negotiations are less objectionable than the alternative — federal agents showing up unannounced with a court order to install their own surveillance device on a sensitive internal network. Those devices, the companies fear, could disrupt operations, introduce security vulnerabilities, or intercept more than is legally permitted.

“Nobody wants it on-premises,” said a representative of a large Internet company who has negotiated surveillance requests with government officials. “Nobody wants a box in their network…[Companies often] find ways to give tools to minimize disclosures, to protect users, to keep the government off the premises, and to come to some reasonable compromise on the capabilities.”

Precedents were established a decade or so ago when the government obtained legal orders compelling companies to install custom eavesdropping hardware on their networks.

One example, which has not been previously disclosed, arose out of a criminal investigation in which the Drug Enforcement Administration suspected a woman of trafficking in 1,4-Butanediol. The butane-derived chemical is used industrially as a solvent and recreationally as a date rape drug or sedative.

The DEA’s Special Operations Division, which includes FBI representatives, obtained a real-time intercept order — sometimes called a Title III order — against EarthLink and WorldCom, a network provider that’s now part of Verizon Business. Both companies were targeted by the order because EarthLink routed outgoing e-mail messages through equipment leased from WorldCom.

WorldCom technicians were required to help the DEA install surveillance equipment that the agency had purchased and provided. Over the course of the wiretap, the government’s hardware vacuumed up over 1,200 e-mail messages from the targeted account. EarthLink did not respond to a request for comment this week.

TECH-articleLargeFISA gives the government a powerful club to wield against Internet companies. The law requires the firms to “furnish all information, facilities, or technical assistance necessary to accomplish the electronic surveillance” as long as it can be done with a “minimum of interference” with other users.

In another case that was closely watched within the industry, the FBI invoked similar language to force EarthLink to install a Carnivore network monitoring device, over the company’s strenuous objections. EarthLink challenged the surveillance order in court because it was concerned that Carnivore would vacuum up more user metadata than the court order authorized.

It lost. A federal magistrate judge sided with the government, despite the fact that “Carnivore would enable remote access to the ISP’s network and would be under the exclusive control of government agents,” Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney for EarthLink, told Congress at the time.

Those legal victories allowed the government to strong-arm Internet companies into reworking their systems to aid in surveillance — under the threat of having the FBI install NarusInsight or similar devices on their networks. “The government has a lot of leverage,” including contracts and licenses, said a representative for an Internet company. “There is a lot of pressure from them. Nobody is willingly going into this.”

Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, said, referring to the government’s pressure tactics:

They can install equipment on the system. And I think that’s why companies are motivated to cooperate [and] use their own equipment to collect for the government. They would rather help than let any government equipment on their service, because then they lose oversight and control.

In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which required telephone companies to configure their systems to perform court-authorized lawful intercepts in a standard way. In 2004, that requirement was extended to cover broadband providers, but not Web companies.

A survey of earlier litigation shows, however, that the Justice Department was able to convince courts to force companies to take steps to permit surveillance through their networks long before CALEA became law.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that surveillance law is a “direct command to federal courts to compel, upon request, any assistance necessary to accomplish an electronic interception.”

Other courts followed suit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded in 1979 that the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania must comply with a surveillance order because it would cause only “a minimal disruption of normal operations.” The Ninth Circuit ruled against Mountain Bell a year later, saying a surveillance order “recognized the practical fact that the actions ordered were technical ones which only that company could perform.”

If an Internet company offers encryption designed in such a way that even its engineers can’t access users’ files or communications, it would be unable to comply with a FISA or other surveillance order.

But with a few exceptions, such as SpiderOak and Fogpad, nearly all companies use encryption only in transit, meaning data stored on servers remains unencrypted.

That’s why Microsoft could be compelled to work with the NSA and the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit to aid in surveillance of Outlook.com and Hotmail messages, a situation the Guardian disclosed yesterday, citing documents provided by Snowden.

Internet companies have, on occasion, created “teams of in-house experts” to figure out how to respond to FISA surveillance orders, The New York Times reported last month.

Microsoft’s engineers have quietly designed a system to comply with government orders, which manages to avoid having a surveillance device implanted on a internal network. (Microsoft declined to comment for this article.)

One case that used it arose out of a probe into illegal drug sales in Philadelphia. As part of that investigation, the government obtained a court order for a real-time wiretap against a Hotmail account.

Microsoft’s wiretap compliance system worked by forwarding a copy of two suspects’ e-mail messages to a “shadow account” located elsewhere on Hotmail’s servers. Each address under surveillance had a separate “shadow account” associated with it.

Every 15 minutes, an automated process logged in to these shadow accounts and transferred the retrieved e-mails into “case folders” on computers at a DEA office in Lorton, Va.

Homeland Security agents separately obtained a real-time wiretap of a Hotmail account used by a man suspected of possessing pornography involving minors. A case associated with that criminal prosecution, which might reveal more about surveillance techniques used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, remains under seal in a New Jersey federal court.

A Google spokesman declined to say this week whether the company could comply with a wiretap order targeting a Google Hangout or Google Talk conversation.

The government’s ability to perform surveillance even when armed with a court order depends in large part on the decisions engineers made when designing a product. “Many implementations include an ability to monitor sessions as a debugging tool,” one government official said this week. “Depending on how things have been built, a real-time wiretap may be nothing more than turning that on. As an example, all enterprise-grade Ethernet switches include a monitor port — not because the FBI demands it, but because sysadmins need it.”

Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said the PRISM disclosures show Internet companies should embrace strong encryption for their users. “This is a place where the companies have an opportunity to do something that doesn’t hurt their ability to make money and [that wins] them praise,” he said.

Domestic Drone Use – Surveillance Technology Built-in

Editor’s Note – Adding to the fear many Americans have over drone use by Law Enforcement, we learn that the drones were designed with extra bells and whistles. These are designed for domestic use by most accounts and fuels the fire of losing our liberties by the continuation of the militarization of our domestic forces. Now they can tell if you are carrying a concealed weapon. You be the judge:

DHS built domestic surveillance tech into Predator drones

Homeland Security’s specifications say drones must be able to detect whether a civilian is armed. Also specified: “signals interception” and “direction finding” for electronic surveillance. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.

The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department’s unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States’ northern and southern borders but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.

Homeland Security required that this Predator drone, built by General Atomics, be capable of detecting whether a standing human at night is “armed or not.”
(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

Homeland Security’s specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify “signals interception” technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and “direction finding” technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s requirements for its drone fleet through the Freedom of Information Act and published it this week. CNET unearthed an unredacted copy of the requirements that provides additional information about the aircraft’s surveillance capabilities.

Concern about domestic use of drones is growing, with federal legislation introduced last month that would establish legal safeguards, in addition to parallel efforts underway from state and local lawmakers. The Federal Aviation Administration recently said that it will “address privacy-related data collection” by drones.

The prospect of identifying armed Americans concerns Second Amendment advocates, who say that technology billed as securing the United States’ land and maritime borders should not be used domestically. Michael Kostelnik, the Homeland Security official who created the program, told Congress that the drone fleet would be available to “respond to emergency missions across the country,” and a Predator drone was dispatched to the tiny town of Lakota, N.D., to aid local police in a dispute that began with reimbursement for feeding six cows. The defendant, arrested with the help of Predator surveillance, lost a preliminary bid to dismiss the charges.

“I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners,” says Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”

Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency declined to answer questions about whether direction-finding technology is currently in use on its drone fleet. A representative provided CNET with a statement about the agency’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that said signals interception capability is not currently used:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not deploying signals interception capabilities on its UAS fleet. Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices.

CBP’s UAS program is a vital border security asset. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and day-and-night cameras, the UAS provides real-time images to frontline agents to more effectively and efficiently secure the nation’s borders. As a force multiplier, the UAS operates for extended periods of time and allows CBP to safely conduct missions over tough-to-reach terrain. The UAS also provides agents on the ground with added situational awareness to more safely resolve dangerous situations.

During his appearance before the House Homeland Security committee, Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who recently left the agency, testified that the drones’ direction-finding ability is part of a set of “DOD capabilities that are being tested or adopted by CBP to enhance UAS performance for homeland security.” CBP currently has 10 Predator drones and is considering buying up to 14 more.

If the Predator drones were used only to identify smugglers or illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders, or for disaster relief, they might not be especially controversial. But their use domestically by other government agencies has become routine enough — and expensive enough — that Homeland Security’s inspector general said (PDF) last year that CBP needs to sign agreements “for reimbursement of expenses incurred fulfilling mission requests.”

“The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground,” says Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws.”

A Homeland Security official, who did not want to be identified by name, said the drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition. The official also said that because the unarmed drones have a long anticipated life span, the department tries to plan ahead for future uses to support its border security mission, and that aerial surveillance would comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other applicable federal laws.

The documents show that CBP specified that the “tracking accuracy should be sufficient to allow target designation,” and the agency notes on its Web site that its Predator B series is capable of “targeting and weapons delivery” (the military version carries multiple 100-pound Hellfire missiles). CBP says, however, that its Predator aircraft are unarmed.

Gene Hoffman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s the chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said CBP “needs to be very careful with attempts to identify armed individuals in the border area” when aerial surveillance touches on a constitutional right.

“In the border area of California and Arizona, it may be actively dangerous for the law-abiding to not carry firearms precisely due to the illegal flow of drugs and immigrants across the border in those areas,” Hoffman says.

CBP’s specifications say that signals interception and direction-finding technology must work from 30MHz to 3GHz in the radio spectrum. That sweeps in the GSM and CDMA frequencies used by mobile phones, which are in the 300MHz to 2.7GHz range, as well as many two-way radios.

The specifications say: “The system shall provide automatic and manual DF of multiple signals simultaneously. Automatic DF should be able to separate out individual communication links.” Automated direction-finding for cell phones has become an off-the-shelf technology: one company sells a unit that its literature says is “capable of taking the bearing of every mobile phone active in a channel.”

Although CBP’s unmanned Predator aircraft are commonly called drones, they’re remotely piloted by FAA-licensed operators on the ground. They can fly for up to 20 hours and carry a payload of about 500 lbs.

___________________

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People’s Money column for CBS News’ Web site.