More Surveillance: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Buses

by | Apr 5, 2010 | Headline News | 13 comments

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    Senator Joe Lieberman, in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, says that he is worried about the threat of domestic terrorism on public transportation systems:

    “Our government is working with state and local officials … both in ways that are visible and ways that are not visible, to raise our defenses on trains and subways and buses. But … non-aviation is the vulnerable part of our transportation system and we, frankly, need to give it more than we’re giving it now to protect the American people. I worry about this,” Lieberman said.

    We’ve already seen and experienced the effects of government intervention at airports, with many Americans opting out of flying altogether in order to avoid the hassles of TSA full body scans and gestapo-like interrogations. Whether the the security procedures at airports have made us safer is an oft debated topic, with those who oppose the stringent screening policies pointing to the recent Christmas Day bombing plot and senseless acts of humiliation and demoralization regularly carried out by TSA employees as failures of the current system.

    In the near future the government is likely going to begin considering similar “security measures” for all public transportation systems, as Senator Lieberman suggested. If history is any guide, mustering support in Congress for new public security laws should not be very difficult to accomplish. In an environment where the powers that be have created an air of fear around just about everything from health care to financial reform, it is simply a matter of telling the right story to the American public and Congress. For those of our representatives who are ready to pull the trigger on more draconian control and surveillance, an attack anywhere within the borders of the United States, similar to what happened in Moscow recently, would be enough to institute public transportation security and surveillance laws within a matter of days if such an event were to occur.

    The balance between freedom and security has been tilting, with the weight of the scales tipping towards restrictive security controls since September 11, 2001. After the largest criminal attack ever committed in the United States, we saw sweeping legislation in the form of Patriot Act, which, in effect, suspended many constitutional protections for anyone suspected of being a threat.

    The so-called no fly list(s), maintained by government agencies like TSA, CIA and FBI, also result from the terrorist attacks of 2001, and the names on the various lists have grown from just a few thousands suspected terrorists in 2001 to millions of people, including American citizens, today.

    One would venture to guess that any such security legislation that may be instituted to protect public transportation systems like buses, trains and subways would follow similar policies. Such policies would be impossible to implement at this time, because unlike air travel, an individual boarding a bus or subway is not required to present identification. The type of legislation Sen. Lieberman or his colleagues may propose would most likely take this into consideration, and any security measures being implemented would almost certainly require identification prior to boarding any public transportation vehicle.

    Not possible you say, because public transportation would come to a standstill if everyone boarding had to present I.D.?

    Consider the possibility of the national ID card, which has been proposed as a way to monitor immigration and employment. Like the social security number, originally introduced to provide benefits for seniors, a national ID card which embeds a passive RFID chip, could be quickly converted and used for other purposes, such as public transportation checkpoints, and with the spread of wireless technology, could potentially allow for on-demand identification of all passengers boarding public buses or trains.

    Within seconds, the passenger could be cross-checked with what would undoubtedly be deemed a no ride list.

    Ask most Americans, and they will probably agree that such a system would be beneficial to fighting terrorism. But how far are they willing to allow their government to go?

    It is not out of the question to one day see a 21st century version of Your Papers Please, where the national ID card is tied directly into a system that utilizes behavioral technologies to chart one’s daily travel patterns, and any deviations may also be flagged as suspect, or perhaps, a travel pattern of interest, immediately alerting local security personnel who would subsequently question passengers, much like the TSA does at airports today, as to why the person has gone off course or decided to skip work that particular day and take a trip to another city.

    With airport security hassles already causing many Americans to refrain from flying, one could suggest that similar measures on trains, buses and subways would turn yet more Americans away from public travel, with most believing that automobile travel is less intrusive.

    The advent of toll tags, on-board GPS systems, and street corner camera monitoring systems would suggest otherwise. It is now possible to track every American, regardless of the vehicle, in real-time, across almost the entire country. With the processing power of computers doubling every few years, it is only a matter of time before all of the technology implemented for homeland security is integrated across the entire grid, with artificially intelligent software processing every bit of travel information from across the country, looking for pattern divergences. Couple this with real-time processing, archiving and cross referencing of consumer data, and you have a system that is capable of predicting, in some capacity and decent level of accuracy, what a person is doing and what route they will take to get their.

    Did you just use a credit card to purchase a birthday card at the Hallmark Store? An AI computer network would easily be able to process, using social network databases, who the card was purchased for and what route you will take to get to their birthday party.

    Are Americans prepared for and willing to accept such intrusions into their lives when traveling? Some would say no, that Americans will value their freedom over security.

    But the anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. The State of Texas, for example, regularly implements checkpoints along main highways. Law enforcement argues that these checkpoints are necessary to prevent the transportation of drugs within the State, but it is easy to see how such drug monitoring surveillance zones could easily be used for a variety of other purposes, namely to harass and strike fear into Americans.

    Where are you coming from? Where are you headed? What’s the purpose of your trip? How long will you be gone?

    How comfortable do you really feel about answering such questions, and are you willing to become a traveler-of-interest if you fail to cooperate with authorities as they pry into your personal life?

    More news, opinion and commentary at SHTF Plan.


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      1. Comments…..If all this is true about tracking people, then why can’t they catch criminals on the loose?  Some have been running from the law for years; or is it the law doesn’t really care??

      2. Great question and one I have contemplate often, Laura.

        Take a case of child kidnapping, or murder. I find it odd that there are so many unsolved cases, considering that there are 4 cameras on pretty much every intersection in America — even small country towns have them now.

        It would not take a rocket scientist — only someone with the willingness to do so — to use these cameras to determine all of the vehicles that left a particular crime scene during a specific time frame. Yet, I wonder how often these technologies are actually used in law enforcement investigations. With the right individuals doing the monitoring, or the right software application, most of these types of crimes would be solved, in my opinion.

        I am fairly convinced that the technology exists to literally track EVERYTHING you do, however, the technology does not sit in the hands of local law enforcement, or even “lower level” FBI agents. The technology, at least currently, in my opinion, is used by the highest level security services in the country.

        My view is, that if “they” wanted to find someone they would.

        I maintain this position even with international terror suspects, i.e. Osama Bin Laden.

        I didn’t get into the satellite tech that is out there, but give the movie Enemy of the State a watch if you haven’t see it yet… I believe the technology available is equal to or, perhaps, even more powerful than what we saw in this movie, though I don’t believe that we have yet achieved the tech that was depicted in the movie Eagle Eye, but I have absolutely no doubt that such technology or something very close to it will be available in our lifetime.

        Perhaps it is not necessarily being designed to prevent/respond to crimes like murder, kidnapping or rape, but other types of crimes – such as those against the state….

      3. Comments…..The Surveillance State is already here in New York City. MTA buses have cameras. There  are NYPD cameras in many places, as well as red light cameras and private security cameras on most commercial streets. Many taxis have cameras,and easy pass has been used to track driver’s where abouts, even in divorce cases.

      4. yo, “buses” is actually “busses”.  😉

      5. and if you say “buses” it’s almost like “Busey”, and no one wants to go there…

      6. Not bad, Soz.

        Easy on Busey though – he was in Point Break afterall.

        …and he is easily, second-for-second, the most entertaining celebrity of all time – off screen, that is.

      7. Rick Blaine:  Hehe, nice.

        Mac, you’re pretty much spot on with your follow-up comment. The technology you describe in the article is already used on a daily basis, just on a level we don’t see. The “trickle-down effect” simply hasn’t reached the level of the troops on the ground, the street cops and local LEO’s doing the grunt work. But aspects of it do get used in specific instances. One example I can think of was following the murder of a Seattle police officer by a guy who just pulled up next to him at an intersection and opened fire. This was during the recent rash of cop killings in Western Washington. One of the first things they did in this case was pull all the in-car footage from nearby cop cars, as well as all the traffic cams in the area, and were able to find his car and he was captured shortly thereafter. A case of a positive use of this sort of stuff, but I fear human nature with power like this. Make no mistake, it will be here sooner than you think.

      8. All this surveillance is certainly worrying but what happens to it when the economy truly collapses? It’s a lot of infrastructure that needs constant upgrading and maintenance. Big Brother might be everywhere but most those screens and cameras will probably be broken. The eye at the top of the pyramid will have a crack in it.

      9. I believe the Health Care Reform Act includes a provides for a national id card with biometric data. It most certainly will include an rfid chip. Such chips can be activated and read at some distance so surveillance can be surreptitious.

      10. Comments…..SOZ, according to Webster’s either buses or busses is acceptable as the plural for bus. The more common used spelling in NYC seems to be buses.

      11. John, you’re absolutely correct.  The plural form of the word bus is buses, at least in every area of the United States that I’ve lived in.  I can’t recall ever having seen the extra ‘s’ added in, even for the verb to bus (e.g., bused vs. bussed) .  Still, I’m not surprised that alternate spellings are acceptable.

      12. This is why I don’t have a cell phone and refuse to have any type of GPS navigation system in my car.  Knowing that OnStar has the ability to track you and literally turn your car off while driving… even make it so that your car won’t start, unlock and can access your car at anytime…  makes my skin crawl.  So long as your SIM card is in your cell phone… you can be tracked anywhere within the vacinity of cell towers… even if you have your cell phone off. 

        Do you have I-Pass in your area yet?  If not… don’t worry… you will eventually.  Sure you can conveniently drive straight through the toll and not have to slow down… and you even get a huge discount on the toll for using it as opposed to having to wait forever in the cash toll lines.  However… how much longer until the speed in your own car will be monitored via the I-Pass system? 

        With HUGE state deficits and state troopers being laid off… who’s going to monitor the highways of america?  Think about it… which is cheaper… paying a state trooper an hourly wage to sit on the side of the highway and zap you with the radar gun and use expensive fuel to chase you down to write you up a ticket or use the technology that is already in place to monitor your speed via GPS systems and simply deliver a speeding ticket to your home via the postal system?  Which is more convenient and cost less?  Radar detectors can warn you ahead of time so you can slow down… think that radar detector will detect a GPS satelite or road side mounted GPS sensors?  That would be a big F’ing NO childrens.  Think it’s not possible?  Guess what… car rental companies have already done it in the past via… GPS!!  Numerous unsusupecting rental car clients have received tickets in the mail stating the rental car was monitor’d via GPS and the customers had to pay a couple hundred dollar fine.  So be careful if you’re speeding in a rental.

        Mac Slavo stated… “I didn’t get into the satellite tech that is out there, but give the movie Enemy of the State a watch if you haven’t see it yet… I believe the technology available is equal to or, perhaps, even more powerful than what we saw in this movie”… EXACTLY!!!  The airline industry is in the process of phasing out radar and replacing it with… wait for it… wait… GPS!!  I’m not making it up… do the research yourself.  Just yesterday I was watching a segment about it on either fox business channel or bloomberg… but I’ve heard about it before in the past too.

        Call me paranoid… but I refuse to become connected to the system.  I travel on as many rural routes as I can when possible to avoid any type of camera/monitoring systems.  At anytime I can be deemed an “enemy of the state” for any reason the government see’s fit and once your labeled as a “terrorist”… you can forget about what few consistitutional rights you have left.  All it takes is for the goverment to SUSPECT that you MIGHT be or have ties to terrorist organization and they can detain you indefinately… it’s not like being arrested by local law enforcement.  Remember… we now live in a world where you are guilty until PROVEN innocent!!

        In order for them to be able to convince the public to accept this type of technology… they upsell all the “benefits” of GPS and all the cool wi-fi features on cell phones/lap tops/I-Pads/I-phones… etc…

        Don’t get me wrong… obviously I’m not some anti-technology exteremist or I wouldn’t be using my pc on the internet & posting on a website… but I DO limit my accessability to it.

      13. Comments…..At some point, surveillance can be a good thing but didn’t it occur to them that this can be a breeding ground for more stalkers thus leading to more criminal cases?

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