Surveillance Lampposts and 15 other ways Big Brother is Watching.

May 23rd, 2012

You know, the reason “Big Brother Is Watching” is such a famous phrase is because it used to be viewed as paranoid fear mongering to suggest that the government would use some kind of high tech surveillance equipment to monitor the entire population. The book 1984 was viewed as beyond the pale, an impossibility that the American people would never tolerate. In the 1980s Americans used to joke, “In Soviet Russia, Television Watches You!” Even resembling Big Brother was the hallmark of a bad idea, and besides “it could never happen here” and “America is the land of the free” and some other anxiety reducing cliché. Well… let’s challenge those clichés.

It seems that Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh have become the testing ground of new lampposts designed by Illuminating Concepts that can see, hear and talk to pedestrians. Each lamppost contains a microprocessor complete with wireless communication, motion sensors, video and audio surveillance and even a speaker system to bark orders at passers-by. They’ve even got built in LED screens to transmit “security levels,” as if the similarity to the “telescreens” prolific in Oceania wasn’t strong enough.

The “Intellistreets Systems” cost about $3,000 apiece, and they’re ready to roll out across the country. Ron Harwood, president and founder of Illuminating Concepts, says he is “working with Homeland Security” to make people “more informed and safer.” Indeed.
After the negative attention this news brought upon the company Illuminating Concepts pulled the video describing the capabilities of the Intellistreets System from You Tube entirely. Thankfully the folks over at infowars preserved it. Take a look.

Using street lights for data harvesting has already been used in several European countries where they are mostly being used to scold people for littering and other minor violations. They literally broadcast the message “We are watching you.” In the UK and the Netherlands proposals are already in the works to outfit their lamp posts with X-ray scanners. So, it’s just a matter of time before they’ll have naked body scanners on every street corner.

Of course with the new trend of outlawing texting while walking, I’m sure the new surveillance lamp posts will mostly be used like red light cameras to send people walking tickets by mail… or course that would require some way of identifying pedestrians, like a National ID with a RFID chip the lampposts could read.

Or worse yet, what happens with the lampposts are equipped with the “Adversary Behavior Acquisition, Collection, Understanding and Summarization (ABACUS)” tool being developed by Charles River Analytics for Predator Drones. ABACUS is designed to aggregate video footage, facial recognition and other intelligence data to apply a “human behavior modeling and simulation engine” to provide “intent-based threat assessments.” In other words, soon video surveillance alone will be sufficient to identify if you have “adversarial intent” toward the State… or at least they’ll claim you do.

But this should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. In times like this, I think it’s good to review all the ways the State is watching you.

  1. The phrase “papers please” used to be synonymous with the police state under German fascism… but I guess it doesn’t count if they demand little laminated pieces of plastic instead of actual papers. For example, the Bartholomew Brothers were charged with  “misdemeanor delaying a peace officer” for not carrying their papers when they were demanded by an officer, and they were standing on the sidewalk not driving.
  2. The State is monitoring our social media networks. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security is “gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes,” and the NYPD now has a “social media” unit dedicated to monitoring public profiles.
  3. The Department of Homeland Security is promoting the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, in essence asking us to become unpaid informants on our neighbors. In fact millions of hotel televisions now broadcast propaganda directly from Homeland Security encouraging viewers to report any suspicious behavior they witness during their travels.
  4. The FBI records radio news and talk programming it finds on the Internet according to an article by Mark Weaver of So, if you’ve called into a podcast there’s a good chance the FBI was listening.
  5. The DHS is currently testing “pre-crime” technology called the Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) program. The system analyzes changes in body movements, the pitch and the rhythm of speech, breathing patterns, eye movements, blink rate, and body heat to assess someone’s intent to commit a crime.
  6. The Department of Agriculture has installed surveillance cameras in the cafeterias of government schools all across the country to monitor children while they’re eating, or more likely, to acclimate future generations to 24 hour video surveillance.
  7. The FBI is now instructing store owners to report many new forms of “suspicious activity” to them.  The list of “suspicious activities” now such nefarious activity as paying with cash, purchasing weatherproofed ammunition or “night flashlights” (Aren’t all flashlights ‘night flashlights’?).
  8. Law enforcement is pulling data out of cell phones with impunity. Some departments have ”extraction devices” to download data from the cell phones during traffic stops, even if there’s no probable cause for a search. The devices, made by a company called Cellebrite, capture text messages, photos, videos, even GPS data and can even bypass passwords on most models of mobile phones.
  9. Under provisions in the Patriot act that were recently extended by Congress and the Obama Administration law enforcement can tap cell phones, land lines, emails and text messages using Roving John Doe wiretaps, which essentially means they don’t have to get a warrant for each person they wish to monitor. Now a warrant on one person can be used to monitor anyone that person may contact.
  10. Since the 1990s the FBI has scanned emails en masse searching for a keywords using a system known as Carnivore. Of course talking about Carnivore is kind of like talking about CoIntelPro. Although secret at one time, it’s old news now, which means you can rest assured some more sophisticated secret version of the program is being used now.
  11. The government has been cracking down on drivers with red light cameras for a while now. Although annoying, they don’t appear to be more than a revenue stream for municipalities. Now in some states the DEA is setting up similar license plate cameras along interstate highways to monitor suspicious traffic patterns, whatever that means. Give it time, soon this will be used to ticket people for expired tags, or talking on the phone, or busted tail lights, or anything else they feel like.
  12. Detroit in reportedly operating 350 surveillance cameras in public parks, subway stations, and downtown areas. Dozens of cities have similar mass surveillance programs that record everyone going about their everyday activities in public places, but it has gone largely unnoticed.
  13. Originally sold as a tool of convenience, the E-ZPass, TxTag and FasTrak electronic toll devices operate using radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that communicate account information to tollbooths. Now police now have access to the electronic toll-collection information to track a person’s whereabouts.
  14. The Patriot Act allows the Federal law-enforcement to demand bank statements, library records, medical records, business papers and basically any paper trail left by any person or business without showing any probable cause to request the information if it’s even loosely connected with a terrorism investigation.
  15. The NSA is building a massive data center in Utah intercept, store, decrypt and analyze every piece of data transmitted anywhere. We’re talking cell phones, emails, credit card statements, even walkie-talkie frequencies.  It reported to be able to store a yottabyte of data, which is more than the estimated total of all human knowledge since the dawn of mankind.


About the Author: Davi Barker

In grade school Davi refused to recite the pledge of allegiance because he didn't understand what it meant. He was ordered to do as he was told. In college he spent hours scouring through the congressional record trying to understand this strange machine. That's where he discovered Dr. Ron Paul. In 2007 he joined the End The Fed movement and found a political home with the libertarians. The Declaration of Independence claims that the government derives its power “from the consent of the governed." He does not consent.