Living in a Police State

A Boeing / Israeli Joint Venture: Spy Towers on the US Border

Boeing has enlisted the aid of Elbit Systems, Israel’s major defense contractor, to construct high-tech surveillance along the border of the U.S. and Mexico. So far, the high-tech fiasco is not working and Arizona residents are organizing a lawsuit to halt government spying on U.S. citizens.

Arivaca resident Margaret Keoppen is among those opposing the 98-foot spy tower in her community, part of Project 28 of the Secure Border Initiative.

With a spy viewing range of 10 miles, the spy tower is pointed at the good folks of Arivaca.

“This system is entirely experimental with unknown results and I don’t wish to be used as a guinea pig with resulting harm to me, my family, my animals, area wildlife,” Keoppen told Project 28.

In Tucson, the search for the biggest joke in town–the environmental assessment of the spy towers — began at the public library.

“That’s odd,” said a research librarian, “there are no copies of it here.” Diligent, the librarian plowed through the web and made a phone call.

A copy of the environmental assessment for the new high-tech border surveillance was finally located at the Arivaca library. In Arivaca, the draft copy of the assessment arrived on a Saturday in April, with no public notice.

A typed cover letter from U.S.Customs and Border Protection said residents had four days to respond, April 14 — 18. The library was closed two of those days. Without phone calls from the librarians, no one would have known it was there. Few people had a chance to even read it.

Driving down from Tucson, the earth is scorched from the 114 to 118 degree temperatures. Contrary to the frenzied hype of television news, a drive along the border, through Three Points, then down the road to Sasabe and finally to Arivaca, reveals three Wackenhut buses–all empty — waiting to be loaded with migrants. There wasn’t a migrant in sight. (Wackenhut, with its history of human rights violations, is now on contract to transport migrants rather than Border Patrol. Wackenhut is now Geo Group, but the buses are labeled Wackenhut.)

A stop at a bird walk near Arivaca proves more desolation. Two men with hunting dogs arrive in separate vehicles. One man takes off quickly for another site, both men wearing plain clothes. In this no-man’s land, strangers are assumed to be undercover border agents or Minutemen.

In Arivaca, residents are fighting mad about the spy tower, which was built without consulting them, less than a mile from town.

“You can not see the border from that spy tower, because of the mountains. The only thing you can see is Arivaca,” says one woman living in this community of 2,500.

Arivaca is 12 miles north of the border and the desert mountains are a fortress that the spy tower camera can not penetrate. In fact, the spy tower isn’t penetrating anything, because like all the nine spy towers on Project 28 of the Secure Border Initiative so far, it isn’t working. But more about that later.

The spy tower has the good folks of Arivaca in clear sight. It is a community of artists and ranchers, popular with birdwatchers and nature lovers. The people here savor their privacy. They have selected Arivaca because it is off the beaten track and ensures a quiet life, far from the prying eyes of anyone.

Now, without any consultation, there is a spy tower on the edge of town, with its camera pointed at them. Worse, the Boeing equipment list for Project 28 calls for radar, infrared, lasers, microwave, iris biometrics and facial biometrics.

“Iris biometrics?” Arivacans ask.

In the environmental assessment, there is no research concerning the health effects of the lasers, microwave, iris biometrics and other technology, on humans.

The environmental assessment concludes Project 28 will have “no significant impact.”

However, the assessment lists the endangered, threatened and sensitive life forms, including the Pima pineapple cactus, masked bobwhite habitat, desert tortoise, burrowing owl and lesser long-nosed bat. There’s also Santa Cruz stripe agave, Huachuca golden aster and Lumholtz nightshade. In Pima County, there’s 20 species, including the Chiricahua leopard frog, cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl and southwestern willow flycatcher.

The conclusion for all: The towers will have “no significant impact.”

Arivaca is the territory of migrating bats, including a large population on the move from the nearby ghost town of Ruby. In the assessment, there’s nothing more than a little mumbo-jumbo about the bats.

Local residents wonder if the spy tower’s radar will effect the bats’ ability to hunt. In the white wash of the environmental assessment, it says, “Tower radar is not expected to impact echolocation of lesser long-nosed bat because recent studies determined that some species of bats avoided the frequencies of radar to which they were exposed,” the assessment says.

So, they’re guessing that the bats won’t be impacted.

Here in the Sonoran desert, bats, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are the major pollinators. Without pollinators, there will be no saguaro, yucca or desert plants.

In the assessment, there’s only brief mention of the endangered jaguar, Panthera onca. It is the largest cat in the Southwest. There’s also the endangered Sonoran pronghorn and the threatened bald eagle.

The environmental assessment is clearly a joke, no one could have manufactured this document with serious intent. After listing the threatened and endangered species here, including bats and jaguars, the environment assessment concludes that wildlife will not be harmed by the spy towers.

Wildlife, it says, is “expected to stay away.”

This is Saturday Night Live funny. It is easy to image the cartoon, as CorpWatch has also imagined and posted on its website, with horns sounding out alerts in the desert. One horn could be honking: “Wildlife — that includes you birds–you’re expected to stay away!”

On the serious side, the assessment admits that warning lights on towers can disorient migrating birds and cause them to fly in circles, resulting in fatal collisions. Red lights attract more birds than white ones. So, the Boeing solution is: “loud hailer horns.”

The assessment talks much more about grasses and birds than it does of spying on U.S. citizens, which it does not address.

Unwarranted spying on U.S. citizens can have dangerous, even deadly consequences. With the spy towers, Border Patrol agents will be able to sit in their cars and watch local residents on their laptop computers, if and when the spy towers begin functioning.

Arivacans have asked Homeland Security about privacy. However, no one in Homeland Security can assure them that normal citizens will not be spied on.

Read the rest here.

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