When the CIA Spied on American Citizens—Using Pigeons

FLYING ABOVE THE WASHINGTON NAVY Yard, a spy was taking a series of pictures that revealed more than even the most advanced satellites, while the workers below went about their day-to-day lives, not knowing they were the subject of an espionage mission. Looking to gain an edge in the Cold War, in 1977 the Central Intelligence Agency had recruited a new, nearly invisible agent: a pigeon.

It may sound unusual, but the idea of using pigeons for espionage wasn’t without merit. The place of pigeons in an army was first recorded by the Roman historian Pliny, who described their role in communication, and the German army in World War I were the first to explore the use of pigeons for reconnaissance. The United States military had itself been using pigeons since the late 1800s for communication, but “I could not document any instance of them being used for reconnaissance,” says Elizabeth Macalaster, author of War Pigeons: Winged Couriers in the U.S. Military, 1878-1957.

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Mississippi Bill Would Mandate Surveillance Cameras in Schools and Colleges

bill introduced last week in the Mississippi Legislature would require public schools and postsecondary institutions to install video surveillance cameras all over their campuses. The bill would require that the cameras also record audio and that they be installed in classrooms, auditoriums, cafeterias, gyms, hallways, recreational areas, and along each facility’s perimeter. Further, it would permit students’ parents to view live feeds of classroom instruction, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes (R–Picayune). 

“We have so much critical race theory being taught in our schools and different issues,” Wilkes said before introducing the bill. “It holds teachers accountable. It also helps them with discipline. Parents can’t come in there and say, ‘my child didn’t do that.'” The bill lists “monitoring classroom instruction” as an authorized use of surveillance footage. 

Wilkes did not respond to a request from Reason for further comment.

The bill would also authorize parents to request access to footage of an “incident” in which their child was involved. Schools must notify parents before classes begin each semester that cameras will be in use at their child’s school. Campus signage will notify students, teachers, and visitors of where cameras are in use.

Although the bill provides that cameras “shall only be installed in areas where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” the areas in which cameras would be statutorily required—specifically, the school cafeteria, recreational areas, and “interior corridors”—are precisely the types of places where students often carry on conversations they perceive to be relatively private. 

Schools would be required to back up footage to a cloud-based system and scrub it after 90 days of storage, unless it becomes relevant to a qualifying school or legal investigation. However, school data troves are notoriously leaky and susceptible to hacking attacks. According to the K12 Security Information Exchange’s 2022 annual report, there have been “a total of 1,331 publicly disclosed school cyber incidents affecting U.S. school districts (and other public educational organizations)” since 2016. 

The bill does not raise any obvious constitutional questions, assuming, of course, that cameras in college classrooms are not used to abridge the academic freedom of professors or students. But its cultural implications are massive. Primary school is mandatory. Many schools are already staffed by “resource officers.” Add numerous cameras or metal detectors, and schools might start to feel more like holding centers than places of learning.

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360-Degree Surveillance: How Police Use Public-Private Partnerships To Spy On Americans

We live in a surveillance state founded on a partnership between government and the technology industry.

– Law Professor Avidan Y. Cover

In this age of ubiquitous surveillance, there are no private lives: everything is public.

Surveillance cameras mounted on utility poles, traffic lights, businesses, and homes. License plate readers. Ring doorbells. GPS devices. Dash cameras. Drones. Store security cameras. Geofencing and geotracking. FitBits. Alexa. Internet-connected devices.  

There are roughly one billion surveillance cameras worldwide and that number continues to grow, thanks to their wholehearted adoption by governments (especially law enforcement and military agencies), businesses, and individual consumers.

With every new surveillance device we welcome into our lives, the government gains yet another toehold into our private worlds.

Indeed, empowered by advances in surveillance technology and emboldened by rapidly expanding public-private partnerships between law enforcement, the Intelligence Community, and the private sector, police have become particularly adept at sidestepping the Fourth Amendment.

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Swiss Police And Military Are Setting Up Roadblocks and Checking Finger Prints Near WEF Summit

The WEF’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland begins January 16th but there have already been reports of police and military personnel blocking roads and checking fingerprints near Davos.

Disclose.tv was the first to break the story on Twitter and released a video of Swiss police scanning a person’s finger outside of Davos.

The independent news aggregator captioned their video by writing “Police and military have blocked the access roads to Davos, where Klaus Schwab is holding his World Economic Forum summit.People, vehicles, and fingerprints are now being checked.”

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Researchers: California’s Digital License Plates Could Allow Hackers to Track Location

Security researchers were able to gain “super administrative access” to Reviver, the sole provider of California’s digital license plates, and track the GPS location of all of vehicles they are associated with.

A team of security researchers successfully obtained “full super administrative access,” which allowed them to perform a slew of tasks involving the company’s user accounts and vehicles, according to a blog post by researcher Sam Curry.

After gaining access, a hacker could track the physical GPS location of all license plates of Reviver customers, as well as change the slogan or personalized message at the bottom of the plates to arbitrary text.

The personalized messages on the license plates involves a feature that allows customers to digitally update the bottom section of their plates to display different messages, such as, “Go Team!” or “looking for a trail.”

Additionally, a hacker could update any vehicle status to “STOLEN,” which would alert authorities.

“An actual attacker could remotely update, track, or delete anyone’s REVIVER plate,” Curry wrote in his blog post, revealing that he and his team had found security vulnerabilities across the automotive industry, not just with Reviver.

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The way you walk is apparently as unique as your fingerprint and the UAE wants to use it to track criminals

According to reports out of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), biometrics are gaining an ever more prominent place in local law enforcement’s activities, and the type of technology involved is also getting ever more fine-grained.

Accuracy aside – but apparently, the way you walk – as interpreted by mass surveillance technology – can now be used as an incriminating piece of evidence against you in this country.

As always with these stories, one wonders how in the world the police ever managed to do their job for centuries (as they have done) without relying on invasive and controversial technologies like this – but that is not the question most media outlets are willing to “bother” with just now.

Instead, we’re hearing from one of the Emirates, Dubai, that the thing with biometric surveillance of the population – handily justified as something positive, when there’s a criminal case that can be attached to the practice – has now gone well beyond fingerprinting, facial recognition, and such.

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NYC Mayor Eric Adams: “Big Brother is protecting you”

In New York City, political rather than professional considerations seem to be dictating the way the police will proceed in fighting crime, including the degree to which this will include the use of invasive technology.

And Mayor Eric Adams must not have read the book, because, in dystopian form, he has just declared that “Big Brother” is actually the good guy.

Namely, reports suggest the mayor, now a year in office, is well aware of how the city has spiraled into crime – there’s been a whopping increase of 23.5 percent during the past year alone.

This “lawlessness” allegedly came as a consequence of the pandemic measures that among other things exacerbated the problem of homelessness, anti-police protests, and the erosion in morale among the force.

Now Adams, a Democrat, wants to please both his “moderate” supporters by dealing with crime, and the “progressives on the left” who oppose most anything that might resemble backing the police, by doubling down on methods as controversial as facial recognition and surveillance cameras.

The mayor appears to be one of those who believe that law enforcement suddenly has no means to fight crime, even though it has done it before this technology became available. And so the focus of his tenure going forward will be in employing “techniques to more accurately identify common criminal patterns and develop profiles of perpetrators,” Politico sums up the tactic Adams prefers.

While at it, Adams would also like to give “Big Brother” – a symbol of ruthless authoritarian state surveillance – an image makeover.

With this in mind, he accused his fellow politicians of being afraid to “embrace technology” and of instead considering technology-driven surveillance “a boogeyman” – that many will agree it is.

Not Adams.

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Governments are Still Free to Use the Pegasus Software Without Human Rights Safeguards in Place

In September 2022, Szabolcs Panyi, a Hungarian investigative journalist with Direkt36, published a story on how the Pegasus software was brought to Hungary. The report demonstrates how easily governments can exploit surveillance technologies without human rights safeguards in place.

Panyi — also a target of Pegasus — explained the circumstances under which Pegasus was brought to Hungary and the National Security Service’s (NSS) role in the transaction. Direkt36 revealed in 2021 that journalists and politicians in Hungary could have been tapped with the tool.

According to Direkt36, the National Security Service commissioned Communication Technologies Ltd. in 2017 to acquire the spy software developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. According to sources familiar with the circumstances of the transaction, the spyware was purchased for HUF 3 billion (approx. EUR 7.45 million). The investigation found that the whole transaction remained secret because, in October 2017, Parliament’s National Security Committee voted unanimously and without question to exempt the purchase of the spy software from public procurement.

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You’d Better Watch Out: The Surveillance State Is Making a List, And You’re On It

You’d better watch out—you’d better not pout—you’d better not cry—‘cos I’m telling you why: this Christmas, it’s the Surveillance State that’s making a list and checking it twice, and it won’t matter whether you’ve been bad or good.

You’ll be on this list whether you like it or not.

Mass surveillance is the Deep State’s version of a “gift” that keeps on giving…back to the Deep State.

Geofencing dragnets. Fusion centers. Smart devices. Behavioral threat assessments. Terror watch lists. Facial recognition. Snitch tip lines. Biometric scanners. Pre-crime. DNA databases. Data mining. Precognitive technology. Contact tracing apps.

What these add up to is a world in which, on any given day, the average person is now monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother.

Every second of every day, the American people are being spied on by a vast network of digital Peeping Toms, electronic eavesdroppers and robotic snoops.

This creepy new era of government/corporate spying—in which we’re being listened to, watched, tracked, followed, mapped, bought, sold and targeted—has been made possible by a global army of techno-tyrants, fusion centers and Peeping Toms.

Consider just a small sampling of the tools being used to track our movements, monitor our spending, and sniff out all the ways in which our thoughts, actions and social circles might land us on the government’s naughty list, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.

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World Health Organization meets to discuss granting of increased surveillance powers under pandemic treaty

The unelected global health agency the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently meeting to consider a draft version of a controversial international pandemic treaty that will give the WHO increased surveillance powers.

The new surveillance powers are detailed in Article 10 (“Strengthening and sustaining capacities for pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery of health systems”) and Article 17 (“One Health”) of the draft treaty. They include requirements for the WHO’s member states to “build and reinforce surveillance systems” across both the public and private sector and to strengthen the WHO’s “One Health surveillance systems.”

In its fact sheet on One Health, the WHO cites Covid-19 as one of the main drivers for expanding its One Health approach and notes that the COVID-19 pandemic “put a spotlight on the need for a global framework for improved surveillance and a more holistic, integrated system.”

While the draft treaty doesn’t mention contact tracing and testing, these were two of the main surveillance tools that were used to track the spread of Covid-19 during the pandemic and create a mass surveillance dragnet. Not only did this result in many citizens being forced to use surveillance apps and devices but the data was often abused by governments and third parties.

Not only does this treaty grant the WHO new surveillance powers but it also recognizes “the central role of WHO” and deems it to be “the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.”

We obtained a copy of the draft international pandemic treaty for you here.

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