Tuesday, January 20, 2015

US cops now have radar "x-ray vision", didn't tell anybody.

Doppler radar on a single chip has been around for quite a long time now, I remember reading about it in the early 1990's in Scientific American.

Using radar to look inside a house has been a thing for quite a while now as well. Because when there's radar-on-a-chip available to fiddle with, people fiddle with them and discover they can do things that are pretty interesting. Like they can detect the motions of a human breathing from outside a house. They can obviously spot a human moving around inside a house as well.

Well, it seems that somebody built some of these super Tom Swift radars. Rolled 'em out to cop departments all over the USA. One problem: they didn't tell anybody.

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.

Obtaining a search warrant is of course something they have not been doing. They've been scanning to see if there's anybody home first and asking permission later.

Agents' use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

And the court has been letting them.

Agents arrested Denson for the parole violation and charged him with illegally possessing two firearms they found inside. The agents had a warrant for Denson's arrest but did not have a search warrant. Denson's lawyer sought to have the guns charge thrown out, in part because the search began with the warrantless use of the radar device.

Three judges on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the search, and Denson's conviction, on other grounds. Still, the judges wrote, they had "little doubt that the radar device deployed here will soon generate many questions for this court."

Despite the fact that scanning a residence with any kind of sensor, be it thermal, radar or even a drug-sniffing dog without a warrant has been specifically disallowed by the Supreme Court of the USA.

Because its just too handy to be able to use penetrating imaging for fishing expeditions. It may not hold up in court, but if you do it secretly you can always find another reason to raid a guy's place if you try hard enough.

Incidentally there are drone-mounted versions of this technology available that can work at extended range. I would think a quadcopter would be large enough to carry something like that, their power consumption is relatively small and physically the whole guts of the unit will be the size of a cell-phone. There are also larger side-looking radar sets that can be mounted on an aircraft or dirigible which can image arbitrarily large areas. Just crank up the power and you can see inside stuff for miles.

Brings a whole new level of irony to the term "tinfoil hat" doesn't it?

Just thought y'all ought to know. Maybe get some aluminum siding on the house and mylar in those windows, eh?


Ocam said...

Some 20 years ago Canada's beleaguered privacy commissioner stated that the challenge of the new century would be keeping our privacy, that new developments in technology were straining his ability to keep up with the assaults on our privacy - he was aware of most of the proto snooping tech in development, in use and planned - I guess this was his diplomatic way of telling us that every government will build a total surveillance state if it can - they just gotta know what we're saying about them ;-)

We now have the catch-all excuse of the "terrorism" bogy man to justify the cops and spook and feds "teching up" and snooping on everyone's daily routines.

He has since been proven right what with governments passing privacy acts to prevent low tech ID theft, yet at the same time openly monitoring our communications with high tech without warrant.

Every new snoop tech. that pops out of the pipe gets an immediate try out by authorities regardless of the legality because there is an "above the law" implied doctrine where Fed spooks and cops are concerned.

What can I say? - Welcome to Orwell's nightmare - he warned us, and we laughed it off as conspiracy science fiction and did nothing about the obvious encroaching big brotherism of government, so here we are.

The Phantom said...

Hi Occam.

I was looking back over my archives for this post, because I've written about radar before. I've been talking about this shit now for TEN YEARS, man.

Ten fucking years now. My archives look like the ravings of a friggin' lunatic. I mention some new surveillance thing is invented, boy that might turn out to be misuse, get your tinfoil hats on she's going to blow. Two years later, I post an article on how the bad thing I predicted has happened already and nobody noticed.

They're scanning our houses from the air with thermal and radar imaging. They're recording ALL our fucking phone calls, mail, email, texts, internet searches and etc. They track our vehicles with license plate readers. They track our cell phones with geolocation. They've been doing a lot of it since the 1990's, I've been live-blogging it since December 2005. I really don't think there's much more to be done in full-time 24/7 surveillance short of having a government camera stuck to your forehead that sees everything you do.

Nobody gives a shit. How can that be, I ask you? Is it that I'm crazy, or is it that I'm sane?

Anonymous said...

Phantom: I think this may explain the lack of outrage, or even attention, to things like this:


You may have seen it before. For those who haven't read it, it's a cartoon--no, wait, stay with me here--exploring the differences and similarities between the horrifying future Huxley warned us about and the horrifying future Orwell warned us about.

Orwell warned us that in the future, those in power might rule through force and fear, depriving us of information.

Huxley warned us that in the future, those in power might rule through deceit and lies, drowning us in trivialities that make all information seem trivial.

And one approach does not rule out the other.

Nobody cares that the State is spying on us, because most of the population is swimming in a sea of celebrity gossip, horoscopes, amazing new diet plans, Hollywood blockbuster movies, and professional sports.