The Baltimore Police Department’s secret surveillance plane is no longer a secret.
The cover story of this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek offers up plenty of details about the Cessna that’s been flying above the streets of the city for as many as ten hours a day for the past nine months. The surveillance program, which was funded by a private donor (a Texas billionaire, to be precise), allows police to capture real-time images over 30 square miles. “Imagine Google Earth with TiVo capability,” the system’s engineer told Businessweek. The technology was first used by the military to look for people planting roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan; like many other forms of military technology, now that those wars are winding down, it’s been re-purposed by city police departments to keep an eye on things domestically.
This latest news of secret surveillance comes a few weeks after the ACLU released its report on the secret FBI surveillance flights that surveyed the city during the Freddie Gray protests. Then there are those new (non-secret) permanent surveillance blimps in Baltimore County. And the city police’s allegedly illegal use of Stingray cell phone tracking. And if someone tells you that the city buses are secretly recording his conversations, he’s not paranoid–he’s right.
Ever get the feeling you’re being watched, Baltimore?