Saturday, November 10, 2018

The DEA and ICE: Hiding Cameras in Streetlights

Posted by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Quartz


By Justin Rohrlich & Dave Gershgorn

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have hidden an undisclosed number of covert surveillance cameras inside streetlights around the country, federal contracting documents reveal.

According to government procurement data, the DEA has paid a Houston, Texas company called Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC roughly $22,000 since June 2018 for “video recording and reproducing equipment.” ICE paid out about $28,000 to Cowboy Streetlight Concealments over the same period of time.

It’s unclear where the DEA and ICE streetlight cameras have been installed, or where the next deployments will take place. ICE offices in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio have provided funding for recent acquisitions from Cowboy Streetlight Concealments; the DEA’s most recent purchases were funded by the agency’s Office of Investigative Technology, which is located in Lorton, Virginia.


Christie Crawford, who owns Cowboy Streetlight Concealments with her husband, a Houston police officer, said she was not at liberty to discuss the company’s federal contracts in detail.

“We do streetlight concealments and camera enclosures,” Crawford told Quartz. “Basically, there’s businesses out there that will build concealments for the government and that’s what we do. They specify what’s best for them, and we make it. And that’s about all I can probably say.”

However, she added: “I can tell you this—things are always being watched. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the street or visiting a friend, if government or law enforcement has a reason to set up surveillance, there’s great technology out there to do it.”

Earlier this week, the DEA issued a solicitation for “concealments made to house network PTZ [Pan-Tilt-Zoom] camera, cellular modem, cellular compression device,” noting that the government intended to give the contract to Obsidian Integration LLC, an Oregon company with a sizable number of federal law enforcement customers.

On November 7, the Jersey City Police Department awarded a contract to Obsidian Integration for “the purchase and delivery of a covert pole camera.” The filing did not provide further design details.

Obsidian did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Morgan Hairston, the Department of Justice contracting officer handling the bids.

In addition to streetlights, the DEA has also placed covert surveillance cameras inside traffic barrels, a purpose-built product offered by a number of manufacturers. And as Quartz reported last month, the DEA operates a network of digital speed-display road signs that contain automated license plate reader technology within them.


Chad Marlow, a senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, says efforts to put cameras in street lights have been proposed before by local law enforcement, typically as part of a “smart” LED street light system.

“It basically has the ability to turn every streetlight into a surveillance device,  which is very Orwellian to say the least,” Marlow told Quartz. “In most jurisdictions, the local police or department of public works are authorized to make these decisions unilaterally and in secret. There’s no public debate or oversight.”

The impact of surveillance cameras will increase as the development of facial recognition algorithms become more commonplace among law enforcement agencies. Amazon has been particularly interested in outfitting cameras operated by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with facial recognition, according to emails recently unearthed by the Project on Government Oversight.

“We are ready and willing to support the vital [Homeland Security Investigations] mission,” an Amazon employee wrote in an email that touted the company’s facial recognition software.

42 comments:

  1. Start shooting out streetlights is whats going to happen and rightfully so. Fuck law enforcement. Were all targets not just criminals. Think about that before responding some bs positive police bs.

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    1. 4:09; I agree and I can not throw stones because I live in glass house (Mexico:); but Osama Bin Ladin was the political tool to voluntarily give away citizen privacy rights and now both the never ending war on terror and war on drugs will continue to fund a war on privacy. Now I understand the term I read “big brother”

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    2. The Rights Of Privacy are being tested.

      Question is? Will we become the next China which operates a superior technology security system for eavesdropping on its citizens?

      Expect some legal challenges from many political sides of the table on this matter.

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    3. @ 409 go ahead and shootout a streetlight you paranoid dumbass.

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    4. Of course. Totally agree that in the so called name of National Security privacy is becoming extint in this country and more and more we are becoming a police state and we are ALL under surveillance.

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    5. In GOD WE TRUST =GOLD .OIL . DRUGS

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    6. Two-edged sword. Thieves, robbers, vandals everywhere. Our town used to be safe and clean. Love to throw all worthless people in jail.

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    7. Destroy street lights and "rightfully so"? You are some kind of stupid. We have no right of privacy on a public street. Do something illegal outside, and expect it to be witnessed, somehow or someway.

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    8. 12:47 just do not expect Cops using exessive force, punching people in the face, or even shooting people running away while being filmed to practically never face justice and 99.99 percent of the time be exonerated for those crimes.
      Cameras will ONLY work against civilians never them period.

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    9. If it means security, and safer streets, so be it. Unless you have other intentions.

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    10. You make minimum wage at your part time job and sell nickel and dimes on the side, don't worry they're not looking for you lol!

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  2. I'm not surprised. In addition with the law that everyone must have the new Real ID by 2020 this will go hand in hand. The new drivers licenses will require more documentation at the DMV to show who you are but that's not the problem. You will have a picture taken for facial recognition and your info can be accessed any time you enter a federal building or airport without your knowledge. It's like AI picking you out of a crowd. Scary thought

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    1. Its already happening everytime i fly i go to the lil room and get searched bwcause of my criminal past as a matter of fact target stores have the best face rwcognition srcurity system in the usa trust me i know

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    2. 6:08 I'm sorry to hear that. Its a shame someone has to be hassled and judged Everytime they move just because of something they did in the past.

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    3. It don't matter to me . i cross daily

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    4. 9:35 cross what daily? We aren't talking about crossing the border. You posted on the wrong thread

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  3. Soo much for stoping people consume whatever they want

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  4. It doesn’t really take much to hire a crackhead for a day in Houston. And if a person were so inclined to do so then now might just be the time to put these guys to work. I’m thinking maybe a little good old fashion reconnaissance around town. Who better to outsource this type of work to? If anyone would have a good ear to any city it would be these guys. They’re always so knowledgeable on all things street. Cheap labor sometimes has its perks. - Sol Prendido

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    1. Not really. Most crackheads are well known to police. In addition to that they snitch on anyone to stay on the street so they can get high. When the crackhead you hire for a day busts the first camera the feds will get the signal and pick him up.

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    2. @4:54 I wouldn’t want them to bust anything. Just help network where everything is at. This type of info sells well. - Sol Prendido

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    3. 10:01 network? Have you ever dealt with crackheads before. I've known and talked with many of them. They are very paranoid of everything and because of all the drugs they take they develop some kind of underlying mental illness. They would tell you anything and everything has a camera on it to get a buck off you. You would be better off doing that networking stuff on your own.

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    4. Day workers it is then. Lol. - Sol Prendido

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  5. From now on this country will be known as a police state as evidenced by these actions. So as long as it is in the name of "National Security" people will be willing to sacrifice their freedoms.
    Too bad all these measures cannot prevent mass shootings but who cares correct???
    Mass killers are not to be feared only drugs, cartels amd immigrants.

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  6. Dosen't England have them everywhere in London?

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  7. Get used to it. The streetlights cameras thing is just another technological incremental step towards a "Big Brother" world.

    Off the top of my head here is "my" little list of things already here that are related to privacy concerns:

    1. Finger prints
    2. photographs
    3. DNA (still undergoing great technological advances)
    4. Wire tapping conversations and who one talks to.
    5. Location tracking technology (satellites, drones, and ?)
    6. Social Networks technology (using computerized inferential tech..)
    7. Psychological profiling (now getting very sophisticated..)
    8. Pharmacology (Use of psychoactive drugs to induce confessions and other behaviors..)
    9. Social sciences "coercive" technology like getting people to ?snitch on each other like in the "creation" , deployment, and use of CIs (confidential informants.
    10. "Truth" machine neuroscience technology (much different and advanced than polygraphs )
    11. Tagging people and the things they consume (clothes, food, cars, guns, books, medications, liquor, condoms, metc) with bar-codes and microchip identifiers.)

    Some of the items mentioned are NOT legal unless warrants are issued. But, wink wink, they are ex-offcio when the need is deemed great enough. Sometime law enforcement has valuable info on suspects that will never be used in court due to legal constraints.

    So? Quit your bitchin about streetlight surveillance ... this is just one more relatively minor addition to what is already available to Big Brother.

    I am just a layperson on the matter of surveillance, but know enough to realize how fukin powerful the State can be "if" it determines that you are a significant threat and need to be neutralized.

    Given, what I know, I would teach a 8-9th grade high-school course on the topic of how police detect, identify, and neutralize threats to society and criminals. Why? Because this might prevent some kids from even thinking of messing with the law. And, that even if you are innocent, BIG BRO will enter your life "if" you hang with deviants and criminals.
    Mexico-Watcher

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    1. Too many idiots here to name. Uneducated cartel nut huggers dont understand the consequences and avenues that must be taken for prevention. If you are an enemy of the state ,then these things will be utilized. Pendejos dont get that enforcement does not have time to deal with regular bs.

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    2. @6:18 when cops keep getting filmed abusing their power and they are never prosecuted the only "idiot" is the person that hands over more power to the government.
      This can be just the begenning (unintentionally or not), of a KGB type of government suppresion system where anything you say or do when upset against someone in office constitutes being an "enemy of the state". Od course since Americans have never lived in these kinds of countries they are too naive to understand the consequences of these actions.
      Time will tell but by then it might be too late!

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  8. 409 take a deep breath control yourself you can't shoot out street lights this isn't the Wild West. Go to Walmart get one of those automatic paintball guns and start blasting every streetlight that has a camera, it's more effective and less dangerous. Don't forget to come back and let us know how you making out

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  9. We are becoming a police state! Then what lose our rights?

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  10. I’m guessing the majority of these cameras were or will possibly be installed in the Houston area?

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  11. F this big brother government . Communist shit. I'm so glad Snowden exposed the government .

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    1. And what good did it do? Other than (Government) to do a better job of protecting its secrets.

      We are living in a world where security is an issue for those terrorists and vested interests groups.

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  12. There will be no effective resistance. Americans are the most passive people in the world now. I repeat: NOTHING WILL BE DONE. THERE WILL BE NO EFFECTIVE RESISTANCE! The fires in California are clearly created by DEW weapons, and yet, there is no one challenging the state. It's all over but the shouting.

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    1. HOW ABOUT MEXICO VERY PASSIVE PEOPLE. Let war go on 12 years

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  13. I am ok with this if it keeps the thugs from roaming our streets.

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  14. FYI: I read something else : Those big traffic signs on roadways telling you ( for instance) HOW FAST YOU ARE GOING and reminding you of the speed limit have license plate recognition. ( perhaps not all but in some places) .If you get pulled over out of state for some infraction , they can run your plate and see exactly where you have been.

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  15. I welcome the technology, if it helps making the public safer, I am for it.

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  16. When you allow big brother to inject you with a microchip, then you have been controlled. Just say no.

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  17. If you are law abiding, and you have done nothing wrong, then obviously there is no need to worry. I agree with what was posted earlier, big brother is already here, ain’t much you can do about it. Beijing, London just to name a couple of major cities, have been the bastion of CCTV monitoring for years, eventually you get used to it

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  18. "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -Benjamin Franklin

    Amen, Brother Ben !

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  19. It's a great crime fighting tool, we don't want crime ecalating like in Mexico, my tax dollars at work.

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