Last month, we noted that the FBI had hidden microphones in public places throughout the Bay Area - now it's Seattle's turn.
A federal judge recently blocked the city of Seattle from releasing information about surveillance cameras that the FBI has placed around the city, saying the disclosure could jeopardize ongoing investigations ABC News reports. The FBI had provided the city information about its use of surveillance cameras on public utility poles, but only to prevent the cameras from being removed or destroyed by utility workers. The city had originally planned to release the information as a result of public records requests by news reporters and privacy activists, however the Justice Department nixed that idea as fast as you can say Fourth Amendment.
From ABC News
"The FBI's use of the pole camera technique is a powerful tool in FBI investigations of criminal violations and national security threats," the Justice Department's lawsuit said. "Disclosure of even minor details about them may cause jeopardy to important federal interests because, much like a jigsaw puzzle, each detail may aid adversaries in piecing together information about the capabilities, limitations, and circumstances of (the) equipment's use, and would allow law enforcement subjects, or national security adversaries, to accumulate information and draw conclusions about the FBI's use of this technology, in order to evade effective, lawful investigation by the FBI."
Ah yes, as a matter of national security, one can no longer expect private conversations in public places to remain private - got it.
Assistant US Attorney Peter Winn said in court filings that the disclosure of the location of the cameras "can have a devastating impact on an investigation. Armed with such knowledge, a subject would not only be able to evade further investigation by the FBI, but would also be able to employ countermeasures to impede further investigation."
Said otherwise, the recording of those not accused of any crime will continue as to ensure the FBI doesn't have to do any actual work in order to obtain credible evidence and produce warrants for those that are committing crimes.
"It appears a security manager at Seattle City Light has been running a rogue surveillance camera scheme, allowing federal agencies to install surveillance cameras and personally maintaining an inventory of those cameras. If that's what's happening, the public should know about it." said Phil Mocek, a privacy activist who filed records requests for information about the cameras.
Sorry Phil, the FBI will do as is pleases, no matter what the privacy expectations are of US citizens. Which brings us to this question: what if the broad surveillance of American citizens isn't really for any specific investigation at all? We're certain that San Francisco and Seattle aren't the only cities that are swamped with FBI surveillance equipment, and given the fact that the FBI is building a massive facial recognition database regardless of whether it is legal or not, all of the surveillance could easily fold up under one big happy FBI database umbrella - only to be used for good of course, never for nefarious reasons. That could never occur in the US, or so we're told.