Then and Now: The Surveillance Playbook

Recent implementations of surveillance systems have followed a predictable playbook.

Politicians, government agencies, and corporations are pitting their collective agendas against us, and the rights of the individual are suffering.

Before heading up the Department of Homeland Security, then-Governor Janet Napolitano spearheaded the creation of a widespread surveillance system in Arizona. This article aims to show that while the names of the players change (Then DPS, now TSA; Then Redflex, Now RapiScan; etc), the game stays the same.

Creating the Problem

Then: As Governor, Napolitano urgently forces into place a statewide “photo enforcement” scheme on Arizona highways. A private contractor (Redflex) benefits and provides the surveillance equipment.

Now: As DHS Director, Napolitano rolls out “advanced imaging” scanners at airports nationwide while urging (threatening) other countries to follow suit. A private contractor (RapiScan) benefits and provides the surveillance equipment.

Mission Creep

Then: Redflex’s roadside ticketing cameras are found to record and transmit video 24 hours a day, despite denials by company lobbyists. Politicians feign outrage.

Now: RapiScan’s virtual strip machines are discovered to be capable of storing and transmitting images of travelers. Politicians feign outrage.

Alphabet Soup Agencies and Technological Snake Oil

Then: The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) is charged with running the statewide surveillance network and vehemently defends its use. Phony statistics are used by the department to “prove” effectiveness, causing even supporting organizations such as AAA to question the official stats.

Now: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents utilize body scanners across the United States and agency officials vehemently defend their use, despite a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which stated that such measures would not have stopped the so-called (attempted) “underwear bomber,” the exact incident which prompted the accelerated rollout of such scanners.

Unequal Protection Under the Law and Lacking Common Sense

Then: Under RedflexDPS’ automated ticketing and surveillance scheme, no two drivers are protected equally under the law. A driver with his true home address on file is much more likely to be served in-person with a ticket, while a ticket may not even be mailed if the vehicle is registered to a corporation.

Now: For the most part,  TSA randomly selects who is to submit to a naked body scan, creating a clear standard of unequal protection. One can only hope that a true terrorist doesn’t slip through security because agents are too busy subjecting Grandma to “additional screening” for her carry-on pies.

Make it Clear Who’s Boss

Then: After outsourcing their responsibilities to Redflex, DPS created a unit to target and harass those who openly taunted their surveillance network. Detectives in the so-called “frequent flyer” division addressed the pressing threat of masked drivers and possible political opponents. When a horrible act of violence claimed the life of a photo radar company employee, DPS seized the opportunity to blame their opponents for being too “vocal.”

Now: TSA agents use the threat of “enhanced patdowns” —up and to the point of physical agent contact with travelers’ genitals (groping)— to prompt “compliance” with naked body scans. Those who “opt out” of naked body scans are publicly singled out, with widespread reports of TSA agents screaming “We have an Opt Out!” when confronted with a dissenter.


These parallel stories (ticketing cameras vs. naked body scanners) follow the same plot: The false promise of increased transportation safety via intrusive government surveillance.

Meanwhile, the inherent human right of freedom of movement is so severely crippled that obedient “compliance” is not only expected, but required.

Government regulations create a de facto monopoly over both roadways and airways regarding what hoops you will be required to jump through in order to proceed to your destination. Have the wrong papers or cross the wrong government agent, and you may find yourself detained, arrested, or even killed.

Welcome to the new United States: Land of the Fees, and Home of the Slaves

16 Responses to Then and Now: The Surveillance Playbook

  1. B says:

    When Janet N. left Arizona, many of us anti-camera types rejoiced, but I for one had a nagging worry about what she would perpetrate at the federal level. I guess my concerns were well-founded…

    I just have one question: How long will it be before Al-Qaeda and/or other terrorist groups figure out that all they have to do is get to the security screening area, where there are dozens of travelers waiting there, and detonate their bomb there?

    Chance of success getting a bomb on a plane on their person, killing a 300-400: VERY LOW.

    Chance of success getting the same bomb to the snake-like lines of 100+ people waiting to be groped or radiated, and detonating it before any security screening happens: EXTREMELY LIKELY.

    • Malfeasant says:

      More likely, they will avoid air travel completely and hit us somewhere else, where and when we least expect it- like a shopping mall on black friday, just to name one possibility…

  2. Jury Nullification says:

    Let’s not forget that our elected representatives are not subected to any of these methods. They simply flash their credentials and breeze on through.

    Big Sis has never been subjected to these methods. Lets see what would happen if these politicians were treated like the rest of the flying public and made to be sexually assulted or electronically strip searched.

  3. L. Davis says:

    I will not be flying until these machines and the invasive measures go away.

  4. Will Kay says:

    What ever happened to bomb sniffing dogs?

  5. Sure says:

    — Houston’s red light cameras are now officially off. The city of Houston pulled the plug on the cameras after confirming the vote for the November 2 election.

  6. Malfeasant says:

    just putting this out here-

    airports can opt out and hire private security…

  7. Ken says:

    Something I don’t see listed here are the many cameras that have gone up around the valley watching people. These seem to have replaced the many speed/red light cameras. Does anyone have any knowledge about these or know of any source where I could get more information? The cameras I’m talking about are on light poles; the small black orbs, and the mini cameras on traffic light poles.

    • Mark says:

      These are traffic management cameras. It allows someone to see what is going on in an intersection and if necessary adjust the traffic light if traffic seems to be stacking up. I got to tour the one in Scottsdale. Pretty cool. Similar to the ADOT cameras, it would take too much time and effort to zoom in on a single person to see anything. It is mainly a big picture thing.

      As to the one pointed at the traffic (usually white), those are similar to the sensors in the ground, designed to detect traffic.

  8. B says:

    A higher up on Good Morning America this morning said that the TSA wasn’t budging on the policy. No surprise.

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