Arrest of Activist Artist Protesting Drones Highlights NYPD Surveillance Program

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Joe Wright
Activist Post

New York is now widely regarded as the pinnacle of the police state. The full-spectrum surveillance grid in place supposedly utilizes biometrics and a city-wide camera system that supplies real-time data to law enforcement. A physical militarized presence gives parts of the city the feel of an armed encampment consisting of 35,000 uniformed officers and 15,000 civilian employees – a combined force larger than the FBI.

The “ring of steel” is essentially a full-time counterterrorism operation on American soil that even has the ability to shoot down planes. A NYPD social media unit was set up to track pre-crime “criminal language” on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a stated commitment to developing pre-crime software in an agreement with Microsoft under a Domain Awareness System.

The intent seems to be to design a high-tech level of tracking and databasing all passersby under a guilty-until-proven-innocent framework. Certainly once drones are brought fully into American skies in 2015, it is reasonable to assume they will make an appearance over New York.

All of this should cause legitimate concerns about the erosion of civil liberties and spur even the half-awake to some sort of action. If one needed confirmation that the establishment intends to crack down on dissenters, one need look no further than the recent arrest of street artist and photographer Essam Attia.

Attia, a former veteran of the war in Iraq as a geo-spatial analyst, is not being given much leniency for his satirical attempt to warn his fellow citizens of the growing police state and surveillance measures being put into place. He designed a series of fake ads that co-opted city display cases; his posters depicted drone surveillance and bombings with the statement, “Drones: Protection When You Least Expect It.”

Attia has been charged with 56 counts of possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny possession of stolen property. An additional charge, which could carry the most severe penalty with years in jail, concerns an unloaded .22 pistol that was found under his bed at the site of his arrest. Attia claims that the gun is a 120-year-old antique.

While it appears that some of the charges could be legitimate, these are non-violent crimes which were conducted with an intent to mock and to draw attention to the lawless behavior of government spying on Americans without their knowledge, while tracking and databasing the activities of innocent New Yorkers.

The irony was not lost on Attia that this “ring of steel” surveillance apparatus was actually not responsible for his discovery and arrest — it was his own negligence when he gave an interview to
ANIMAL New York that offered the police clues as to his identity. In that interview:

He agrees that there is an inherent irony in his spoofs: the very fact that the NYPD (which claims to be strongly pursuing him with their ‘counter terrorism squad’) hasn’t caught him yet, is proof that we have not reached a state of Orwellian control.

But not for lack of trying, as New York continues to invest millions annually despite criticism over stop-and-frisk policies and surveillance of Muslims, among other complaints. The budget is expected to grow by 60% to $47.5 million, even as essential services get cut. (Source)

Such expenditure came under additional scrutiny after journalist Christopher Dickey made the statement in June that the NYPD counteterrorism initiative is “hard to argue with: at least 14 full-blown terrorist attacks have been prevented or failed on Kelly’s watch.” It was a statement that would be repeated often, but was found to hold little merit. As reported by ProPublica in July:

A review of the list shows a much more complicated reality — that the 14 figure overstates both the number of serious, developed terrorist plots against New York and exaggerates the NYPD’s role in stopping attacks. 

The list includes two and perhaps three clear-cut terrorist plots, including a failed attempt to bomb Times Square by a Pakistani-American in 2010 that the NYPD did not stop. 

Of the 11 other cases, there are three in which government informants played a significant or dominant role (by, for example, providing money and fake bombs to future defendants); four cases whose credibility or seriousness has been questioned by law enforcement officials, including episodes in which skeptical federal officials declined to bring charges; and another four cases in which an idea for a plot was abandoned or not pursued beyond discussion. 

In addition, the NYPD itself does not appear to have played a major role in breaking up most of the alleged plots on the list. In several cases, it played no role at all. (Source)

And they couldn’t even stop an anonymous prankster until he revealed himself after weeks of activity, only further demonstrating the waste of taxpayer money and the continued illusion of protection embodied within the war on terror.

The system is also showing zero tolerance with anti-drone protesters in upstate New York. A judge recently slapped a restraining order on the group in what appears to be a clear attempt to shut down free speech and deny the inherent right to peaceably assemble. Despite being non-violent and complying with permit rules, the protection order signed by the judge lists a whole range of violent behavior from which the base commander must be protected.

The legitimate concern over drones is mounting, and has finally become a daily news item; and it appears to be quite a sore spot for the establishment. Drones are a profitable and growing industry, especially since the drone wars have commenced following the U.S. buildup and implementation. A Congressional “drone caucus” is attached at the hip with the military-industrial complex, only increasing the likelihood of further drone proliferation.

Clearly the establishment will not brook any protest — not even if it is done with a sense of humor.

Note: Essam Attia was due to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday, update is pending.

Additional Sources:

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