A federal court has ruled that the city of Seattle cannot release information related to hidden surveillance cameras operated by the FBI.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard issued a temporary restraining order preventing Seattle from releasing any further information about the purpose and location of surveillance cameras hidden throughout the city. The ruling comes after the U.S. Department of Justice sued Seattle officials for releasing some documents related to surveillance cameras the Federal Bureau of Investigations had placed on utility poles. The bureau has argued that disclosing details could damage ongoing investigations.
“The city said it had planned to release the information pursuant to public records requests by news reporters and a privacy activist. The state Public Records Act typically exempts “specific intelligence information” from disclosure if its release would compromise effective law enforcement,” The Washington Post reported.
Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, told the Post she did not know why city lawyers released the documents. Mills said the city will comply with the federal court ruling regarding six surveillance cameras located in Seattle. The Justice Department said releasing the locations of the cameras to the public could alert subjects that they are under watch. The FBI told the city’s public utility, Seattle City Light, about the presence of the cameras to prevent them from being destroyed, but the company was bound by a confidentiality agreement.
The people of Seattle have a history of fighting for privacy. In 2013 residents responded to the Seattle Police Department’s purchase of two drones by unanimously passing an ordinance requiring any city department intending to acquire surveillance equipment to get council approval. The drones have since been returned. Still, the law has an exception that allows police to acquire surveillance equipment for a criminal investigation.
Phil Mocek, the privacy activist who filed records requests for information about the cameras, told the Post that Seattle City Light may have broken the law. “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,” Mocek said. “If that’s what’s happening, the public should know about it.”
These surveillance cameras installed on utility poles of Seattle are not the first time the federal government has been caught secretly monitoring the public. Activist Post reported on Jeff Harp, a former FBI special agent and security analyst, in San Francisco who recently told KPIX 5 News that FBI agents regularly hide microphones in indiscriminate locations for surveillance purposes. Harp says that between March 2010 and January 2011, FBI agents hid microphones inside light fixtures and at a bus stop outside the Oakland Courthouse without a warrant to record conversations. The FBI is reportedly attempting to catch real estate investors involved in fraud.
“They put microphones under rocks, they put microphones in trees, they plant microphones in equipment,” Harp said. “I mean, there’s microphones that are planted in places that people don’t think about, because that’s the intent!”
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As Harp pointed out, “An agent can’t just go out and grab a recording device and plant it somewhere without authorization from a supervisor or special agent in charge.” The decision to plant microphones had to come from high-ranking authorities with the bureau.
The FBI has also been caught hiding bugs near the San Mateo County Courthouse. In 2015, The Recorder reported that in 2009 and 2010, the FBI hid bugs inside a metal sprinkler control box attached to the wall, and in a vehicle parked on the street.
In another recent story, Activist Post asked ‘Why Is The Federal Government Installing Mysterious Boxes On Utility Poles?’. We looked at the case of Phoenix resident Brian Clegg, who was concerned about a box he witnessed being installed on a power pole. Clegg said the box was facing his house and he believed it may have had cameras inside. The pole was owned by Arizona’s largest power provider, SRP, who claimed no one had permission to put the box on their pole. Brian Clegg says shortly afterwards SRP sent a crew to remove the box.
Shortly after ABC15 investigated the matter, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, acknowledged installing the box as part of an ongoing investigation. Officials with the ATF would not provide details about their alleged investigation and would not confirm if they were conducting surveillance in the area.
It’s time to wake up, brothers and sisters. The United States is a Surveillance State paid for by the American taxpayer. What will you do to save privacy in the minds of the coming generations? Can freedom survive the erosion of civil liberties and the concept of privacy? That all depends on the actions you take today. It’s time to build something new.
Image Credit: TheAntiMedia.org
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