DHS Enlists Citizen Spies Via New Smartphone App
Homeland Security officials in Delaware are hoping to enlist citizens as spies for the state by encouraging them to use a new app which allows smartphone users to attach pictures of “suspicious” vehicles or persons and send them directly to the federal government.
“The Delaware Information and Analysis Center (DIAC) now offers a mobile app to report suspicious activities in real-time by attaching a photo, sending location information, or entering details about suspicious vehicles or persons. In addition, users can choose to make their report anonymously or can include contact information for follow-up by law enforcement,” reports DailyFinance.com.
The new “Anti-Terrorism Mobile FORCE 1-2 App” is available for both iPhone and Android users and is being touted as a method of leveraging tips provided by citizens to “help protect the State”.
The information received is channeled through the state Fusion Center (DIAC) and then shared amongst federal, state and local law enforcement.
The federal government has moved to aggressively protect federal Fusion Centers, which are littered across the country, from Congressional insight and has shielded their employees from taking responsibility for their actions.
A memorandum of understanding written by the FBI back in 2008 dictated that information collected by Fusion Centers could only be disclosed to Congress as part of an investigation “after consultation with the FBI.”
The memorandum also, “Exempts even reports and statistics that could show overzealous surveillance and other possible misbehavior by Fusion Center staff,” writes Declan McCullagh.
Under the Department of Homeland Security’s See Something, Say Something initiative, all manner of banal activities have been characterized as “suspicious”.
A 2011 PSA for the program labeled behavior such as opposing surveillance, using a video camera, talking to police officers, wearing hoodies, driving vans, writing on a piece of paper, and using a cell phone recording application as potential indications of terrorism. The last example is particularly ironic given that the DIAC app requires people to take photographs in public to report suspicious activity – an activity which in itself has been characterized as suspicious by the authorities.
Earlier this year, we reported on a number of flyers issued under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism (CAT) program which identified behavior such as paying for a cup of coffee with cash, showing concern for privacy when using the Internet in a public place, or using Google Maps as potential signs of terrorist activity.
Enlisting untrained citizens to be the eyes and ears of the state is a classic hallmark of an authoritarian society.
At the height of its influence around one in seven of the East German population was an informant for the Stasi.
History clearly tells us that using citizens to inform on their fellow countrymen does not make a nation safer and only serves to breed distrust and suspicion amongst a host population.
As Robert Gellately of Florida State University has highlighted, Germans under Hitler denounced their neighbors and friends not because they genuinely believed them to be a security threat, but because they expected to selfishly benefit from doing so, both financially, socially and psychologically via a pavlovian need to be rewarded by their masters for their obedience.
Having the state encourage citizens to report “suspicious activity” is not only un-American, it represents a direct attack on the idea that a law abiding citizen can go about their business without the onerous psychological pressure of knowing that their every behavior could be analyzed and misinterpreted by a fellow citizen.
This psychologically compels people not only to moderate their behavior, including their political speech and exercising of inherent freedoms, but it also bolsters the myth that terrorists are potentially lurking around every corner and that the vast bloated budgets swallowed up by federal Fusion Centers are justified.
In reality, as Ohio University’s John Mueller has documented, the likelihood of actually being a victim of terrorism is infinitesimally small, a fact which only highlights how such threats are hyperbolically exaggerated for political and monetary purposes.