ICE and the DEA are paying for hidden streetlight cameras to be watch you all across the country
According to Gizmodo, federal procurement documents show the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed an “‘undisclosed number of covert surveillance cameras inside streetlights” all over America. At current it is not yet clear how many cameras have been purchased, or exactly where the cameras have been placed, but the procurement documents show the DEA has paid a company called Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC about $22K since June of 2018; ICE has paid the company $28K over the same time frame.
ICE offices in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio provided funding for the cameras procured by ICE, while the DEA received its funding for cameras from an Office of Investigative Technology in Virginia. Christie Crawford, the co-owner of Cowboy Streetlight Concealments told Gizmodo, “We do streetlight concealments and camera enclosures… Basically, there’s businesses out there that will build concealments for the government and that’s what we do. They specify what’s best for them, and we make it. And that’s about all I can probably say.” Crawford also added: “I can tell you this—things are always being watched. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the street or visiting a friend, if government or law enforcement has a reason to set up surveillance, there’s great technology out there to do it.”
Other documents discovered by Gizmodo include a solicitation by the DEA for concealments made to house a Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera, cellular modem, and cellular compression device, even though similar devices are already in use by the agency. As noted by Quartz, “In addition to streetlights, the DEA has also placed covert surveillance cameras inside traffic barrels, a purpose-built product offered by a number of manufacturers. And as Quartz reported last month, the DEA operates a network of digital speed-display road signs that contain automated license plate reader technology within them.”
The ACLU’s senior advocacy and policy counsel Chad Marlow told Gizmodo these hidden cameras can be used “to turn every streetlight into a surveillance device, which is very Orwellian to say the least… In most jurisdictions, the local police or department of public works are authorized to make these decisions unilaterally and in secret. There’s no public debate or oversight.”
Additionally, an unnamed ICE public affairs official told reporters for Daily Dot, “The contracts indicate that HSI regional offices in Houston and San Antonio have purchased video recording and photography equipment to be used during the course of criminal investigations. The targeted use of surveillance equipment used during investigations into drug trafficking, human smuggling, human trafficking, and other illicit activities is consistent with other federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.”