A case study in the evolution of the surveillance state
It all started back in 2003 along SR86 in Southern Arizona with the establishment of a "High Intensity Enforcement Area
" by the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. The so-called enforcement area, a twenty mile-long zone running East to West along the highway, included signs, lots of roving patrols by Border Patrol agents not actually patrolling the border and mobile surveillance towers setup at either end of the 'zone'. The mobile surveillance towers came complete with Border Patrol agents peering out of twenty foot high bullet proof glass windows into the cabs of oncoming vehicles using high powered binoculars & cameras. Radios in the surveillance towers were used to give the heads up to the closest roving patrol waiting around to pounce on the next unlucky traveler targeted for extra-special attention from homeland security
agents more concerned with security theater
than real security:
Several more years went by with more routine roving patrol harassment
& random but relatively few checkpoint encounters until the Border Patrol decided to divert even more scarce border security resources away from the actual border. In January of 2008, a tactical checkpoint was established near mile marker 146 along SR86 & operated 24/7 beginning in early January of 2008:
For another two years or so after its establishment, my checkpoint encounters now taking place on a regular basis, made it clear the checkpoints had little to do with interdicting illegal aliens and much to do with obedience training. At first, the use of drug dogs at the checkpoint was rare but over time, that too became a mainstay of checkpoint operations. Individuals were stopped, seized, detained, sniffed, questioned & sometimes searched absent any reasonable suspicion whatsoever in the vast majority of cases:
Some of those who resisted such efforts at other checkpoints in Southern Arizona were either mercilessly harassed by the Border Patrol or brutalized, oftentimes with the ready assistance of Arizona DPS officers:
Still not satisfied with the level of interference & control being exercised over the daily lives of commuters from local communities just trying to go about their daily lives with a minimum of harassment from unelected, unaccountable federal agents incapable of finding the border they're paid to patrol, the anty was recently upped yet again along SR86 in Southern Arizona. The Drug Enforcement Agency under the DOJ wanting in on the action, teamed up with a local tribal police force, the Tohono O'odham Police Dept
., to install multiple video surveillance systems along public highways in the area. These systems include six video cameras, two automated license plate readers (ELSAG AD3-FG models
), infrared led arrays, high intensity halogen lights for night operations & a gasoline powered generator running 24/7. Personally identifiable information on every individual entering the area, indiscriminate of whether or not they ever cross an international border, is collected, stored and analyzed by a host of local, state and federal enforcement agencies with access to the surveillance data:
Since the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down as illegal the use of checkpoints to interdict narcotics in City of Indianapolis V Edmond, the DEA has had to rely upon the Border Patrol to do their dirty work for them over the years. Specifically, the DEA cross-trains Border Patrol agents to enforce federal drug laws who do so with zeal at suspicionless checkpoints around the country. Checkpoints that are supposed to be limited in scope to brief immigration queries. This is one of the reasons why the use of drug-sniffing dogs at Border Patrol 'immigration' checkpoints has increased dramatically over the years. It's also the reason why most of the DEA-sponsored surveillance systems described above are being setup in close proximity to existing Border Patrol checkpoints. The checkpoints are de facto staging areas for DEA enforcement efforts associated with their surveillance systems popping up all around the Southwest. This in turn augments checkpoint activities already heavily geared towards narcotic interdiction over their stated purpose, illegal alien interdiction. The DEA's interest in using Border Patrol immigration checkpoints as an end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court's prohibition against drug and general law enforcement checkpoints is further highlighted by various public statements made by the agency advocating for the proliferation of Border Patrol checkpoints for just such a purpose.
Having a front row seat to the continued evolution of the police and surveillance states in my small corner of the world over the past decade has been an interesting experience to say the least. Given the evidence regarding just how ineffective these police state tactics are at their stated purpose, it has become clear the police and surveillance states have become goals unto themselves independent of the justifications for their original creation & initial expansion.
To find out more regarding my continued experiences in authoritarian utopia in Southern Arizona, feel free visit my blog at Roadblock Revelations. In the meantime, welcome to Checkpoint USA.