[News] A Boeing / Israeli Joint Venture

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Wed Jul 18 16:29:08 EDT 2007


http://www.counterpunch.org/

July 18, 2007

A CounterPunch Special Investigation



A Boeing / Israeli Joint Venture


Spy Towers on the US Border

By BRENDA NORRELL

ARIVACA, Arizona.

Boeing has enlisted the aid of Elbit Systems, 
Israel's major defense contractor, to construct 
high-tech surveillance along the border of the 
U.S. and Mexico. So far, the high-tech fiasco is 
not working and Arizona residents are organizing 
a lawsuit to halt government spying on U.S. citizens.

Arivaca resident Margaret Keoppen is among those 
opposing the 98-foot spy tower in her community, 
part of Project 28 of the Secure Border Initiative.

With a spy viewing range of 10 miles, the spy 
tower is pointed at the good folks of Arivaca.

"This system is entirely experimental with 
unknown results and I don't wish to be used as a 
guinea pig with resulting harm to me, my family, 
my animals, area wildlife," Keoppen told Project 28.

In Tucson, the search for the biggest joke in 
town--the environmental assessment of the spy 
towers -- began at the public library.

"That's odd," said a research librarian, "there 
are no copies of it here." Diligent, the 
librarian plowed through the web and made a phone call.

A copy of the environmental assessment for the 
new high-tech border surveillance was finally 
located at the Arivaca library. In Arivaca, the 
draft copy of the assessment arrived on a 
Saturday in April, with no public notice.

A typed cover letter from U.S.Customs and Border 
Protection said residents had four days to 
respond, April 14 -- 18. The library was closed 
two of those days. Without phone calls from the 
librarians, no one would have known it was there. 
Few people had a chance to even read it.

Driving down from Tucson, the earth is scorched 
from the 114 to 118 degree temperatures. Contrary 
to the frenzied hype of television news, a drive 
along the border, through Three Points, then down 
the road to Sasabe and finally to Arivaca, 
reveals three Wackenhut buses--all empty -- 
waiting to be loaded with migrants. There wasn't 
a migrant in sight. (Wackenhut, with its history 
of human rights violations, is now on contract to 
transport migrants rather than Border Patrol. 
Wackenhut is now Geo Group, but the buses are labeled Wackenhut.)

A stop at a bird walk near Arivaca proves more 
desolation. Two men with hunting dogs arrive in 
separate vehicles. One man takes off quickly for 
another site, both men wearing plain clothes. In 
this no-man's land, strangers are assumed to be 
undercover border agents or Minutemen.

In Arivaca, residents are fighting mad about the 
spy tower, which was built without consulting them, less than a mile from town.

"You can not see the border from that spy tower, 
because of the mountains. The only thing you can 
see is Arivaca," says one woman living in this community of 2,500.

Arivaca is 12 miles north of the border and the 
desert mountains are a fortress that the spy 
tower camera can not penetrate. In fact, the spy 
tower isn't penetrating anything, because like 
all the nine spy towers on Project 28 of the 
Secure Border Initiative so far, it isn't working. But more about that later.

The spy tower has the good folks of Arivaca in 
clear sight. It is a community of artists and 
ranchers, popular with birdwatchers and nature 
lovers. The people here savor their privacy. They 
have selected Arivaca because it is off the 
beaten track and ensures a quiet life, far from the prying eyes of anyone.

Now, without any consultation, there is a spy 
tower on the edge of town, with its camera 
pointed at them. Worse, the Boeing equipment list 
for Project 28 calls for radar, infrared, lasers, 
microwave, iris biometrics and facial biometrics.

"Iris biometrics?" Arivacans ask.

In the environmental assessment, there is no 
research concerning the health effects of the 
lasers, microwave, iris biometrics and other technology, on humans.

The environmental assessment concludes Project 28 
will have "no significant impact."

However, the assessment lists the endangered, 
threatened and sensitive life forms, including 
the Pima pineapple cactus, masked bobwhite 
habitat, desert tortoise, burrowing owl and 
lesser long-nosed bat. There's also Santa Cruz 
stripe agave, Huachuca golden aster and Lumholtz 
nightshade. In Pima County, there's 20 species, 
including the Chiricahua leopard frog, cactus 
ferruginous pygmy-owl and southwestern willow flycatcher.

The conclusion for all: The towers will have "no significant impact."

Arivaca is the territory of migrating bats, 
including a large population on the move from the 
nearby ghost town of Ruby. In the assessment, 
there's nothing more than a little mumbo-jumbo about the bats.

The bats, like the spy towers, use radar. Bats 
depend on radar to do their night hunting to survive.

In the white wash of the environmental 
assessment, it says, "Tower radar is not expected 
to impact echolocation of lesser long-nosed bat 
because recent studies determined that some 
species of bats avoided the frequencies of radar 
to which they were exposed," the assessment says.

So, they're guessing the bats won't use the same radar.

Here in the Sonoran desert, bats, hummingbirds, 
bees and butterflies are the major pollinators. 
Without pollinators, there will be no saguaro, yucca or desert plants.

In the assessment, there's only brief mention of 
the endangered jaguar, Panthera onca. It is the 
largest cat in the Southwest. There's also the 
endangered Sonoran pronghorn and the threatened bald eagle.

The environmental assessment is clearly a joke, 
no one could have manufactured this document with 
serious intent. After listing the threatened and 
endangered species here, including bats and 
jaguars, the environment assessment concludes 
that wildlife will not be harmed by the spy towers.

Wildlife, it says, is "expected to stay away."

This is Saturday Night Live funny. It is easy to 
image the cartoon, as CorpWatch has also imagined 
and posted on its website, with horns sounding 
out alerts in the desert. One horn could be 
honking: "Wildlife -- that includes you birds--you're expected to stay away!"

On the serious side, the assessment admits that 
warning lights on towers can disorient migrating 
birds and cause them to fly in circles, resulting 
in fatal collisions. Red lights attract more 
birds than white ones. So, the Boeing solution is: "loud hailer horns."

The assessment talks much more about grasses and 
birds than it does of spying on U.S. citizens, which it does not address.

Unwarranted spying on U.S. citizens can have 
dangerous, even deadly consequences. With the spy 
towers, Border Patrol agents will be able to sit 
in their cars and watch local residents on their 
laptop computers, if and when the spy towers begin functioning.

Arivacans have asked Homeland Security about 
privacy. However, no one in Homeland Security can 
assure them that normal citizens will not be spied on.

Border residents ask: What about the occasional 
Border Patrol agent who is a pedophile, stalker, 
rapist or murderer. Border Patrol agents are now 
charged with the crimes of rape and murder.

What would prevent a Border Patrol agent from 
keeping tabs on the young man or woman they are 
attracted to with their spy apparatus?

With thousands of border agents, and new recruits 
arriving constantly, there are no guarantees.

There are two spy towers already built on the 
Tohono O´odham Nation, as a result of cooperation 
between the Tohono O´odham tribal government and Homeland Security.

Because of the cooperation between Homeland 
Security and the previous tribal chairwoman, 
Vivian Juan-Saunders, there are two migrant 
detention centers on tribal land, which O´odham 
human rights activists like Ofelia Rivas say 
violates the Him'dag, the O´odham way of life.

Tohono O'odham tribal land is a place where a 
large number of migrants die of dehydration and 
heat every year. Although Mike Wilson, O'odham, 
puts out water for migrants in a few areas, his 
efforts are not supported by the tribe. Derechos 
Humanos Coalition in Tucson said more migrants 
are dieing this year along the border than last 
year, because of failed immigration policies 
forcing migrants into more dangerous and desolate crossing areas.

Tohono O´odham, who were not consulted about the 
spy towers on tribal land, now ask if Border 
Patrol agents will be watching them in their 
outdoor shower stalls. Here temperatures range 
from 114 to 118 in the hottest part of the 
summer. Further, O'odham interviewed did not have 
any idea that an environmental assessment had 
been released or how to find a copy.

As if that wasn't enough cause for alarm, along 
with the privacy lawsuit now being organized, 
there are even more troubling facts about the spy towers.

Boeing has entered into a contract with Elbit 
Systems, Israel's primary defense contractor, to 
help construct this virtual high-tech border 
wall. Elbit is involved with building the Apartheid Wall in occupied Palestine.

Elbit provides surveillance and spy products 
around the world, from infrared spy technology on 
the Canadian border to surveillance to European 
countries. Elbit now has subsidiary companies in the United States.

Elbit is currently the subject of a lawsuit 
involving satellite images. Elbit is a major 
shareholder in ImageSat International. Minority 
stockholders at ImageSat have filed suit against 
the company because of loss of revenues, which 
they say is based on politics. Among the 
allegations: ImageSat refused to turn over spy 
satellite images to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Boeing, the recipient of the $20 million contract 
for securing the 28-mile stretch of border here, 
itself is the subject of a new lawsuit. The 
American Civil Liberties Union alleges Boeing 
subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan provided dozens of 
CIA torture flights to secret prisons.

Back to the spy towers at the Arizona border, 
those aren't working. After failing to meet a 
start-up date in June, Boeing was chastised by 
Congress and Boeing stocks declined. There's no 
official explanation of the failure of the spy 
towers to function and no new startup date was announced.

Boeing has admitted that it is using regular 
Wi-Fi, the same band used at your favorite coffee 
shop, for communications. Project 28 local 
broadband wireless uses an unlicensed band at 
5.85 GHz. That came as a joke in Arizona. In 
these rugged desert mountains, even cell phone service is spotty.

In the environmental assessment, Boeing does say 
it has decided against using the unmanned aerial 
vehicles (drones) as planned. It does not explain 
that a multi-million dollar drone crashed near 
Nogales, Ariz., in 2006. The Border Patrol 
stopped using the drones at that point.

Earlier, when the unmanned aerial vehicles were 
hovering above, no one told Arizona residents on 
the ground, including the Tohono O'odham, of the 
danger of the lasers onboard. If the drones flew 
too low, or crashed as one drone ultimately did, 
the lasers could blind or cause other injuries to people on the ground.

Once again, in the drones' environmental 
assessment, those lasers were considered to have 
"no significant impact." The drones were simply expected not to fly too low.

In the spy towers' environmental assessment, 
there are comments, including this one from Luke James Brannen of Arivaca.

"You have alienated Arivacans enough with your 
harassment. You need to protect the border, do it at the border.

"Schutzstaffel tactics do not work in a liberal 
democracy. You can secure our homeland by leaving 
it alone," Brannen said referring to Hitler's secret police.

Mary Scott had more to say.

"The citizens of Arivaca have been on the front 
line of the border war for many years. We are 
sickened by the environmental degradation of our 
fragile desert, the loss of human life and the 
constant intrusions of enforcement cars, vans, 
trucks, buses and helicopters on our lives."

Scott points out that the tower is in a sacred 
area, the Desert Light Labyrinth, a place of 
walking meditation and prayer, memorial services and healing ceremonies.

The loud hailer horns, with 100 to 130 decibels, 
would make prayer and meditation impossible.

Alan Wallen, owner of a small wireless Internet 
provider service, saw trouble coming from the 
time the environment assessment draft was first 
quietly left at the local library.

Wallen immediately notified Project 28, there 
would be problems with Wi-Fi interference for 
locals, since Project 28 was using the public 
band. Those problems are still unresolved.

In a statement just released, Brannen says, "The tower of power is illegal."

Brannen said it is a violation of the Fourth 
Amendment which guarantees the right of U.S. 
citizens "to be secure in their persons, houses, 
papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."

"Some think just because residents of Arivaca 
live near the border, this particular location 
makes the Tower of Power legal. This is not true, 
in carrying out any and all of its powers, the 
government must follow The Constitution," Brannen said.

"It may not search citizen's effects or 
discriminate against them without a warrant. 
There might be a probable cause to search a 
person upon entering the country, but not when a 
resident citizen is living lawfully within the 
country. If the government does not respect the 
supreme law of the land, then the government and 
its 'elected' officials become illegitimate.

"The U.S. Constitution implores the US government 
to be faithful to the honored Constitution, and 
in turn respect its citizen's liberties, rights 
and the rights of the citizens of the world with 
due process within the U.S.'s Law."

In other areas of the Arizona border where spy 
towers are planned, including the Douglas/Naco 
area, residents are also organizing to halt spying on community members.

All along the border, residents point out this 
fact: Once they've got the photos or the video on 
you, what's to stop them from using it against 
you in any way they please -- including for political reasons.

There's another point they are quick to point 
out: Even if they worked, the spy towers would 
not stop border crossers. Migrants headed north would find a way to cross.

Brenda Norrell is Human rights editor for U.N. 
OBSERVER & International Report. She also runs 
the <http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com/>Censored 
website. She can be reached at: 
<mailto:brendanorrell at gmail.com>brendanorrell at gmail.com




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