[News] A Boeing / Israeli Joint Venture
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 18 16:29:08 EDT 2007
July 18, 2007
A CounterPunch Special Investigation
A Boeing / Israeli Joint Venture
Spy Towers on the US Border
By BRENDA NORRELL
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
website. She can be reached at:
<mailto:brendanorrell at gmail.com>brendanorrell at gmail.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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