I could probably blog all the time just about border surveillance and security issues… Aaron Martin has pointed out the reported latest new development on the Israel-Palestine border, which is an apparently arbitrarily used stamp which allows visitors to visit only the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and not Israel itself. Gaza remain closed to foreign visitors, and effectively an open-air prison camp.
It seems hard to define this as a ‘policy’ since the Israeli government officially deny that any order was given for the new stamp, despite the fact there is witness and photographic evidence of its use. Its purpose seems to be clearly to define for future reference, ‘enemies of Israel’ and to make it as hard as possible for those interested in the welfare of Palestinians to enter Israel.
The mass mooning of the US balloon camera owned by Sierra Nevada Corporation went ahead, but the irony was that the system had already been disabled by the weather. Apparently a large thunderstorm cause a gash in the fabric of the balloon last week which, if nothing else, should prove rather more effective than the protest in making sure that the US government does not invest in it.
However the wider issue of the US surveillance of the border with Canada remains (not mention that of the Mexican border, already a major concern) and whilst this particular technology and the appropriately ridiculous protest, has attracted most attention in the media, let’s not forget that camera towers have been erected and the USA is flying UAVs along the border. Surely President Obama should realise that the paranoid policies of his predecessor do nothing apart from damage relationships (and trade) with a close neighbour?
There has been a lot of interest in the US border with Mexico in recent years, and rightly so. However, what not so many people have noticed is that the closing of the closing of the USA is taking place along the world’s largest land border between two countries, the border between the USA and Canada.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) already patrol the airspace (and at a low enough level that private flights have had to be restricted, thereby doing two security jobs with one technology). However, the most recent announcement concerned the installation of video surveillance towers to monitor waterways. This is all on the basis of very little information about whether this is either cost-effective or necessary; according to the AP article, the Border Patrol themselves admit this: “What we don’t know is how often that vulnerability is exploited […] if, in fact, there’s a lot more going on than we thought, then this technology will help us identify it and it will help us respond and apprehend those people in ways that we haven’t before.” So essentially, this is surveillance to see whether surveillance is necessary – it seems we are now in a surveillance double-bind, so you no longer need a strong reason to install cameras; they are their own justification and may be justified in retrospect whatever does or does not happen. If nothing is seen, they will be said to be a deterrent, if something is detected then they will be proclaimed as showing the need for surveillance!
The technology employed against those tricky Canucks will be provided by the same supplier, Boeing, that has been so criticised for its failures on the Mexican border (and there have been plenty of failures down there). It seems that even when it comes to the trump card of security, which normally wins hands-down, the congressional pork-barrel remains the joker in the pack. Now, the Canadians and local firms along the US border have already been complaining about the post-9/11 restrictions that have begun to stifle cross-border trade on which many of those communities depend. In a recession, such considerations might be thought to count for something, but it seems that the mighty Boeing’s profits matter more…