Pentagon Project Could Keep Close Eye On Cities
The Pentagon’s Combat Zones That See (CTS) project aims to safeguard U.S. troops and enhance battle tactics through a combination of computers and surveillance cameras set up to monitor and study each vehicle moving throughout foreign urban areas.
Scientists, law enforcement officers, and privacy advocates note that the technology could also be used to watch the movements of American citizens. “Government would have a reasonably good idea of where everyone is most of the time,” warns GlobalSecurity.org defense analyst John Pike.
At the heart of the system is a software program that can automatically identify vehicles based on their size, shape, color, and license tag, and can also recognize drivers and passengers by face; in addition, the software can transmit alerts if a monitored vehicle’s tag is on a watch list, and sift through copious records to locate and compare vehicles seen near the sites of terrorist incidents.
Jan Walker of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) insists that CTS technology was not designed with local law enforcement or homeland security in mind, and employing it for any other purpose would require sweeping alterations.
Nevertheless, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists remarks, “One can easily foresee pressure to adopt a similar approach to crime-ridden areas of American cities or to the Super Bowl or any site where crowds gather.”
New York deputy police commissioner James Fyfe adds that police will be eager to adopt such technologies.
DARPA is planning to spend up to $12 million to deploy CTS technology over four years: Phase one will involve the installation of about 30 computer-connected cameras in a fixed site to enhance troop protection; phase two will set up at least 100 cameras to support military operations, and incorporate software that analyzes video footage to distinguish between routine and abnormal activity.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Philadelphia Inquirer (07/02/03) P. A2; Sniffen, Michael J.