Tripping the Terror Surveillance Network?
Or Andy of Mayberry Just Looking Out For Me?
Behind Winston’s back, the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the over-fulfillment of the Ninth Three Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what systems, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate, they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
(1984 – George Orwell, p. 6-7)
The story you are about to read is true – no names have been changed to protect the innocent.
It is unlikely that the true events in this story are random and unrelated. And even if they are, my point is made.
It all begins on Wednesday night, when I was reading an essay Learning How Not To Rule the World, and noted a reference to the classic movie The Battle of Algiers. (the website on which I was reading that essay runs a proud banner: “The only news organization in the US to be labeled a threat by the Department of Homeland Security”).
Given that I had never seen the movie, I Googled it and watched and enjoyed it.
One of the next videos in the Google que caught my eye, a CIA history of the Cuban Revolution – so I watched that too and learned about some Cuban history and CIA propaganda.
No big deal – or was it?
Fast forward to this morning (Friday).
I had a 9:30 am meeting at DEP in Trenton and was running late, so, to save time, I took the dog for a walk by driving to the park we usually walk to.
When I got back home to drop the dog off before getting the train to Trenton, he wouldn’t get out of the car. Curiously, for the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that he likes to stay in the car as his “den”.
So, I let him stay put and drove to the train station. It was in the high 40’s but just in case it warmed up, I found a parking space in the shade and cracked the windows and opened the sunroof so the car wouldn’t get too warm and hopped the 8:39 to Trenton.
I got back home a few hours later and the phone was ringing.
It was the Bordentown Police. Uh oh. What did I do now? Is it that Mount Holly parking ticket I haven’t paid yet? Did someone complain about the dog crapping in the woods?
The police said they had gotten a call from the NJ Transit Police, who noted my car with the dog in it and wondered where I was. The cop said the police had come to my house this morning to check up on me and see if I was all right, but no one was home. Cop asked if I was OK.
I told him I was fine and thought nothing of it.
After I hung up, I noticed a message on my cell and listened: it was from the State Police – asking me to call them immediately.
Now I began to think something was not right: the NJ Transit police, local police, and State police all involved? They come to my house? Call me twice?
And all they are concerned about is if I’m OK?
I wondered just how they even noted a “problem” with my car in the NJ Transit parking lot at the Bordentown train station.
Do police typically track down, call, and visit the homes of owners of “suspicious” cars?
The dog sleeps in the back of my hatchback and is not visible from the street. There are maybe 75 or more cars in that parking lot.
What was so special or suspicious about my car that NJ Transit police noticed?
My mind raced.
So I called the State Police – the Sergeant who had called me wasn’t in, so I left my name and number. Never heard back from him.
Suddenly it occurred to me what might have happened –
Given the Paris attack and threats on NY, the NJ Transit cops could have been on heightened security. If so, it could have been three possibilities:
1) I’ve been stopped by Homeland Security and local police when driving – several times – and not for traffic violations, but to ask me detailed questions about what I was doing and where I was going. Those stops virtually confirmed that I am on some kind of domestic watch list or database and likely was screened by digital license plate scan technology.
The NJ Transit police could have scanned my license plate and gotten a “hit” from whatever database I am in.
The origin of all this was way back in 2008, when I was photographing south jersey refineries and chemical plants just off Rt. 130.
Because those facilities are “critical infrastructure” – I triggered some kind of Homeland Security, FBI, Joint Terror Taskforce and regional Fusion Center episode.
As I was taking photos, the police arrived and I was detained at the scene and later brought to Paulsboro police station for questioning.
A few days later, the FBI, Homeland Security and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office investigators came to my home to conduct an investigation.
2) In the alternate, my internet viewing of The Battle of Algiers and the Cuban Revolution could have triggered some kind of terrorist surveillance alerts.
Do the internet surveillance cops think only terrorists are interested in history?
3) Or, it could have been both the prior watch list, license plate scan, AND internet monitoring.
The fact that I even imagine such things to be possible is perhaps the strongest evidence that we are living in a police state.
The world Orwell imagined is here.
And Big Brother has far more powerful tools than the telescreen.
1. I bought my Riverline ticket with a credit card.
Did NJ Transit Police have access to my credit card records and note that I was riding their system?
2. Did the State Police call me so that they could GPS my location by use of my cell phone?
3. I left my cell phone home –
Did State Police find it suspicious that my cell phone was at home, my car was at the train station, and I had purchased a train ticket? Did they think it odd that someone would travel on a train without their cell phone?
4. NJ Transit trains and stations have video surveillance – Was I tracked by digital facial recognition?
5. I got a email on Thursday from a friend at Yale who wrote that she was too busy preparing for Paris Cop21.
Did the internet spies use key word monitoring for sensitive phrases like “Paris”?
6. Did this 48 hour pattern of behavior trigger some kind of terrorist profile?
This is the rabbit hole we’ve gone down.
This is the kind of thinking one does when one knows that Big Brother has total information awareness.
Or maybe Big Brother was concerned about this “scary” photo printed in the newspaper story on the Salem nuclear permit – I got that tee shirt from American Indian Movement folks – if you can’t see it, it reads: “Homeland Security – Fighting Terrorism Since 1492″