Beware of Sinister Trash Bins
September 7, 2016 (Fault Lines) — If you are wondering why your neighbor down the street got a cool new trash bin and you’re stuck with the old one that still smells like ripe guts from that fishing trip two summers ago, don’t feel bad. It might be watching him.
Or maybe you’re the one who got one, in which case feel really bad because it might have come from a British company called Cobham, which is in the business of supplying governments with a host of technologies. It seems they are quite interested in doing business with American police departments, according to The Intercept, who published a catalog which, along with other documents, somehow found their way out of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The catalog circa 2014 paints a disturbing picture. U.S. police departments, notable for their sudden inability to function at the first sign of any scrutiny or oversight, seem to be very keen to get their hands on technology that will enable them to see, hear and control everything the citizenry does. Cobham doesn’t just offer trash bins with cameras, but nearly anything that can surreptitiously conceal a camera and/or microphone, including paint buckets, bird houses, street lights, wall clocks, radios, even a bug zapper.
On page 81 of the catalog, note the world’s ugliest handbag. If you see someone with a handbag so ugly most women would declare they’d have to be paid to carry it, then it’s probably a cop. However, Cobham has a significant selection of tiny cameras that could be fitted into a respectable (I’m no expert, several actual women were consulted about the handbag on page 81) purse by a reputable designer with a little creativity.
What seems most disturbing is that within the catalog there is technology capable of jamming or blocking commercial/personal cell phone signals. This is illegal, even for cops.
Another Cobham offering allows police, using a central point at high elevation and a series of relay points, to set up their own wireless communication network in an area where there is a communication outage or where they have jammed every other signal. To be clear, this is great stuff in the event of a natural disaster for the right people, but on the other hand, looking back at the rescue efforts during the World Trade Center attacks, there were some issues with signal strength and lack of repeaters but the main problem for rescuers wasn’t poor radio technology but the lack of a protocol for such an event in the first place.
Police and federal agencies track record with the Stingray is evidence that they aren’t too concerned with getting this technology for natural disasters or responding to attacks but to keep tabs on the rest of us at all times because it makes them feel superior and cool. The Stingray is a device that spoofs a cell tower, and can not only track and record the whereabouts and numbers of cell phones in a given area but also capture and record text and conversations. If cops don’t mind lying to judges about the use and capability of such technology, then lying to everyone else is a given.