Since the US government hasn’t given us enough reasons to staple-gun a tin-foil hat permanently to our heads, the BBC recently revealed an ongoing project called SBInet (yes it was actually called that, because apparently the government takes its cues on what to name its projects from 90′s movies about the internet):
“A third-party observes the scene in silence: an army of electronic sensors acting as watch guard in a place where the arm of the law would not otherwise reach. One false move and what seems like simple rocks and stones spring into life, sending alarm signals to a nearby tower. In a matter of seconds radar and infra-red cameras sweep the area in search of intruders.Information travels in microwaves to a control room and human patrol men are sent co-ordinates and images to let them detect whether the subject is armed.”
No this is not some excerpt from a Phillip K Dick novel. This is a project in which George W. Bush’s administration gave the go-ahead to use Arizona as a testing ground for a “virtual fence”. This project’s purpose was to install almost 2000 miles of surveillance technology along the border. In order to reach this goal the US government purchased 7,500 tiny, solar powered sensors between 2003 and 2007 to create a movement detection perimeter known as Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS). In addition to these censors they also purchased watchtowers with infra-red radars and optical sensors. On top of that Homeland Security purchased unmanned drone aircrafts capable of detecting people and vehicles from a height of almost 20,000 ft and ominously referred to as “desert phantoms” to patrol the skies over Arizona, Florida, Texas and North Dakota. These bad boys were fitted with radar, seven video cameras, an infra-red sensor and a powerful zoom. Because $180 million on planes wasn’t enough money to burn on aircrafts they were also looking into testing self-controlled surveillance blimps equipped with cameras, known as “floating eyes.”
So how much of this supposed 2000 miles ended up actually being viable? 50. freaking. miles. And how much did it cost? 1 Billion dollars, of course. This for something that can’t tell the difference between a tree and a person. And it was supposed to be in complete working order by 2011, yes this year. Luckily for a few drug traffickers and arms dealers (but mostly people coming to this country to live a shit life of cleaning toilets and picking tomatos in 100 degree weather) it turned out the wall was a technological nightmare.
And best believe this isn’t the first time they tried this. They also tried the same thing in 1998 and 2005, and these attempts also failed. You’d think three times would be enough to let the government know this is a shit project, but despite the three failed attempts, the US government is ready to try for a fourth, with plans to invest another $750m into a project called “lntegrated Fixed Towers” aka “Operation Fix the Shit We Haven’t Been Able to Get Working the First Four Times Around.” The Department of Homeland Security’s natural response to these failures has been to invite private companies to bid on building six new radar and camera-equipped towers, to be installed by 2020. Government throwing money at failing projects with companies in which they currently, or inevitably will have future financial engagements with? Surprise Surprise.
Here’s an idea! Why doesn’t Homeland Security just hire a private contractor to build a giant magnifying glass and point it towards a huge stack of tax-payer’s money. Once the money is engulfed in flames they can laugh maniacally and light their cigars on it. They then can hire yet another contractor to clean up the ashes that remain. That would probably be a better use of government funds.