As if the National Security Agency (NSA) snooping through emails and cell phone records was not enough to make the residents of Compton, California spooked about government intrusion, new information has come to light about secret surveillance test flights conducted over the city by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Residents were not notified of the test flights, which took place over a period of nine days back in 2012. It appears “Big Brother” has been keeping tabs on Compton’s citizens.
The Sheriff’s Department stated that the purpose behind the extremely creepy surveillance program was to make the streets a bit safer and to significantly reduce the amount of criminal activity in the Compton area. It seems that the only results the tests produced were angry residents who feel their right to privacy has been violated. Apparently, residents in Compton do not take kindly to being spied on by a big, bloated, out-of-control government. Maybe they do not realize that the government is only looking out for their best interest?
Big Brother is more than a cheesy reality television program where drama is cheaply manufactured to give television viewers a quick thrill up the leg. The idea of “Big Brother” comes from George Orwell’s 1984, a classic tale about what life would be like under a completely totalitarian form of government. In the book, the government keeps a close eye on its citizens through the use of video surveillance, enabling them to hear every word spoken and see every action taken by its residents, in order to prevent anyone from getting the silly idea of liberty and rebellion planted in their brain. With programs like the Persistence Surveillance System flying over Compton and the NSA digging around in people’s emails looking for digital dirty laundry, saying Big Brother is keeping tabs on its citizens is no longer a sign of right-wing paranoia.
According to authorities, the residents of the city have nothing to worry about, as the program has been scrapped because the images produced by the aircraft’s cameras were ineffective. The cameras that reportedly captured the footage were active for six hours a day during daylight hours. Again, the powers-that-be at the Sheriff’s Department reassure Compton’s citizens that no one has been spied upon, as the footage was captured at such a high altitude that it would not have been possible to catch anyone in their most private of moments.
That might be well and true, but the fact remains that residents living in the city were not notified of the test flights. Efforts should have been made to inform citizens of the program’s existence and its initial testing phase, rather than intruding on the people’s right to privacy. This type of program also raises questions about whether this kind of surveillance is constitutionally permitted. The Fourth Amendment guarantees Americans the right to not have their privacy invaded by government authorities without a warrant signed by a judge that specifically names the individual and what the police are searching for.
This appears to be one more instance where government authorities are trampling on the Constitutional rights of the people, all in the name of “security.” While Big Brother is keeping tabs on the citizens of Compton, all under the disguise of protecting the people from harm, one has to wonder, who will protect its residents from this kind of big government overreach?
Opinion by Michael Cantrell
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