The Guardian recently reported that the US Military is conducting mass surveillance tests across South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois using high altitude balloons carrying hi-tech radar, capable of conducting “persistent surveillance” of enormous areas. Today, Fight for the Future launched a new campaign to mobilize people to contact the Governors of these states and demand they stop the military from conducting unethical surveillance tests on their residents.
Throughout the test period, the military has been watching, recording, and storing the whereabouts of millions of people across the Midwest. “Even in tests, they’re still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who’s driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer’s clinic,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Guardian. The military and the private companies designing the spy balloons determine what happens to the data collected, how it’s used, and how it’s stored without any oversight or accountability from elected officials in the states where the tests are being conducted.
The U.S. Southern Command conducts these mass surveillance tests for the stated purpose of intercepting drug trafficking and addressing perceived threats to homeland security, but they could just as easily be used to crack down on peaceful protesters or target religious minorities. A recent ProPublica article echoes this message with cited studies that repeatedly show mass government surveillance does not make us safer or prevent violent attacks.
Instead of keeping us safe, mass surveillance “poses a grave threat to basic human rights, freedom of expression, and civil liberties,“ Fight for the Future Deputy Director Evan Greer. "These programs are not about stopping violence, they’re about social control.”
As the federal government fails to act on issues of mass government surveillance, it’s up to the states. Governors are elected by the residents of their state to protect their basic rights and privacy. Fight for the Future calls on these Governors to stop the US military from conducting dangerous and unethical tests on their state’s population without informed consent from the public or oversight from policymakers.