The latest news on Texas skies having eyes watching all of us (giving a whole new meaning to the Eyes Of Texas, doesn’t it?) is that the State of Texas has bought a new, fancy Pilatus PC-12 NG Spectre for $7.4 million. It’s a plane; a very special plane … especially when you consider that the manufacturer’s web site puts the starting price at “around $650,000 USD.”
Texas Buys Spy Plane with Millions in Customized Gizmos
The Pilatus PC-12 NG Spectre Multi-Mission Aircraft will come to Texas in a few months; right now, it’s being modified over at the manufacturing plant in Switzerland with surveillance gizmos that are akin to the stuff that the U.S. Military drones use in the battlefield in their pilot-free drones that snoop over enemy territory. The Swiss are installing things like $1 million worth of surveillance cameras that can not only take high resolution images but can provide law enforcement with thermal imaging, too.
This isn’t a big plane, however. It’s a single engine aircraft (customized down from the standard twin-engine turboprop); the plane will come with four sets of night vision googles too.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is telling the media that Texas needs this Spy Plane for use along the Texas-Mexico border. However, in his statement there is no guarantee that this will be it’s only use (or that South Texas will be its only coverage area).
Drones Already in North Texas
Here in the Dallas area, that Spy Plane roaming down near the Rio Grande is disturbing but it’s not that close to our neck of the woods. However, that doesn’t mean our skies aren’t watching us.
Already, North Texas police departments are checking into using drones in their law enforcement efforts. Dallas County, Montgomery County, and others were looking into buying drones (insect-looking machines fitted with cameras that fly in the air) like the Condor Aerial Drone for over a year now (Montgomery bought one in 2011). The Condor Drone, according to its manufacturers, can read your car’s license plate from its place in the sky a half mile away from you. And it has thermal imaging, too.
In the sky, one-half mile away, and it’s reading your plates. Think about that.
And consider the question raised by Matt Simpson of the Austin office of the American Civil Liberties Union: even if you aren’t concerned about a police drone reading your car license plate, what do you think happens to that information? Is it shared with others?
This information could easily be organized and stored so that every citizen’s behavior patterns were known – where they go, when they go, how long they stay. Think of the implications here. Divorce cases. Stores wanting to know when you shop. Child predators.
This is a serious invasion of our privacy rights and it’s happening while we’re setting here.