When you think of surveillance, you probably imagine stealth drones, secret wiretaps and hidden cameras. Everything that can be hidden and concealed.
But if you're living somewhere between the states of Massachusetts and North Carolina, don't be looking for pinhole cameras. You should be looking to the skies, and the government surveillance blimps filling it.
I know, it sounds like something straight out of a science-fiction novel or a juvenile post-apocalyptic movie, but these blimps are real. Yes, there's more than one.
Later this week, the Army is scheduled to launch one of two surveillance blimps known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). Their stated mission is to protect Washington, D.C., by looking out for missiles, but I'm not sure if I buy that excuse.
Hang on to your hats, these blimps are armed to the teeth with tech that can watch your every move. Raytheon, the company that makes these tethered blimps for the Army, has said:
"The news feeds of radars are pretty selective. And the JLENS headed to Aberdeen Proving Grounds will only have a radar on it. JLENS' radar likes to keep up with machinery like drones, airplanes and missiles. But they can’t see, much less track, people. Sure, JLENS is powerful enough to detect something moving on the surface, like a car or a boat, but because of the way radars work, they can’t determine things like make, model or color – much less who is the driver."
But that's only on one JLENS. What about the tech on the other one?
Raytheon says that these floating surveillance centers won't actually be moving anywhere. Instead, they're tethered by cables that feed the blimps electricity and can withstand winds of over 100 mph.
The JLENS are filled with helium, so there's no need to panic about another Hindenburg disaster. However, a scarier fact is that it can stay aloft for 30 days at a time and can surveil an area the size of Texas in 360 degrees.
Civil rights groups are understandably upset about these blimps. How long will it be before the power of these Big Brother blimps is pushed over the line?
“If we’re going to have massive blimps hovering over civilian areas, or within radar-shot of civilian areas, then we need some very ironclad checks and balances that will provide confidence that there’s no domestic surveillance going on,” the ACLU’s Jay Stanley told the Intercept.
You can read more about the JLENS blimps here at Raytheon.