November 13, 2013
The Seattle Police Department announced Tuesday evening that it will begin temporarily deactivating the city’s massive wireless mesh network following a major document release detailing the network’s expansive web of surveillance abilities.
“The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft policy and until there’s an opportunity for vigorous public debate,” Seattle Police Spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said.
Police Chief Jim Pugel gave the orders to begin the deactivation process earlier in the day, while also claiming they had not been actively using the network. Seattle police now say the network was “operational” but not being “operated” after allegedly forgetting to turn off the system following its initial test phase, contradicting earlier claims.
“Our position is that the technology is the technology, but we want to make sure that we have safeguards and policies in place so people with legitimate privacy concerns aren’t worried about how it’s being used,” Whitcomb said.
According to police, the network deactivation process is more advanced than simply flipping a switch, but no specific timeline was given as to when the network would be completely deactivated.
Although a newly passed city ordinance required the Seattle government to submit user policy for the mesh system to city council within 30 days of implementation for public review, the system roll-out continued without public approval.
Following refusal from Homeland Security and Seattle police to release the surveillance capabilities of the mesh network nodes appearing all throughout the downtown area, documents given to Storyleak blew the lid off the secretive program, revealing its massive reach to countless Seattle surveillance systems.
Major data points not only included the network’s ability to log specific information of mobile device users stepping inside the mesh network’s perimeter, but it’s connection to the local DHS-run Fusion Center and Seattle’s Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation System, which controls the city’s license plate readers and traffic cameras.
These revelations follow several key articles breaking down other advanced surveillance systems including the vast deployment of conversation recording microphones in major cities as well as “Intellistreets” light fixtures, most recently rolled out in Las Vegas.
While many question the actual extent of the mesh network’s “deactivation,” the announcement by police is yet another indicator of the real media’s power to shift the outcome of major political events.
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