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The Guardian reports that recently released documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal the previously unknown extent of the Pentagon’s wide-area surveillance capabilities.

South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois have been playing unknown host to 25 solar-powered balloons as part of a test through U.S. Southern Command since mid-July and the tests are expected to continue until September, according to the UK-based news site.

Arthur Holland Michel, co-director of Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone, said:

‘What this new technology proposes is to watch everything at once. Sometimes it’s referred to as ‘combat TiVo’ because when an event happens somewhere in the surveilled area, you can potentially rewind the tape to see exactly what occurred, and rewind even further to see who was involved and where they came from.’

The balloons are being tested for use in combatting drug trafficking throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, according to the Pentagon. The balloons would presumably be used to monitor and intercept shipments of contraband headed to the United States illegally.

The ACLU has spoken out against the tests as a violation of civil liberties, since the balloons could capture a wide swath of the ground landscape in a high resolution photograph.

Jay Stanley, an ACLU senior policy analyst told the Guardian

‘We do not think that American cities should be subject to wide-area surveillance in which every vehicle could be tracked wherever they go.
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. We should not go down the road of allowing this to be used in the United States and it’s disturbing to hear that these tests are being carried out, by the military no less.’

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