1. "YOU TURNED AROUND"
I was visiting my hometown of Del Rio, Texas, when my grandmother told me she had seen a drone flying over El Indio, a tiny village just east of the Mexican border, about 75 miles down the river. The newspapers that summer were filled with stories about the Predator drones poised to patrol the skies above the Rio Grande, but the date of deployment was not yet at hand, and in any case Predators ordinarily fly far too high to be seen from the ground, so I decided to take the afternoon to drive down to El Indio and investigate.
As a lone male in a rented minivan headed south on a remote stretch of border highway, I almost certainly fit some kind of profile. I passed several white pickups bearing the distinctive green stripe of the U.S. Border Patrol, but my first direct encounter with the authorities did not come until I pulled off the road to study with my binoculars a white speck that I had spotted high in the cloudless sky. It was not a Predator or any other UAV that I had ever seen or read about. It looked like a blimp. I put down my binoculars just as another of the green-and-white trucks pulled up. We both lowered our windows and I asked, in my best Texan, what that thing was floating up there in the sky. "It's a weather balloon," the officer said with a smile. I thanked him, and we both waved as I drove off, still headed south.
In El Indio, I stopped to buy a Dr Pepper and asked the old lady behind the counter, in my best Spanish, whether she knew anything about that white thing up in the sky. She did not. I decided to inquire at the post office, but it was closed. I was wondering what to do next when a minivan pulled up. I asked the driver if she knew what that white thing was up in the sky.
"It's a satellite for the drugs," she said. "My brother-in-law works for it." A boy chimed in from the backseat that if I kept driving south I'd see "the building that controls it." I thanked the woman and her boy and continued on my way. Border Patrol vehicles continued to pass me coming and going, and, as I neared the base of what I could now see was in fact a tethered blimp, one of those trucks quickly pulled up right behind me and showed no sign of passing. Although I was doing nothing illegal, I began to sweat. Soon I drove by a couple of white buildings, in front of which was a sign: United States Air Force Tethered Aerostat Radar Site.
That settled the question. The tethered radar blimp (I have since learned) is a relatively old surveillance device, part of a system deployed decades ago when drug smugglers were having a grand time flying over the border with their cargo. I've seen another aerostat on the ground in West Texas, near Marfa. Rumor has it that one of them got loose in a high wind and was blown almost to Oklahoma.
Having attained my goal, I was now confronted with the more urgent question of what to do about the Border Patrol vehicle that was so determinedly following me. I had never driven this stretch of highway before, and I feared I might drive for hours before reaching another human settlement. I spotted a place to pull over and decided to turn around. That's when the flashing lights went on behind me. I stopped, several more trucks pulled up, and soon men in green uniforms were peering through all the windows of my vehicle. "What seems to be the trouble, officer?" I asked. "You turned around," came the reply.
The lead agent was friendly enough, but he was insistent in his inquiries. He wanted to know what I was doing out there on a remote stretch of highway not far from Mexico. My explanation, that I had driven south from Del Rio because I was curious about the security infrastructure that had materialized along the border in the 25 years since I loaded up my car and drove off to college, struck him as implausible and weird. I fought the urge to become indignant, to assert my right as an American citizen to go where I pleased on a public highway. Instead I explained again that I was curious about that blimp up there, the aerostat. Eventually, after much discussion, it was determined that I had not committed a detainable offense, and I was permitted to continue on my way, at liberty.
Excellent article Roger! Have you written about operation “Fast and Furious”?
For over 20 years an organization in ohio has been researching and using technology that enables them to see and talk to people from a central location without visible equipment. it was being used before haarp or gwen were finished. This technology has been kept secret from the public, only a small group of people, including police and doctors knew about it. it has grown. as of 2012 nearly all police, firefighters and medical professionals in columbus, ohio are aware of it. most cops in the rest of the state along with indiana are also aware. maybe some doctors and nurses are in fear for their own safety and that of their families while the police and mental health professionals seem to have been advanced to their position because of their willingness to work with this organization. please read dttv.info
Mr. Knight's dream of video fusion is a Big Pipe dream. It is a concept of tomorrow, and always will be.
Mr. Knight killed a competing system (nicknamed Broad Pipe) that was based on the commercial off-the-shelf Inmarsat system.
At a tenth of the size and a tenth of the cost, the system was ready for immediate deployment upon the entire fleet of CBP aircraft. Instead, it was forced out by the big budget Big Pipe program (primarily to justify the expenditure of funds on other components of the Big Pipe system).
The new Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) was delivered incomplete because certain Big Pipe technology hadn't yet made it to market.
A bright light needs to be shined on the CBP air program; the taxpayers deserve more.
All this would not be happening if New York or Washington D.C. were where El Paso or Los Angeles is! There would be no debate, and no illegal immigration.
Good point D13.
Sometimes a change in perspective is all that is needed.
Sometimes while finding a solution to a problem it is also use full to identify what is NOT working, and stop wasting energy on that.
How dare a citizen to go out and consume illegal drugs and thus finance the cartels? If us citizens would stop taking drugs there would be no drug problem.
US is the one that needs help to be without drugs and violence.
Plenty of crimes in US every year : 30,000 gunshot fatalities.
This keeps the police and feds plenty busy.
Nothing was stated in this article that isn't common sense or could be found with a simple Google search. Motion detectors and cameras are pretty standard kit. Drones are becoming ubiquitous, soon they will monitor your daily commute to work. As the various agencies that patrol our boarders are extensions of our government I am sure there are protocols in place that prevent too much information being given to a blogger. We lost our chance to "help" Mexico when gave tax breaks to Corporate America to outsource and they went to India instead of heading south. I am curious though, with all the tech at the border, why do we continue to fail to find the underground highways the cartels keep building.
Good article. I was happy to read Mark Borkowski's observation, because it's something I've been saying for quite awhile. Borkowski said that a large part of the problem is artificially created by our Congress and its irrational and arbitrary immigration and guest-worker policies.
People unthinkingly paint everyone who crosses the border illegally with the same brush, but there is a huge difference between drug traffickers and people who simply want to work here to have a better life. If Congress just changed the guest-worker laws so we could hand everyone a green card at the border--fingerprint, ID, and register them--and welcome them to work in the U.S., it would solve a lot of problems at once. One of which would be, as Borkowski said, that it "would cut off a lot of the traffic BETWEEN the points of entry. In fact, at a certain point, you would only have the really bad people left, the drug smugglers and the terrorists." It's not amnesty or citizenship, but a very simple way to allow people who want to work here to do so legally and to increase the pool of hard working, inexpensive labor (and increase tax revenue...are you listening politicians?). It would also end the tragic human trafficking trade and the coyotes who profit by it.
Then CBP could focus on the real criminals instead of being overwhelmed with weeding out good people whose only crime is wanting to work here so badly that they are willing to circumvent the inexcusably stupid guest-worker (and immigration) system governed by INS...which is arguably the most ridiculous bureaucracy in the federal government.
I grew up on the border of mexico/new mexico. Nobody really cares a whole lot that Mexican illegals are coming here to do landscaping and crop harvesting, its the drug cartels and human slave traffickers who are the problem. You run into a pack of illegal's in the desert and it's not a problem. Run into drug cartel members and your gonna get your throat slit. If everyone knew how dangerous these cartels are then there would be no argument about taking harsher measures against them.
Popular science makes for so much innocent fun. But what you've written here is a thoroughly depressing view of a thoroughly depressing piece of human culture. You've written a tech view of a human story.
There's no indication anywhere in your piece that people living the other side of this man-made border are human beings with god-given inalienable rights. They're just aliens, stupid greedy, blips on a screen who try to cross walls and fall off. They're bad guys tainted by involvement in drugs.
Meanwhile the good guys have lots of popular tech - blimps and computers and CCTV. Plus they can even read tracks from a galloping horse; they're almost John Wayne!
As someone who grew up there you hint at the real place that lies behind all the concrete and tech. But there's a great deal more to be said about the human stories and reasons behind economic migration. And evidence of what's going on in the war on drugs. Why do individual Americans want to consume so many drugs. Why does the state choose to persist in a war on drugs which creates a vast unregulated business in criminal hands just like alcohol prohibition did before it?
Dark-skinned people are responding in a normal and predictable way to economic opportunity. They're supplying produce that Americans want. What you describe is a state-sponsored attempt to resist market forces, to solve an essentially human problem with technology deployed with a military mindset.
The US will spend a lot of money. It won't solve the problem. No-one will be happy.
And in writing this story the way you have you show no sign of empathy with the key players involved. From the perspective of liberty, justice, and loving thy neighbour this story has lost the plot. Don't close yourself off to the human aspect; I bet the more you look into it the more compelling it will get...
It is in USA tolerance of the companies that hire illegal aliens that inspire illegal people to enter out country. A poor person, with no education and no opportunity, living in an unsafe environment wants to escape his local situation for a poor job in the USA and a government that protects the people, even the illegal peoples. How can you blame an illegal alien from leaving his bad situation for a better one?
Even those caught enter the USA illegally, are given food, a bed, clothing if needed, medical attention for a short time. This is a step up from the nothing they have from where they come from. Imagine if you are poor and without a job, home and food and one day as you sit on a pile of dirt you see some cancerous bump, broken arm, a bullet hole, skin disease or just any other health problem on your body and you do not feel that well, too. In your country there is no help. So just enter good old USA and we are obligated by law to help the sick illegal alien, prior to returning him back to his country.
The USA tolerance of companies that support illegal aliens is the problem. Remove the rainbow and its pot of gold. And the wall is a good idea too. But in reality, the flow of illegal aliens will never stop and long as the poor are poor and are being helped in the USA. At best at times, we only slow it down.
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!
Great article, very insightful and helpful in understanding more so what is happening with the power that our government wields.
At the same time I also find my self considering what will happen if this Big Pipe were to be turned against the american people?
I am in China at the moment and I am sure that in this nation the Big Pipe would be easily integrated into the systems of control... but then again this is China, not the USA. We must understand that different systems need different rules and measures. But what works for China will not work for the US.
China is a nation that still follows the Emperors way of rule (the rulers are above the law - so who you know determines what freedoms and influence you have). But the US is a nation of Laws where every one including the president is bound to the law and all are accountable to the law.
So if we, in our wisdom, should elect a government of people who are so corrupt that they have no frills about using their power to stay in power, how much would the Big Pipe help them in that endeavor? I think of the Born Ultimatum movies and that's what I see.
Correct me if I am wrong.
D13 01/17/12 at 11:16 am
What do you think Mexico is - a medieval dungeon, a Russian gulag? Mexico is one of the richest countries in the world. The richest man in the world lives in Mexico City. Mexico is loaded with natural resources. Mexico’s economy is better than ours. Mexico has a lower unemployment rate than we do. Mexico has a much lower deficit than we do. We owe them NOTHING. We are always on the short end of the trade stick. This is the United States of America … NOT the United Nations …. NOT the Mexican Dept of Welfare.
If a tomato can cross the border into the US from Mexico, I don't see why a person can't cross the border. Oh I forgot, we have laws. Its our law against other people. Only we are allowed to be where we our, except for famous people, rich people and fast runners having the ability to jump high fences.
Not to be a cynic, but something doesn't make sense? With all that technology and surveillance, mega quantities of illicit drugs are still flowing across the border like the Mississippi River? I wonder how that is possible without collusion between entities on both sides of the border?
The cartels are making billions in illicit drug sales and I would wager that there are both Mexican and American officials making lots of money in bribes and payoffs?
I have been on both sides of the border off and on for almost 20 years now and have gone through the Border Patrol checkpoints many, many times, both Mexican and American, and they don't seem like they would miss much, with all the technology, scanners, K9 units etc etc?
One time I got a 'red light' going into Mexico at Nogales, I was packed for an extended stay in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, a little town about 50 miles South of the border, working as a bio-medical engineer on a project for the company I was at the time employed. Anyway, the Mexican border agents had me open the trunk on my midsize rental car and they pulled out my clothes and laptop and whatnot, then they asked why I had so many pairs of jeans? I explained in Spanish that I was going to be staying in Mexico for a couple of months, so I needed to have some clothes to wear?
I guess they have had a problem with Mexicans buying jeans in the US, then selling them on the Mexican side? They somehow were avoiding some type of tariff by doing this?
So, if they are that ticky-tack, then how in the heck are the cartels moving mega quantities of coke, heroin, methamphetamine and pot across the border into this country every day of the week?
Like I said, somebody has got to be cooperating on this side of the border? Unfortunately, it wouldn't be a surprise to me if the corruption ended up being at the higher levels of the political spectrum, rather than just among the peons?
A sad situation all around............
"Besides giving terrorists and drug cartels enought details on our border technology to effectively make it useless, was the goal of this article to get POPSCI readers to post ways to cirumvent these "kool" technologies?"
Apparently d13 does not realize that the information found in the article is neither classified, difficult to find on the Internet nor hard to figure out given time and observation.
I feel we are turning america into a guilded cage, crusted with invisible, razor sharp barb wire. I do not welcome this change in the least. The creator of the Big Pipe said himself, the older program failed because people tried solving various human, sopcial, political problems with technology. And they didnt know what problem they were trying to solve with what tech. I think his argument is easily turned back in his face to show something he didnt intend. People are trying to meet these issues with technology, trying to pound all the square pegs into round holes with brute force instead of actually solving the problems themselves.
I especially object to broadening the border patrols inlfuence and power beyond the border with all the instances of items being 'confiscated' and never returned. Such items as cameras, computers, laptops, these items are expensive and while a few might be honestly being lost under the current ridiculous system in place, I feel alot are also outright theft. We have too many instances of abuse/theft at the border and in our airports to justify giving these people more power.
US wants to become more secure it self after 9-11
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