Texas Launches Virtual Border Patrol

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President Bush’s Operation TIPS, which would have created a million citizen spies, may have failed, but lay surveillance is alive and well. This week Texas debuted its “Texas Border Watch Website,” a $5 million program meant to create armchair border patrollers who will notify authorities when they surveil illegals. The site currently has black and white cameras stationed at eight different outposts (there are supposedly 15 cameras but only 8 are on the site) along the 1,254 miles of the state’s border with Mexico. Users, who need to sign up with their email and home city and state, can “Report Suspicious Activity” via email.

The state is working out glitches, like the grainy quality of the images that make it hard to distinguish say, between a person and a coyote, and the fact that some of the cameras are now obstructed so that all you see are bushes or passing cars. And there will eventually be 70 cameras total.

“I’m sure that as you start a big program like this that you will have some glitches,” said Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is up for re-election Tuesday. “My wife’s computer is not working this morning.” Yet, more than technical problems the program has civil rights groups concerned that the site will encourage racial profiling and fradulent reports.

Hopefully the folks over at Boeing, who got a $67 million contract in September to create a “virtual fence” along the entire border, part of Congress’ $1.2 billion border fence plan, are paying attention, and taking notes.

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