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The backgrounds of the members of the team that President-elect Donald Trump is picking to shape the Department of Homeland Security suggest he will pursue surveillance using the latest technological advancements.
Trump suggested during his campaign that his law-and-order agenda would include mass surveillance of certain targets such as mosques, and take database on people coming in from Syria.
According to his personnel appointments, Trump’s Homeland Security Department will favor a range of technological solutions, including threat-detection algorithms, facial-recognition technology, and an expansion of “verifiable” identity solutions in real life and online, as reported by theIntercept.com.
For example, John Sanders, the head of the geospatial intelligence startup Pramantha Solutions, is on the team. Sanders sits on the board of Evolv, a security firm that markets a technology that combines existing CCTV cameras, facial recognition, and other sources of information.
The fact that the entire Trump Department of Homeland Security transition team hails from the private sector seems to be intentional, given the remarks of Trump’s pick to lead the agency.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly discussed the need to harness technology during his confirmation hearings, suggesting that the new administration would prioritize work with technology firms.
In some ways, Trump would simply be adopting the tone dictated by Obama. The retiring president’s Department of Homeland Security’s Directorate of Science and Technology consistently supported research into surveillance methods. A Washington State hockey rink, for instance, was the testing ground for an agency-funded experiment on facial recognition software in crowded environments.
The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Administration (HSARPA), the agency’s in-house research institute, identified biometric technologies and is also involved in the development and promotion of algorithmic prediction and Wide Area Surveillance, a surveillance method that uses multiple plane-mounted cameras to provide continuous coverage of a large geographic area with the ability to replay events.
The baseline for the technology was originally developed by the military to use in complicated arenas like Iraq. The system uses a secret network of cameras, including high definition equipment mounted to small Cessna airplanes, to provide a constant view surveillance of any motion made, by any object. The system then stores an archive, with the ability to rewind and track an individual.
During Obama’s term, the Department of Homeland Security significantly expanded the availability of facial recognition technology to nonfederal law enforcement. According to budget documents in 2014 the Homeland Security Information Network, an information-sharing system set up by the agency’s Office Of Intelligence & Analysis, created the “Multi-State Facial Recognition Community” that provided end users access to biometric search tools for “18 current participating states and fusion centers with the single click of a mouse.”