Many people have read recently about the coming expansion of the presence of Capitol Police outside D.C. into Florida and California, with other state offices to come. What has not been widely reported so far is how the intelligence operations of the Capitol Police will have fewer public safeguards than other police departments and the tech that the agency plans to use.
The Capitol Police department is different from other federal law enforcement agencies in that it is under the exclusive control of Congress by law. The Capitol Police are not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by statute, and ordinary requests for records from the public or the press are not permitted as common FOIA requests are of other executive branch agencies.
It provides us a new national intelligence gathering, under the current structure of Congress, police force safe from FOIA under Nancy Pelosi.
The Washington Times reports that the Capitol Police will be expanding their technology capabilities for their new intelligence operations. The agency has requested, and the Department of Defense has approved, eight Persistent Surveillance Systems Ground Medium (PSSG-M) units.
The PSSG-M systems provide surveillance video and have night vision capability. They are integrated with existing and available camera hardware to provide high definition “surveillance capacity to meet steady-state mission requirements and help identify emerging threats,” according to the Pentagon.
This type of spying equipment was first deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor broad areas at all times using extremely effective video capabilities. The hardware has been deployed on tethered blimps, and the video data captured is stored in vast databases with incredible analytical power. It is reported that the systems are used in military settings to develop a “pattern of life” analysis of intelligence targets.
The Capitol Police are receiving training with military personnel at National Guard facilities in Virginia and Washington state.
The mass intelligence gathering capacity of the Capitol Police’s new equipment will easily allow for surveilling gatherings of people of all types. The opening provided to the Capitol Police by the events of a single afternoon of protests coupled with their failure to secure the Capitol building allowed the agency to start a domestic spying program operating outside of typical disclosure requirements.
While federal courts might decide this type of mass domestic surveillance is unconstitutional at some point, a case must first be presented. As things stand, many Americans may be unaware they are being watched thousands of miles from D.C. by the police force designed to guard the nation’s capitol grounds.