Report: NJ law enforcement ramps up federally funded surveillance

New Jersey law enforcement officers are being equipped with “with high-tech cameras, infrared technology and automatic license plate readers to keep tabs on people as they travel to local reservoirs, financial hubs and malls,” the Associated Press reported Sunday.

Reminiscent of Wikileaks’ revelations about Trapwire, a counterterrorism video surveillance system allegedly connected to the private intelligence and geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, the gearing up is part of a broader federal effort to integrate local law enforcement nationwide into a federal counterterror surveillance program involving the Department of Homeland Security.

FBI and Homeland Security agents are also able to watch local surveillance feeds with the permission of law enforcement via the Regional Operations Intelligence Center – also known as a “fusion center,” comprised of information-sharing hubs for law enforcement and government agencies.

“Local police signed onto the Homeland Security network have broad discretion in deciding what to monitor and when to share surveillance feeds with federal agents,” reported the Associated Press.

The equipment, such as enhanced tracking systems and better radio communications, is also available for everyday police work.

Despite DHS spending $48 million in 2010 to protect and monitor 1,849 sites across the 50 states, DHS representatives are not saying what type of information is being collected, said the Associated Press.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order at the end of October to expand Department of Homeland Security’s reach into local law enforcement, weeks after a Senate subcommittee released a damning report on DHS’ 77 fusion centers at the conclusion of a two-year investigation.

The fusion centers, the subcommittee found, had produced little-to-no intelligence of value to the government’s broader national security mission.

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