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    Opinion at Washington Post: From tracking al-Qaeda to tracking the wayward spouse

    In a column at the Washington Post, Dana Milbank looks at the spread of “Big Brother”-type surveillance technology from military use to everyday watching of spouses or others:

    You can find just about anything at the annual homeland security expo: X-ray machines, infrared cameras, a police cruiser with heat-sensing capability, a hovering “gyroplane” — and a GPS device that can spy on your spouse.

    The salesman for Blackline GPS Corp., maker of “professional grade covert tracking” equipment, explained that his devices, in the shape of a legal envelope ($700) or an electric razor ($300), can be tucked behind seat cushions, under floor mats or into backpacks.

    “We’re getting more requests from husbands and wives,” he explained. “I’ve seen guys throw it in their wives’ car and cover it with a hat. It keeps honest people honest.”

    That, in one convenient package, is what has become of the homeland security effort. What began as a well-intentioned campaign to harden targets and protect the nation from terrorists has metastasized into a sprawling and diffuse enterprise that has little to do with terrorists and a lot to do with government and employers spying on the citizenry — and citizens spying on each other. […]

    Federal homeland security spending tripled in the years after Sept. 11, and recent cuts have been modest compared with reductions to other parts of the budget. States and private industry, too, have spent billions of dollars. But that money is going further and further afield.

    Government agencies and corporations are, for example, buying “Pocket Hound” cellphone detectors, which indicate who is carrying a mobile phone (among the suggested uses: schools and airports). A competitor, Cellbusters, can locate where a cellphone is inside a building or whether someone in your conference room is violating a company’s no-cellphone policy.

    Catch many terrorists with this technology? “Not so much,” Cellbusters’ Derek Forde admitted.

    Read the full article for more on everyday surveillance technology.

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