Why Is the Federal Government Installing Mysterious Boxes on Utility Poles?

Why Is the Federal Government Installing Mysterious Boxes on Utility Poles?


By Derrick Broze

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives has claimed ownership of a mysterious box that was removed from a utility pole in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix resident Brian Clegg was concerned about a box he witnessed being installed on a power pole. Clegg said the box was facing his house and he believed it may have had cameras inside. The pole was owned by Arizona’s largest power provider, SRP, who claimed no one had permission to put the box on their pole. Brian Clegg says shortly afterwards SRP sent a crew to remove the box.

Shortly after ABC15 investigated the matter, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives(ATF), a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, acknowledged installing the box as part of an ongoing investigation. Officials with the ATF would not provide details about their alleged investigation and would not confirm if they were conducting surveillance in the area.

“I don’t feel safer,” said Brian Clegg. “I feel that my privacy has been violated.”

SRP told ABC15 they were unaware the box had been installed and that the ATF has to notify them if they are going install something on their property. The ATF told ABC15 they can put security measures in place without asking for permission. Obviously the federal government feels comfortable doing whatever it wants to do, whenever it wants to, law be damned.

One other interesting aspect of Clegg’s story is the fact that he claims the crew who installed the box came in a truck marked “Field Pros.” The thought of undercover government agents installing surveillance equipment while masquerading as utility workers is highly disturbing and sounds like a scene right out of a Hollywood film. Unfortunately, Phoenix is not the only city to have surveillance equipment installed by an agency of the federal government.

In November 2013, Seattle residents pushed back against the installation of several mesh network nodes attached to utility poles around the downtown area. The nodes were purchased by the Seattle Police Department via a $2.7 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and privacy advocates were immediately concerned about the ability of the nodes to gather user information via the Wi-Fi connection.

“How accurately can it geo-locate and track the movements of your phone, laptop, or any other wireless device by its MAC address? Can the network send that information to a database, allowing the SPD to reconstruct who was where at any given time, on any given day, without a warrant? Can the network see you now?” asked Seattle newspaper The Stranger.

Initially the Seattle PD was reluctant to speak about the network. However, the police ultimately yielded to public opinion and decided, “the wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft policy and until there’s an opportunity for vigorous public debate.”

Although the situation in Seattle played out in favor of the people, we must recognize that there is a growing partnership between the surveillance agencies of the federal government and the increasingly militarized local police forces in the United States. As Activist Post previously reported, a new policy from the Obama administration will make it easier for the NSA to share information between law enforcement agencies with very little oversight.

According to the New York Times:

The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.

The new rule changes would allow federal agencies such as the FBI to access streams of information gathered by the spy agency, “including emails, phone calls and location data.” These federal agencies would then have the ability to pass the data to state and local law enforcement. As the Times points out, “all of this can happen without any congressional or judicial oversight under a Reagan era executive order known as EO 12333.”

The rule change by the Obama administration is only one of several tools that both local police and federal agencies have at their disposal. From drones to stingrays, gunshot detectors and automatic license plate readers – the State has an arsenal of spy equipment. How can the free hearts and minds of the world live free, happy, and abundant lives with the ever-present eyes and ears of Big Brother? We must educate ourselves about the tools used for surveillance and oppression and begin working to redirect the technology at the tyrants. We must persevere, be courageous, and shine a light on the darkness.

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter.



Show me the bodies: A monumental public policy failure

Show me the bodies: A monumental public policy failure

In the 21st century, “show-me-the-bodies” seems a cruel and outdated foundation for public policy. Yet history is littered with examples—like tobacco and asbestos—where only after the death toll mounts is the price of inaction finally understood to exceed that of action. In 19th century England, women factory inspectorate workers’ warnings about crippling lung disease in teenagers working with asbestos were ignored until evidence of the epidemic toll of factory work became overwhelming more than a half century later. Modern parallels are very much with us. Lung cancer in a young Chinese girl who grew up in a polluted urban environment and breast cancer in a 21-year-old young woman who kept her cell phone in her bras are stunning indications of modern hazards where we cannot afford to wait for broader public impacts before reining in exposures.

In 1996, analyses I conducted with the World Health Organization showed that seven out of the world’s ten most polluted cities were in China, where citizens were breathing dangerously polluted air. In 2013, a small girl in one industrialized zone bore the price of growing up breathing the equivalent of two packs of cigarette smoke a day. The Chinese government reported an extraordinary event – an eight-year-old living next to a heavily trafficked road developed lung cancer.

Polluted air has hit China big and hard. Rates of lung cancer have grown fourfold in the past decade. Stifling hazy air pollution in China has shut down airports and tanker traffic. It is not unusual for levels of dangerous ultra-fine particles of PM2.5 to reach 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter – 40 times the World Health Organization’s advised level.

The “show-me-the-bodies” approach that China has taken with respect to both tobacco smoking and air pollution is proving both costly and painful. The country faces a public health catastrophe of growing increasing rates of lung cancer in its young. Tourism to the heavily polluted capital city, Beijing, is plummeting. American embassy personnel receive hardship pay for being stationed in Beijing. In order to maintain fitness, those who can afford to do so use electric treadmills in offices where air filtration machines clean the air. They also drive cars with special air filters, knowing that pollution inside vehicles stuck in traffic can be four to eight times higher than the surrounding air: 4000-8000 micrograms per cubic meter. The irony of this situation is clear. People are using even more energy in order to clean up the dirty air they’ve created by driving and producing electricity from burning coal.

The situation now posed by cellphones and wireless transmitting devices around the world appears eerily reminiscent of what has transpired with tobacco, asbestos, and air pollution. A brave young 21-year-old woman from eastern Pennsylvania, Tiffany Frantz has come forward with the story of her own rare cancerous breast tumors that formed right under the antennae of the cellphone she kept in her bra. Normally, breast cancer occurs in older women or younger ones with a family history of the disease. Tiffany is neither. More cases are being reported, including that of Chinese-American runner Donna Jaynes, (who is naturally in a very low risk category for the disease). Physicians like Lisa Bailey, breast surgeon and former chief of the American Cancer Society for California, are deeply concerned. “Young women should not get breast cancer and certainly do not develop several distinctive tumors in the center of the chest,” she noted. “This is a wake-up call to keep phones off the body.”

Recent studies find that those who begin using cell phones as teens have four to eight times more risk of brain cancer as young adults. The Cleveland Clinic reports that men who keep phones in their pockets may have lower sperm motility and viability. Yale University studies show that mice exposed prenatally to cellphone radiation develop damaged brains and behavioral problems. Yet, these studies showing that operating phones can damage the body, as well as case reports on Tiffany and others like her are strangely omitted from reviews on wireless radiation, such as that recently carried out by Canada’s Safety Code Six, or from the increasingly challenged International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

Overdue are apologies from major telecom manufacturers and Internet providers to people like Tiffany. They continue to market cell phones and other microwave-radiating products especially to infants, toddlers, and young teens and fail to provide clear notice that such radiation increases the risks of brain cancers, reproductive harm, and a host of other health problems.

In fact, buried within most smart phones are warnings that the FCC’s thermally-based exposure levels can exceed tested levels if the device is kept in the pocket or bra (which is why Consumer Reports recently advised people not to keep phones in their pocket). For tablets, the situation is even more worrisome – they can have up to four microwave radiating antenna. Tablets are generally tested to avoid heating an adult male body when kept at a distance of about eight inches. Developers never dreamed that millions of young children – including a third of all infants – would hold these devices close to developing brains and bodies. Despite advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid screen time before age two, babies are learning to swipe tablets before they can talk or walk.

We need software and hardware to limit direct microwave radiation into the brain and body. We need clear information on ways to reduce exposures—keeping tablets on tables, not laps, downloading at a distance and then using them on airplane mode, and preferring wired over wireless connections.

Tiffany Frantz and Donna Jayne are sending us all a wake-up call. Let’s hope we hear it soon. The “show-me-the-bodies” approach cannot work for a generation using a rapidly evolving technology on a globe that includes far more cell phones than toilets or people. To demand more clear proof of harm in this generation before taking steps to reduce those dangers in the next puts us and our children into an uncontrolled, potentially disastrous experiment. Who’s going to apologize for that?

Featured image credit: Air Contamination in Ningbo, Zhejiang, 2013-12-07 by 显 龙 – Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Devra Davis, PhD, MPH is an award-winning writer and President of Environmental Health Trust. She is a Visiting Professor of Medicine at the Hadassah Medical Center and Ondokuz Mayis University Medical Center. She is also a member of the Founding Editorial Board of Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2016/04/show-me-bodies-lung-brain-cancer/#sthash.aasvEgUs.dpuf



– See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2016/04/show-me-bodies-lung-brain-cancer/#sthash.aasvEgUs.dpuf