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Spy Satellite Photos Used To Fight Drug Smugglers 381

Hugh Pickens writes "The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, part of the Department of Defense, is using satellites to track the activities of drug cartels operating along the US-Mexican border. The agency is supplying photos to pinpoint Mexican narcotics operations and anticipate smuggling attempts into the United States. During a conference on border security held in Phoenix last week, Scott Zikmanis said his agency already has supplied some data to the El Paso Intelligence Center, a federal clearinghouse for investigating drug cartels. Any border-security surveillance will be done over Mexico, not the US says Zikmanis because a federal law, the Posse Comitatus Act, strictly limits US military operations on American soil unless such operations are authorized by Congress. Civil rights attorneys question the use of satellite technology in law enforcement. 'We are in the midst of a really dangerous time in terms of technology,' said Chris Calabrese, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. 'The idea that such a powerful tool might be turned on US citizens is really troubling.'"
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Spy Satellite Photos Used To Fight Drug Smugglers

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  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @05:36PM (#28018017) Homepage
    Some people are expressing concerns about Mexico's stability in the face of drug-cartel related violence.
  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @05:41PM (#28018115)

    So, does anyone think the US is interested in, say, chinese or russian sattelite images of the US for this purpose?

    Anyway, I find it hard to believe that law enforcement is not following the letter of the law and saying "It's not on soil! It's in SPACE!"

  • by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @05:46PM (#28018189)

    No kidding. More people have been killed in 2008 due to drug violence in Mexico than US casualties in Iraq for the same year!

  • by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @05:48PM (#28018221) Journal
    I doubt the military uses all of their satellites 24/7. When not in use for other things, why not use them to help fight crime? We spent ungodly amounts of money for those things I bet so we might as well get all the use from them we can. When the satellite can take pictures of the border it can only take pictures of what is in its line of sight, so using it to find people in Afghanistan isn't an exclusive task (may depend on how/whether the satellite can adjust its orbit).
  • by ViennaSt ( 1138481 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @05:50PM (#28018241)

    I will be the fear monger here.
    Read this shit []
    It's scary as hell! Maybe the US needs the technology to counter people like this--the drug cartel is running havoc.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @05:50PM (#28018253) Journal

    It's pretty out of control down in Mexico. The cartels outgun the law enforcement agencies and they have paramilitary training. It isn't unheard of for drug gang enforcers to use bodyarmor, automatic weapons and hand grenades.

    I'm not as worried about the spy satellites as I am about the government using Mexico's problems as justification to limit our 2nd amendment rights. The handwriting is on the wall with this one. There are numerous stories in the news about how the guns in Mexico are coming from the United States. I can see what is going on in Mexico being used as yet another justification for a NAU style homogeonization of laws (read: a further erosion of the Constitution by entering into treaties with foreign countries).

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:00PM (#28018393) Journal
    Is meth "destroying the heartland" or are whatever conditions making the heartlanders turn to meth "destroying the heartland"?

    It is arguable that some drugs might sneak up on you, notably the socially acceptable ones; but you don't go from boy scout to raving meth head without some outside motive.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:04PM (#28018459) Journal
    Seriously? Seriously?

    "Drug smugglers" aren't a problem exclusive to brown people outside the border(if they were, your position would be merely jingoistic). They are also a problem inside, and among various other groups(not much of a market among people a few inches from the border).

    "As much military intervention as it takes" will mean domestic surveillance, domestic military actions, search and seizure, all kinds of forced entry, and so forth against American citizens. That is an outrageously authoritarian position.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:06PM (#28018475)

    OMG like meth could someday come to Philly?

    The collective amnesia that goes on with the drug war is so sad.

    Decades ago, before pseudo was the precursor and little old ladies and everyone else had to sign books to get allergy medicine, the meth precusor was p2p. There was a decades old movie where Harrison Ford lived amongst them Amish because of police conspiracy involving p2p.

    I keep hearing how the meth menace will spread from the mid west to the east coast. I just laugh because the only thing that has changed in the epic waste of decades of the drug war is that meth quality and availibility has gone up. And it is not like some mythical heartland that can be "destroyed" by meth can't be destroyed by Alcohol.

    Tax it and regulate it or suffer enternal hell and epic waste of lives and money that makes the waste of addiction look tame. And you still suffer all the waste of addiction under this stupid war we got going.

    And don't think the domestic police forces won't end up like the Mexicales. Ask some Philly bodega operators, and they will tell you it has already happened.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:06PM (#28018481)

    Yeah right.

    I agree with you in principle, but this description of how it would play out borders on the hilarious.

    I mean, what do you do with the hundreds of thousands of people who are currently in prison on drug charges? Do you just let them out, or do you go further than that? What do you do about the thousands of socially marginal people who just lost their jobs (yes, if you are willing to risk prison to distribute drugs, you are likely socially marginal; sorry.)? And so on.

  • Re:query: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:13PM (#28018581) Homepage Journal

    Originally, when Sputnik flew over what might have been considered US airspace, the Eisenhower administration intelligently agreed that it was legal and valid... otherwise you couldn't have any kind of orbit that wasn't geostationary.

    Ok, I'll bite... if it's international space, then why worry about posse comitatus in this case?

  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:16PM (#28018621) Homepage
    Imagine, if you will, that drugs were treated as a public health problem and regulated and taxed. What would happen to all the associated drug crime, where people can't go to police when they've been wronged?
  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:21PM (#28018709) Homepage Journal
    Considering that the man was a coyote, It's hard for me to feel empathy for his situation given that coyotes frequently pack people (who are willing to die to get here) into conditions which even slaughterhouse cattle would envy, all for the mighty buck.

    The guy also had a day job. If border crime is as ruthless as the media says it is (and I doubt that because I've lived on the border for 18 years of my life), then a man with a family would be wise to stay out of the traficantes' business.

    [tinfoil hat] I doubt that the recent media blitzes against Mexico, border crime and swine flu, are coincidental. [/tinfoil hat]
  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:26PM (#28018777) Homepage
    Lots of stores in the news about US guns in Mexico... the problem is, those are very tortured statistics []. Sure, most of the guns that can be traced do get traced back to the US. But for the overall total of guns sourced from the US, nobody knows for sure [].
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:28PM (#28018801) Journal
    "without some outside motive"

    I'm not saying anybody is immune to meth addiction, or addiction generally. Once you hit the neurochemistry, anything is possible. I am suggesting that people don't just pick up meth the way they just pick up scrapbooking or model airplanes. The fact that meth is seriously bad news, even by drug standards, is well known. I'm saying that, without some impetus, people don't just pick up things with reputations like that.

    Different societies, and different subsections of society, have different rates of drug use, drug abuse, and adverse drug outcomes. They also use different drugs in different proportions. That is what I'm talking about. As you say, meth can get to pretty much anybody once they start using it. However, some circumstances are more likely than others to induce them to do that. That was the point of my question.

    What is it about the economic, social, political, arrangement of the area that causes people to pick meth up in greater numbers?

    I'm sorry if I expressed myself poorly. I neither think nor intended to imply that resistance to drugs one has been exposed to differs substantially between people(though, with some drugs, there does seem to be a genetic factor). I do think that there are significant differences between social contexts in how many people are induced to be exposed to drugs.
  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:37PM (#28018917) Homepage

    You're making the assumption that if meth were legal and regulated that it would continue to destroy people. I'm not convinced that's the case.

    I doubt you know anyone who's a recovering meth or heroin addict.

    I've known a friend back in the 90s who recovered only to have relapsed again. It doesn't just destroy their lives, but also family members close to them. If they're lucky, they turn suicidal and get it over with quickly. If they got balls, they die via suicide-by-cop (very rare, but does happen)

    As for this friend I speak of, I doubt he can remember my name anymore let alone remember who is he or how he got to this point in his life.

    These hard-core drugs are some serious shit man. It's nothing glamorous like in the movies. Far from it. If you're ever confronted by someone to do these drugs "just one time", my advice is to run as fast and far as you can for your life. It's not the people you have to worry about, but rather some chemical turning you into a little pathetic bitch that can never get the same high you once had before. Always striving, but never quite reaching...

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:40PM (#28018953) Homepage

    Actually, most people won't grow it them selves, they will probably buy in from a legal distribute, like cigarettes.

    Yeah, and to me the biggest downside of legalization would be that the cigarette companies would start selling mj cigarettes that are significantly cut with tobacco. To them, THC's lack of chemically addictive properties would be a downside, and they'd want to continue to enjoy the benefits of an addicted customer base.

    It's so easy to grow (in the right climate) I can see many hippies doing it home-brew style just to avoid this problem.

  • Yeah right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <falconsoaring_20 ... minus cat> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @06:41PM (#28018961)

    I agree with you in principle, but this description of how it would play out borders on the hilarious.

    I mean, what do you do with the hundreds of thousands of people who are currently in prison on drug charges?

    Set them free. More people are in prison in the US, and the US has the highest highest prison population in the world [], because of drugs than any other reason. And many of them are non violent.

    Right now people in prison now for drug offenses are a drain on taxpayers when they could be taxpayers themselves.

    Do you just let them out, or do you go further than that?

    You apologize for falsely imprisoning them.

    What do you do about the thousands of socially marginal people who just lost their jobs (yes, if you are willing to risk prison to distribute drugs, you are likely socially marginal; sorry.)? And so on.

    Citation NEEDED!!! I dare you to find science studies that reach that conclusion.

    I don't any now but I knew many people who bought, sold, and used illegal drugs and not one was worse than alcoholics I also knew. Those addicted to a legal drug are worse than those who use illegal drugs.


  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @07:00PM (#28019143)
    Why should opium not be legal for recreational use? The point was, regulation of substances should be based purely on the amount of harm caused, not on the ease of manufacture of the substance. Personally, I believe people have an innate right to harm themselves (but not others), but I can understand how some people would differ with that opinion. Attempting to prevent people from harming themselves is essentially saying "Your (potential) value to society outweighs your right to self-determination." I think that is the essence of fascism. "Your value as a life support system for another human being outweighs your right to self-determination" is a similarly fascist argument.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @07:09PM (#28019267) Homepage

    Because many industries, including agricultural today, have a natural tendency towards consolidation? Because I fear that there will be licensing required to grow or sell and this will only help encourage the creation of a few mega-corps around it? Because the big tobacco companies would be the ones best poised to take advantage of legalization from the outset? Because that's what's happened with tobacco in the first place?

    Try buying a cigarette that isn't loaded with additives that just make the damn things even less healthy. Your choices are American Spirits and... yeah, hope they have American Spirits at the convenience store. It's hard just getting a cigarette that's pure tobacco, so I just don't see many of the big players not cutting joints with at least some tobacco, and using whatever financial muscle is necessary to push the ones who won't play lets-keep-our-customers-addicted ball.

    Now I don't think this will happen, it's just my biggest worry over legalization. I worry that the way in which it will be legalized, combined with economic forces, will result in problems. As long as both possession and cultivation are made completely legal, then it probably won't be a big deal.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @07:53PM (#28019857) Homepage

    So start a company that doesn't do that. Jeez, you make it sound like the world is static. Not everybody drinks budweiser.

    Yeah, so I'll just run down to the store and buy some non-pasteurized beer...

    Oh wait.

    My fear is that in the course of legalizing it, in order to get to the next step which is taxing it, the government will have to keep control over who is allowed to grow and sell it. Much like with tobacco and alcohol today. Which is why there is, as far as I know, one cigarette brand that doesn't use tons of additives that make them even less healthy. And I can't buy a non-pasteurized beer unless it was brewed on the premises. And I can't buy my favorite beer from my home state because they aren't licensed to distribute over state lines. And so on.

    If it's completely legalized, as in non-regulated, then this will be a complete non-issue. But I fear that won't be the case, and economics will favor big players, and sure not everyone drinks Bud but what most people will have access to and will buy will be tobacco-cut addictive crap.

    It's just a fear. Still all for legalization. :)

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @09:16PM (#28020545)

    The "threat"(s) would be the failed culture, society, government (even if we annexed it we'd have to allow democracy which would return the same people to office), and economy of Mexico.

    While it is fashionable to point out what is wrong with the US, it's worth noting that we have vastly more immigration than emigration. If we add annexation of failed states to that, the ideal of a welfare state for Americans becomes even less practical.

  • Re:You Joke (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ChadM ( 102789 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:28PM (#28020989)

    For every Guatemalan or Nicaraguan that makes it to the US and takes a job, that's less work for Mexicans. If they gatekeep their southern border they help to keep down their own competition...

  • by kmike ( 31752 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:05AM (#28021629)

    Interesting that while US is trying to do something about Mexican drug smuggling (probably because it borders with US), they turn the blind eye (or even worse) to the Afghanistan drug production, which floods the Europe with locally-produced opium. It is estimated that Afghanistan is accountable for more than 90% of world's opium production, and most of it goes to the Europe.

    It is also worth to note that before the US invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban was able to contain the problem - the drug production declined some 94% during its reign.
    But ever since the fall of Taliban regime, opium production has continued to rise each year at an alarming rate:

    "The increase in opium production in Afghanistan was from 185 metric tons in 2001 to 6,100 metric tons in 2006." []

    One has to wonder about the US involvement in this:
    "Who benefits from the Afghan Opium Trade?" []

  • Re:illegal drugs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:35AM (#28021803)

    Actually some drugs have been shown to cause problems, I'm thinking of meth, where long time abusers can even be worse then alcoholics.
    Best thing with these people (including the hardcore alcoholics) would be to give them cheap heroin. Cheap heroin is pretty harmless, people using can take 1/2 to 3/4 of a dose in the morning, and be productive members of society and get wasted in the evening.
    Even a heroin user who uses way to much is pretty harmless as long as he can get more.

  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:49AM (#28022145) Homepage Journal

    Here's a better idea. What if we gave some of the Dem states to Canada and Mexico??

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @11:31AM (#28026117)

    Actually it's quite simple. You do pass a law, one that makes it legal for anyone to work in the U.S.

    Currently many illegals are being paid under the table for less than minimum wage. By legalizing it the immigrants no longer have to worry about being deported and will pursue work that is above the table and above minimum wage. Any employers who continue paying below minimum wage under the table will be unable to find employees and those employees they do find will have plenty of incentive to turn them in as the government will enforce their being paid minimum wage.

    If you want to take it a step further you add a small additional tax to employers who have a citizen to non-citizen worker ratio below a certain level.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!