August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Napolitano freezes funds for spy tower flop

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo: Arivaca spy tower by Brenda Norrell

TUCSON -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano halted the cash cow of Boeing at the border, freezing the cash for the big virtual border flop. That's the spy tower sytem where Boeing, and its subcontractor Elbit Systems, the Israeli Apartheid spy contractor, built the spy towers that don't work south of Tucson.

Those are the same spy towers that were using Wi-Fi in the desert mountains. Duhhh, it didn't work. Yep, that was the same system that put a spy tower in Arivaca and pointed it, not at the border because there was a mountain there, but instead pointed it at the good folks of Arivaca. They flew kites around it to mess with it, which probably wasn't necessary since it didn't work anyway.

Yep, and that is the same system where the US government put spy towers on the sovereign Tohono O'odham land. Of course everyone locally that knows at least one Border Patrol agent had a pretty good idea of what those agents would be looking at on their laptops, if those spy towers had worked, chilling thought.

The spy towers had lots of problems, like interference. Say a coyote, cow or bat came by, that would mess with it. Rain would mess with the sensors. But anyone who has ever had to depend on Wi-Fi in well-insulated hotels should have a good laugh about Boeing using this system in the extreme rugged mountains of the Sonoran Desert.

Writers are always told to write about what they know best and these spy towers are something I came to know. Since I had a lot of time on my hands, and my fellow unemployed friends had a lot of time on their hands, we drove around, and hung around those spy towers.

One night, a couple of security guards just looked at us as we wandered around the fence of the spy tower at Arivaca. Another night, we went out there with an ACLU representative and those good folks from Arivaca. We wandered around some more. Another day, we drove over to Sasabe and wandered around the spy tower there, peering into the cameras. That's the summer when it was so hot that we wrapped ourselves in wet towels to keep from passing out in the car.

We dug out spy tower maps at the public libraries. When the Mohawks came for the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit, we went over and checked out the spy tower on Tohono O'odham land.

Then, the news confirmed what we all thought: The spy towers didn't work. Even loaded with all the modern technology of sensors and cameras, the spy towers were a flop.

The desert reigned.

Here's the latest as Napolitano freezes the cash cow for Boeing:

Napolitano freezes virtual border fence initiative

Rio Grande Guardian
WASHINGTON, D.C, March 16, 2010 - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday froze the effort to build a virtual fence along the southern border. She cited cost overruns and missed deadlines as she halted what is known as Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet).

Here is Napolitano’s announcement:

“Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost effective way possible. The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border known as SBInet has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines.

“Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will redeploy $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet Block 1 to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border, including mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements.

“Additionally, we are freezing all SBInet funding beyond SBInet Block 1’s initial deployment to the Tucson and Ajo regions until the assessment I ordered in January is completed.”

Read more ...

Life and death on the border, 'No significant impact'
August 24, 2007
The biggest hoax of all, the $31.5 million, seven-mile, border fence at Sasabe and its pitiful environmental assessment
By Brenda Norrell
ARIVACA and SASABE, Arizona (2007) – Of all the whitewashed and pitiful U.S.-produced environmental assessments, the slim pile of papers for the Sasabe border fence is the worst.

In Sasabe, where border fence construction is slated to begin on Monday, residents did not even know the pitiful document existed.

The so-called environmental assessment was sent by FedEx to the Caviglia-Arivaca Library, after its release on July 27.

There was no request for public comment, simply a bundle of papers placed in the library. At the end of the document, where public comments usually appear, there are three letters from the U.S. Army praising the project.

The reason for the document's existence is explained. The Sasabe fence is being built "to comply with the Congressional Fence Act of 2006" which requires that 700 miles of fence be built.

In other words, it does not matter that this seven-mile border fence, along the 2,000-mile border, is futile and impractical. Congress said to do it, so it will be built for $31.5 million, like a bridge to nowhere.

The failure to request public comments has not gone unnoticed. Arizona residents living along the border had one common sentiment about the U.S. plans to build the border fence: "They could care less what we think about it."

It was only by accident that I stumbled across the assessment on Thursday, while looking back over another pitiful environmental assessment, the one for the border spy towers.

The environmental assessment for the "Pedestrian Fence" near Sasabe, Arizona is one more installment in what could become a trillion dollar disaster, the proposed US/Mexico border fence.

It only takes one look at the rugged mountains west of Sasabe to know that there will be no metal border wall built across those mountains. Yes, migrants and jaguars will make it over those mountain paths, but there is not going to be any wall construction.

The Sasabe border fence would only extend 4.5 miles to the east and 2.5 miles to the west of Sasabe Port of Entry. That is it, seven miles of border wall to nowhere, a border wall that will be easily avoided by migrants.

Since it is not possible to build a border wall over those mountains, the lead contractor Boeing has placed nine spy towers along the border. The only problem is, those are not working because of software problems.

Yes, the top camera was orbiting, and the red lights were flashing on the spy tower a few miles north of Sasabe, at the junction of Arivaca Road, on Thursday, but the towers are experiencing technical failure. There was another spy tower perched northwest of Sasabe, on the road to the Osa Guest Ranch.

Wi-Fi was used for the towers in these rugged mountains, canyons and desert. That is the same Wi-Fi that your local coffee shop uses. Anyone who uses Wi-Fi where there's interference, either interference from physical barriers or hackers, will enjoy this joke.

To make matters worse, the spy tower located in Arivaca is pointed at the homes of Arivaca community members. With its spy range of nine miles, there is no view of the border from that spy tower because of the mountains. Arivaca residents oppose the spy tower based on the invasion of privacy and are planning a lawsuit.

On the daylong drive from Tucson to Arivaca, Sasabe and Three Points, Arizona, on Thursday, there were about 30 Border Patrol units wandering around. The Border Patrol agents were watching the rain clouds form, talking on their cell phones and munching snacks at convenience stores.

A couple of Wackenhut buses, waiting to be loaded with migrants, sat empty along the highway. Their drivers were slouched over the steering wheels, no doubt experiencing one of the most boring days of their lives.

There was not a migrant in sight.

Things picked up a little over at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, not that there were any people around, just more Border Patrol agents talking on their cell phones and wandering around.

There were however, some fine hummingbirds at the feeders, and lots of good information on the Pronghorns along the border. It turns out that the Sonoran Pronghorn migrate between Mexico and the United States, crossing the border in the desert between Ajo and Yuma. Pronghorns, the fastest mammal in North America, do not jump over fences like deer, they try to go through or under fences, which can be devastating to the Pronghorns.

Jaguar, too, at times migrate from Mexico to the United States through these mountains.

Which brings us back to the pitiful environmental assessment for the Sasabe border fence, that costly and futile expression of Congress in response to border hysteria elsewhere and media hype.

Perhaps this assessment was sent by FedEx to the Caviglia-Arivaca Library, because those who produced it were too embarrassed to deliver it themselves.

The pitiful environmental assessment lists the threatened and endangered species.

The conclusion: "No Significant Impact."

Like its predecessors, the environmental assessments for the unmanned aerial vehicles and spy towers, the assessment is a joke.

The document itself, surely will have "No Significant Impact," except to fuel the mistrust and anger of Arizona residents along the border.

In fact, unless you are an investigative reporter, or psychic, you probably cannot even find a copy of it.

However, just for the record, here is the list of the endangered and threatened species listed in the Sasabe border fence environmental assessment.

The Bald eagle and Chiricahua leopard frog are on the list of threatened species.

On the endangered list are the California Brown pelican; Desert pupfish; Gila chub; Gila topminnow; Huachuca water umbel; Jaguar; Kearney blue star; Lesser long-nosed bat; Masked Bobwhite; Mexican spotted owl; Nichol Turk's head cactus; Ocelot (spotted cat); Pima pineapple cactus; Sonoran pronghorn and Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Listed as "candidate" species are the Acuna cactus; Sonoyta mud turtle; Yellow-billed cuckoo; Gooddings onion and San Xavier talussnail (land snail.)

The jaguar is "cinnamon-buff" with black spots and the largest cat native in the Southwest.

The endangered Lesser long-nosed bat is a subject that biologists have been reluctant to discuss. The border fence assessment describes them as "easily disturbed." Bats are pollinators of the desert plants, including agave and cacti. They day roost in caves and abandoned tunnels, making their homes in Arizona between April and September. These bats fly south of the border for the rest of the year, according to the fence assessment.

The question remains whether the bats' hunting ability will be affected by the spy towers' high-tech equipment.

The fence assessment states there is critical habitat here for the Desert pupfish; Gila Chub; Huachuca water umbel; Mexican spotted owl and Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Mitch Ellis, Buenos Aires National Wildlife manager, said the lack of public notice and comment period does not satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Ellis said he will not give permission to proceed with the fence on BANW land until the requirements are met.

Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., said the Tohono O'odham Nation was not allowed to comment on the impact to cultural sites.

Already this summer, the United States' construction of the border vehicle barrier has resulted in Hohokam, O'odham ancestors, being dug up on tribal land and removed from their burial sites.

As for the pitiful environmental assessment for the Sasabe border fence, it was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth and the Gulf South Research Corporation.

Biologists, ecologists and archaeologists participating, don't worry. We're not including your names.
NOTE March 16, 2010: During and after this article was written in 2007, the Bush administration violated all federal laws to build the Arizona border wall, including violating federal laws to protect endangered species and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

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