Mayor Gimenez and the Miami Dade Police Department tried to pull a fast one over on the County Board of Commissioners to get them to approve a radical new surveillance project called Wide Area Surveillance (WAS), but they didn’t succeed. At least not yet.
County Commissioner Sally Heyman sponsored what she thought was an innocuous resolution to retroactively approve the Mayor’s grant application to the Department of Justice to fund “technology innovation” for the police department. The Mayor’s description of the technology was vapid and lacking in details, so the resolution passed the Public Safety Committee unanimously.
But it is anything but innocuous. The highly invasive technology was developed by the US Air Force during the Iraq War and features Cessna airplanes flying over an area filming all that goes on in a 25 square mile area below. This is the same technology secretly deployed in Baltimore during the Freddie Gray protests. The ACLU calls it “the ultimate Big Brother ‘eye in the sky,'” because it has the capability to provide near-constant surveillance of everyone in a huge area.
When local activists got wind of the project (thanks to some sharp reporting by Jerry Iannelli at the Miami New Times), they sprang into action. With only two days to go before the full Board of Commissioners was scheduled to vote on the resolution, Muhammed Malik reached out to Defending Rights & Dissent and pulled together a team of local peace, justice, and civil liberties activists to fight the resolution. Muhammed, who has himself been a target of spying because of his activism, also contacted Iannelli to let him know resistence to the resolution was growing (see the story here).
Together, we sent a letter to the Board of Commissioners urging them to reject the deal. Meanwhile, Jeanne Baker, Chair of the Police Practices Committee of the ACLU Miami Chapter reached out to Commissioner Heyman to make sure she understood how problematic the technology is, and convinced her to request that her resolution be pulled to allow time for public comment.
And that’s where we are now. The Public Safety and Health Committee will reconsider the resolution on Wednesday, June 14 at 1:30 pm in the Commission Chambers (at 111 NW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128). They need to hear from folks in Miami Dade, so show up if you can, and sign the petition now.