But there's a another program here that few citizens are aware of - regular and totally "un-warranted" photo surveillance that Whatcom County (and a slew of partner agencies) engage in on a regular basis. This aerial surveillance now being done using Pictometry. What once was merely "mapping" is something very invasive.
Pictometry is not garden variety aerial photography for mapping and measuring for public work. Using airplanes, look-down and oblique photos are taken regularly and then compared to prior images using a specialized computer program to watch for changes, to see what people are doing. Boy, if that doesn't fit the definition of "surveillance" WE don't know what does.
Who's watching? All kinds of agencies are (see list after this paragraph), including the Lummi tribe. The whole purpose is to actively snoop on citizen activity, peering at everyone's home, yard, or farm by taking oblique photos periodically without having to establish "probable cause" or get a warrant. If the Pictometry computer program flags some perceived activity or change to your property (from a long list of options) you're subject to further investigation, or maybe even a knock on the door. Who's privy to what extent of the photo bank isn't clear. Do they all share everything? Is there any protection from abuse? Most importantly, is this much un-warranted surveillance justified? What would a court say if a citizen objected?
Those involved: Whatcom County (numerous departments), City of Bellingham, the Housing Authority, Blaine, Everson, Lynden, Sumas, PUD #1, the Conservation District, the "Council of Governments", the WTA, Lummi Nation, Ferndale, Lk Whatcom WAter & Sewer (and who knows how many more - the feds too?)
There were no public hearings about the adoption or expansion and continuation of this program. There's never been a chance for the citizenry to weigh in over a number of years (4 or 5). Pictometry is being renewed for 2015 (and perhaps longer), it was in the county budget. For a taste of the terms, look at this agreement and a truckload more here.
And are these pictures public records? Will "the people" be permitted to "see" the pictures and reports - Pictometry "product" - that our public servants see? Not a chance. WE have good reason to expect access to be denied (records withheld) "to protect citizens privacy" (!) if you could believe the hypocrisy of such an oxymoronic excuse. These photos and reports ("product") is being held in the hands of a very tight circle of "interests." Carefully read this stock clause in all of the Pictometry agreements:
Anyway, here's that interesting video about militarization of domestic police: