U.S. Capitol Police will begin fielding military surveillance equipment as part of sweeping security upgrades as the force becomes “an intelligence-based protective agency” after the Jan. 6 attack.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently approved a Capitol Police request for eight Persistent Surveillance Systems Ground – Medium (PSSG-M) units. The system provides high-definition surveillance video and is enabled with night vision. The system does not include facial recognition capabilities, the Pentagon said.
“This technology will be integrated with existing USCP camera infrastructure, providing greater high definition surveillance capacity to meet steady-state mission requirements and help identify emerging threats,” the Pentagon said.
The technology allowed U.S. troops fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor large areas 24/7 through extremely high-resolution cameras.
Some privacy rights advocates have raised concern that Capitol Police are getting into the business of spying on Americans.
In a wartime application, the persistent surveillance units were mounted on tethered blimps. The data could be stored, combined with sensor data from other platforms, and later referenced or rewound to track individuals or groups.
The military could use the system to develop “pattern of life” analyses on suspected enemy combatants or intelligence targets in war zones. It could determine, for example, who was responsible for placing an improvised explosive device.