• Paranoia, Personified.

    Under the aegis of "improving security," the folks over at the Republican National Committee and Tampa, FL. city officials are lobbying hard for a $55 million federal appropriation, part of which will be used to purchase, install and operate over 200 CCTV cameras during the 2012 Republican National Convention. Among these cameras will be two unmanned aerial vehicles. Because nothing says "we're concerned about your safety maintaining order" than a couple of drones flying overhead. You know, the ones similar to those used for scoping out terrorists targets before we "liberate" them to death with missile strikes. You can't help but think the Occupy Wall Street movement's got some cages rattled over at the RNC -- they don't want something like that to pop up come August 27. I'm sure they'll have the "free speech zones" set up, too.

    The following is a brief rundown of what most of that $55 million will go towards:

    • 164 cameras able to read a number 3 inches high at 300 meters in the day and identify people and vehicles at 100 meters in the dark. Many of these would be mounted on light poles.
    • Two "unmanned aerial vehicles" that could hover for 20 minutes, fly in 20-knot winds and carry cameras with zoom lenses or thermal imaging capabilities.
    • 20 helmet cameras with 2 1/2 hours of recording time to document crowd disturbances.
    • Six trailer-mounted mobile cameras on booms that rise 20 feet or more, six more breadbox-sized cameras for covert use around high-risk activities, and four cameras that could read license tags in six lanes of traffic at speeds of 100 mph.
    • 3,000 additional police officers the city expects to bring in, house, feed and pay during the convention.

    I understand a need for safety measures, especially during high profile and sometimes highly charged public events, but I just can't get over how the RNC and Tampa police plan to use flying drones. Once those things were invented for military applications, it was only a matter of time before they found their way in the hands of law enforcement. And the cameras? I'm sure the city will find a good excuse to maintain them as a permanent fixture of the city streets.

    Someday, law enforcement officials will find ways to attach tear gas and pepper spray canisters underneath the wings. Call it "deployable pacification."