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WP: CIA Spying On Protesters With Dragonflies?

The always reliable Washington Post decides to fan the already rampant paranoia of the America-hating whackjobs:

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs.

By Rick Weiss
Tuesday, October 9, 2007; A03

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

“I heard someone say, ‘Oh my god, look at those,’ ” the college senior from New York recalled. “I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?’ They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.”

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

“I’d never seen anything like it in my life,” the Washington lawyer said. “They were large for dragonflies. I thought, ‘Is that mechanical, or is that alive?’ ”

That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Others think they are, well, dragonflies — an ancient order of insects that even biologists concede look about as robotic as a living creature can look.

No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely…

But the CIA secretly developed a simple dragonfly snooper as long ago as the 1970s. And given recent advances, even skeptics say there is always a chance that some agency has quietly managed to make something operational…

The CIA was among the earliest to tackle the problem. The “insectothopter,” developed by the agency’s Office of Research and Development 30 years ago, looked just like a dragonfly and contained a tiny gasoline engine to make the four wings flap. It flew but was ultimately declared a failure because it could not handle crosswinds.

Agency spokesman George Little said he could not talk about what the CIA may have done since then. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service also declined to discuss the topic.

Only the FBI offered a declarative denial. “We don’t have anything like that,” a spokesman said.

The Defense Department is trying, though.

In one approach, researchers funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are inserting computer chips into moth pupae — the intermediate stage between a caterpillar and a flying adult — and hatching them into healthy “cyborg moths.”

The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project aims to create literal shutterbugs — camera-toting insects whose nerves have grown into their internal silicon chip so that wranglers can control their activities. DARPA researchers are also raising cyborg beetles with power for various instruments to be generated by their muscles.

“You might recall that Gandalf the friendly wizard in the recent classic ‘Lord of the Rings’ used a moth to call in air support,” DARPA program manager Amit Lal said at a symposium in August. Today, he said, “this science fiction vision is within the realm of reality.”

A DARPA spokeswoman denied a reporter’s request to interview Lal or others on the project…

So what was seen by Crane, Alarcon and a handful of others at the D.C. march — and as far back as 2004, during the Republican National Convention in New York, when one observant but perhaps paranoid peace-march participant described on the Web “a jet-black dragonfly hovering about 10 feet off the ground, precisely in the middle of 7th avenue . . . watching us”?

They probably saw dragonflies, said Jerry Louton, an entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Washington is home to some large, spectacularly adorned dragonflies that “can knock your socks off,” he said.

At the same time, he added, some details do not make sense. Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies — an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison.

“Dragonflies never fly in a pack,” he said.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice said her group is investigating witness reports and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies. If such devices are being used to spy on political activists, she said, “it would be a significant violation of people’s civil rights.”

“I don’t want people to get paranoid, but what can I say?” Fearing said. “Cellphone cameras are already everywhere. It’s not that much different.”

Never mind that the photo the Washington Post displayed with this article (at the top) has nothing to do with this article. It is not something that was retrieved at any of the anti-US rallies. (In fact the Post doesn’t bother to explain what it is.)

Moreover, the Washington Post thoughtfully included a video of laughably large and clumsy flying machines, to reinforce the paranoia.

And, mind you, all of this speculation is based upon the claims of highly reliable witnesses like Ms. Vanessa Alarcon:

Vanessa Alarcon leaves a podium adorned with a poster of Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara after speaking abut socialism during a political rally in Washington, Saturday Oct. 6, 2007. October 8 marks 40 years since the death of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, whose image is still used around the world to represent leftist ideals.

This is what passes for journalism in the United States of the 21s century.

“I don’t want people to get paranoid, but what can I say?”

No, we certainly don’t want that.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, October 9th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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