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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ohio's Northern Border: Unblinking Eye In The Sky Will Be Spying On Lake Erie

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- State homeland security officials want the Controlling Board to approve a $130,000 no-bid contract to add encrypted signals to a turret-mounted spy camera system. The super sensitive device will be mounted on a state airpline and employ lasers, night-vision lenses and electronic sensors to monitor Lake Erie from the sky. The purchase is part of the Northern Border Initiative that is supposed to tighten the Canadian-U.S. border, which has long been porous because the two nations are both neighbors and friends. But the post-9/11 environment is leading to increased surveillance along the once wide open border.

The spy camera is made by L-3 Wescam, a Canadian subcontractor of the 6th largest U.S.-based defense contractor. The Ohio Department of Public Safety has the purchase on the Dec. 3 agenda and says L-3 Wescam is the only supplier it can buy from. It has asked for a waiver of competitive bidding.

"The Homeland Security Division is requesting the purchase of equipment in order to received the encrypted signal from the L-3 Communications Wescam Turret System recently installed on an Ohio State Highway Patrol aircraft (Grand Caravan). This equipment records audio and/or video evidence which is valuable to the Northern Border Initiative success by increasing the scope of reconnaissance and surveillance of the open waters of Lake Erie and the Northern Border.

"The equipment also provides an added element of safety as supporting personnel can observe activity of suspicious vessels and persons while NBI law enforcement personnel and vessels respond and interdict illegal and/or suspicious border crossings. The equipment will be received and maintained by the Northern Border Initiative Coordinator and housed at the OHS Office of Counterterrorism and Prevention. It will be available upon request for all Northern Border Initiative participants (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood counties) in the event of an incident."

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