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FCC Lets Radar Company See Through Walls 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the x-ray-specs dept.
DesertNomad writes "Attorney Mitchell Lazarus over at CommLawBlog gives a good overview of a new radar technology and the challenges of getting regulatory approval, which seemingly can be just as difficult as developing the technology itself."
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FCC Lets Radar Company See Through Walls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:02AM (#30309342)
    *knock knock*
    "Go 'way, 'batin!"
    "Sir, we are well aware of your current status, we can see through your walls. However, that's not why we're here--we would like to discuss the illegal transmitter you are running on your roof right now."
  • What are the chances (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jnmontario (865369) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:02AM (#30309344)
    Any guesses that clients of this company include the NSA, FBI....
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Don't forget low budget porn outfits specialising in "amateur" couples.

  • do not want (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:05AM (#30309354)
    Here comes my tax dollars, with a new technology to help arrest me.
    • Re:do not want (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MrFurious5150 (1189479) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:20AM (#30309796)
      Oh, I'm sure it'll never be abused...like wiretapping, or tasers. *cough*
    • by kalirion (728907)

      Just don't do anything in the "privacy" of your own home that could be construed as indecent exposure, and you'll be fine.

  • There are already many civilian radar devices that are used frequently by law enforcement and fire fighters. This is a better version of it, and the article itself is nothing less than enthusiastic about the range of uses for it.

    What I see happening more and more is that people are fearing technology because of what "bad people" will do with it instead of embracing new technology and the possibilities it brings.

    A technology site filled with Luddites. Irony at its finest.

    • by brxndxn (461473) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:26AM (#30309430)

      I think a lot of people are just afraid that the 'law' is becoming too proactive. Our society (at least in the US) likes the idea of treating a house as a 'black box' where only the external features are noticed. If there is a problem inside the box, people come out and interact. Now, law enforcement can peer into that private box whenever they want..

      Even though the technology has a lot of non-scary uses (rescue), it is easy to imagine it being used by every cop to peer right into the very center of our private lives while we are in our homes. So ya.. it is scary.

      • by FudRucker (866063)
        maybe it is time for a nice thick coat of metallic radar reflecting paint on both the inside and outside my house, and something to fix my windows with, i dont do anything illegal but i also like to keep prying eyes out of my house.
        • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:07AM (#30309692) Homepage

          Some might read that as "probable cause." Though this is not quite the same thing, there was one "sting" operation that was run by some people (and I believe it was mentioned here on slashdot before) who decided to rent a house and grow some evergreen trees inside it. Within a day or so, "anonymous tips" informed the police that there was marijuana being cultivated at that location. The reality was that the police was using some sort of heat sensing device and was patrolling neighborhoods with it to look for "grow houses." In short, they were on a fishing expedition.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by GrumblyStuff (870046)

            Video of said bust: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=dc9_1228632109 [liveleak.com]

            Small article and clip of local news coverage on it (might want to turn the sound down, some dope cranked it way up for the video). http://reason.com/blog/2008/12/06/gotcha [reason.com]

          • by bberens (965711)
            This raises an interesting question about the "in plain view" laws. For example the police may have a warrant to search your safe. If, in serving that warrant, they see evidence of illegal activity in plain view (like you have some drugs or something on the counter) they can arrest you for it. Does "in plain view" include peering through your walls with radar devices from the street? I suspect it will come to be that way.
        • by jo42 (227475)

          Don't forget the grounded copper mesh in the walls to prevent Big Brother and The Man from snooping on the electronic emissions from inside your abode. And some sort of active or passive insulation in the walls to block infrared snooping.

          Seriously, this sounds like good business to start up. First sell it to the rich fuckers as part of personal "security" and go from there...

      • by flyneye (84093)

        Another step closer to a bloody second American revolution.

        • The proles will never revolt.
          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by paiute (550198)

            The proles will never revolt.

            No only that, the majority of those now possessing firearms will turn out to support and suppress the opposition to the New American Fascist Regime. Which will come to us in the guise of a superpatriotic telegenic populist defending us from the threat of the day.

            • by blueZ3 (744446)

              Aside from the "superpatriotic" you've just described Obama to a T.

              The only question left, as far as I can tell, is will our new overlords claim to be right/fascists, or left/totalitarians. Whatever they claim, in practice I see the "traditional" left and right here in the U.S. as two sides of the same coin: power-mad politicians desperate to tell you what to do, what to say, and what to think.

              We've always been at war with Eastasia

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          Another step closer to a bloody second American revolution.

          Yah. A handful of low IQ militia hicks and paranoid conspiracy theorists vs. a military force which can roll over entire nations in roughly 2 weeks. That'd be one heck of a contest! For some reason I'm getting the mental image of a sloth being tossed into a cage full of tigers ....

          On the other hand, if you taped it and called it "Survivor America", your ratings would be off the charts!

      • I said, "nt".

      • by troll8901 (1397145) * <troll8901@gmail.com> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:23AM (#30309812) Journal

        law enforcement can peer into that private box whenever they want ... it is easy to imagine it being used by every cop to peer right into the very center of our private lives while we are in our homes ...

        When they peer into the basement, chances are, they'll see a hand moving rapidly ...

        What? I'm referring to basement spring-cleaning, in time for the festive season! After all, we geeks really enjoy doing housework, don't we?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cigawoot (1242378)
        Any evidence collected using this device without a warrant would probably get thrown out due to a 4th amendment violation.
        • by TheMeuge (645043)

          Except if it was collected "in good faith"... like searching a car because you think you smelled marijuana. And of course, everything law enforcement does is in "good faith".

        • by kalirion (728907)

          Can I get root access to your servers? I promise I won't turn over the contents to the cops!

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:42AM (#30309514) Homepage Journal

      the article itself is nothing less than enthusiastic about the range of uses for it.

      Sad, isn't it? At least I think so. Like someone's sig said, Orwell was an optimist.

      What I see happening more and more is that people are fearing technology because of what "bad people" will do with it

      Unfortunately the very worst people run the world's governments. Tech that the powerful can have but I can't have IS bad tech [kuro5hin.org]. You don't think your government will let you build one of these to look through your governor's walls, do you? Hell, many governments won't even let the population have firearms. The fault isn't technology, it's technology that you posess and I can't.

      I'd only embrace this technology if legal safeguards are in place, and considering that my government is a whooly-owned subsidiary of the corporations, I doubt that will happen. If you say "tech is tech" you're wrong. No irony, just your own misunderstanding of the bigger picture.

    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:42AM (#30309516)

      Let's not mention FLIR (forward looking infra-red) allows law enforcement to see through walls anyway with remarkable resolution.

      They still need a warrant to use it, but let's just say there's a possibility that what goes on in your bathroom won't just be between you and god.

      • "...what goes on in your bathroom won't just be between you and god."

        Police: And from now on, stop playing with yourself.
        Kent: It *is* God.

      • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster.manNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:44AM (#30310022)

        Let's not mention FLIR (forward looking infra-red) allows law enforcement to see through walls anyway with remarkable resolution.

        They still need a warrant to use it

        Here's the trick, isn't it? As far as I can tell, our justice system for criminal offenses is still relatively transparent. People still get cases dismissed because the cops did something wrong, such as not obtaining a warrant. If they're busting into your house with a warrant already, I see no sense in complaining about what technology they may or may not use to prepare. Especially with the potential benefits against being surprised by the visitor to your house, or the ability to detect weapons before they're encountered (preventing unintended injuries). Or even just the ability to make sure you're home before busting in your door thinking you're avoiding them.

        Basically, complain about the search and seizure, complain about not obtaining warrants, but don't complain about the specific technology used unless there are concerns about safety (taser) or efficacy (too many false-positives).

        Of course, the big reason why fire departments want this is because FLIR doesn't work on a burning building, this will let them identify breathing victims to minimize their risk and let them rescue as many as possible. The benefit for police is more marginal, though still significant. But if you're worried about cops having the capability to lok into your house, they already do (and SCOTUS have said it requires a warrant).

        • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:19AM (#30310444)
          What will stop the cops from cruising down the street looking into peoples' houses, spotting illegal activity, telling a judge that they received an anonymous tip, obtaining a warrant, and then legally raiding your home. Answer: nothing. To further expound, we can absolutely expect this to happen if this sort of technology becomes common-place. The government is not in the business of protecting the citizens anymore -- it is in the business of keeping us scared of as many things as possible to preserve its own power.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Bakkster (1529253)

            What will stop the cops from cruising down the street looking into peoples' houses, spotting illegal activity, telling a judge that they received an anonymous tip, obtaining a warrant, and then legally raiding your home.

            While that may be an issue for some technologies (FLIR), it really isn't one here. It seems this technology can only detect movement, even as minute as breathing. So, unless you can think of an illegal activity that can be detected purely by number of bodies in a house, you're late to the party and going after the wrong technology.

            Again, the issue is with illegal searches, which this technology doesn't even do much to facilitate, especially compared with stuff in use already.

      • by tibman (623933)

        FLIR can't see through walls, only heat differences. I have used several heat based targetting systems, it can only show you temperature differences of what you see. There are some things you can see through.. like fog, camouflage, stuff like that. But step behind a tree and *poof* gone from view. Not sure why anyone would need a warrant to use FLIR? Is it illegal to own a system for personal use?

        • by Zerth (26112)

          The law is generally constrained by the bounds of human observation, to protect the expected privacy of presumably legal citizens.

          If they can't tell you are growing pot by just standing on the sidewalk(plant in the window, odd smell from the garbage can) or from visual observation in a helicopter(giant patch of plants in a corn field), they technically aren't allowed to find out with fancy gadgets either.

          This doesn't stop them from running "FLIR training" over town and amazingly receiving "anonymous" tips a

      • by syncrotic (828809)

        Thermal IR imaging isn't magic.

        First off, "FLIR" is kind of a misnomer. It stands for "Forward Looking InfraRed," but that just means that it, well, looks forward... like a camera. When thermal IR detectors were first invented, they were expensive, bulky, cryogenically cooled devices. As a result, making a high resolution grid of them was impractical. Instead they made a single row of them, mounted them to the bottom of an airplane, pointed them downward, and used the forward motion of plane itself to form

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mbone (558574)

      I have a simple answer to that : I live out in the exurbs where there is basically no real crime. And, yet, the police helicopters (at a cost of so many hundred dollars per hour) buzz by all of the time. I don't think they are looking for donuts. And you think it is luddism to worry about exactly how they are wasting the taxpayer money, and whether it is a threat to the ordinary citizen ? Exactly what century do you think you are living in ?

      • Police helicopters on the ground are a wasted investment. Part of that "hundreds of dollars an hour" is depreciation, which would happen anyway. If there isn't a crime, then they should be used for training.

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      A technology site filled with Luddites. Irony at its finest.

      You've got it totally wrong.

      We're not Luddites, but rather paranoids whose fears have been justified by questionable government actions in the last 8 years.

      No one here is unhappy about the technology itself (in fact we are excited), we just know that the government will attempt to abuse our rights under their perverted interpretations of "freedom" and "national security."

    • A technology site filled with Luddites. Irony at its finest.

      Hardly. A technology site full of people who understand the implications and uses of technology better than your average non-techie. A site full of people who understand "Technology is not a panacea."

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:12AM (#30309364)
    does this thing use lots of power? is it going to give me cancer or fry me like a chicken pot pie in the microwave?
    • by AndrewRUK (543993)

      From the waiver, which was linked to in TFA:

      "The EMMDAR steps through two hundred frequencies, spaced two megahertz apart from 3101 MHz to 3499 MHz, one at a time. It transmits on one frequency for 75 microseconds with a peak instantaneous power of 31.6 milliwatts, followed by a 17.5-microsecond "off time" between frequency steps. The complete cycle repeats every 18.5 milliseconds, resulting in a duty cycle for each frequency of 0.41%."

      Notice, this things emits a maximum of 0.0316 watts, which is somewhat l

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        All right, how about this one:

        This thing emits a maximum of 0.0316 Watts, which is nearly 19 times less than a cell phone that no one thinks twice about using jammed 24x7 against the side of their brain.

        Better?

    • Well there's our solution. Suppose this tech gets adopted and, eventually, used. All we have to do is convince mothers in America that this device gives babies cancer or some other ludicrous thing like that and before you know it a whole flaming movement of pissed of activists will have this banned permanently.

      And before anyone calls me an immoral wanker for suggesting using FUD and BS to propel a movement, take a look at the things that our congress critters and media try to rile us up about on a daily
  • Fuzzbuster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snspdaarf (1314399) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:18AM (#30309388)
    How long before someone markets a radar detector for the home or office?
  • Soon.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:21AM (#30309404) Journal

    The server manager will upload a new hack that prevents wallhacking. In the mean time, keep voting the cheaters off the CS server.

    Oh, wait, this is real life?

  • Gonna be expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vegiVamp (518171) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:24AM (#30309414) Homepage
    All that tinfoil for the walls...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpe (36238)
      All that tinfoil for the walls...

      Assuming it's not already built in :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Tinfoil may work, but radar-disrupting radio waves would work better. Dollars to donuts it'll be illegal.

      • by Corbets (169101)

        Tinfoil may work, but radar-disrupting radio waves would work better. Dollars to donuts it'll be illegal.

        That expression might not be the best idea anymore. Bought a donut lately? I haven't seen a good one under a buck in a long time!

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Yeah, it's gotten a bit quaint. I'll bet donuts were a penny apiece when that phrase was first coined.

          • It still works, in fact, it gets better each time inflation reduces the value of the dollar.
            Just think of it as "I'll bet [your] dollars to [my] donuts"

  • Resolution (Score:3, Informative)

    by worip (1463581) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:29AM (#30309440)
    3.5GHz translates to a ~8cm wavelength (maybe a bit less with the speed of light being slower in air). Resolving features that vary in amplitude of say less than 2cm (breathing and swaying) requires VERY accurate phase detection and time measurement equipment. Which translates to some very fast hardware doing phase correlation etc. From the article:

    Instead, the L-3 CyTerra device sends pulses on 200 different frequencies, one at a time, ranging in sequence from 3101 to 3499 MHz at 2 MHz intervals.

    and

    The system is sensitive enough to detect the chest motions of a person who is unconscious but breathing, or the slight swaying of a person trying to stand perfectly still

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      It's not *that* hard to do - with a perfectly ordinary 10GHz intruder detector radar you can easily hear the Doppler shift in returns from slowly-moving objects. With clever DSP and a lower frequency you could probably resolve rather finer detail than you can by listening for the beat note.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bkr1_2k (237627)

      3.5GHz translates to a ~8cm wavelength (maybe a bit less with the speed of light being slower in air). Resolving features that vary in amplitude of say less than 2cm (breathing and swaying) requires VERY accurate phase detection and time measurement equipment. Which translates to some very fast hardware doing phase correlation etc.

      That doesn't require particularly fast hardware for phase correlation at all. It's all relatively easily done in a small FPGA. Not cheap (if you consider a few thousand dollars

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        Yeah, what he said, plus they're using frequency-hopping, which if sequential might be used like a chirp [wikipedia.org] signal in sonar to gather more information than would normally be available to a unifrequency pulse.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:29AM (#30309444) Journal
    The system described is an active device, not passive. An active device emits radiation and listens to echo. A passive device just listens to naturally occurring radiation emanating from a source. Police and private parties might use a passive device at their own discretion. But an active device, that actually illuminates the target would violate expectations of privacy and should not be deployed without court supervision. It should be treated like wiretapping, no need to inform the targets but the police should not be able to use the technology willy-nilly at their own discretion.

    Also we could create devices that look for patterns of radiation and emit jamming or stealth or confusing radiation in response to thwart being seen through the walls. Something like the radar detectors. These devices should be legal. And since the idea has been posted publicly, (i.e. here in slashdot by yours truly) any patent to such devices should specific to that device, not a broad based patent like one-click. Unless patent application for such a device has already been filed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
      This is exactly what Liberty will say.
      The response will be "You would say that. You probably have explosives / children / real butter in your house.If you have nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear."

      I think I might start buying up old microwave ovens and putting the mesh from the windows under my wallpaper.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      Police and private parties might use a passive device at their own discretion. But an active device, that actually illuminates the target would violate expectations of privacy and should not be deployed without court supervision.

      What the fuck? Even the use of a passive device violates expectations of privacy. We don't live in glass houses, nobody expects to be visible through solid walls.

      These devices should be legal. And since the idea has been posted publicly, (i.e. here in slashdot by yours truly) any patent to such devices should specific to that device, not a broad based patent like one-click. Unless patent application for such a device has already been filed.

      Uh, no. Radar jamming is as old as radar. Ain't no way it should be patentable - and any patent for jamming specific kinds of radar systems is just as bogus because the overall idea isn't patentable, so narrowing it down a specific frequency or a specific pattern of transmission doesn't make the idea any more unique. A subset of the obvious is

    • by mbone (558574)

      The system described is an active device, not passive. An active device emits radiation and listens to echo. A passive device just listens to naturally occurring radiation emanating from a source. Police and private parties might use a passive device at their own discretion. But an active device, that actually illuminates the target would violate expectations of privacy and should not be deployed without court supervision. It should be treated like wiretapping, no need to inform the targets but the police s

    • by srollyson (1184197) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:45AM (#30310036)

      The Supreme Court ruled that thermal devices require a warrant in Kyllo v. United States [wikipedia.org]. I'm sure this radar system will follow precedent.

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        I'm sure this radar system will follow precedent.

        In other words, it'll be abused until someone rich enough (or well connected enough) to afford the lawyers to appeal all the way to the supreme court gets the cops slapped down, and then they'll just abuse it more carefully.

        That is the real precedent our government has set for over a century of telegraph taps, wiretaps, internet traffic capture, infrared cameras and soon, this.

    • by baKanale (830108)

      Police and private parties might use a passive device at their own discretion.

      The case of Kyllo v. United States [wikipedia.org] "held that the use of a thermal imaging device from a public vantage point to monitor the radiation of heat from a person's home was a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and thus required a warrant." Presumably the ruling would hold true for other forms of electromagnetic radiation as well, such as radar.

  • This is a 3 GHz or 9 cm radar (3.101 to 3.499 GHz using frequency stepping), and would be very easy to block. It would not, for example, go through most screen doors.
    That makes it less of a threat than the 100 GHz radars also used to "see through walls."

    When will we be able to get drywall and ceiling tiles with imprinted or embedded dipoles to block this foolishness ?

  • My walls are between 6 to 8 inches of solid soft wood with no hollows. I live in a log cabin made from balsam. How well does a half foot of solid wood block this tech? The cabin also has small (1' x 3') and few windows because it is cold and dark here.

    I also wonder how well my walls would stop an accidental rifle bullet from 100 meters (closer and you can see the house), as I hear hunters in the woods this time of year.
    • by TheLink (130905)

      I believe this and other "see through wall tech" (UWB radar) can filter out most stationary stuff (doppler effect).

      So if you want a wall that blocks it, keep it moving enough.

      Or shake/flap/wave a solid/film enough or have moving liquids in the way e.g. water walls at an angle with big bubbles going up all the time, and/or "waterfall" walls. Not sure which is cheaper to run.

      Or have big fans spinning slowly all the time. Or any cool stuff that shows up as a false blip in the motion detectors in those Alien mo

  • by amstrad (60839) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:11AM (#30310338)

    The article is misleading with regard to the primary use of this device. The device was developed for military use in urban combat situations.

    EMMDAR: ElectroMagnetic Motion-Detection And Ranging [cyterra.com]

    It was developed because infantry were holding up standard handheld mine detectors (AN/PSS-14 [cyterra.com]) that use ground penetrating radar against walls trying to determine threat levels in neighbouring buildings or rooms. Troops would then interpret the audio tones to determine rooms contents.

    This device simply makes that technology smaller and more accessible and includes DSP algorithms to display potential threats (i.e. movement) on a graphical display.

    Other common uses for this device is search and rescue, both military and civilian. Of course the FBI and SWAT is going to want this technology. Any time law enforcement is going to assualt a building, this device is going to prove invaluable in saving lives.

    Nobody is going to pratically use this device for random checking of homes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by professorguy (1108737)

      Nobody is going to pratically use this device for random checking of homes.

      Well, as long as YOU say they won't, I guess we have nothing to worry about. Whew, thanks for providing that iron-clad guarantee that this will not be abused (unlike every other spy device ever constructed by anyone, anywhere).

  • The basic idea of using high frequencies across a wide spectrum as well penetrating radar of a sort has been known for quite awhile, even if the "simple matter of an implementation" may have lagged behind. The FCC was really worried about this becoming possible over approved UWB (Ultra WideBand) frequencies... thus, they put really serious power level limitations on UWB radios approved so far. Not that strictly nefarious use of such technology necessarily follows FCC guidelines anyway. But if nothing else,

  • A new category on www.pornhub.com

  • Come on geeks... there must be some way of shielding buildings from this device, as well as criminals who are willing to pay top dollar to have that shielding installed! I'm gonna start advertising Faraday cages at all the hydroponic gardening equipment suppliers...
  • ...When I insisted on lining the walls of my house with grounded copper flashing.

    'Course, I only wanted a basic Faraday cage to block RF snooping, but it will work just fine for this as well.

    Who gets the last laugh now, Inspector?


    / Not serious.
    // Wishes I really did have a Tempested [wikipedia.org] home, though.
  • Did this news story make anyone else immediately think of the movie Impostor [wikipedia.org]?
  • The Supreme Court is not going to let this just slide on by. This type of technology has been dealt with. See KYLLO V. UNITED STATES (99-8508) 533 U.S. 27 (2001) [cornell.edu]. The decision was summarized as:

    Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a “search” and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.

    Since we hold the Thermovision imaging to have been an unlawful search, it will remain for the District Court to determine whether, without the evidence it provided, the search warrant issued in this case was supported by probable cause–and if not, whether there is any other basis for supporting admission of the evidence that the search pursuant to the warrant produced.

    The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed; the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

    It is so ordered.

    • by ZosX (517789)

      Yeah, because we've always followed the rulings by the supreme court to the letter of the law! *cough*DomesticSearchAndSeizureByBorderAgents*cough*

      The feds seem content to break every law they can until someone exposes them. Conveniently, Iraq and Afghanistan were ruled by the Dept. of Justice to not be internationally recognized foreign nations so the Geneva Convention wouldn't apply. Notice the change in terminology from Prisoner of War to Enemy Combatant. We can not trust any organization that has power

  • I just put the finishing touches on my tinfoil lined apartment.

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