Morning Read: Who’s watching us in the North Country?

Okay, so we’ve all gotten used (grudgingly) to the occasional Border Patrol traffic stops.  And the increased muddle at the Canadian border.  And the drone flights, where unmanned surveillance planes may be tracking our morning commute.

But now North Country Now has reported that a rash of mysterious camera boxes have popped up in St. Lawrence County, apparently positioned to watch highways.  This from their article.

At least half a dozen boxes that apparently contain cameras have been hung on utility poles in St. Lawrence County, and in at least in one case, without authorization.

The Massena Electric Department recently removed one of the boxes from a pole it owns.

The cameras, in substantial light gray boxes mounted on the sides of poles, reportedly have been spotted in Massena, Norfolk, Norwood, Raymondville, Waddington, Canton, DeKalb Junction, and in Malone, too, according to Michael Jay of Norwood.

Read the full report here.

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67 Comments on “Morning Read: Who’s watching us in the North Country?”

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  1. Kirby Selkirk says:

    There is one across the street from my house on Route 11 in Chateaugay. There were no markings on the vehicles involved during the installation. It appeared that the camera was being positioned to capture licence plate numbers.

  2. Ken Hall says:

    Welcome to the “Big Brother” future. Any chance these cameras DO NOT belong to DHS? Looks as if we are joining the big cities of Europe and the US keeping us “safe” via overt high tech observation as we blithely go about our daily chores.

  3. I found it interesting that the immediate speculation by Massena Electric was that it was “the feds”. They removed one that was installed on their pole because it was not authorized by them and in an unsafe location relative to the wires. If they are popping up all over has it occurred to anyone (a “reporter” perhaps) to inquire of the owners of other poles the boxes are on to determine if any of them are authorized? The boxes/cameras certainly are intriguing but so far this “story” is merely a speculation about an oddity. Were I a reporter I’d be finding out who owned the poles the others are on and contacting them to learn what it is that I’m reporting about. Otherwise it is just fueling “Big Brother” rumors.

  4. BB ny says:

    Who’s gotten use to border stops? I haven’t! Now unmarked expensive equipment mounted in at least one instance without permission. Since I moved to the north country 6 years ago I’ve been complaining to friends elsewhere what a police state it is and everyone here seems to accept it. Probably because a disproportionate portion percentage of the population is PART of the law enforcement in one way or another. Like James above, I just hope this story doesn’t fade away and thanks to Kirby for more details.

  5. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Some discussion on TV 7 this morning about this issue. It included a brief phone interview with a National Grid spokesperson mentioning that a Federal agency has the legal rite to utilize their poles for this type of “installation” and that National Grid has to provide the power to run them. Drones, patrol cars everywhere, and now unexplained video surveillance on roadways. Quite the complex we’ve allowed to be built, all right under our noses.

  6. Larry says:

    Not the Feds, James? It sure isn’t the Boy Scouts! Whatever agency of big government is watching us, it is another intrusion on our privacy and civil liberties. Oh wait, I forgot: the government is trying to protect us from everything, including ourselves. I’ll take my chances, and trust that less is more, at least when speaking of government intrusion into my life.

  7. Kathy says:

    Walker? PNElba? KHL? Comments?

    And you wonder why some think the way we do?

    If “someone” doesn’t come forward to solve this mystery, hmm.

  8. PNElba says:

    Oh yes! Being a liberal, commie, socialist, I am all in favor of government prying into our lives! Actually, I’m as upset about this intrusion as anyone else. But let’s keep in mind we are doing this to preserve our “freedom” as we were told during the Bush years. Obama is just carrying on this patriotic movement.

    Geez, you conservatives complain about Obama not being a christian, not being a citizen, being a socialist etc. When are you going to start complaining about stuff he really is doing, such as killing a US citizen, authorizing drone strikes, installing monitoring camera’s etc? These are the things to be upset about.

    Government should be restricted only to prying into our bedrooms and sex lives – no where else!

  9. Newt says:

    About time somebody started paying attention to the the potentially nefarious activities of you people up there.

  10. Pete Klein says:

    The good news is we might find the North Country featured on “A Person of Interest,” my favorite program next to NCIS.

  11. wakeup says:

    Not to soud like a broken record but if you are doing nothing wrong then what is the big deal. Seriously, what is the big deal? Are you afraid a camera might catch you picking your nose?

  12. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    Perhaps “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is behind this? Or, was this buried deep in the anti cell phone – texting legislation? An effort to catch DOT crews working? The possibilities are endless.

  13. oa says:

    Really, Kathy?
    Your GOP team started this police state, and told people to “watch what they say, watch what they do” (Ari Fleisher). And you’re calling liberals out? Read some liberal blogs and see how much they enjoy things like airport searches, tasers and NSA no-warrant snooping on phone calls and emails.
    And by the way, the post has just been up three hours. Libs were busy going to their JOBS in the 8 o’clock hour.
    Now? Coffee (and Kafka) break!

  14. Paul says:

    Maybe these are “game cameras” installed by local sportsmen scouting out next falls hot spots!

    Don’t we have military satellite technology now that alleviates the need for old fashioned box cameras for spying on us? This is so last decade!

    So which is it? Do you want the law enforcement version of the war on terror, or the bomb them into submission war on terror? Or are you in the small minority that doesn’t want to do anything because it might cramp your style when you are walking down main street?

  15. Kathy says:

    Your GOP team started this police state, and told people to “watch what they say, watch what they do” (Ari Fleisher).

    Terrorism and 9/11 brought about a whole new way of looking at life.

    But then again, there are Liberals (noticed I didn’t say “you Liberals) who think you can discuss peace with people who hate us.

    I’m willing to be those cameras are Homeland Security.

  16. mervel says:

    I am not advocating this at all. But I wonder who shows up if you take one down?

  17. Paul says:

    “Your GOP team started this police state”

    Perhaps, but I think that it was VP Biden that said he strongly supports a more “covert” approach to dealing with terrorism. My guess is that the president may agree an that could be part of the reason we are seeing more drone use and the like. Like it or not it appears to be working.

    This comment sounds a little like being back on the school yard. I may be beating the daylights out of you up but you started it!

  18. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:


    We may never know who shows up. I would expect that the folks who were responsible for these boxes have ‘technicians’ who deal with such problems.

  19. Paul says:

    “But then again, there are Liberals (noticed I didn’t say “you Liberals) who think you can discuss peace with people who hate us.”

    You can actually.

    It worked with the Germans (they hated us). It worked with the Japanese (they really hated us). We also hated them.

    What do you know I am a liberal!

  20. PNElba says:

    Of course you can discuss peace with people who hate us. It’s a discussion for gods sake, it doesn’t mean you are turning your country over to them.

  21. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    So any volunteers on attempting to remove one of these just to see what happens? (Immediately a picture of Kramer and Newman from the show “Seinfeld” trying to decide who will pull the other in the Rickshaw springs to mind)

  22. SESZOO says:

    Going past these cameras are we now part of some computer data base some where that records every time we pass one of those things ,pretty soon be able to give them a printout on every place we go ? The argument over well if your not doing anything wrong then why worry ,every day it seems they come out with more and more rules about what they consider we are doing wrong and when it gets to the point that an elite group makes all the rules ,then what ? Obey or else . Who’re the real terrorists then , me ,you , your neighbor ?

  23. oa says:

    So Kathy, I don’t get where you stand: For an all-seeing government surveillance state (your last comment) or against it (your first comment)?
    Or does it just depend on what the last liberal commenter said he or she was for or against?

  24. wakeup says:

    I am being totally serious. Why are you “liberals” so upset with having cameras? What is the big deal? Answer the damn question and don’t go on some tangent. I find it so interesting when people can’t answer a simple question. Please impress

  25. PNElba says:

    Why are you “liberals” so upset with having cameras?

    Simple. Because like conservatives, we too do not like unnecessary government intrusion into our private lives.

  26. myown says:

    Obviously these new cameras are part of the expanded Homeland military/surveillance operation with the data being sent directly to the new 1 million square foot, 2 billion dollar NSA data facility in Utah.

    With the on-going uprising in Montreal, we certainly require 24-7 surveillance of the North Country to prevent infiltration of those dangerous French speaking student terrorists. Since the President can secretly label anyone a “terrorist” they might even wind up on the White House hit list. But of course we will never know, since the rule of law has not applied to the Executive Branch for the past 12 years.

  27. Paul says:


    I think you may be taking it a bit far.

    “Simple. Because like conservatives, we too do not like unnecessary government intrusion into our private lives.”

    PNElba, I agree but I think you mean private and public lives. Never thought of having much “privacy” when I was walking or driving down a public street.

  28. SirLeland says:

    Actually I think what these units are specifically are what they call “license plate recognition tools” used by authorities for various purposes (they say “the possibilities are endless…”).

    I did a side-by-side image comparison, and the camera in the box is the exact same camera as in this recent article from California Highway Patrol:

  29. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Interesting mention of the NSA given we now have a former “spook” from that agency pegged to run the City of Watertown. Come to think of it, maybe there’s a conspiracy afoot. Strange cameras appearing one county over almost at the same time she’s hired……I’m joking of course.

    All kidding aside, between the feds. expanding their “drug task force” presence and whatever else they’re probably investigating, the newly stationed drones, proposed F-35 flights, and now strange cameras posted here and there, it’s all a bit 1984ish…

  30. Paul says:

    It is interesting people don’t seem to have a problem with being tracked online like we are being right now but they have a problem on the other “highways”.

  31. SirLeland says:

    Oops…the link didn’t copy over all the way last time.

    Take a look at this and see if you think this is not an identical camera.

  32. Big discussion about who’s to blame for the North Country police state but we still don’t know who put the cameras there or why. My previous point was that everyone is leaping to conclusions. Yes, they might be homeland security. They might also be a NYS DOT high tech version of traffic counters, those hose things they use to put across the road to see how much traffic a road got. WE DON’T KNOW!

    It would be more useful for someone to find out what it is we’re getting upset about before we get upset. Maybe there’s a reason to be upset but maybe not. Sorry for the common sense interruption. Y’all may now return to the regular state of hysteria.

  33. Paul says:

    James is right. We have no idea what these things are for!! They could be for some kind of spying, but like he says we have no idea! Now I am really hysterical!

  34. Brian Mann says:

    James Bullard –

    I think you have this half right. More reporting does need to be done on this, to be sure.

    But it’s also a good idea for ANY organization that wants to put up surveillance cameras in public areas to do public disclosure.

    In this case, the people who own the poles don’t know who put the cameras there. That’s not typical…

    –Brian, NCPR

  35. Pete Klein says:

    Jim is right but it is more fun to speculate.
    Maybe it is the Taliban scouting before invading.

  36. myown says:

    I have no idea what the cameras are for. They could be monitoring toad crossings at night when they migrate to water areas to reproduce for all we know at this point. Obviously, news people could do further research.

    But, at the same time we need to be wary of the huge surveillance apparatus that is constantly being enlarged – much of it in secrecy. And the concentration of power in the Office of the President that has no judicial review and little oversight by Congress.

    We should all be upset at the constant erosion of privacy when we use the internet, cell phones, etc. by both the telecom corporations and the government. And also of direct surveillance by cameras, drones, etc. Then there is the storage and analyzing of the data by the government.

    It is one thing for the government to go to a court to show why it is necessary and in the public interest to violate a specific citizen’s right to privacy. It is quite another to collect all sorts of data on all US citizen communications and analyze the aggregate looking for codes or patterns. If you don’t find the Wired article absolutely chilling, you must be you wired as a true authoritarian – with blind faith and trust in the government.

    As the former senior NSA staffer William Binney says, as he held his thumb and forefinger close together, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

  37. jamie sharpe says:

    well take them down if they dont want to say where they came from !!!!!!!!!

  38. PNElba says:

    PNElba, I agree but I think you mean private and public lives. Never thought of having much “privacy” when I was walking or driving down a public street.

    No Paul, although I think I’m a bit conflicted here. I don’t want government snooping on me without a reason. If they think they need to snoop on me, the law used to say they needed a reason and a warrant.

    On the other hand, there are probably places where cameras are needed. But certainly not in a rural area like St. Lawrence County (except possibly near border crossings). I also HATE the fact that I can be stopped in my own country within one hundred miles of a border and asked personal questions – like where do I live, where am I going, what is my profession etc.

    I do have to laugh at the ineptness on the part of the police sometimes. I was stopped at a checkpoint outside of Schroon. The backseat of my car was filled with petri plates full of growing bacteria – in plain sight. No questions.

  39. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Does anyone remember what alert color we are on?

  40. PNElba says:

    Knuck –

    All I can say is they haven’t asked to look in the back of my car lately before crossing Lake Champlain on the ferry.

  41. Walker says:

    Meanwhile, no one has mentioned that we can be tracked via out cellphones. (I should be relatively safe– I don’t carry it, or even have it on much. Plus it’s decidedly not a smart phone.)

    It’s probably just because I’m getting old, but I’m not feeling a lot of outrage over these cameras, even if they are from “Homeland Security” (what an Orwellian sounding coinage that is!)

    Besides, I figure if there is ever a hard line, right-wing coup in this country, I’m toast anyway, if only from my comments on NCPR.

  42. Walker says:

    “We should all be upset at the constant erosion of privacy when we use the internet, cell phones, etc. by both the telecom corporations and the government.”

    I haven’t seen much evidence of the government spying on me (though god knows it could be happening) but the corporate spying is plenty obvious. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still find it weird when, after doing a google search for, say, hiking boots, I get a ton of sidebar ads for hiking boots at every site I visit.

  43. zeke says:

    Wakeup, It is about rights. I believe you have the right to take a picture of me in public without asking. If I see you take a picture of me I believe I have the right to know who you are. You may disagree with that, but to me; IT IS A BIG DEAL.

  44. Walker says:

    Actually Zeke, while you’re right that anyone can take a picture of you when you’re in public, I don’t believe you have a right to demand identification if they do (and what a nightmare that would be!).

    Realistically, how many security cameras are you recorded by in a day? Ever go to a bank? Stewarts? Guess what?

    It’s a brave new world we live in…

    There’s nothing new about the right to take pictures in public places. What’s new is the ubiquity of 24/7 cameras and facial/license plate recognition and the ability of public and private entities to operate massive databases. When this stuff gets used to catch a bank robber or a rapist, it’s a good thing. But when the government does it, it is certainly worrisome.

  45. PNElba says:

    It’s a brave new world we live in…

    At least we’re protecting our freedom that those others hate.

  46. zeke says:

    Walker, I disagree with your opinion. When I walk into places(banks supermarkets blah blah blah) the entity taking the picture is clearly known. Try going to a public beach and taking a picture of someones 5 year old and see what people think if you refuse to give your name. Or try taking a photograph in a casino. No no no we are going top have to agree to disagree. take all the pictures of me or mine in public but if I want your name be prepared to stick around until the police get there to figure out who you are.

  47. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Kathy, if you want my serious comment it is that I didnt put those boxes up, I don’t know who did, where they are or what they are for. So I will wait to hear more before I decide what my opinion is.

    In the meantime, however, it provides a fun opportunity for wild speculation that we lost with the advent of Google. It used to provide hours of enjoyment to guess at things that were nearly impossible to know the answer to, like what was the name of the robot on Lost In Space? Now you can find that out in an instant. I will present a thesis that the human species needs that sense of wonder, of not knowing, and without it we (at least, some of us) start to believe wildly implausible things — like that Obama is a socialist, or that the destruction of the World Trade Center was a government conspiracy.

  48. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    My sister and brother in law worked at a college out west. One weekend they went for a hike and found a metal tube strapped to a tree in a very remote area. The thing had a flap that covered the inside of the tube. Being curious they played with the flap to see what was inside but they didn’t figure out what the darned thing was. A couple weeks later a co-worker who was doing research on mountain lions brought in some nice framed portraits of both of them to adorn their desks.

  49. I agree with Brian that whomever is putting them up in public places owes the public an explanation but the only ones I’ve seen who’ve made much effort to find out was the WWNY Evening News who said they asked National Grid who replied that they couldn’t say. is reporting reports that some North Country law enforcement know who it is but won’t say.

    A lot of cities have installed cameras fro traffic and crime control but they have been forthright in informing the public. Doing this in secrecy is (IMO) unacceptable and further efforts should be made to discern who is behind it and why. Arguing here won’t do that. If elements of government (law enforcement) know and/or are involved we should be contacting legislators demanding an explanation. Democracy means we are the government. They represent us. They are accountable to us. Stop speculating, stop debating speculation, write, call, get answers.

  50. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’ll live with the taking pictures of me in public places. It was the wire-tapping of my phone that really irked me. And the Border Patrol stop on the Northway. After a while I just refused to talk to them except to say “US citizen”, and “what is the probable cause for you to want to search my vehicle? I’ll be on my way.”

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