This article was first published on TomDispatch.
William “Drew” Dodds, the salesperson for StrongWatch, a Tucson-based company, is at the top of his game when he describes developments on the southern border of the United States in football terms. In his telling, that boundary is the line of scrimmage, and the technology his company is trying to sell – a mobile surveillance system named Freedom-On-The-Move, a camera set atop a retractable mast outfitted in the bed of a truck and manoeuvred with an Xbox controller – acts like a “roving linebacker”.
As Dodds describes it, unauthorised migrants and drug traffickers often cross the line of scrimmage undetected. At best, they are seldom caught until the “last mile”, far from the boundary line. His surveillance system, he claims, will cover a lot more of that ground in very little time and from multiple angles. It will become the border-enforcement equivalent of New York Giants’ linebacking great, Lawrence Taylor.
To listen to Dodds, a former Marine – Afghanistan and Iraq, 2001-2004 – with the hulking physique of a linebacker himself, is to experience a new worldview being constructed on the run. Even a decade or so ago, it might have seemed like a mad dream from the fringe of the US periphery. These days, his all-the-world’s-a-football-field vision seemed perfectly mainstream inside the brightly-lit convention hall in Phoenix, Arizona, where the sixth annual Border Security Expo took place this March. Dodds was just one of hundreds of salespeople peddling their border-enforcement products and national security wares, and StrongWatch but one of more than 100 companies scrambling for a profitable edge in an exploding market.