Infrared Spy Plane Leads To Police Officer's House Getting Raided Over Poor Insulation

from the oops dept

Last year, we wrote about an odd use of infrared camera technology. Apparently, a city in the UK, Haringey, was sending out spy planes with infrared cameras to map out heat loss from every home. It then put the whole map online, so that everyone could see how much heat their homes were leaking. While perhaps a little creepy, it was kind of a neat use of the technology. What we didn't realize was that there's a secondary use of such technology as well. Apparently infrared technology from spy planes or helicopters is also used to detect potential marijuana growers. It seems the intersection of these two uses has caused a bit of a problem in one case.

Boing Boing alerts us to the news that a woman who actually worked for the police department had her own home targeted in a drug raid (by officers who knew her) thanks to infrared imaging from a flyover that suggested she might be growing pot. Instead, it turned out she just had bad insulation. Still, the police admitted that they were going to raid the house no matter what, and if the woman hadn't been home, they would have broken in. You would think that, perhaps, a little more evidence would be needed. In the meantime, are police now going to scan the Haringey map above for more houses to raid?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jeff Cantwell, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    Police Raids in the UK?

    Makes one love the bill of rights all the more doesn't it?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    William, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    Har

    I'm gonna get me a small heat lamp, a piece of aluminum with a cut-out of a hand flipping the bird, and a stand and mount the lot in my attic shining at the roof.

     

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  3.  
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    Tony, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 7:41am

    This is a great example.

    I believe there was another post in which all the Commenters were debating the merits of the phrase 'if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear,' regarding lack of privacy, government snooping, etc.

    This is a perfect example. It seems as though she's got nothing to fear, but the police seemed to (incorrectly) think so. It appears that she didn't get in trouble but I really hope she was more pissed off about this than "honest mistake, mate." Not only was she harassed by the police, but she worked with and knew them.

    Also, this is a great example of some lying authorities. "We are going to, get this, scan your house FOR FREE to see where heat may be leaking. Also, we are going to check for other things (for free, too!) but you don't need to worry about that unless we raid you. For free!"

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous of Course, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:10am

    It's Nothing New

    The police were using this method of
    catching pot growers in Massachusetts
    in the early to mid-1980's. The utility
    bills are also searched for anomalies.

    Every now and then they ran into people
    growing perfectly legal plants or other
    hobbies with similar signatures.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Will, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:15am

    Not Allowed in the US

    There was a supreme court case a few years back where it was decided that Thermal IR imaging was an unusual means that violated the expectation of privacy. Such evidence could not be used for probable cause in the US.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:20am

    #5 i think you may want to recheck your facts, the police in Washington state have been doing this since the 80's. I personally know several people that have been and some who continue to live in prison because of this method of detection.

     

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  7.  
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    kilroy, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:23am

    Legit use of the data from my perspective ...

    If you choose to run a grow-op you are putting your neighbours at risk. The crop you are producing is intended to be sold, which is against the law. I doubt very much that people involved in such enterprises intend to declare the income & pay taxes ... Hmmmm.

    It isn't a tough call; the odd case where someone is pissing away energy, whether they know it or not is irrelevant. We need to put a stop to the problem & this is one tool in the war against it. It does not matter that she knew the officers ... Toronto, Canada recently had a large Grow-op bust and some of the people arrested were police.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:25am

    Police State!

     

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  9.  
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    zealeus, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:30am

    This was on an episode of Weeds a while back where the DEA was using the heat signatures from infrared to track growers.

     

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  10.  
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    smaug7, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:32am

    Response to post 5 and 6

    Will is right, I heard about the case before in the US and the supreme court ruled it was an illegal search. Article of the case can be found on the American Bar Association website:
    http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/features/kyllo_us.html

     

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  11.  
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    Michael Janke, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:33am

    R-38?

    Does more attic insulation help?

    Just curious, not that I have anything to worry about..........

     

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  12.  
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    Tim Leary, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:34am

    Re: Legit use of the data from my perspective ...

    What are you putting your neighbors at risk from, and how do you know the crop was intended to be sold? Some folks actually consume the product themselves, you know. Use it yourself, you own no taxes.

    What's better, people buy crops grown in their own country, improving the economy, or they buy them from another country, creating a trade imbalance.

    The problem is the police violating privacy laws, not people growing things in their attic. The problem is tools like you. Maybe the police should come and ransack your home, because with an attitude like yours, you've GOT to be smoking something.

     

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  13.  
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    MIke, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:35am

    OLD!

    This is well over 3 weeks old.

     

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  14.  
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    Thatoneguy, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:40am

    Re: Response to post 5 and 6

    Abosutely correct. The Supreme Court rules in Kyllo v. United States that Police cannot use thermal imaging on random houses to gather probable cause for a warrant.

    However, if they had probable cause prior to that, they could get a warrant to use thermal imagining and use that as evidence, I suppose. But then again, they could just raid the place, so I don't know why they would bother with the imaging (other than to know where to look maybe).

     

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  15.  
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    Carpe Aer, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:42am

    Re: California illegal Search and Seizure

    I don't know about Washington State but in California searching with the use of a thermal IR imaging has been decided by the courts to be an illegal search inadmissible in court, unless there is existing probably cause.

     

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  16.  
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    Overcast, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    Yeah, it's old news that they do that. So what if they bust in and don't find a thing? Can they be sued?

    I mean, who's to say I'm not using heat lamps for an iguana or other tropical plants?

    When you hear a low flying copter over your house at 10:30/11:00 or later at night - it's usually some local P.D. snooping around for pot growers. It's not like there are rapists, murderers, child molesters, and the like to catch. They gotta bust down those pot smokers to protect society!!!

    lol

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Silver, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 8:44am

    I've seen plenty of people drink and then want to fight or drive and crash. I know 0 fights and 1 accident from weed, the guy fell asleep after smoking after a 14+ hour shift. He went off the road and tore up a little of the bottom front end of his car. This whole fight against weed thing is dumb it costs billions of dollars. I've done it, although now I maybe do it once a year, if that. It does ruin a persons motivation and makes a person want to eat, neither is good for me. That being said though, I watched a cop show the other day, the guy was a "Suspected Marijuana Dealer" They tried to drive over his fence (they failed that was funny) they kicked in the door, threw in flashbang grenades (even though they knew kids would probably be in there) and ran it with full swat gear. They found about a 1/4 ounce. If thats the most important thing the cops have to go after we have too many cops.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re: Response to post 5 and 6

    Too bad we're talking about the UK.

     

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  19.  
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    SteveD, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    Get your facts straight

    "Also, this is a great example of some lying authorities. "We are going to, get this, scan your house FOR FREE to see where heat may be leaking. Also, we are going to check for other things (for free, too!) but you don't need to worry about that unless we raid you. For free!""

    Get your facts straight before you rant. How is this different to google uploading a picture of your roof onto google maps?

    How is it different to a policeman walking a beat keeping an eye out for anything suspicous?

    It remains a VERY dubious use of the technology due to the physics involved, but theres nothing in it that violates privacy laws. Police have been using thermal cameras on helicopters for ages.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:05am

    @ silver:

    Lots of folks speculate that the reason the growing/selling/smoking of pot is illegal, while the consumption of alcohol isn't, is for the simple fact that it's too easy to grow. It's much easier to grow marijuana than it is to brew beer and I have no idea how liquor is created but I'd assume, still tougher than growing a marijuana plant. So, some people take this idea and run with it, pulling out the 'taxes' argument. If marijuana were legalized, it would be tough for the government to tax. You would have all sorts of people growing their own, and giving no money to the government via taxes.

    I think about it and realize it's not hard to hide the fact that you're smoking marijuana. But it's also not hard to hide the fact that you're an alcoholic. Neither are healthy. Anyone have ideas as to why alcohol (I would say cigarettes but they don't impair judgment quite as much) is legal while marijuana isn't?

    Just a thought.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    smaug7, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Response to post 5 and 6

    True about your UK point; I don't know their laws. What scenario that scares me is if they use the thermal imaging first to figure out that you may or may not be growing plants and then wait for a probable cause. An example of that being a lot of people coming in and out of your house, common MJ growing equipment - lamps, dirt, etc...I dont know what else you need.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Nat, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:23am

    Infra red spy plane

    Oh Great! I have vivariums all over the house which house three lizards, so if my house is scanned and they see the heat from the vivs we will be targeted, they could break into my house when I'm at work and scare the living daylights out of my pets and all in the name so called proactive policing.

    Surely there are better things to waste tax payers money on?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Silver, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:33am

    This is how I feel about any substance or activity. If you are A. capable of making a decision for yourself which means you have to be metally competent and an adult and B. You are not hurting anyone else or putting someone else at risk, then do whatever it is you want. We could make alcohol illegal too and it may solve a lot of problems at first glance. The truth is people are going to do what they want and if they have to get around a law there going to. Laws are there to protect people from others who may take adavantage of them, no one can protect someone from themselves. I personally hardly ever drink alcohol or smoke weed anymore. I have 2 beers left from a 6 pack I bought almost 2 weeks ago and that I gave 2 away. Thats my alcohol consumption. Weed I did a little on the 4th of july before that I don't even remember, I think it was the 4th before that. This is a personal decision based on Me doing a job where I need to think all day and schooling on the side. I need all the ambition and mental capacity I can get. But who am I to decide this for someone else? They aren't hurting me doing what they want in there homes. Now if they want to drive around all drunk and high, now they are putting me at risk and thats an issue. Alcohol is legal because it's a much larger corporate business then selling weed and money talks. I am personally tired of someone believing something and then pushing it on others. This is why religious wars, substance bans, heck even military sex laws come to be. I knew a guy in the military who got a BJ from his wife that they taped, they had a messy divorce and she showed the tape to his CO, he is currently in prison for that. People need to learn "If it's not your life, and it's not hurting your life, then it's not your business and you need to STFU."

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    GHynson, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    Sheriff Raided My House.

    Round Rock, TX. Sheriff raided my house a few years ago because my power bill was in the avg of $450-500 a month. Compared to everyone else's around $150.
    Turn out I was running a cluster of 20 computers for development work.
    But then they tried to intimidate me saying I was probably a mass spammer or into hacking.
    What a bunch of goons.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    mark, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    I wonder what the courts will think of that as probable cause. I suspect that police employee is going to get plenty of practice at giving certain people the stinkeye.

     

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  26.  
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    kevjohn, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 9:58am

    natural progression

    Oh please. What you you think they were going to use the technology for?

    Thank God for those douches at the ACLU protecting us from the bigger douches who would do this, and more, here in the States.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Grandma Mildred Supports the economy until 92, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Bake Sales, Hobbies, Arts and Crafts

    Maybe the answer is encouraging those about to retire take up a hobby. Imagine if 10 million retirees started having bake-sales or making ceramics in 2,000-degree electric kilns that run 8 hours, 4 times a week. The infrared spy plane would be obsolete.

    Retirees could sell their arts, crafts and baked goods at the fair or on eBay, The extra taxes collected could go to pay down the national debt.

    Winner: Nation's Grandchildren (who have to burden less debt), and the 4th Amendment by proxy (via a few ACLU lawsuits).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 10:21am

    Re: Police Raids in the UK?

    Makes one love the bill of rights all the more doesn't it?

    What's that?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 10:25am

    Re: OLD!

    This is well over 3 weeks old.

    So? If you're looking for news perhaps you should try a news site. Techdirt is an analysis site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Damien, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 10:28am

    It remains a VERY dubious use of the technology due to the physics involved, but theres nothing in it that violates privacy laws. Police have been using thermal cameras on helicopters for ages.


    They've also been beating people with night-sticks "for ages", but that doesn't it any better either.

    Apparently you've either A) never been, or know any who has been, wrongly put in the cops investigative crosshairs or B) a tool. Thermal cameras see into your house. You think that doesn't violate privacy? That it's comparable to an overhead view of your roof? Right...

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 10:34am

    I hear these spy planes get a +10% added marijuana perception bonus when observing branded communities.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    TSM, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 11:11am

    Wastes of Time

    Marijuana laws enforcement is a grand waste of time the world over. People complain about the wars taking up cash and resources and slashing rights?? We set the stage with allowing the "drug war" to go forward like this. I wish people could just get over the fact that some people like to smoke a plant.

     

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  33.  
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    pferland, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    Re: It's Nothing New

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    pferland, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: It's Nothing New

    damn it didn't want it to do that...
    Anyway,
    What am I going to do if I just have a Data Center running in my basement? That would cause a huge jump in power usage.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 11:15am

    easy than making beer?

    "It's much easier to grow marijuana than it is to brew beer and I have no idea how liquor is created but I'd assume, still tougher than growing a marijuana plant."

    LOL. Apparently you have never 1. used a Mr. Beer and 2. never tried to grow a pot plant to bear fruit.

    It's harder than you'd think!

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 11:32am

    If you aren't hiding anything, you have nothing to fear. Except some incompetent police officers breaking the door frame to your home and costing you a couple thousands dollars in repairs (because they will NOT pay for THEIR damages, innocent or not) while gaining entry to check your attic's insulation.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Griper, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Get your facts straight

    The big difference is due process. The cop walking a beat shouldn't be able to kick your door in as he passes just because.

    Using these cameras as a tool for law enforcement is okay but as the only evidence is just lazy.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Random User, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

    Re: This is a great example.

    Your last paragraph should read......

    ..."We are going to, get this (With your tax money), spend your tax money to scan your house WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION to see where heat may be leaking. Also, we are going to check for other things (While spending your tax money) but you don't need to worry about that unless we raid you. Again, paying for it with your tax dollars."

    It's not free. It's paid for with every citizens' tax dollars.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Not a cop, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

    Great use of TAX money - mapping heat loss, jumping to (incorrect) conclusions and the complete waste of the raid itself.

    Unfortunately there will probably not be any lessons learned from this.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    jt, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 12:24pm

    I know I feel safer knowing that the government can break into my house any time to protect me from people who grow plants that other people smoke.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 12:33pm

    #31 made me laugh!

    Any one running a smart grow operation will figure out a way to pay taxes, just like super-hookers (sorry, sex workers) do.

    As far as someone growing their own and not paying taxes on it. Why would they? Do you pay the government taxes for your vegetable or flower garden? However it isn't too easy to grow top quality mary-jane and it also takes a decent amount of time, money and space. People are allowed to brew their own beer and yet....most people still go out and buy it.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Emerson, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Police Raids in the UK?

    Uh, this was in the UK. They don't have a US Constitution, thus no Bill of Rights.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Tony, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Police Raids in the UK?

    I think that was his point.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Tony, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 1:09pm

    Another use

    We could use these flyovers to find out who has bad insulation on their homes, or who uses their AC too much, and force them to fix the problem.

    Somehow, I expect to be hearing someone suggesting this before too long.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Dan, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 6:01pm

    ASSUME

    Herein lies the problem with drawing a conclusion from an assumption, the assumption is wrong and the resulting conclusion provokes a criminal act.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    SteveD, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 11:24pm

    Re: Another use

    Uh, give the story another read? :P

    It doesn't work too well however. There are a huge number of variables involved which make that sort of comparison impossible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Another use

    We could use these flyovers to find out who has bad insulation on their homes, or who uses their AC too much, and force them to fix the problem.
    For their own good, of course. And maybe we can get grocery stores to start issuing cards so that people's food purchases can be tracked and those with unhealthy diets can be forced to change (for their own good). And then maybe we can make doctors start using electronic health records so that we can identify people with unhealthy lifestyles and force them to change (for their own good). Of course, we would have to start small, like maybe by forcing people to wear seat belts in cars (for their own good).

    Hey, just kidding. None of that would ever actually happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2009 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Response to post 5 and 6

    nice link

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Gunpro, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 12:53am

    Next we will have a chip implant and tats it will be the holocaust all over agin!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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