A device which looks like an old-time train whistle connected to a locked box – and mysteriously set up on a downtown San Francisco street corner – has been determined to be part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Super Bowl security preparations. According to the department, it’s an air sampling device used in the BioWatch program; a national system for detecting a biological attack. The monitor is connected to a pole which connects to a large, metal box with wheels. The box is padlocked and has a yellow tag on it with a stern warning from Homeland Security: “DO NOT UNPLUG!!!”

The BioWatch program has had its critics. According to a 2014 LA Times article, the program has cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars so far, and has been deemed so ineffective that a plan to launch a new, improved system was scuttled. The cancellation of the “Generation 3” acquisition was made at the direction of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, according to a memorandum circulated by Michael V. Walter, the BioWatch program manager. FULL REPORT