Category Archives: Police State/Big Brother USA

Reject the surveillance state: Overreaction to terrorism is the true threat

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

Monitors show imagery from security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative in New York in 2013.Terrorists are likely to strike again in the United States. Innocent people will be maimed and killed. Afterward there may be another attack, and another one after that. The shooters or bombers will run the gamut, from disoriented misfits to coldly efficient fanatics. All would join the toast that an anarchist offers in “The Secret Agent,” Joseph Conrad’s trenchant dissection of the terrorist mind: “To the destruction of what is!”

Terrorism is a passing phenomenon. It is not likely to become a permanent fact of American life. Nonetheless it is a threatening part of today’s reality, and society must find ways to respond. The greatest danger is not complacency. Worse is the prospect that in our panic over terrorism, we willingly surrender some of the values that make our society worth defending. The true threat to our democracy is not terror, but our reaction to it.’

READ MORE…

U.S. Law Enforcement Deploying Latest Tech For Super Bowl 2015 Security

The Hidden Cameras In NYC’s Subways

Gary Buiso reports for the New York Post:

Ever have the feeling you’re ­being watched? At the Herald Square subway station, it’s because you are — from every angle.

At least six hidden cameras — distinct from the ubiquitous domed video-surveillance cameras easily spotted in stations throughout the city — are located near MetroCard machines, turnstiles and token booths at the 34th Street station as part of a covert MTA surveillance network that monitors commuters.

The cameras date to as far back as the 1990s, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, but the agency revealed it prefers using other, equally covert “enhanced equipment” — even better cameras “that serve in a number of various capacities.”

The MTA described the cams as “antiquated” — yet some of the cameras found by The Post appeared to be housed in brand-new metal casings.’

READ MORE…

New Police Radars Can ‘See’ Inside Homes

Brad Heath reports for USA Today:

‘At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.’

READ MORE…

‘Complete rape’ of government by industry: NSA whistleblower on private contractors in intelligence

‘Kirk Wiebe, an NSA veteran and whistleblower, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about mass surveillance.’ (Going Underground)

Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required

Shaila Dewan reports for The New York Times:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.’

READ MORE…

Universal Music sues over unauthorized prison mixtapes

NSA reform facing hard sell following Paris terror attacks

Julian Hattem reports for The Hill:

The push to reform the National Security Agency isn’t getting any easier.

After a reform bill was narrowly blocked on the Senate floor late last year, civil libertarians hoped that an upcoming deadline to reauthorize some of the spy agency’s controversial powers would give them another opportunity to force changes.

But the attacks in Paris last week, where gunmen killed 12 at a satirical newspaper and 4 at a kosher market, is making that job harder, and strengthening the resolve of the NSA’s backers.

[…] In the next five months, Congress needs to reauthorize a key portion of the Patriot Act which authorizes the NSA to collect virtually all Americans’ phone records without warrants.’

READ MORE…

How generalised suspicion destroys society

Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet writes for Open Democracy:

Flickr/OliBac. Some rights reserved.[…] Since the revelations of Edward Snowden in June 2013, no one can ignore the alarming extent of mass surveillance. We know that the American National Security Agency (NSA) and the British security services are routinely collecting, processing and storing huge quantities of digital communications. The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) mass-surveillance system “Tempora” has been recently declared perfectly legal. Yet its legitimacy and modus operandi are still highly dubious – and ultimately dangerous especially when members of the executive do not understand the process and its technicalities. These surveillance programmes are enabled by a culture of fear and suspicion, which mutually reinforce each other. Surveillance fosters suspicion and suspicion in return supports the logic of maximisation of surveillance. These practices of surveillance and the underlying logic of anticipation have turned suspicion into legitimate, “actionable” intelligence.’

READ MORE…

The Charlie Hebdo attack was a strike against free speech. So why is the response more surveillance?

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

charlie hebdo pencil‘As politicians drape themselves in the flag of free speech and freedom of the press in response to the tragic murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, they’ve also quickly moved to stifle the same rights they claim to love. Government officials on both sides of the Atlantic are now renewing their efforts to stop NSA reform as they support free speech-chilling surveillance laws that will affect millions of citizens that have never been accused of terrorism.

This is an entirely predictable response – as civil liberties advocates noted shortly after Wednesday’s tragic attack, the threat of terrorism has led to draconian laws all over the world over the last decade – but this time around, the speed and breadth by which politicians praised free speech out of one side of their mouths, while moving to curtail rights out of the other, has been quite breathtaking.’

READ MORE…

Snooping FBI Plane ‘Sucking Up Everyone’s Cellphones’

CISPA Is Back… Because Of The Sony Hack, Which It Wouldn’t Have Prevented

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

This isn’t a huge surprise, but Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the NSA’s personal Rep in Congress (NSA HQ is in his district), has announced that he’s bringing back CISPA, the cybersecurity bill designed to make it easier for the NSA to access data from tech companies (that’s not how the bill’s supporters frame it, but that’s the core issue in the bill). In the past, Ruppersberger had a teammate in this effort, Rep. Mike Rogers, but Rogers has moved onto his new career as a radio and TV pundit (CNN just proudly announced hiring him), so Ruppersberger is going it alone this time around.

Not surprisingly, he’s using the Sony Hack as a reason for why this bill is needed.’

READ MORE…

FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places

David Kravets reports for Arstechnica:

‘The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking the position that court warrants are not required when deploying cell-site simulators in public places. Nicknamed “stingrays,” the devices are decoy cell towers that capture locations and identities of mobile phone users and can intercept calls and texts.

The FBI made its position known during private briefings with staff members of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In response, the two lawmakers wrote Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson, maintaining they were “concerned about whether the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have adequately considered the privacy interests” of Americans.’

READ MORE…

With the Power of Social Media Growing, Police Are Now Monitoring and Criminalizing Online Speech

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - With Power of Social Media Growing, Police Now Monitoring and Criminalizing Online Speech‘[…] Criminal cases for online political speech are now commonplace in the UK, notorious for its hostility to basic free speech and press rights. As The Independent‘s James Bloodworth reported last week, “around 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online.”

But the persecution is by no means viewpoint-neutral. It instead is overwhelmingly directed at the country’s Muslims for expressing political opinions critical of the state’s actions.

To put it mildly, not all online “hate speech” or advocacy of violence is treated equally. It is, for instance, extremely difficult to imagine that Facebook users who sanction violence by the UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who spew anti-Muslim animus, or who call for and celebrate the deaths of Gazans, would be similarly prosecuted. In both the UK and Europe generally, cases are occasionally brought for right-wing “hate speech” (the above warning from Scotland’s police was issued after a polemicist posted repellent jokes on Twitter about Ebola patients). But the proposed punishments for such advocacy are rarely more than symbolic: trivial fines and the like. The real punishment is meted out overwhelmingly against Muslim dissidents and critics of the West.’

READ MORE…

Five Possible NSA Cases for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015

Cyrus Farivar writes for Arstechnica:

‘Roughly a year and a half since the first Snowden disclosures, there’s already been a judicial order to shut down the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program.

The lawsuit filed by Larry Klayman, a veteran conservative activist, would essentially put a stop to unchecked NSA surveillance. And at the start of 2015, he remains the only plaintiff whose case has won when fighting for privacy against the newly understood government monitoring. However, it’s currently a victory in name only—the judicial order in Klayman was stayed pending the government’s appeal.

Klayman v. Obama is only one of a number of notable national security and surveillance-related civil and criminal cases stemming fully or partially from the Snowden documents. In 2014, a handful of these advanced far enough through the legal system that 2015 is likely to be a big year for privacy policy. One or more could even end up before the Supreme Court.’

READ MORE…

Irony 101: Study Ethics with Legal Ace Who Sanctioned NSA Wiretapping, CIA Torture

Ken Silverstein writes for The Intercept:

Waterboarding: Yes or no? It’s OK to selectively violate the Geneva Convention, right? Spying on Americans is illegal, but aren’t rules made to be broken?

The world is a confusing place and it’s hard for young people to answer complicated questions like these on their own. Fortunately, students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, have Professor Robert Deitz to help them navigate the contemporary moral morass. “All of us are familiar with basic ethical notions,” he writes in the syllabus for his Spring 2015 course, Ethical Challenges in Public Policy. “We learn from childhood the idea that some conduct is right and other conduct is not right.”

How’d Deitz get so smart about ethics? He’s magna cum laude from Harvard (like President Obama) and then spent eights years as General Counsel at the National Security Agency, serving as the official Yes Man for General Michael Hayden, and after that three years as his Senior Councillor at the Central Intelligence Agency until 2009. At the former post Deitz rubber-stamped NSA surveillance. At the latter, he sought to derail an independent investigation by then-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the agency’s torture and rendition of terrorism suspects.’

READ MORE…

Ferguson Grand Jury Witness Lied: Interview with Mike Papantonio

New York Police Union Head Blames Mayor, Protesters For Officers’ Deaths

Cops scan social media to help assess your ‘threat rating’

Brent Skorup reports for Reuters:

minority-report1‘A national spotlight is now focused on aggressive law enforcement tactics and the justice system. Today’s professional police forces — where officers in even one-stoplight towns might have body armor and mine-resistant vehicles — already raise concerns.

Yet new data-mining technologies can now provide police with vast amounts of surveillance information and could radically increase police power. Policing can be increasingly targeted at specific people and neighborhoods — with potentially serious inequitable effects.

One speaker at a recent national law enforcement conference compared future police work to Minority Report, the Tom Cruise film set in 2054 Washington, where a “PreCrime” unit has been set up to stop murders before they happen.

While PreCrime remains science-fiction, many technology advances are already involved with predictive policing — identifying risks and threats with the help of online information, powerful computers and Big Data.’

READ MORE…

Cops are the most obese workers in America, study reveals

Tim McFarlan reports for the Daily Mail:

‘Their job is to protect and serve – but it seems some police officers interpret this as an excuse to enjoy too many extra servings at the lunch table.

A study has revealed US cops have the highest rates of obesity among any profession in the country.

Along with firefighters and security guards, nearly 41 per cent of boys in blue are obese, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.’

READ MORE…

U.S. Army’s Billion Dollar Surveillance Blimp to Launch over Maryland

Dan Froomkin reports for The Intercept:

Screen-Shot-2014-12-16-at-9.12.06-PM‘In just a few days, the Army will launch the first of two massive blimps over Maryland, the last gasp of an 18-year-long $2.8-billion Army project intended to use giant airships to defend against cruise missiles.

And while the blimps may never stave off a barrage of enemy missiles, their ability to spot and track cars, trucks and boats hundreds of miles away is raising serious privacy concerns.

The project is called JLENS – or “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.” And you couldn’t come up with a better metaphor for wildly inflated defense contracts, a ponderous Pentagon bureaucracy, and the U.S. surveillance leviathan all in one.’

READ MORE…

U.S. Supreme Court Says Ignorance Of The Law Is An Excuse — If You’re A Cop

Nicole Flatow reports for Think Progress:

police lights‘There is one simple concept that law students learn in their very first weeks of criminal law class: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This principle means that when an individual violates the law, it doesn’t matter whether or not they knew what the law said. If it’s a crime, and they are found to have committed the elements of that crime, they are guilty.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the same standard doesn’t necessarily apply to police. In a splintered 8-1 ruling, the court found that cops who pulled over Nicholas Heien for a broken taillight were justified in a subsequent search of Heien’s car, even though North Carolina law says that having just one broken taillight is not a violation of the law.

The ruling means that police did not violate Heien’s rights when they later searched his car and found cocaine, and that the cocaine evidence can’t be suppressed at a later trial. But it also means that the U.S. Supreme Court declined the opportunity to draw a line limiting the scope of police stops, at a time when they are as rampant and racially disproportionate as ever. Instead, police may have considerably more leeway to stop passengers on the road, even in a number of jurisdictions that had previously said cops are not justified in mistakes of law.’

READ MORE…

Denver Cops Arrest Man Who Exposed Them Beating Man On Video While Promoting Cop Who Did The Beating

Carlos Miller reports for Photography Is Not A Crime:

‘A man who video recorded Denver police repeatedly punching a man in the face, causing his head to bounce off the pavement, before tripping his pregnant wife and causing her to fall on her face – sparking an FBI investigation into the department – was arrested Thursday in what appears to be a case of retaliation.

After all, Denver police not only arrested him on what they called a “newly activated traffic warrant” from a nearby county after he had just left the FBI office with whom he is cooperating on the federal investigation, they refused to allow him to bond out of jail, even though the warrant was regarding a measly missed court date over failure to provide proof of insurance and registration during a traffic stop a few months ago.

Denver police are obviously upset that upset Levi Frasier managed to recover the footage from his Samsung tablet after they had deleted it, which led to them being investigated by the feds.

Not that it stopped them from promoting the cop, Charles “Chris” Jones IV, seen on video punching the suspect to sergeant earlier this month.’

READ MORE…

U.S. Congress Secretly Legitimizes Questionable NSA Mass Surveillance Tool

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

‘[…] For a while now, we’ve discussed executive order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan, which more or less gives the NSA unchecked authority to tap into any computer system not in the US. Over the summer, a former State Department official, John Napier Tye, basically blew the whistle on 12333 by noting that everyone focused on other NSA programs were missing the point. The NSA’s surveillance is almost entirely done under this authority, which has no Congressional oversight. All those other programs we’ve been arguing about — Section 215 of the Patriot Act or Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act — are really nothing more than ways to backfill the data the NSA has been unable to access under 12333. In other words, these other programs are the distraction. 12333 is the ballgame, and it has no Congressional oversight at all. It’s just a Presidential executive order.

Yet, what Amash and his staffers found is that a last minute change by the Senate Intelligence Committee to the bill effectively incorporated key parts of EO 12333 into law, allowing for “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of “nonpublic communications.” Here’s where those who slipped this bit into the law got sneaky. Recognizing that they might be called on it, they put it in with language noting that such information could only be held on to for five years — and then claimed what they were really doing was putting a limit on data already collected.’

READ MORE…

Secrets of the Deep State: Interview with Peter Dale Scott

Editor’s Note: Peter Dale Scott is a poet, a former diplomat, and a former English professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books including Deep Politics and the Death of JFKThe Road to 9/11 and The American Deep State. He also publishes regularly at The Asia Pacific Journal.

United Nations Panel Slams U.S. Record on Police Brutality, Torture, Child Migrants & Guantánamo

‘As protests continue over the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the United States is facing pressure internationally over its failure to put a halt to police brutality. In a new report, the United Nations Committee Against Torture expresses deep concern over the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.” The Committee also criticizes a number of other U.S. practices on torture and imprisonment, Guantánamo Bay, and the custody of migrants including children in “prison-like detention facilities.” We discuss the report’s findings with Dr. Jens Modvig, member of the Committee against Torture and one of two rapporteurs for its report.’ (Democracy Now!)

AURORAGOLD: How the NSA Hacks Cellphone Networks Worldwide

Ryan Gallagher writes for The Intercept:

map‘[…] According to documents contained in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on hundreds of companies and organizations internationally, including in countries closely allied to the United States, in an effort to find security weaknesses in cellphone technology that it can exploit for surveillance.

The documents also reveal how the NSA plans to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems so that they can be tapped into—a controversial tactic that security experts say could be exposing the general population to criminal hackers.

Codenamed AURORAGOLD, the covert operation has monitored the content of messages sent and received by more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential company planning papers that help the NSA hack into phone networks.’

READ MORE…

Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop

Chase Madar wrote last week for The Nation:

Ferguson riot police‘How to police the police is a question as old as civilization, now given special urgency by a St. Louis County grand jury’s return of a “no bill” of indictment for Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in his fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown. The result is shocking to many, depressingly predictable to more than a few.

Can the cops be controlled? It’s never been easy: according to one old sociological chestnut, the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is what defines modern government, and this monopoly is jealously protected against the second-guessing of puny civilians. All over the country, the issue of restraining police power is framed around the retribution against individual cops, from Staten Island to Milwaukee to Los Angeles. But is this the best way to impose discipline on law enforcement and roll back what even Republican appellate court appointees are calling rampant criminalization?’

READ MORE…

John Oliver on Civil Forfeiture

Obama’s Ferguson response will leave assault rifles and vehicles of war on American streets

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

‘On Monday, one week after the American criminal justice system failed Michael Brown, US attorney general Eric Holder and President Obama had eloquent and powerful words for those in Ferguson and across the country who have been protesting the killing of another unarmed black teenager by a white cop, along with the militarization of this country’s local police forces. Yet on the same day, with the White House grabbing the opportunity to put forth a substantive plan for changing the relationship between law enforcement and the people it is sworn to protect, the Obama administration indicated that hardly anything might change at all.

Holder, in a speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, warned that if distrust between police and American citizens doesn’t change, it could “threaten the entire nation”. And Obama, in Washington, tried to assuade his many critics by saying, “There have been commissions before, there have been task forces, there have been conversations – and nothing happens. What I try to describe to people is why this time will be different.”

Why, then, as the White House finally released its report on the militarization of police, did it largely defend the variety of federal programs that funnel billions of dollars of weaponry and high-tech surveillance gear to local police every year? The report offered four milquetoast recommendations that included giving local police more money for body cameras and sensitivity training, while leaving every program – including the controversial Defense Department initiative known as 1033 that has sent assault rifles and armored mine-resistant vehicles to local cops – almost completely intact.’

READ MORE…