Edward Snowden ripped the blinds off the surveillance state last summer with his leak of top-secret National Security Agency documents, forcing a national conversation about spying in the post-9/11 era. However, there’s still no concrete proof that America’s elite intelligence units are analyzing most Americans’ computer and telephone activity — even though they can. Los Angeles and Southern California police, by contrast, are expanding their use of surveillance technology such as intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification and military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime. Information on the identity and movements of millions of Southern California residents is being collected and tracked.
In fact, Los Angeles is emerging as a major laboratory for testing and scaling up new police surveillance technologies. The use of military-grade surveillance tools is migrating from places like Fallujah to neighborhoods including Watts and even low-crime areas of the San Fernando Valley, where surveillance cameras are proliferating like California poppies in spring. The use of militarized surveillance technology appears to be spreading beyond its initial applications during the mid-2000s in high-crime areas to now target narrow, specific crimes such as auto theft. Now, LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff are monitoring the whereabouts of residents whether they have committed a crime or not. The biggest surveillance net is license plate reading technology that records your car’s plate number as you pass police cruisers equipped with a rooftop camera, or as you drive past street locations where such cameras are mounted.
- Florida Cops’ Secret Weapon: Warrantless Cellphone Tracking
- Bank Of America Works With Feds To Spy On Activists
- Fusion center director: We don’t spy on Americans, just anti-government Americans
- Florida Fusion Center Monitored BP Protests, Ron Paul Events, Code Pink
- DHS ‘fusion centers’ portrayed as pools of ineptitude, civil liberties intrusions
- ACLU Calls for Hearings on Fusion Centers Following Senate Report
- Fusion Center Declares Nation’s Oldest Universities Possible Terrorist Threat
- Tennessee Fusion Center Puts ACLU On Terror List
- Texas Fusion Center’s Secrets Revealed
- Fusion Centers: Implementing the Control Grid
- Missouri Information Analysis Center: The Modern Militia Movement
It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential. The devices, likely made by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are called “stingrays,” and unfortunately this is not the first time the government has tried to hide their use.
So the ACLU and ACLU of Florida have teamed up to break through the veil of secrecy surrounding stingray use by law enforcement in the Sunshine State, last week filing a motion for public access to sealed records in state court, and submitting public records requests to nearly 30 police and sheriffs’ departments across Florida seeking information about their acquisition and use of stingrays (examples here and here).
Also known as “cell site simulators,” stingrays impersonate cell phone towers, prompting phones within range to reveal their precise locations and information about all of the calls and text messages they send and receive. When in use, stingrays sweep up information about innocent people and criminal suspects alike.
Crimes can happen quickly, so that is why the Austin Police Department is keeping a watchful eye from the sky. At APD Headquarters in the Real Time Crime Center officers scan over dozens of monitors around the clock. They are watching feeds from the 39 HALO cameras scattered throughout Austin. APD Chief of Police Art Acevedo said the department has been able to solve crimes faster and help investigations with video evidence.”Technology is a force multiplier,” Acevedo said. ”Instead of having to hire thousands of police officers like some cities we know we have to use technology to our benefit.”
Acevedo said the technology task force is so beneficial he wants to expand it. Currently, police are working on getting access to the Austin Independent School District’s campus cameras. That way school video would feed directly to the Crime Center. “When you look at the issue of active shooters, and they come in and try to hurt our kids,” Acevedo said. “The Austin Police Department, in a very short order, will be able to know what’s going on.” The chief also wants to access traffic cameras to see crashes, as well as join existing public cameras around town, like those outside businesses.
A lawmaker in Illinois has introduced a bill that would mandate a ‘kill switch’ in all smart phones, potentially allowing the authorities there to shut them down at will. The bill, introduced by State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, would require any phone bought or sold in the state to have the technology. Providers would also be mandated to insure smart phones against theft if the phone cannot be rendered completely inoperable. The legislation is a replica of a bill recently introduced in California, aimed, according to lawmakers, at discouraging theft of phones and black market trading. Critics have warned, however, that such a system could be abused by government and police in order to stifle dissent.
Even worse, if the system were approved up by one or two states, such as California, manufacturers will undoubtedly push for all states to adopt the technology, to spare themselves more work in producing custom devices for select states. “California is the largest state in the US, and its laws have in the past become de facto national laws,” notes Joe Mullin, adding that wireless industry trade groups have opposed such measures in the past.
Carriers or phone makers will be granted permission to design their own individual form of ‘kill switch’ hardware or software. However, under the legislation, it must have the ability to prevent phone calls, Internet access and the ability to run apps. It must also not allow a reset of the device to factory settings. Retailers will also be punished under the legislation, should they offer devices that do not comply. Companies could face a fine of between $500 and $2,500 per device sold that doesn’t include the technology.
Senators, senior police and local politicians in San Francisco have set about lobbying Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft to fit the technology as standard to all devices. Carriers such as AT&T have been the target of lawsuits from regulators alleging that they are not doing enough to prevent smart phone theft because the re-activations of such devices has proved profitable.
Critics of the new proposal maintain, however, that if a carrier can kill your phone remotely, so then can governments, hackers, and anybody else. A scenario where authorities could hijack the technology to shut down communications in a sensitive area in order to limit photo and streaming video coverage, such as at a demonstration or at the scene of unfolding police brutality, is easy to envisage.
- Smartphone ’kill switch’ bill receives pushback from wireless industry
- Kill Switches: Phones Just The Start
- Smartphone Kill Switch Could Become Federal Law
- New bill demands that smartphones have “kill switch” in case of theft
- California Bill Would Require Antitheft Technology for Cellphones
- Class Claims AT&T Aids & Abets Cellphone Thieves, for the Profit
- Apple Granted Patent To Disable Cameras According To Location
- Google Patent Seeks to Transmit Your Cellphone Videos to Law Enforcement
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court gave the police more power to enter a person’s home without a warrant: if two people are inside a home, and one person denies police entry while the other allows it, the police can enter based on one party’s consent. This overturned a previous ruling in 2006 in which justices concluded that when two people disagree over a search, the police must listen to the objecting party.
The ruling was in regards to a case involving a domestic abuse. A woman believed to have been physically assaulted by another occupant, a man, answered the door for police. The man objected to the police entering his home, but was arrested anyway shortly after they did. The Court’s verdict seems to favor victims of domestic violence (who are often women). Interestingly, however, all three justices who dissented the ruling were women: Justices Ginsberg, Kagan and Sotomayor. ”Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement, today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissent.
Officially, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution bars representatives of the state from entering a home without a warrant, probable cause, or pursuant to an arrest. However, multiple rulings of the last few decades–usually related to drug arrests–have steadily eroded the standards to which law enforcement must adhere before entering a home. Last summer, an 80-year-old man was shot to death in his home by a SWAT team who had broken down his door to search his home for drugs. They did not find any.
Modesto Police have a new surveillance vehicle in their arsenal – the Armadillo. “Smile, you’re on camera” sums up what the Armadillo is going to be used for. Modesto Police hope the surveillance video captured will help deter crime. The Armadillo has only been on the streets for a day and already, Esmeralda Garcia says she feels safer. “It’s needed and not just this area – a lot of areas,” Garcia said.
Modesto Police say with its four wide-angle lens cameras and four zoom-capable high definition cameras, there’s little the Armadillo won’t see. “We want this to serve as a deterrent or extra eyes out there for us,” police spokesperson Heather Graves said. Best of all, the department says officers don’t have to be in the Armadillo but can remotely access video and even rewind to days earlier. Police stress the truck won’t be looking into anyone’s windows or private areas. “We are focusing on public areas, we’re not trying to impede anyone’s privacy,” Graves said.
While some may not like the idea of big brother watching, Garcia says security in her neighborhood is much more important. “We need a safer environment, period,” Garcia said. The Armadillo also didn’t cost Modesto Police anything. The truck was donated by nearby Ceres Police, and the rest of the equipment was paid for by grant money.
There are new LED lights greeting passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal B but they do more than illuminate; they also are part of a security system that is watching you before you even get to the security checkpoint. The lights are fitted with computer chips, cameras, sensors and wi-fi antennas. They collect data that can help detect suspicious activity or aid in police investigations.
Currently, the lights are only near the ticketing counters of the one terminal but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, is considering expanding the pilot program to other terminals. Advocates say the lighting systems can be used for a variety of useful applications. But others say the collection of more and more data raises privacy concerns.
- Forget WiFi, It’s LiFi: Internet Through Lightbulbs
- LVX System: Ceiling Lights Send Coded Internet Data
- Intellistreets: Streetlights That Watch and Listen
- Google Files ‘Ambient Background’ Spy Tech Patent
- Google Android Baked Into Rice Cookers in Move Past Phone
- CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher
- X-Ray Scanning Vans Hit Streets, Raising Privacy Concerns
- Could X-ray scanners work on the street?
‘The U.S. Army is giving away 13,000 armored trucks, worth about $500,000 each. The 20-ton MRAPs, or Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected trucks, were built specifically to save U.S. soldiers from roadside bombs in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now the trucks are patrolling U.S. city streets. U.S. law enforcement agencies have received the lion’s share of this high-powered military surplus.’ (Bloomberg)
Chicago Police Department Believes It Can See The Future, Starts Warning Citizens About Crimes They Might Commit
We’ve talked a lot over the years about the attempts to get out “ahead of crime” by using computer programs and algorithms to try and predict who might commit a crime. Predictive computing can then either target specific areas or specific people that might be in need of some extra law enforcement attention. Except as we’ve noted repeatedly, these programs are only as valuable as the data they use. Garbage in, garbage out, but in this case you’ve got a human being on the other end of the equation whose life can be dramatically impacted by law enforcement holding what they believe is “proof” that you’ll soon be up to no good.
With that in mind there’s growing concerns about efforts in Chicago to use predictive analytical systems to generate a “heat list” — or a list of 400 or so individuals most likely to be involved in violent crime. The Chicago efforts are based on a Yale sociologist’s studies and use an algorithm created by an engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology. People who find themselves on the list get personal visits from law enforcement warning them that they better be nice. The result is a collision between law enforcement that believes in the righteousness of these efforts and those who worry that they could, as an EFF rep states, create “an environment where police can show up at anyone’s door at any time for any reason.” Law enforcement and the code creators, as you’d expect, argue that it’s only the bad guys that need to worry about a system like this.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of U.S. military veteran and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern against John Kerry, in his capacity as the Secretary of State, and against officers at George Washington University.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia three years to the date of Mr. McGovern’s brutal and false arrest at GWU during a speech of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the arrest, the PCJF uncovered that then 71-year-old McGovern was put on a “Be On the Look-Out” list, and agents were instructed to stop and question him on sight. The reasons cited included his “political activism, primarily anti-war” — a clearly unconstitutional order.
Dan McCall has been making T-shirts and mugs that parody the National Security Agency as “the only part of government that actually listens” for over a decade. In 2011, he got a cease-and-desist letter from the NSA and from the Department of Homeland Security, insisting that his goods be removed from Zazzle.com.
McCall was forced to take his items off Zazzle, although he later re-opened his online shop at CafePress (selling his shirt as “Censored by the NSA!”). Last October—when NSA was already in the spotlight due to disclosures over widespread surveillance—McCall filed a lawsuit saying that his T-shirts and mugs, which were parodies of government agencies, were protected by the First Amendment. He argued that the agencies had no right to ask them to be removed.
“It’s bad enough that these agencies have us under constant surveillance; forbidding citizens from criticizing them is beyond the pale,” said Public Citizen’s Paul Levy, who filed the suit on McCall’s behalf.
Now, NSA has admitted: McCall is right.
A Pickens County woman spent a night in jail for failing to return a movie she rented in 2005, according to Pickens County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Creed Hashe. Kayla Michelle Finley, 27, was arrested on Thursday. She faces a misdemeanor charge of failure to return rented video cassette.
Chief Deputy Hashe said she rented the movie in 2005 from Dalton Videos in Pickens County, which is now out of business. Hashe said when Finley didn’t return the movie, the business owner went to a Pickens County magistrate who issued an arrest warrant. Hashe says that Finley was sent several certified letters to turn herself in, but never did.
Hashe said that on Thursday, Finley was at the Sheriff’s Office on another matter, and the active warrant was discovered. She was arrested, and spent Thursday night in jail until her bond hearing Friday morning. A judge issued a $2,000 personal recognizance bond Friday morning, and she was released.
A group of students and researchers at Florida International University in Miami took part in a demonstration on Wednesday to show a prototype of their version of a RoboCop that will allow disabled police and military personnel get back into the workforce, school officials said. It took about 18 months for the group with the school’s Discovery Lab to develop the TeleBot, which combines telepresence and robotics. Nagarajan Prabakar, a computer science associate professor, said the prototype allows a disabled person to control the robot remotely, see everything the robot “sees” and interact with members of the public.
The Telebot has two high definition web cameras in its eyes to generate a live, three-dimensional view, he said. It also has a computer inside its metal frame surrounded by a bunch of wires. The robot imitates all of the movements of the demonstrator — the student in this case, police or military officers in the future — who is wearing about 30 sensors on their shoulders, elbows, head and fingers. A joystick moves the robot forward, back and in circles.
A California state legislator has introduced SB 962, a bill that would require smartphones sold in the state to include a “kill switch” that would “render inoperable” the phone if it’s not in the possession of the rightful owner.
California is the largest state in the US, and its laws have in the past become de facto national laws. The now-ubiquitous publication of privacy policies on Internet websites, for instance, is the result of a California state law. The state has also led the nation in areas like rules around auto emissions.
While inclusion of the anti-theft technology would be required, the bill also maintains that consumers who wish to disable it be allowed to do so. The proposed law also requires that the phone be able to “withstand a hard reset,” meaning that it can be restored to the condition it was in when it left the factory.
Manuel Ramos, the cop seen on video beating Kelly Thomas to death, had to leave a place of business last weekend. Nationwide outrage was sparked when Ramos and his partner Jay Cicinelli were found “not guilty” of murder, despite beating the mentally ill homeless man to death as he begged for his life.
Last weekend, Ramos had the nerve to show his face in public. It happened when families and patrons were enjoying their dinner at Denny’s in California. The last thing they expected was to be interrupted by Ramos waddling inside with a “So Cal” shirt stretched around his stomach.
They were immediately uncomfortable with his presence and began complaining. As the complaints were made Ramos “got up and left,” according to a patron who snapped a photo of him guzzling his drink before leaving “Killer cops aren’t welcome here,” was captioned with the photo, which is going viral online.
Tens of thousands of people and organisations were participating in a protest against the NSA’s mass surveillance on Tuesday, bombarding members of Congress with phone calls and emails and holding demonstrations across the globe.
Dubbed “The day we fight back”, the action saw scores of websites, including Reddit, BoingBoing and Mozilla host a widget inviting users to pressure elected officials.
The online demonstration saw more than 18,000 calls placed and 50,000 emails sent to US congressmen and women by midday Tuesday. Physical protests were planned in 15 countries.
“The goal of the day we fight back is to stop mass surveillance by intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency,” said Rainey Reitman, activism director at the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helped organise the events.
Back in 2012, the ACLU of Massachusetts published a report called ‘Policing Dissent’, exposing the Boston Police Department’s ‘red squad’ surveillance operations, directed at antiwar and economic justice organizers. Among the documents we obtained through a public records lawsuit were so-called ‘intelligence reports’ from the Boston police fusion center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC). These documents shocked the public. In files labeled “HOMESEC-DOMESTIC”, “GROUPS-CIVIL DISTURBANCE”, and “GROUPS-EXTREMISTS”, detectives described the entirely peaceful activities of groups and individuals ranging from Veterans for Peace and CodePink to Howard Zinn and a former city council member.
While the BPD files didn’t explicitly call these non-violent activists ‘terrorists’, detectives working at a so-called ‘counterterrorism fusion center’ came about as close as they could get to doing so without spelling out the T word in black and white. But it’s no secret that other law enforcement agencies jumped that shark long ago. In recent years, undercover informants have infiltrated antiwar movements targeted as “domestic terrorists”. While the past decade’s terror wars have given local, state, and federal law enforcement seemingly endless funds to pursue activists simply for challenging government policy, the US government’s conflation of peaceful dissent with terrorism has a long history in the United States, dating back at least to the 1970s.
A fired executive from one of New Jersey’s red-light camera vendors contends in a lawsuit filed in Arizona that the company provided lavish gifts and bribes to government officials in 13 states — including New Jersey — to secure new contracts. The brief but bombshell reference to New Jersey and other states in a 13-page counterclaim was made by Aaron Rosenberg, former nationwide lead salesman for Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix. He did not mention specific municipalities from any of the states.
Rosenberg noted in the suit that Redflex “bestowed gifts and bribes on … officials in dozens of municipalities within, but not limited to the following states: California, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia.” He said Redflex bribed local officials with meals, golf outings and tickets to professional football and baseball games. The expenses were listed as categories such as “entertainment” and “celebratory tokens,” according to the suit.
Persistent Surveillance Systems: Pre-Crime Aerial Panopticon Watches City-Wide Area, Tracking Everyone
Earlier this year, when Donel Fuller applied for janitorial work in San Francisco, he believed he had correctly completed the application, especially the questions about his criminal history. He listed his prior convictions and was soon hired. But six weeks later, they fired him when a background check revealed that he had a trespassing misdemeanor back in 1974. “I didn’t even remember that,” he said. It was in ’74, 40 years ago. I put down the ones I did remember.”
Then Fuller’s plight got worse. His search for work included checking off the criminal history box, which is listed on millions of job and housing applications nationwide. He said he “felt miserable.” “People will never get a job if they’re looking for stuff way back,” he said, saying his decades-old mistake is keeping him from getting hired today.
A Florida county has spent more than $5 million over the past nine years throwing chronically homeless people in jail, when it could have spent considerably less finding them shelter. In its annual report on the state of homelessness in Osceola County, Fla., Impact Homelessness – a local advocacy group — found that the county continues to spend a pretty penny on imprisoning people who live on the streets, instead of helping to rehabilitate them.
The county has at least 300 homeless people sleeping on the streets every night. Most of those people have physical disabilities and/or mental illnesses. Many of them are veterans. Impact Homelessness investigated the number of people who have been put in prison because of “crimes” related to homelessness, including panhandling, sleeping outside and trespassing. One section of the report focused on the “frequent flyers” — people who have been arrested over and over again for homeless-related crimes.
The group identified 37 such individuals who, collectively, were arrested 1,250 times from 2004 to 2013. It cost the county $140 to book each person and an average of $80 per day to keep them jail. These figures only take into account arrest and incarceration. They don’t begin to touch upon special services, such as appearing before a judge, medical care or counseling. The “frequent flyers” cost the county a total of $5,081,680, according to the report. That’s about $15,000 per person, per year.