Category Archives: Police State/Big Brother USA

How DoD flawed algorithms are the basis for drone ‘Kill List': Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

‘Abby Martin features an interview with author and journalist Nafeez Ahmed, discussing his four-part investigation into the Pentagon’s mass social science project called The Minerva Research Initiative, as well as his latest book ‘Zero Point’.’ (Breaking the Set)

How Cops and Hackers Could Abuse California’s New Phone Kill-Switch Law

Kim Zetter writes for Wired:

kill-switch‘Beginning next year, if you buy a cell phone in California that gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a built-in ability to remotely deactivate the phone under a new “kill switch” feature being mandated by California law—but the feature will make it easier for police and others to disable the phone as well, raising concerns among civil liberties groups about possible abuse.

The law, which takes effect next July, requires all phones sold in California to come pre-equipped with a software “kill switch” that allows owners to essentially render them useless if they’re lost or stolen. Although the law, SB 962, applies only to California, it undoubtedly will affect other states, which often follow the Golden State’s lead. It also seems unlikely phone manufacturers would exclude the feature from phones sold elsewhere. And although the legislation allows users to opt out of the feature after they buy the phone, few likely will do so.’

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Pentagon Sale: Everything Must Go!

NSA Created Search Engine Tool To Share Communication Records With Government Agencies

Cat Zakrzewski reports for TechCrunch:

‘A set of classified documents published by The Intercept on Monday shows how the National Security Agency (NSA) makes more than 850 billion records about various forms of communications available to other U.S. governmental agencies through a portal similar in look and feel to a traditional web search engine.

The search tool, called ICREACH, provides access to all communications records collected under a Reagan-era executive order, known as executive order 12333, that targets foreign communication networks. The purview of 12333 has recently attracted negative attention due to the lack of oversight of its surveillance, and the lack of public information regarding its use and breadth.

In the wake of the revelations sourced from documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, much public discourse has focused on how the government uses, and shares data that it collects — which agencies have access to specific information, and how privacy is treated have been key topics of discussion. The Intercept’s most recent report throws light onto one way NSA-collected metadata is shared inside of the larger U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities — simply, widely, and often, it appears.’

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For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Craig Timberg reports for The Washington Post:

‘Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.’

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Ferguson Police Profiling of Blacks a Major Funding Source for City Budget

Putting Body Cameras On Cops Won’t Fix Misconduct, But It’s A Good Start

Tim Cushing writes for Techdirt:

‘Prompted by the fatal shooting of Ferguson resident Mike Brown, a We the People petition asking the federal government to require body cameras for all law enforcement officers has roared past the 100,000 signature threshold required for a White House response. (Theoretically.)

The petition asks for the creation of the “Mike Brown Law,” which would mandate the use of body cameras and ensure agencies are supplied with funding needed to comply. The usual caveat about bad laws being named after deceased persons aside, the use of body cameras by police officers is nearing inevitability, what with police misconduct now being a mainstream media topic.

It’s not a complete solution, but it is a very valuable addition. Dash cams, which have been in use for years, only capture a small percentage of interactions with civilians. While the use of body cameras will prompt new privacy concerns, the presence of the unblinking eye has been shown to make both police and the public behave better.’

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Ferguson: Taser International and Digital Ally Continue To See Huge Market Gains

John Seward reports for Benzinga:

‘Taser International and Digital Ally continued their stock market run-up Monday driven by civil unrest that began August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Both companies manufacture small cameras worn by police officers, and unrest in Ferguson was touched off by the police shooting of civilian Michael Brown in an incident that police did not record. Taser, up three percent Monday, has gained 44 percent since August 1. Digital is up 228 percent in the same period, picking up more than 57 percent Monday.

Taser is touting a two-year study by the Rialto, California police department in collaboration with a researcher from Cambridge University which found that police wearing the cameras were 60 percent less likely to use force. Digital Ally put out a press release last week saying that orders for its cameras have surged since unrest in Ferguson began. Taser entered the law enforcement video business in 2012 and the segment’s revenue doubled in the second quarter to $3.6 million of Taser’s total revenue of $32 million. Digital launched a police body camera in December and the product now accounts for 36 percent of recent second-quarter revenue of $3.4 million.’

The LAPD Thinks It’s at War and Now It Has Drones

Charles Davis writes for VICE:

‘Police hate the word “drone” because they know the idea of flying robots patrolling the skies is, to many people, a bit too reminiscent of a cyber-punk dystopian hellscape. So when the Seattle Police Department announced that its two drones had gone off to Southern California “to try to make it in Hollywood,” it never used that word, calling them “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” and “mini-helicopters,” hoping that might help its friends at the Los Angeles Police Department avoid a public relations disaster like the one that had forced their department to give away its high-tech surveillance toys.

Yeah, it didn’t work.

Soon after news of the gift-wrapped drones spread, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was forced to declare that his department wouldn’t actually be using them—not just yet, anyway. “I will not sacrifice public support for a piece of police equipment,” he proclaimed, saying he would seek input from the public before ever allowing a drone to fly over the city. As of now, the city’s drones are stashed away in a warehouse owned by the Department of Homeland Security.

Still, the LAPD insists the fear over drones is much ado about nothing, with a spokesperson telling the Los Angeles Times that if the department ever does decide to deploy them, it will only be for “narrow and prescribed uses.” But on Thursday, outside City Hall, a coalition of community groups and civil liberties advocates offered some feedback: hell no.’

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Military Training Exercise Over Twin Cities Has Some Residents Asking Questions

Kim Johnson reports for CBS Minnesota:

‘A military training exercise has some in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul looking to the skies and asking questions. It’s a scene that looks straight out of an action movie. This week, a handful of low-flying black helicopters are buzzing just over rooftops and in between buildings.

They’re called Night Stalkers, or more formally, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment out of Fort Campbell Kentucky. But what they’re training for here in Minnesota is as stealth as their choppers appear.

The Department of Defense is in charge of the operation while Minneapolis and St. Paul police are playing a supportive role. But none of the departments will comment on the mysterious mission, only apologizing for “any alarm or inconvenience the training may cause,” according to statement by Minneapolis police.’

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County officials refuse to pay medical bills for toddler burned by SWAT grenade

California college campus put on lockdown after man’s umbrella gets mistaken for rifle

Lee Moran reports for The New York Daily News:

Reporter Matt Rascon holds up an umbrella of the type that caused a campus lockdown at Cal State University San Marcos in California.‘A California college campus was put on lockdown after a man carrying an umbrella was mistaken for waving around a rifle. Cops received reports that a bald suspected gunman was roaming Cal State’s San Marcos campus shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Officers swept the area and searched room by room — as people were ordered to shelter and barricade themselves into secure places. Traffic en route to the university, north of San Diego, was also diverted, reports KPBS. But the campus was given the all-clear at 9:38 a.m. after the alleged weapon-wielder was discovered to be only carrying an umbrella.’

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How companies are profiting from police crackdowns

Alex Kane writes for AlterNet:

Ferguson is big business: How companies are profiting from police crackdowns‘The tear-gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs fired in Ferguson, Missouri have fed outrage over police militarization in the U.S. In response to the shocking images, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “We need to de-militarize this situation.” Journalists reporting live on the demonstrations sparked by the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown expressed befuddlement as to why the police needed high-caliber weapons better suited for war zones than protests in an American city.

But one group of people is decidedly happy about the militarized response in Ferguson: those who work in the weapons industry. The array of police forces–the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis county and city police and local Ferguson officers–that descended on the largely black Missouri city have used the products these corporations are selling in abundance. Tear gas, rubber bullets, smoke bombs, stun grenades, armored personnel carriers, sound cannons and high-caliber rifles have all been deployed to quell the unrest, though they have contributed to anger over police tactics.

The police response is the perfect showcase for the companies that manufacture military equipment for law enforcement use. They can point to the police tactics to sell their products to other law enforcement agencies preparing for demonstrations. And in Missouri, the police’s massive use of armaments like tear gas mean that their stock is becoming depleted and they will need to re-up their purchases. These companies will profit from the tension in Ferguson, and could fuel even greater militarization of the police, a trend that began with the war on drugs and has accelerated in recent years with the advent of the war on terror.’

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The World’s Most Repressive Regimes Delight In U.S. Crack Down In Ferguson

Hayes Brown writes for Think Progress:

Police advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd of protesters in Ferguson, MO on Sunday‘After years of being critiqued for its own crackdowns against dissidents, China has begun to use the ongoing clashes between police and protesters and police in Ferguson, MO as a way to lambaste the United States for hypocrisy, joining other repressive regimes in expressing no small amount of schadenfreude at the current situation.

The Chinese government either directly owns or oversees all media within the country, including the Xinhua news service. As such, the op-ed published on Monday from commentator Li Li can be read as being an unofficial statement from Beijing. In the article, Li takes the United States to task for not yet realizing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, noting that “despite the progress, racial divide still remains a deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart, just as manifested by the latest racial riot in Missouri.”’

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Obama Orders Review of Police Use of Military Equipment

NBC News reports:

‘President Barack Obama has ordered a review of federal programs and funding that allow state and local law enforcement to acquire military equipment — a concern following the use of such gear during the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Obama has directed that the review consider whether dissemination of the military guns and armor to local law enforcement agencies is appropriate, according to a senior White House official. The review will also analyze whether local officials are properly trained to use the weapons and whether the federal government properly audits the use of the supplies, the official said.

Local law enforcement agencies around the U.S. are eligible to receive surplus military equipment through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. But there was outrage after photos and videos taken in Ferguson over the past week showed officers on tanks brandishing military-style firearms during protests over the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. The review will be led by White House staff and relevant U.S. agencies — including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury — and will be carried out in coordination with Congress, the official said.’

Militarized policing in Canada under scrutiny following Ferguson protests

Tyler Dawson reports for the Edmonton Journal:

‘Heavily armed and armoured American police responding to protests in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, has punted to the national — and international — stage questions about police tactics and the militarization of police forces. Here in Canada, some observers are warning that there are lessons to be learned from the American experience.

“If you don’t keep something like this in check, it’s like a cancer, it will spread, it will metastasize into the justice system,” said Darryl Davies, a professor of criminology at Carleton University in Ottawa. “We can learn from what’s happening in the U.S. by making sure it does not happen on the same level.”

Police militarization, explained by journalist Radley Balko, who wrote a book on the subject, encompasses everything from swapping blue shirts for black uniforms, to police using military-grade equipment and the development of a military mindset among officers. While critics of police see the ramped-up matériel as overkill, police say it’s necessary for fighting crime.’

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Researchers Easily Slipped Weapons Past TSA’s X-Ray Body Scanners

Andy Greenberg reports for Wired:

tsa-scans-pistol‘Two years ago, a blogger named Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video that seemed to show a facepalm-worthy vulnerability in the TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners: Because metal detected by the scanners appeared black in the images they created, he claimed that any passenger could hide a weapon on the side of his or her body to render it invisible against the scans’ black background. The TSA dismissed Corbett’s findings, and even called reporters to caution them not to cover his video.

Now a team of security researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins plans to reveal their own results from months of testing that same model of scanner. And not only did they find that Corbett’s weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone’s spine, installing malware on the scanner’s console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person’s body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine’s images.’

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Cornel West on Ferguson, Missouri: “Obama reeks of political calculation not moral conviction”

Police often provoke protest violence, UC researchers find

Kurtis Alexander reports for The San Francisco Chronicle:

Demonstrators supporting protesters in Ferguson, Mo., hold up mirrors to police during a march Wednesday in Oakland. Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle‘The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley. The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations.

Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study’s lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces. “Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he’s carrying an AR-15,” said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science who leads the Deciding Force Project. “It just upsets the crowd.” Adams said many law enforcement agencies aren’t aware that they set the tone of a protest and end up inflaming it.’

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Ferguson and The Media

‘Listening Post examines racial conflict and social divisions in the US and how those issues are reported. Helping us to understand how the media reported Ferguson are: Mikki Kendall, a writer; Lizz Brown, a columnist for the St Louis American; Byron Tau, a reporter for Politico; Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change; and Ash-har Quraishi, a correspondent for Al Jazeera America.’ (Al Jazeera)

ACLU: Ferguson police report on Michael Brown’s death violates law

Jason Sickles reports for Yahoo News:

Click image to read entire report.‘A police report on the death of Michael Brown is missing key information and violates Missouri open records laws, an ACLU attorney told Yahoo News on Friday. The two-page document, which the Ferguson Police Department released only after pressure from journalists and civil liberties advocates, is largely redacted or left blank. The most egregious omissions are the victim’s name and a description of the offense – the fatal shooting of Brown. “They are breaking the law,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.

The report, obtained by Yahoo News through the Missouri Sunshine Law, lists only the date, time and location. Fields for the type of incident, name of the complainant, and a summary of the circumstances are redacted. “I’ve never seen an incident report that didn’t contain a description of the incident, at least on some basic level,” said Don Tittle, a veteran Texas civil and criminal attorney. “It makes you wonder if they don’t want to commit to a story.” The report comes nearly two weeks after Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in broad daylight in the middle of a residential street.’

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What Happens When Police Officers Wear Body Cameras?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

‘Sometimes, like the moments leading up to when a police officer decides to shoot someone, transparency is an unalloyed good. And especially lately, technology has progressed to a point that it makes this kind of transparency not just possible, but routine. So it is in Rialto, Calif., where an entire police force is wearing so-called body-mounted cameras, no bigger than pagers, that record everything that transpires between officers and citizens. In the first year after the cameras’ introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.

It isn’t known how many police departments are making regular use of cameras, though it is being considered as a way of perhaps altering the course of events in places such as Ferguson, Mo., where an officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. What happens when police wear cameras isn’t simply that tamper-proof recording devices provide an objective record of an encounter—though some of the reduction in complaints is apparently because of citizens declining to contest video evidence of their behavior—but a modification of the psychology of everyone involved.’

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NYPD ‘cannibal cop’ to walk free after judge overturns conviction

RT reports:

‘A former New York Police Department officer convicted of planning to kidnap and rape women before killing and eating them is set to go free after a federal judge overturned his conviction.

According to Reuters, the so-called “Cannibal Cop” Gilberto Valle was acquitted by US District Judge Paul Gardephe on Monday. Valle has been in prison since he was arrested in 2012, and potentially faced life behind bars on kidnapping conspiracy charges.

In his opinion, Judge Gardephe stated that the evidence used to originally convict Valle did not sufficiently prove that the former officer acted on what his attorneys said were sexual, cannibalistic fantasies involving women he never met, as well as his wife.

“The evidentiary record is such that it is more likely than not the case that all of Valle’s Internet communications about kidnapping are fantasy role-play,” the judge wrote.

Gardephe did uphold Valle’s conviction on a less serious charge, which alleged that he used the NYPD’s federal database to collect information on various women he intended to target. That conviction carried a sentence of up to one year in prison, but since Valle has been in jail since 2012, he can be set free as early as Tuesday.’

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St. Louis County police officer suspended after video surfaces

From CNN Wires:

‘A Missouri police officer involved in maintaining security in troubled Ferguson was put on administrative leave Friday after a video surfaced showing him railing about the Supreme Court, Muslims, and his past — and perhaps, he said, his future — as “a killer.”

The officer, Dan Page of the St. Louis County Police Department, became something of a familiar face to many earlier this month when video showed him pushing back CNN’s Don Lemon and others in a group in Ferguson. At the time, CNN was reporting on the large-scale and at times violent protests calling for the arrest of a white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed African-American teenager Michael Brown.

But it’s another video that led St. Louis County police officials to say they had removed Page from his post and had started a process that will likely include the department’s internal affairs unit investigating and a psychological evaluation of the officer.’

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Washington think tank apologises for telling Amnesty to ‘suck it’

Shelley Hazen reports for Newser:

View image on Twitter

‘An intern at a Washington, DC, think tank was just supposed to monitor its Twitter account, not tell Amnesty International to “suck it.” The human rights organization was making a point about the uproar in Ferguson, Mo., over the shooting death of Michael Brown, tweeting yesterday: “US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clean up its own human rights record,” reports Talking Points Memo. Unfortunately, a Center for Strategic and International Studies intern thought he was using his own account when he expressed this opinion: “Your work has saved far fewer lives than American interventions. So suck it.”‘

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Congress Members Who Approve Militarization of U.S. Police Receive 73% More Money from Defense Industry

From Washington’s Blog:

‘Americans of all stripes oppose the militarization of U.S. police forces.

For example:

  • A new Pew research poll shows that a plurality of people think that the police have gone too far in Ferguson, Missouri

So why does Congress continue to approve militarization? For the same reason that Congress members vote for NSA spying on Americans and go easy on Wall Street criminals: money.’

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Militarized Cops and Donuts by John Cole

Independent Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Shot SIX Times in the Front

Local police involved in 400 killings per year

Kevin Johnson, Meghan Hoyer and Brad Heath report for USA Today:

A citizen peacekeeper tries to keep protesters back as police advance on Aug. 18 in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer has touched off demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas against protesters.‘Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI. On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police. The numbers appear to show that the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., last Saturday was not an isolated event in American policing.

The reports show that 18% of the blacks killed during those seven years were under age 21, compared to 8.7% of whites. The victim in Ferguson was 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police have yet to identify the officer who shot him; witnesses have said the officer was white. While the racial analysis is striking, the database it’s based on has been long considered flawed and largely incomplete. The killings are self-reported by law enforcement and not all police departments participate so the database undercounts the actual number of deaths. Plus, the numbers are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI and the statistics on “justifiable” homicides have conflicted with independent measures of fatalities at the hands of police.’

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Is Police Militarization A Distraction From Understanding Ferguson?