Archive for surveillance

Big Brother ratcheting up the Surveillance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by saynsumthn

Brace yourselves for the next wave in the surveillance state’s steady incursions into our lives. It’s coming at us with a lethal one-two punch.

To start with, there’s the government’s integration of facial recognition software and other biometric markers into its identification data programs. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is a $1 billion boondoggle that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s current ID database from a fingerprint system to a facial recognition system. NGI will use a variety of biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras to not only track your every move but create a permanent “recognition” file on you within the government’s massive databases.

By the time it’s fully operational in 2014, NGI will serve as a vast data storehouse of “iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.” One component of NGI, the Universal Face Workstation, already contains some 13 million facial images, gleaned from “criminal mug shot photos” taken during the booking process. However, with major search engines having “accumulated face image databases that in their size dwarf the Earth’s population,” it’s only a matter of time before the government taps into the trove of images stored on social media and photo sharing websites such as Facebook.

Read rest here

Feds recruit bank spies

Posted in banks with tags , on August 13, 2012 by saynsumthn

Consumer bureau seeks sleuths for bad bankers

The federal government’s newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is recruiting investigators in ads that suggest the agency plans to go undercover to pursue cases against banks, credit card companies and other financial companies.

“As needed,” one recent recruitment ad stated to potential investigators, “establish and conduct surveillance activity to develop both intelligence and evidence to further investigations. Utilize surveillance activities to identify subjects, their activities and their associates, corroborate source information and collect evidence.”

The bureau also said that investigators, who would earn $98,000 to $149,000 per year, may have to arrange for and oversee contracts with private investigators. These private investigators “may know the players, culture, history in a specific geographic area in which a case is centered,” according to the advertisements, which outline a host of other responsibilities.

The recruitment effort also makes clear that while working under enforcement lawyers, investigators would be assigned to “delicate matters, issues and investigative problems for which there are few, if any, established criteria.”

Officials at the bureau declined to discuss specific investigative techniques, but said the practices would not engage in any sort of activities that violate the civil liberties of subjects.

Read rest from Washington Times here

Is Big Brother spying on the Occupy Movement?

Posted in Big Brother, Occupy Wall Street with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2012 by saynsumthn

Remember the Occupy Movement? Since last November, when the NYPD closed the Zuccotti Park encampment in downtown Manhattan –the Movement’s birthplace and symbolic nexus—Occupy’s relevance has seriously dwindled, at least as measured by coverage in the mainstream media. We’re told that this erosion is due to Occupy’s own shortcomings—an inevitable outcome of its disjointed message and decentralized leadership.

According to Business Insider: While that may be the media’s take, the U.S. Government seems to have a different view.

If recent documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) are any indication, the Occupy Movement continues to be monitored and curtailed in a nationwide, federally-orchestrated campaign, spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In response to repeated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the Fund, made on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild, the DHS released a revealing set of documents in April. But the latest batch, made public on May 3rd, exposes the scale of the government’s “attention” to Occupy as never before.

The documents, many of which are partially blacked-out emails, demonstrate a surprising degree of coordination between the DHS’s National Operations Center (NOC) and local authorities in the monitoring of the Occupy movement. Cities implicated in this wide-scale snooping operation include New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Denver, Boston, Portland, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Interest in the Occupy protesters was not limited to DHS and local law enforcement authorities. The most recently released correspondence contains Occupy-related missives between the DHS and agencies at all levels of government, including the Mayor of Portland, regional NOC “fusion centers,” the General Services Administration (GSA), the Pentagon’s USNORTHCOM (Northern Command), and the White House. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF, contends that the variety and reach of the organizations involved point to the existence of a larger, more pervasive domestic surveillance network than previously suspected.

These documents show not only intense government monitoring and coordination in response to the Occupy Movement, but reveal a glimpse into the interior of a vast, tentacled, national intelligence and domestic spying network that the U.S. government operates against its own people. These heavily redacted documents don’t tell the full story. They are likely only a subset of responsive materials and the PCJF continues to fight for a complete release. They scratch the surface of a mass intelligence network including Fusion Centers, saturated with ‘anti-terrorism’ funding, that mobilizes thousands of local and federal officers and agents to investigate and monitor the social justice movement.

As alarmist as Verheyden-Hilliard’s charge may sound, especially given the limited, bowdlerized nature of the source material, the texts made available contain disturbing evidence of insistent federal surveillance. In particular, the role of the “Fusion Centers,” a series of 72 federally-funded information hubs run by the NOC, raises questions about the government’s expansive definition of “Homeland Security.”

Created in the wake of 9/11, the Fusion Centers were founded to expedite the sharing of information among state and local law enforcement and the federal government, to monitor localized terrorist threats, and to sidestep the regulations and legislation preventing the CIA and the military from carrying out domestic surveillance (namely, the CIA ban on domestic spying and the Posse Comitatus Act).

Is nonviolent, albeit obstructive, citizen dissent truly an issue of national security? The DHS, for its part, is aware of the contentiousness of civilian monitoring. That’s why, in a White House-approved statement to CBS News included in the dossier, DHS Press Secretary Matthew Chandler asserts that

Any decisions on how to handle specifics (sic) situations are dealt with by local authorities in that location. . . DHS is not actively coordinating with local law enforcement agencies and/or city governments concerning the evictions of Occupy encampments writ large.

However, as a reading of the documents unmistakably demonstrates, this expedient PR nugget is far from the truth. In example after example, from its seeking of “public health and safety” grounds from the City of Portland for Occupy’s ejection from Terry Schrunk Plaza, to its facilitation of information sharing between the police departments of Chicago and Boston (following a 1500-person Occupy protest in Chicago), the DHS’s active ”coordinating” with local authorities is readily apparent. Other communiqués are even more explicit in revealing a national focus, such as the DHS’s preemptive coordination with the Pentagon about a port closure in Oakland, and its collection of identity and contact information of Occupy protesters arrested at a Bank of America in Dallas.

Those Pesky Amendments

The right to public assembly is a central component of the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect Americans from warrantless searches—with the definition of “search” expanded in 1967 to include electronic surveillance, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Katz v. United States. Assuming the Occupy protesters refrain from violence—and the vast majority do, in accord with a stated tenet of the Occupy movement—the movement’s existence is constitutionally protected, or should be.

The DHS’s monitoring, documenting, and undermining of protesters may in fact violate the First Amendment. In a recent piece for Dissent Magazine, sociologist James B. Rule explains the fundamental importance of a movement like Occupy in the American political landscape.

This surveillance campaign against Occupy is bad news for American democracy. Occupy represents an authentic, utterly home-grown, grassroots movement. Taken as a whole, it is neither terrorist nor conspiratorial. Indeed, it is hard to think of another movement so cumbersomely public in its deliberations and processes. Occupy is noisy, disorderly, insubordinate, and often inconvenient for all concerned—statements that could equally well apply to democracy in general. But it should never be targeted as a threat to the well-being of the country—quite the contrary.

Accordingly, Rule calls for the White House to rein in the ever-expanding surveillance activity of the DHS—which he contends is motivated by its own funding interests, and which prioritizes security at the expense of civil liberties.

The resource-rich Department of Homeland Security and its allies no doubt see in the rise of the movement another opportunity to justify their own claims for public legitimacy. We can be sure that many in these agencies view any noisy dissent as tantamount to a threat to national security.

Nobody who cares about democracy wants to live in a world where simply engaging in vociferous protest qualifies any citizen to have his or her identity and life details archived by state security agencies. Specific, overt threats of civil disobedience or other law-breaking should be dealt with on a piecemeal basis—not by attempting to monitor everyone who might be moved to such actions, all the time. Meanwhile, the White House should issue clear directives that identification and tracking of lawful protesters will play no further role in any government response to this populist moment.

Optimistic as it may be, Rule’s appeal to the White House is a problematic one, given the ubiquitous influence of the DHS revealed by these documents. If the White House-approved press release is any indication, the Oval Office, while not directly authorizing the DHS’s initiatives, is certainly turning a blind eye to the Department’s focus on the Occupy movement as a potential terrorist threat. Federal surveillance of citizens in the Bush years, most visible in NSA warrantless wiretapping controversy, has apparently not ceased with Obama’s inauguration.

Which raises the question: Does Obama, as he claims, “stand with the 99 percent,” or with those who cannot stand them?

Read more:

Is Big Brother watching You?

Posted in Big Brother, GPS, InfraGard, Microchip, RFID, terrorism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by saynsumthn

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Conspiracy Theory: Big Brother on Video, posted with vodpod

Big Brother as back seat driver? Vehicle Tracking Devices being discussed .

Posted in Big Brother, New World Order, Tracking Device with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by saynsumthn

The Nevada Department of Transportation has quietly developed a device it could use to track vehicles and charge drivers based on distance, routes and times of day they travel the state’s roadways.

The $260,000 “black box,” built in cooperation with UNLV and UNR, is part of the state’s effort to find a better way to fund highway construction and maintenance. The Transportation Department wants to begin testing the boxes within the next year, but is encountering opposition from privacy advocates.

The black boxes would represent a dramatic shift away from the gasoline and diesel taxes that have paid for publicly funded roads. But a change is necessary, officials say, because as vehicles have become more fuel efficient, the fuel tax hasn’t kept pace with infrastructure needs.

The response from transportation policy experts has been to push a system that charges taxes based on vehicle miles traveled — or VMTs. This includes, in some locations, paying more for driving during peak times.

But Rebecca Gasca, public advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the state’s proposal “raises huge red flags.” The group will oppose “any information-collecting method that would threaten individual privacy rights and allow the government to create an infrastructure for routine surveillance of citizens,” she said.

The state Transportation Department will hold a public meeting today in Reno and another in late April in Las Vegas to discuss moving forward with a pilot program to test ways of tracking miles driven. The pilot program would offer volunteers a variety of options, including placement of one of the department’s black boxes in their vehicles.

“We’d offer a range of alternatives — from odometer readings all the way up to full GPS units that could capture the time of day, the route you are on, the area you are in,” said Scott Rawlins, the Transportation Department’s deputy director. “At the end of the day, it will be the policymakers who ultimately determine what’s right for the public.”

Zong Tian, an assistant professor at UNR, leads the team of researchers developing the black box. (The Transportation Department and the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County each contributed $100,000 to the project; the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada contributed $60,000.)

Tian said the device can be adjusted to accommodate “different levels of privacy protection: It could just be summary data — how many miles you drove on state highways, how many on local roads. It doesn’t have to track every second of movement.”

While privacy advocates acknowledged many aspects of the proposal have yet to be resolved, Gasca said, “I doubt there will be any answers that mollify our privacy concerns.”

Gasca said her group would support an annual odometer reading, but transportation policy experts note that would not tax out-of-state drivers for their use of Nevada’s roads.

Still, the state’s effort to find an alternative to the gas tax does have its supporters.

The Nevada Highway Users Coalition, which includes labor unions, public officials and construction company associations, said it supports moving forward with the VMT study.

“There are a lot of concerns, but this is the beginning of a study,” said Buzz Harris, assistant executive director of the Nevada chapter of the Associated General Contractors. “This is the beginning of going through iterations of how this is going to come about. Obviously, our system is broken.”

Nevada will face a $6 billion shortfall in highway infrastructure funding by 2016, according to Transportation Department estimates.

Meanwhile, the state’s gasoline tax has remained at its current level of 23 cents — which includes local and state taxes — since 1992.

Transportation consultants say that as cars become more fuel efficient, and hybrids and electric cars become more common, the share they pay for highway wear and maintenance declines.

“We can have a debate for the next 45 years on privacy issues, it’s not even a worthy debate,” said Tom Skancke, a transportation consultant based in Las Vegas. “People worried about being tracked should give up their cell phones. Give up OnStar.

“It’s a cultural shift, but we have to make it. Are people not going to like it? Absolutely.”

Skancke said future federal transportation bills could include funding for VMT pilot programs, even though President Barack Obama has opposed such proposals.

Rawlins said, “The bottom line is I believe a certain sector of the public out there does not mind. They utilize OnStar system in their vehicle. If they have an emergency, they want rescue officials to find them. They see a benefit.

“Maybe we have an opt-in type system, where you might get a better rate per mile based on the technology you’re using.”

The purpose of the pilot program is to accumulate enough data so the Legislature can make an informed policy decision.

Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Motor Transport Association, said his group is primarily concerned about an increase in collection costs with a shift from a fuel tax to one based on tracking miles traveled.

Collecting the current fuel tax requires low administrative overhead, he said, while pilot programs in other states have shown VMT systems to be costlier.

Enos said right now, the administrative cost on fuel tax is just 2 1/2 cents on the dollar. Other states’ pilot programs have had costs of up to 20 percent.