If you drive through Maryland, the state may be using an automated reader to photograph your license plate — and storing your movements away for future use. Maryland is not alone. ACLU offices in 38 states are looking into how the government is using license-plate readers across the country — and what it is doing with the data. The ACLU is already calling the license-plate readers “the next big thing in government tracking.”
There are some uses of automatic license-plate readers that most people would agree are relatively unobjectionable — looking for cars that fled crime scenes or have been stolen, for example. The real problem is that when the government stores that information, it is not trying to solve an ongoing crime — it is building a database. These databases can quickly fill up with all sorts of details about how people lead their lives. By piecing together the locations of a particular license plate over time, the government may be able to determine if someone goes to church, synagogue or mosque regularly; whether they go to meetings of a particular political group; whether they participate in protests; or even if they are having an affair.
Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology — and have installed it across the US under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.
Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it’s the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community. The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation’s ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented.
The details on Abraxas and, to an even greater extent TrapWire, are scarce, however, and not without reason. For a program touted as a tool to thwart terrorism and monitor activity meant to be under wraps, its understandable that Abraxas would want the program’s public presence to be relatively limited. But thanks to last year’s hack of the Strategic Forecasting intelligence agency, or Stratfor, all of that is quickly changing.
By David Ingram, Reuters
WASHINGTON – Neither Goldman Sachs Group Inc nor its employees will face U.S. criminalcharges related to trades they made during the financial crisis that were highlighted in a 2011 U.S. Senate report, the Justice Department said on Thursday.
The unusual announcement not to prosecute criminally came in an unsigned statement attributed to the department.
Few expected the bank to face criminal charges, but in April 2011, U.S. Senator Carl Levin asked for a criminal investigation after the subcommittee he leads spent years looking into Goldman.
Levin’s subcommittee held televised hearings as part of its inquiry, which centered on a subprime mortgage product known as Abacus. He said Goldman misled Congress and investors.
The FBI taught its agents that they could sometimes “bend or suspend the law” in their hunt for terrorists and criminals. Other FBI instructional material, discovered during a months-long review of FBI counterterrorism training, warned agents against shaking hands with “Asians” and said Arabs were prone to “Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums.”
These are just some of the disturbing results of the FBI’s six-month review into how the Bureau trained its counterterrorism agents. That review, now complete, did not result in a single disciplinary action for any instructor. Nor did it mandate the retraining of any FBI agent exposed to what the Bureau concedes was inappropriate material. Nor did it look at any intelligence reports that might have been influenced by the training. All that has a powerful senator saying that the review represents a “failure to adequately address” the problem.
The Guardian’s got a great article up about police in the US, particularly the NYPD, continuously monitoring groups, some for 8 or more years, that have never done anything illegal. In these days of warrantless wiretaps, that’s more than a little freaky. Here are a few excerpts:
Undercover New York police department officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the US, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counter-terrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.
The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Republican congressman Ron Paul might indicate support for violent militias — an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.
Over on Threat Level they’re talking about a giant new data center that’s being built in Utah, and what it’ll be used for…
In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.
Remember the tinfoil hats talking about how everything you said or did on the net could be tracked and analyzed? Turns out to be true already. “But,” you say, “we still have encryption, I’ll just PGP all my emails and IMs.”
The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
So, the prison population in the US has gone up five-fold in the last 30 years. Why? Well, the Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial. So we end up where we are today… The jury trial system just isn’t used anymore. There’s a great article in the Times about “crashing the system” by refusing to plea bargain and actually forcing a trial:
But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.
“The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used,” said Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In other words: the system is rigged.
So how do they plan to crash the system? By:
organizing people, on a large scale, to refuse to plea-bargain when charged with a crime.
From the Times:
On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street “day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.
Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.
All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer. The fourth person could not be reached for comment.
The Village Voice has a great piece about the vindication of a whistleblower within the NYPD:
For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraftsecretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to do two things in order to manipulate the “stats” that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports.
Arresting bystanders made it look like the department was efficient, while artificially reducing the amount of serious crime made the commander look good.
The full story is here.
John Lovell is a lobbyist who makes a lot of money from making sure you can’t smoke a joint. That’s his job. He’s a lobbyist for the police unions in Sacramento, and he is a driving force behind grabbing Federal dollars to shut down the California marijuana industry. I’ll get to the evidence on this important story in a bit, but first, some context.
At some point in the distant past, the war on drugs might have been popular. But not anymore — the polling is clear, but beyond that, the last three Presidents have used illegal drugs. So why do we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is, of course, money in politics. Corruption. Whatever you want to call it, it’s why you can’t smoke a joint without committing a crime, though of course you can ingest any number of pills or drinks completely within the law.
Some of the groups who want to keep the drug illegal are police unions that want more members to pay more dues. One of the primary sources for cash for more policing activities are Federal grants for penalizing illegal drug use, which help pay for overtime, additional police officers, and equipment for the force. That’s what Lovell does, he gets those grants. He also fights against democratic mechanisms to legalize drugs.