Surveillance State: We Are One Step Away from Glass Houses

In Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We, the people of One State live in transparent apartments with curtains required to be open nearly all the time so police and informants may view the residents’ every action. Listening to George Washington University Law School Professor Jeffrey Rosen’s interview last week on The Take Away, it becomes disturbingly clear that Americans are one step away from this level of government snooping on our activities. Rosen details how police can use facial recognition software combined with abundant cameras to track and catalog our activities. As Rosen explains, the snooping is not limited to attempting to catch suspected criminals. Rather, police may use the technology to follow the daily activities of any person whose photo is contained in vast photo databases, such as anyone with a driver license.

The US government is working with states to expand quickly the use of facial recognition surveillance. Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned last year:

Recently-released documents show that the FBI has been working since late 2011 with four states—Michigan, Hawaii, Maryland, and possibly Oregon—to ramp up the Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program. When the program is fully deployed in 2014, the FBI expects its facial recognition database will contain at least 12 million “searchable frontal photos.”

The database will quickly grow much larger. Lynch explains that agreements between the FBI and states in the pilot program allow the states to add just about anyone’s photo to the database, including data dumps of driver license photos.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

RPI Board Members Speak Out Against US Attack on Syria

RPI Advisory Board Members Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich are speaking out in opposition to a US military attack on Syria.

US Rep. Duncan, in a television interview in his home state of Tennessee, engages the issue with clear, straightforward comments as he often engages legislation on the House of Representatives floor. Among other comments in the short interview, Duncan notes that “We don’t need to be getting involved in a civil war in Syria. We don’t have a vital national interest over there,” and “We seemingly are almost in a state of permanent war, and I don’t believe that our people want us to be in a state of permanent war, and I don’t believe we can afford it.”

The Hill quotes former US Rep. Kucinich as asking, “So what, we’re about to become Al Qaeda’s air force now?” Kucinich also joins the questioning of justifying US military action on the Syrian government’s alleged chemical weapons use:

“This is being used as a pretext,” [Kucinich] said. “The verdict is in before the facts have been gathered. What does that tell you?”

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

NYPD Muslim Surveillance and Mosque Infiltration Exposed

On the heels of a court deciding the New York City police department’s stop-and-frisk program violates constitutional search and seizure limitations, the Associated Press reports the NYPD has for years engaged in the infiltration of mosques and and the large-scale, dragnet surveillance of Muslims. It appears this Muslim surveillance program, like the stop-and-frisk program, does not require a credible determination of probable cause that the people targeted are engaged in unlawful activities. The AP story begins with the following revelation of the scope of the surveillance program:

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

For the Back to School List—Military Recruiter Opt Out Form

While shopping for pens, notebooks, or a backpack, don’t forget to consider adding one more item to your back to school list—a military recruiter opt out form. All government school systems and most private schools that receive education funding from the United Stated government are required to provide to military recruiters high school students’ names, addresses, and telephone numbers, plus any additional information about the students provided to colleges or prospective employers. The only way to prevent the sharing of this information is for a student or parent to opt out of the disclosure.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Hundreds Protest NH Police Chief’s Tank Request

The Concord Monitor reports that hundreds of people came to the Concord, New Hampshire city council meeting Monday night to protest Concord Police Chief John Duval’s ongoing effort to obtain a Lenco BearCat G3 armored vehicle for the town’s police department.

BearCat opposition at the meeting was overwhelming. The Concord Monitor notes that most of the dozens of people speaking during two hours of public testimony opposed acquisition of the tank-like armored vehicle, while outside hundreds of people, including Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire supporters, “played drums, chanted and held signs identifying themselves as citizens, neighbors and taxpayers.” To justify the need for the armored vehicle, Duval’s initial grant application suggested Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire supporters are terrorists.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Washington Gay Policy Push Counterproductive in Russia

Americans upset over a new Russian law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors” should think twice before calling on the United States government to help their cause. That is the message of Stephen F. Cohen, a professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University who expresses sympathy with gay rights movements but skepticism of US government action to advance such movements in Russia. As a guest on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show on Monday, Cohen made astute comments regarding the situation. Here is my transcription of Cohen’s comments, which you can hear him present in the discussion that starts at 33:40 in the show:

It’s an odious law. But, first, gay folks in Russia will have to achieve full rights on their own. No outside country or power can do this for them. In fact, Western intervention on this will make the problem for gays in Russia worse because it will fuse it with nationalism, which is already the main rising force in Russia.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

NH Police Chief: I Need Tanks to Fight the Free State Project!

Mother Jones reports that Concord, NH Police Chief John Duval has backed off his outlandish suggestion that his police department needs a Lenco Bearcat G3 to fend off the terrorism threat posed by the Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire. Duval had made the claim in his application for a $250,000-plus grant to purchase the armored vehicle that Free State Project President Carla Gericke simply calls a tank.

Of course, Duval still wants his Bearcat nonetheless—even if he does have to amend his application. You see, several other New Hampshire police departments already have the armored vehicle, the Bearcat looks really neat in the advert video with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” playing. And, somebody else is willing to pay for it! Nothing moves the demand curve like “it’s free”.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Does Washington Post Purchase Create Spooky Conflict of Interest?

Everyone is talking about Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’s recent purchase of the Washington Post. Less noticed is the conflict of interest between his ownership of the Post and Amazon’s potentially significant profits from computing and data storage contracts with numerous US government agencies including the CIA. The question is whether the newspaper will be able to even-handedly report on the US government despite Bezos’s financial interest in US government contracts.

Though not as well known as its retail sales business, Amazon is a big player in data storage and cloud computing. GCN reports that Amazon’s cloud services arm Amazon Web Services is the “largest hosting company in the world” and has more than 300 government agencies as customers.

Among Amazon’s more recent government contracts is a 10 year, $600 million contract to build private cloud services inside CIA data centers.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

President José Mujica Versus the United Nations

Uruguay’s President José Mujica is standing up to United Nations bureaucrats at the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) who are chastising Uruguay for advancing legislation that will allow the legal growth, sale, and purchase of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Mujica plans to defend his nation’s marijuana law reform in a speech before the UN General Assembly in September. For a preview, read here excerpts from Mujica’s Thursday radio address to Uruguayans after the marijuana reform law passed in Uruguay’s lower house of congress.

In 2011, the INCB similarly chastised Bolivia for withdrawing from the 1961 United Nations Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs so Bolivia could rejoin the convention with a reservation protecting the traditional use of coca leaves in the nation. Later, Bolivian President Evo Morales defended before a UN anti-drug meeting in May 2012 his nation’s choice to respect what he called “a millennia-old tradition in Bolivia.”

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.