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Forum Post: How Does Our Government Surveil Us? Let's Count the Ways

Posted 2 years ago on April 11, 2012, 7:38 p.m. EST by LeoYo (4861)
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How Does Our Government Surveil Us? Let's Count the Ways

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 09:54 By Bill Quigley, Truthout | News Analysis

Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs are tracking people. One. The National Security Agency (NSA) collects hundreds of millions of emails, texts and phone calls every day and has the ability to collect and sift through billions more. WIRED just reported NSA is building an immense new data center, which will intercept, analyze and store even more electronic communications from satellites and cables across the nation and the world. Though NSA is not supposed to focus on US citizens, it far too often does. Two. The Federal Bureau of Investigation National Security Branch Analysis Center (NSAC) has more than 1.5 billion government and private-sector records about US citizens collected from commercial databases, government information and criminal probes which it uses in its investigations. Three. The American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times recently reported that cellphones of private individuals in the US are being tracked without warrants by state and local law enforcement all across the country. With more than 300 million cellphones in the US connected to more than 200,000 cell phone towers, cellphone tracking software can pinpoint the location of a phone and document the places the cellphone goes over the course of a day, week, month or longer. See in Re US for Historical Cell Site Data 747F Supp 2d 827 9SD Texas 2010) October 29, 2010. Four. More than 62 million people in the US have their fingerprints on file with the FBI, state and local governments. This system, called the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), shares information with 43 states and five federal agencies. This system conducts more than 168,000 checks each day. Five. Over 126 million people have their fingerprints, photographs and biographical information accessible on the US Department of Homeland Security Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). This system conducts about 250,000 biometric transactions each day. The goal of this system is to provide information for national security, law enforcement, immigration, intelligence and other Homeland Security Functions. See here and here. Six. More than 110 million people have their visas and more than 90 million have their photographs entered into the US Department of State Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). This system grows by adding about 35,000 people a day. This system serves as a gateway to the Department of State Facial Recognition system, IDENT and IAFSIS. See here. Seven. DNA profiles on more than ten million people are available in the FBI coordinated Combined DNA index System (CODIS) National DNA Index. See here and here. Eight. Information on more than two million people is kept in the Intelligence Community Security Clearance Repository, commonly known as Scattered Castles. Most of the people in this database are employees of the Department of Defense (DOD) and other intelligence agencies. Nine. The DOD has an automated biometric identification system (ABIS) to support military operations overseas. This database incorporates fingerprint, palm print, face and iris matching on six million people and is adding 20,000 more people each day. Ten. Information on over 740,000 people is included in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) of the National Counterterrorism Center. TIDE is the US government central repository of information on international terrorist identities. The government says that less than 2 percent of the people on file are US citizens or legal permanent residents.

They were just given permission to keep their nonterrorism information on US citizens for a period of five years, up from 180 days. Eleven. Tens of thousands of people are subjects of facial recognition software. The FBI has been working with North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and other state and local law enforcement on facial recognition software in a project called "Face Mask." For example, the FBI has provided thousands of photos and names to the North Carolina DMV, which runs those against their photos of North Carolina drivers. See here. The Maricopa Arizona County sheriff’s office alone records 9,000 biometric mug shots a month. Twelve. The FBI operates the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SAR), which collects and analyzes observations or reports of suspicious activities by local law enforcement. With over 160,000 suspicious activity files, SAR stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime, but who are alleged to have acted suspiciously. See here and here. Thirteen. The FBI admits it has about 3,000 GPS tracking devices on cars of unsuspecting people in the US right now, after the US Supreme Court decision authorizing these only after a warrant for probable cause has been issued. The Future The technology for tracking and identifying people is exploding as is the government appetite for it. Soon, police everywhere will be equipped with handheld devices to collect fingerprint, face, iris and even DNA information on the spot and have it instantly sent to national databases for comparison and storage. Bloomberg News reports the newest surveillance products "can also secretly activate laptop webcams or microphones on mobile devices," change the contents of written emails mid-transmission and use voice recognition to scan phone networks. The advanced technology of the war on terrorism, combined with deferential courts and legislators, have endangered both the right to privacy and the right of people to be free from government snooping and tracking.

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[-] 1 points by elf3 (2045) 2 years ago

We are at the edge of history - where are the generation that will lead to revolution or an Orwellian future. We need to stop it not only for ourselves but for future generations who will look back and say - why did they allow this to begin? Will we? I see it as one group of "citizens" (though they are headquartered offshore mostly) be them the one percent or wallstreet infringing on the rights of the 99 percent of the actual citizenry. Our government is failing to protect us. Instead they are taking payoffs. This Congress will forever be know for the people who allowed the citizenry to give up their rights and be controlled. It will be the end of Freedom. And those in government who allowed it will one day be held in account for it in the history books of humankind.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4861) 2 years ago

Government is merely doing what it has always been doing; protecting the interests of the wealthy while controling the masses. This is why the Founders voted against federal elected officials being held accountable by the people through recall and why initiative, referendum, and recall hadn't been instituted at all levels of government from the beginning. It's why there had been a Whiskey Rebellion and why there had been the Sedition Act of 1798. It's why Thomas Jefferson, one of the wealthiest members of the landed gentry, had objected to legislators being bought out to do the bidding of the even wealthier monied interests. And it's why there isn't a freedom clause to ensure that everyone be secure in their natural ability to do as they please with their persons and their (non-living) property without interference to others. It's never been a free country because the majority of the Founders and their successors have never intended it to be. Thus, everything that's happening now is merely the natural process of tyranny begun by the Founders. So long as people choose not to see the tyranny they have always been subjected to by calling it freedom, they will never be free ("None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."). Restoring things to the way they were before now will never bring about freedom as it will only restore things to the ongoing conditions of repression that have led to this current state. Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it and so long as the American people choose to ignore the truth of their own history, they will be doomed to live it.

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (5691) from St Louis, MO 2 years ago

Ever wonder why booths and tables have begun cropping up at various locations (like welfare offices) giving away FREE cell phones? Hmmm. And who is footing the bill?

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 2 years ago

Catchy title. Long blocks of text without paragraph breaks inhibits starting an attempt to read .

[Removed]

[-] 1 points by toukarin (488) 2 years ago

Surveillance you say? Privacy has been a thing of the past for a few decades now. They just made it legal in the Bush era....

All the wonderful connected gadgets and smart phones we are getting only make it easier to maintain surveillance over us.

They track what you buy and where you shop via credit/debit cards. Banks sell this data to retailers for profit.

They know what you read and watch on the internet. Heck... websites use cookies to send you targeted adverts after all...

Insurance companies are starting to put trackers in vehicles to allow them to give you appropriate rates depending on your driving habits. Most new cars also have central processors hooked into the cellular network anyway. Key-less entry may not be so attractive anymore.

Fingerprints and pictures are collected all the time for any number of purposes. DNA information too if they really want it.

The number of cameras in public spaces have only been growing. With drones now allowed to operate in US airspace they might not need complete coverage anymore I guess.

They can listen to everything you say and hear. Phones, Email, Webcams etc.

Perhaps the only safe place is the inside of your head. Assuming you don't get subjected to rendition and torture by a 'cooperating' government.

See... technically speaking... US agents are not allowed to carry out torture. They call it 'enhanced interrogation techniques after all.

Should these fail, they send you to prisons in unnamed countries where the agents of those countries will do unspeakable things to get you to speak your mind... assuming they will actually care about that... mostly they will just want you to agree to their version of events...

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4861) 2 years ago

5 real-life weapons straight out of a sci-fi movie

Forget the light saber; the flashy sword is but a part of the fictional Star Wars universe. These five crazy, futuristic, and veritably frightening weapons may sound like they come from epic sci-fi flicks, but they're no mere figments of the imagination — they actually exist.

From pain rays to guns that can turn people into zombies, these weapons are no longer the stuff of fiction

  1. Speech-suppressing gun If there were ever a weapon made to fit Big Brother's world to a T, this is it. Let's say someone doesn't want to hear any more of your opinions. All they have to do is point this weapon at you and pull the trigger. This gun was designed by Japanese researchers to silence people by messing with their heads, but how exactly does it work?

Within a distance of 100 feet, a directional mic perched on top of the gun picks up whatever it is the target is saying. The boxy, directional speaker that makes up the bulk of the weapon then plays the sound back with a 0.2-second delay, effectively inducing delayed auditory feedback, a phenomenon caused by the echo of your own voice that interrupts your thoughts and renders you speechless.

[Related: Palm-Sized Star Trek Tech May Be Closer Than You Think] While it's true that the weapon could be used to ensure silence in places like the library, it could also be used to silence protesters, important political figures, and other people who actually have important things to say. Talk about an Orwellian nightmare come true!

  1. Vomit ray This weapon could also prevent you from speaking your mind, but it's because you're going to be too busy to talk while you're throwing up your lunch. Back in 2007, the U.S. Navy signed a contract with a company called Invocon to develop a weapon that uses radio frequency (RF) to affect a person's sense of hearing and equilibrium. Anyone hit by these waves (which, by the way, can pass through walls) is expected to throw up and experience severe motion sickness — effects that were proven when the company demonstrated the weapon on a very unlucky individual. In the same year, the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology department awarded $800,000 to a company called Intelligent Optical Systems (IOS) to develop the LED Incapacitator. It's a fancy flashlight that emits rapid pulse of different-colored lights to induce headache and dizziness, with vomiting as one of the possible aftereffects. Want to make your own puke-inducing weapon? A couple of hardware hackers built one for $250, called it Bedazzler, and even posted instructions you can follow online. Part of Bedazzler's official page reads: "Yes this project does indeed cause: Nausea, dizziness, headache, flashblindness, eye pain and (occasional?) vomiting! So don't use it on your friends or pets." Although if you're building the Bedazzler because you're probably an evil overlord in training, we doubt you're going to take that advice.

  2. Pain ray More formally known as the Active Denial System (ADS), the pain ray is a weapon developed by the U.S. military that can — wait for it — cause excruciating pain by emitting high-powered waves similar to those from a microwave oven. Developed by the Pentagon, the system is composed of huge, vehicle-mounted plates. It was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010 and pulled back just a month later without having been used. It's unclear whether the military's plans to develop a rifle version of the system ever panned out. However, a smaller version of the pain ray called Silent Guardian was developed by defense technology company Raytheon and is currently available for use by law enforcement agencies. While the ADS reportedly never saw action in the battlefield, it went through 10,000 trial exposures involving real people. The test subjects reported feeling like they were on fire a few seconds after being targeted, but the agonizing pain vanished as soon as they stepped out of the beam's way. The weapon was only designed to inflict pain and not actually burn anything, but around 0.1% of the test subjects reported blisters caused by second-degree burns. Double ouch!

  3. Mind-control gun Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently admitted that the country's government created a gun that can put people in a zombie-like state... at least for a short while. Or so we hope. Russia's mind-control gun attacks a target's central nervous system with electromagnetic radiation and is designed to be used for crowd control. While the government's keeping mum about the details, previous studies about the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the brain reveal that one of its possible effects is implanting thoughts and suggestions into a target's mind. Good thing these scary zombie guns are confined to Russia and have not yet appeared in the United States, right? Well, in 2008, a U.S. company called Sierra Nevada Corporation announced that it was going to start producing the Medusa ray gun — a weapon that uses rapid microwave pulses that your brain perceives as extremely annoying sounds. Soon after the company introduced Medusa, independent scientists came out to warn people that the weapon can't produce sounds annoying enough to disperse crowds unless it shoots strong microwave pulses that can literally fry your brain. Yikes. At least the Russian government was able to successfully test its zombie gun on real people (though to be fair, we're not exactly sure if any brains got fried in the process).

  4. Self-guided bullet The U.S. Sandia National Laboratories developed a new kind of bullet that could turn anyone into a sharpshooter in a heartbeat. The four-inch projectile has small fins on its tails similar to a dart that can steer it straight toward the target. As long as you shine a laser beam to what you want to hit, the sensor on the bullet's nose can follow it, even in the midst of strong winds and even if the target is up to a mile away. The self-guided bullet was designed for DARPA's Exacto program and will be used by the military and law enforcement agencies. Could futuristic laser battles actually happen?Waiting for visible laser guns? Keep waiting Many sci-fi fans are salivating for the day when handheld laser pistols become commonplace. Movies like Star Wars showcase powerful visible laser weapons in all shapes and sizes — from massive, ship-mounted cannons to tiny blasters that can fit in your pocket. Unfortunately, the chances of these types of firearms becoming a reality rests somewhere between slim and none. There are several reasons why sci-fi laser weapons will never be possible. For starters, all current weaponized laser technology uses wavelengths of light that are invisible to the human eye. They can cause damage to a target, but you'd never be able to actually see the damaging rays the weapons generate. Second, since lasers travel at the speed of light, even if a visible laser weapon were conceptualized, you'd never actually be able to see the distinct glowing bars that are so common in futuristic firefights. On top of all that, lasers capable of doing damage to a target need massive power supplies, making the idea of a personal, portable laser weapon absolutely ludicrous.

Fascinating yet horrifying Most of the weapons in this list may not be created to inflict fatal wounds, but they sure have terrifying implications. We know we don't want to experience awful pain, be turned into a zombie, or have our right to free speech taken away. Still, these creations represent fascinating advancements in science and technology. Let's just hope they don't fall into the hands of someone who has dreams of global domination.

[Image credits: U.S. Department of Defense]

This article was written by Mariella Moon and originally appeared on Tecca