Sunday, June 24, 2012

Big Brother talks back – Is 1984 here?

Russia Today

(RussiaToday) – The city of Chicago is the most watched city in the U.S., with a network of tens of thousands of security cameras. But Big Brother won’t stop at that — new street lights with a twist about to be put in place in Chicago and several other cities — are able to speak to people, as well as record conversations. RT’s Anastasia Churkina reports.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thousands of military drones to be deployed over US mainland

World Socialist Website
by Tom Carter

A recent Department of Defense report to Congress as well as a number of media investigations have exposed government plans to deploy tens of thousands of drones over the US mainland in the coming years.

An investigative report published over the weekend by the Christian Science Monitor cited the government’s own estimates that “as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years.”

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as “drones,” are extremely sophisticated remotely-operated aircraft, developed and manufactured by the military-industrial complex in recent years at a cost of billions of dollars.

Drones vary in size from the four-pound RQ-11B Raven surveillance drone, which can be launched by hand, to the giant MQ-9 Reaper combat drone, manufactured by Northrup Grumman. The Reaper has a maximum take-off weight of 7,000 pounds, including up to 3,000 pounds of bombs, missiles and other armaments. The infamous MQ-1 Predator drone, armed with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, is the Obama administration’s favored weapon in its illegal assassination program. A Predator drone was used in the unprecedented assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen last September.

With a push of a button, thousands of pounds of high explosives can be dropped on anyone, anywhere in the world, with startling precision. Safe behind video screens at military bases within the US, military drone operators refer to their victims as “bug splats.” Thousands of innocent civilians have already been murdered in this way in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

An April Department of Defense report, titled “Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability,” reveals that a massive drone infrastructure is already being erected within the US, with billions of dollars being allocated, bases being erected, thousands of pilots and crews being trained, and inventories being stockpiled.

The report identifies 110 military bases that will serve as drone launch sites. The deadly Predator and Reaper drones will operate out of Creech Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada, Holloman AFB and Cannon AFB in New Mexico, Fort Drum in New York, Grand Forks in North Dakota, Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, Whiteman AFB in Missouri, and the Southern California Logistics Airport, among others.

The accompanying map, from an Air Force power-point presentation released this month, shows current and projected locations for drone bases within the US.

The Department of Defense report argues for lifting the current framework of restrictions on drone flights over the US on the grounds that it “does not provide the level of airspace access necessary to accomplish the wide range of DoD UAS missions at current and projected operational tempos (OPTEMPOs).”

The language of the report is revealing and ominous. “This constraint will only be exacerbated as combat operations shift from abroad and systems return to US locations,” the report states. It expressly refers to plans to “conduct continental United States (CONUS)-based missions.”

In January, Congress passed HR 658, which requires the Federal Aviation Administration to take steps to facilitate the integration of drones “into the national airspace system.” President Obama signed the bill on February 14 with no public discussion or comment. (See “Drones come to the US”)

Since Obama signed the bill, hundreds of drones have already begun flying over the US to spy on and monitor the population. A recent ABC News investigative report entitled “UAVs: Will Our Civil Liberties Be Droned Out?” outlined the possibility of drones buzzing overhead becoming “a fact of daily life.”

ABC News reported: “Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. And they can be armed.”

“Among the most eager to fly domestic drones are America’s police departments,” the report stated. “In Texas, a Montgomery county sheriff’s office recently said it would deploy a drone bought with money from a Department of Homeland Security grant and was contemplating arming the drone with non-lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets or Taser-style rounds.”

The ABC News report identified “political protests” as one of the activities that can be monitored by drones. In December, the American Civil Liberties Union published a detailed report on the dangers of a massive build-up of surveillance drones within the US, warning that “our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values.”

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU, described last month a “nightmare scenario” of widespread drone spying leading “to an oppressive atmosphere where people learn to think twice about everything they do, knowing that it will be recorded, charted, scrutinized by increasingly intelligent computers, and possibly used to target them.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article in December of last year, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are already using Predator drones for operations within the US. Last week, a huge Global Hawk drone being operated by the US Navy for an unknown purpose crashed in Maryland.

The deployment of tens of thousands of surveillance drones over the mainland US takes on special significance in light of recent revelations that the Obama administration is secretly constructing “bottomless” databases to house information gathered about US citizens. (See “Obama administration expands illegal surveillance of Americans”)

The build-up of drone bases within the US is one component of preparations by the US government for a confrontation with its own population. Like everything else associated with the so-called “war on terror”—including torture, detention without trial, warrantless spying, assassinations, military tribunals, and expanded executive and intelligence powers—the use of drones for spying and assassination in the Middle East is a prelude to the development of systems that will ultimately be used against the American people in the event of social upheavals.

On “Terror Tuesdays” at the White House, President Obama helps draw up a list of opponents of US policy overseas who are to be illegally assassinated by drone-fired missiles. These “kill lists” have already included US citizens. With tens of thousands of drones flying overhead, and with the US mainland designated as a “battleground” in the never-ending and geographically unlimited “war on terror,” the US ruling class hopes one day soon to be able to eliminate its domestic opponents with similar ease.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Economic Collapse a Mathematical Certainty - Top 5 Places Where Not To Be

19 Signs That America Has Become A Crazy Control Freak Nation Where Almost Everything Is Illegal

The American Dream

 Do you think that you are free? Most Americans would still probably answer "yes" to that question, but is that really the case? In the film Edge of Darkness, Mel Gibson stated that "everything is illegal in Massachusetts". Well, the same could pretty much be said for the United States as a whole. Our lives are governed by millions of laws, rules and regulations and more are being piled on all the time. In fact, 40,000 new laws just went into effect in January. Every single new law restricts your freedom just a little bit more. The truth is that America has become a crazy control freak nation where virtually everything that we do is highly regulated. You have probably broken multiple laws today that you don't even know exist. We have all become criminals and lawbreakers because almost everything is illegal at this point. Our politicians are convinced that they are "making life better" by piling gigantic mountains of laws on to our backs, and law enforcement authorities are convinced that they are helping society by "cracking down on crime", but the reality is that our liberties and our freedoms are being strangled by all of this government oppression. This is not the way that America is supposed to work.

Yes, every society needs laws. But the laws should be short enough and simple enough that everybody can read them and understand them.

In America today, there is no possible way that any of us could ever read all of the laws that apply to us. Most of us just live our daily lives and try to do the "right" thing. But there is no guarantee that men with guns will not show up at your door one evening because of some obscure regulation that you have broken.

The following are 19 signs that America has become a crazy control freak nation where almost everything is illegal....

#1 One California town is actually considering making it illegal to smoke in your own backyard.

#2 In Louisiana, a church was recently ordered to stop giving out water because it did not have a permit to do so.

#3 In the United States it is illegal to operate a train that does not have an "F" painted on the front. Apparently without that "F" we all might not know where the front of the train is.

#4 In many U.S. states is it now illegal to collect rain that falls from the sky on to your own property.

#5 In America today it is illegal to milk your cow and sell the milk to your neighbor. If you do this, there is a good chance that federal agents will raid your home at the crack of dawn.

#6 In Washington D.C. it is illegal not to recycle cat litter.

#7 It is illegal to give a tour of the monuments in Washington D.C. without a license.

#8 In the United States it is illegal to sell natural cures for cancer - even if they work.

#9 In the state of Massachusetts it is illegal to deface a milk carton.

#10 In the state of Alabama, bear wrestling is completely illegal.

#11 In Fairbanks, Alaska it is illegal to give alcoholic beverages to a moose.

#12 In Lake Elmo, Minnesota it is illegal to sell pumpkins or Christmas trees that are grown outside city limits.

#13 There is a federal law that makes it illegal to be "annoying" on the Internet.

#14 If you register with a false name on MySpace or Facebook you could potentially "spend five years in federal prison".

#15 In Hazelwood, Missouri it is illegal for little girls to sell girl scout cookies in the front yards of their own homes.

#16 All over the United States lemonade stands run by children are being shut down because they do not have the proper permits.

#17 In Florida, it is illegal to bring a plastic butter knife to school.

#18 In San Juan Capistrano, California it is illegal to hold a home Bible study without a "conditional use permit".

#19 In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania it is illegal to make even a single dollar from a blog unless you buy a $300 business license.

Sadly, this list of crazy laws and ridiculous regulations could be thousands long.

We are a nation run by a bunch of control freaks that do not care about our liberties and our freedoms.

Every once in a while, John Stossel does some really great reporting. An example of this is posted below. In this 40 minute video, Stossel goes into great detail about how almost everything is illegal in America today. In particular, the first 20 minutes are absolutely excellent. If you have not seen this yet, I highly encourage you to check it out....

So why do we have so many laws and regulations?

Well, those that run things actually believe that we cannot be trusted with liberty and freedom.

They honestly are convinced that society will be better if they regulate our lives as much as possible.

This kind of "Big Brother" thinking is very dangerous. A lot of other horrible totalitarian societies started out with "good intentions" as well.

Yes, having millions of laws, rules and regulations does make society more "predictable" but it also makes it more like a giant prison.

This is not what our founding fathers intended, and this is not what America is supposed to be about.

Do any of you have any crazy laws or ridiculous regulations to add to this list? If so, please feel free to post them below....

Writing Off The Elderly
by Paul Craig Roberts

When neoconservatives, politicians, and high ranking military officers speak of a 30-year war against terrorism, there is no discussion about its affordability or whether the one significant attack (September 11, 2001) that is attributed, perhaps incorrectly, to Muslim terrorists justifies an open-ended war against a dozen countries. There is no discussion of the burden on future generations of the massive increase in the public debt in order to finance today’s wars.

Affordability and intergenerational burdens are topics reserved for the discussion of Social Security. Conservatives and libertarians constantly assert that Social Security is unaffordable and decry the intergenerational basis for Social Security retirement.

Recently economist Walter Williams again made the argument that Social Security is not a retirement program, because the income earner’s payroll tax payments do not go into an account for the person paying the taxes, but instead are used to pay benefits for older people who have reached retirement age. Williams characterizes Social Security retirees as thieves who outvote those still in the work force and have the ear of Congress.

This is an ideological argument that overlooks that Social Security is a pact between generations. The working generations provide retirement incomes for the elderly and in turn are provided retirement incomes by succeeding generations. Terminating Social Security for the elderly also terminates it for those who follow.

In other words, it is incorrect to describe Social Security as the elderly using the political system to steal from the young.

It is also not the case that Social Security retirees have the ear of Congress. The time is long past when Social Security was “the third rail of politics.” Since the 1980s Congress has been cutting back Social Security benefits in a number of ways. For example, the retirement age is being extended from 65 to 67, and the switch from a real cost of living adjustment to a substitution-based consumer price index results in the erosion of the real value of Social Security benefits, which was the reason for the switch. Up to 85% of Social Security benefits are now subject to income tax if the recipient has earnings or other retirement income above a minimum amount. The taxation of Social Security was another way that the political system reneged on the promised benefits.

In addition, during the 1980s Alan Greenspan and David Stockman accelerated the phase-in of payroll tax increases that the Carter administration had enacted. By causing the payroll tax to rise before it was needed to finance benefits, more than $2 trillion has been collected than was paid out in benefits. The government spent the earmarked payroll tax revenues (leaving non-marketable IOUs in their place) on other things, such as the wars of the 21st century. As none of this $2 trillion reached retirees, the real “theft” from those of working age was committed by Greenspan and Stockman for the benefit of other spending programs.

None of this is to say that there are not legitimate criticisms of Social Security. One is that Social Security does not provide a personal nest egg that a retiree can either spend down or manage carefully, living off the investment income and passing on any remainder to heirs, thus building wealth in society. Moreover, those who die prior to reaching retirement age or soon after retirement do not receive any benefits. In an effort to address this problem, Social Security pays survivors’ benefits to widows and children, benefits that were reduced during the 1980s.

The uninformed blame President Reagan for these assaults on Social Security. However, the changes were demanded by Wall Street’s political minions, who backed Reagan into a corner with hype about “the Reagan deficits.”

In Chile part of the economic reconstruction from the chaos of the Allende era was the privatization of Social Security. Deductions from wages automatically go into personal investment accounts. Years ago when I examined the system, it was working, building wealth for Chileans and providing a source of savings for the economy.

It might have been possible in the Reagan years to phase in a transition to a privatized retirement system. With the Dow Jones at 1000 and the economy rising, such a transition might have succeeded, but few policymakers cared to be associated with the risk.

If the transition had been undertaken, it might have saved us the current financial crisis, which was brought on by deregulation. I doubt that Congress would have gone along with deregulating a financial system upon which the elderly were entirely dependent. Glass-Steagall would still be on the books, derivatives would not have been deregulated, the equity market would not have become a gambling casino dominated by high-frequency trading, and the need for stability in Treasury bond prices would have curtailed budget deficits and the explosive growth of the public debt in the 21st century.

However, to propose today to privatize Social Security is to ignore the two large stock market crashes of the 21st century that inflicted enormous damage to private pension plans. It is to ignore the Federal Reserve’s policy of attempting to stabilize a broken financial system with interest rates so low that Treasury bonds pay a negative rate of return. It is to ignore that income growth for most Americans has dried up and if properly deflated is declining, thus threatening the income base for retirement whether public or private, and that poverty, especially among the elderly, is rapidly rising.

Indeed, the debt and money creation associated with the ongoing bailouts of the large banks are threatening the exchange value of the US dollar and its role as world reserve currency. Values of dollar denominated financial assets can suffer large declines if the rest of the world moves away from the dollar as reserve currency.

Another problem facing future retirement incomes is the growing practice of corporations laying off or firing older employees in order to reduce payroll costs and the cost of employer-provided medical benefits.

What we have witnessed in the 21st century is a clear decision by political elites and the private interests that control them that gratuitous wars are more important than the elderly. In the budget deliberations it is not the trillion dollar annual budgets of the military/security complex that are seen as excessive. Instead, the focus is on cutting the sparse benefits for the elderly.

Decades of right-wing and libertarian propaganda against Social Security have hardened the hearts of political elites, media, and even it sometimes seems of AARP against the elderly, who are portrayed as an expensive burden. With the economy dying as a result of jobs offshoring and the concentration of economic activity into fewer hands, the elderly are not well positioned to compete for shrinking resources against the claims of powerful interest groups, such as the military/security complex and the neoconservative “war on terror.” Tax revenues are drying up not only from unemployment but also from the substitution of lower paying domestic service jobs for the higher income jobs that have been moved offshore. A decline in the dollar’s exchange value will push millions of Americans below the poverty line.

I have always thought that abortion had ominous implications for the elderly. Whatever the inconvenience of an unwanted child, it is small compared to the claim of Social Security and Medicare on society’s resources. A society comfortable with killing the unborn will lack the moral scruples to reject euthanasia.

It is not difficult to imagine the US government assigning a specified number of retirement years to citizens, and then you take a pill. The declining respect for life is also indicated by the fact that there is no move to impeach Obama for drawing up lists of people, including US citizens, to be executed without due process and by the fact that few Americans even blink an eye at the murder by their government of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the name of a hoax "war on terror." With society's resources shrinking, the demonization of Social Security endangers the elderly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

10 Signs That The Highways Of America Are Being Transformed Into A High Tech Prison Grid

End of the American Dream
Michael Snyder

Once upon a time, the open highways of America were one of our greatest symbols of liberty and freedom. Anyone could hop in a car and set off for a new adventure at any time and even our music encouraged us to "get our kicks on route 66". But today everything has changed. Now the highways of America are being steadily transformed into a high tech prison grid.

All over the country, thousands upon thousands of surveillance cameras watch our highways, and automated license plate readers are actually being used to track vehicle movements in some of our largest cities. Many state and local governments have come to view our highways as money machines, and our control freak politicians have established a vast network of toll booths, red light cameras and speed traps to keep cash endlessly pouring in.

If all of that wasn't enough, TSA "VIPR teams" are now hitting the interstates and conducting thousands of "unannounced security screenings" each year. Driving on the highways of America used to be a great joy, but now "Big Brother" is rapidly sucking all of the fun out of it. Eventually, it may get to the point where Americans simply dread having to go out on the highway.

The following are 10 signs that the highways of America are being transformed into a high tech prison grid....

#1 Surveillance Cameras

All over the United States, a vast network of surveillance cameras is carefully watching our highways. The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Baltimore Sun about this phenomenon....

The room is large and well lit, and it buzzes with activity even though its occupants remain seated.

The video screen at the front of the room is as wide as an IMAX, though not quite as tall. It consists of 64 smaller screens – 16 columns of four apiece – that monitor every inch of interstate between Great Wolf Lodge and the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. There is an emphasis on tunnels and bridges, and one corner screen is tuned in to a 24-hour weather report. If you are driving on an highway in Hampton Roads, VDOT is watching you.

#2 Automated License Plate Readers

In a previous article, I detailed how automated license plate readers are being used to track the movements of every single vehicle that enters Washington D.C.

A recent Washington Post article explained that most people do not even know that they are there....

More than 250 cameras in the District and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago. With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles.

Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the District, which has more than one plate-reader per square mile, the highest concentration in the nation. Police in the Washington suburbs have dozens of them as well, and local agencies plan to add many more in coming months, creating a comprehensive dragnet that will include all the approaches into the District. A lot of police cruisers are being outfitted with this technology around the nation as well.

So if you see a police car pull up behind you, there is a very good chance that a computer has already read your license plate and is giving the officer all of your information.

#3 Ridiculous Regulations

Some of the new "auto safety laws" going in around the nation are absolutely absurd.

For example, do you buckle up your pet when you go for a ride? Well, in New Jersey you can now be fined up to $1000 for not having your pet properly restrained while you are out driving.

#4 Outrageous Fines

In many areas of the country, unpaid traffic tickets can rapidly become a major financial burden.

For example, the new tolls on the 520 floating bridge in Seattle are absolutely killing some commuters.....

Registered vehicle owners who do not pay their toll within 80 days or more will be mailed a $40 civil penalty for each unpaid toll transaction in addition to a $5 reprocessing fee.

WSDOT confirmed some tolls plus penalty fees have added up to more than $1,000.

#5 Oppressive Toll Roads

Toll roads have become one of the favorite "revenue raising tools" for our politicians.

At this point the tolls on some roads have become so incredibly oppressive that many people simply cannot afford to drive on them anymore.

And for some reason the toll increases are coming especially fast and furious this year.

A recent USA Today article summarized some of the oppressive toll increases that we are seeing all over the nation.... California and Washington authorized high-occcupancy toll (HOT) lanes, where tolls rise or fall depending on traffic flow. Texas enacted laws authorizing private toll roads and allowing regional authorities to collect tolls. Indiana removed a provision requiring legislative approval for toll roads.

Some Maryland tolls will double this year as the state seeks money to rehabilitate aging roads, bridges and tunnels. The use of tolls on interstate highways also is spreading:

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, just won approval from the Federal Highway Administration to add tolls on Interstate 95 in his state. The state estimates that tolls on the heavily traveled corridor could generate $250 million over the first five years for expanding, improving and maintaining the highway.

New York and New Jersey recently announced that E-ZPass commuters will pay $1.50 more and cash customers $2 more to cross bridges and tunnels between the two states.

Georgia just created toll lanes on Interstate 85 in suburban Atlanta.

The toll hikes are more than chump change: Cash tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge jumped to $4 from $2.50, and to $12 from $8 on all the New York-New Jersey Hudson River crossings.

Toll roads are one of my pet peeves. Any time I see a toll booth it immediately puts me in a bad mood.

#6 Red Light Cameras

Red light cameras are another favorite "revenue raising tool" for the control freaks that run things.

Unfortunately, these cameras don't always work right so a lot of innocent people end up getting ticketed.

But politicians love them because they can raise a lot of cash. The following is from a recent Business Insider article.... According to U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), nearly 700 U.S. cities and towns installed the cameras, which accounted for more than 90 percent of tickets issued for illegal right turns, or rolling stops.

In one New Jersey town, PIRG found 2,500 tickets were issued at one intersection within the first two months of installing a camera.

#7 Speed Traps

In the old days, speed traps were mostly about making the roads safer.

Today, they are mostly about raising money.

One police chief up in Michigan has even admitted that the nature of his job has fundamentally changed....

When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues.

Speed traps are becoming more common almost everywhere, but some areas of the country are worse than others.

A recent report from the National Motorists Association ranked how likely you are to get a speeding ticket in each of the 50 U.S. states....

After crunching the numbers, the NMA found that Nevada is the state most likely to issue you a traffic ticket, followed by Georgia and Alabama. In 2010 Florida took the top spot and Georgia and Nevada tied for second place. The state where you’re least likely to get ticketed is Wyoming, followed closely by Montana. These two ranked at the bottom in 2010 as well.

#8 Government Spying

It has been revealed that the federal government has been secretly putting GPS tracking devices on thousands of vehicles in order to track the movements of people that they are interested in watching.

Most of the time the people involved have not even been charged with any crimes.

The following is a short excerpt from a recent Wired magazine article about this phenomenon....

The 25-year-old resident of San Jose, California, says he found the first one about three weeks ago on his Volvo SUV while visiting his mother in Modesto, about 80 miles northeast of San Jose. After contacting Wired and allowing a photographer to snap pictures of the device, it was swapped out and replaced with a second tracking device. A witness also reported seeing a strange man looking beneath the vehicle of the young man’s girlfriend while her car was parked at work, suggesting that a tracking device may have been retrieved from her car.

Then things got really weird when police showed up during a Wired interview with the man.

The young man, who asked to be identified only as Greg, is one among an increasing number of U.S. citizens who are finding themselves tracked with the high-tech devices.

The Justice Department has said that law enforcement agents employ GPS as a crime-fighting tool with “great frequency,” and GPS retailers have told Wired that they’ve sold thousands of the devices to the feds.

#9 Extraction Devices

If you get pulled over by police, you never know what to expect these days. Previously, I have written about how law enforcement authorities in some parts of the U.S. are using "extraction devices" to download data out of the cell phones of motorists that they pull over.

The following is how a recent article on CNET News described the capabilities of these "extraction devices".... The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information.

#10 VIPR Teams

If all of the above was not bad enough, now we have to deal with TSA "VIPR teams" terrorizing us on the highways.

If you regularly travel across the country, there is a good chance that you have already encountered one of their "unannounced security screenings".

The following is from a local news report down in Tennessee about how local authorities are working with VIPR teams to fight "terrorism" on the interstates....

You're probably used to seeing TSA's signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).

'Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate,' said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.

Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state. TSA VIPR teams now conduct approximately 8,000 "unannounced security screenings" at subway stations, bus terminals, seaports and highway rest stops each year.

Are you starting to see what I am talking about?

All of this "security" is becoming extremely oppressive.

We don't need "Big Brother" constantly watching us, tracking us and fining us on our highways. So do you have any examples of how the highways of America are being transformed into a high tech prison grid to add to the list above?

First American Arrested by Aid of Drone Argues 4th Amendment Violation

by  Joe Wolverton, II
New American

It’s been about a year since a North Dakota man was arrested after a local SWAT team tracked him down using a Predator drone it borrowed from the Department of Homeland Security.

Although the story has not been widely reported, Rodney Brossart became one of the first American citizens (if not the first) arrested by local law enforcement with the use of a federally owned drone aerial surveillance vehicle after holding the police at bay for over 16 hours.

Brossart’s run-in with law enforcement began after six cows found their way onto his property (about 3,000 acres near Lakota, North Dakota) and he refused to turn them over to officers. In fact, according to several sources, Brossart and a few family members ran police off his farm at the point of a gun.

Naturally, police weren’t pleased with Brossart’s brand of hospitality, so they held returned with a warrant, with a SWAT team, and with a determination to apprehend Brossart and the cows.

A standoff ensued and the Grand Forks police SWAT team made a call to a local Air Force base where they knew a Predator drone was deployed by the DHS. About three years before the Brossart incident, the police department had signed an agreement with DHS for the use of the drone.

No sooner did the call come in than the drone was airborne and Brossart’s precise location was pinpointed with laser-guided accuracy. The machine-gun toting SWAT officers rushed in, tased then arrested Brossart on various charges including terrorizing a sheriff, and the rest is history. Literally.

As the matter proceeds through the legal system, Bruce Quick, the lawyer representing Brossart, is decrying the “guerilla-like police tactics” used to track and capture his client, as well as the alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unwarranted searches and seizures.

While the police admittedly possessed an apparently valid search warrant, Quick asserts that no such judicial go-ahead was sought or obtained for the use of the Predator to track the suspect. Therein lies the constitutional rub.

In an interview with the press, Quick claims that the police exceeded their authority in several instances, especially when they decided to go around the Fourth Amendment and illegally search Brossart’s farm.

"The whole thing is full of constitutional violations," he says.

Quick goes so far as to call the police’s use of the taser "tortuous" and something only slightly below "water-boarding."

For its part, the legal team representing Grand Forks insists that such extraordinary measures were necessary in light of Brossart’s armed resistance of arrest and his family’s wielding of “high-powered rifles” in his defense.

Furthermore, the drone was deployed only as a last ditch effort to peacefully end the nearly daylong deadlock, the state avers.

"Unmanned surveillance aircraft were not in use prior to or at the time Rodney Brossart is alleged to have committed the crimes with which he is charged," wrote state prosecutor Douglas Manbeck, as quoted by U.S. News.

As for the SWAT team's handling of the high-powered remote control surveillance aircraft, a spokesman for the unit told U.S. News that his men have "received training on the basic capabilities of the Predator" and that they follow very clear-cut guidelines for "when [they] can or cannot use a drone."

Manbeck defends the deployment of the drone, writing that "The use of unmanned surveillance aircraft is a non-issue in this case because they were not used in any investigative manner to determine if a crime had been committed. There is, furthermore, no existing case law that bars their use in investigating crimes."

Maybe, maybe not. This and other issues will be laid before the court when Brossart’s trial begins later this month.

Is there a legal distinction to be made between the level of search conducted by the human eye (whether the searcher is on foot or in a helicopter) and that of a drone’s powerful never-blinking optics? Such an inarguable increase in police perception is not an insignificant decrease in the privacy expectation enjoyed by landowners and protected for centuries by timeless principles of Anglo-American law.

Given this encroachment into the formerly sacrosanct territory of individual liberty, Americans are right to resist the government’s apparent plan to fill the skies of our Republic with remote-controlled agents of the President and police.

In point of fact, a warrant becomes unnecessary when the search is being conducted using a drone. The target of the hunt will likely be unaware that he is being tracked and thus government (at any level) can keep a close eye on those considered threats to national (or local) security without having to permit the eye of the court to look over their shoulder.

Quick seems to appreciate the danger posed by the proliferation of drones. "We're starting to see drones used more and more, but were they intended to be used by civilian law enforcement?" he told an interviewer. "That smacks of big brother to me. I think we need to think long and hard before we proceed down this path."

Not surprisingly, there are those who claim that a sheriff’s use of a Predator is no different from his use of a helicopter, and that those who warn of an impending surveillance state are alarmists who should be paid no mind.

However, as discussed above, there are irrefutable differences in technology between the two vehicles, not to mention the devices used by each to perform their assigned tasks.

Beyond these distinctions there is another more sinister drone quality that sets it apart from its more traditional airborne ancestor. Glenn Greenwald accurately assessed the threat in a recent piece published by Salon:

For those dismissing concerns about drones by claiming (falsely) that they are the equivalent of police helicopters, won’t those same people dismiss concerns over weaponized drones by arguing: there’s no difference between allowing the police to Taser you or shoot you themselves and allowing them to do that by drone? This is always how creeping police state powers are entrenched: one step at a time.

Still doubt such devious intent on the part of law enforcement? Witness the story of the Houston Police Department’s glee over their recent purchase of a drone. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the sheriff's office said the $300,000 ShadowHawk drone — purchased from Vanguard Defense Industries with federal homeland security grant funds — will take to the air in the coming months to provide another tool in the law enforcement arsenal.

"It's an exciting piece of equipment for us," he said. "We envision a lot of its uses primarily in the realm of public safety — looking at recovery of lost individuals and being able to utilize it for fire issues."

In the future, the drone could be equipped to carry nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun, McDaniel said.

Taser and bean-bag guns today, Hellfire missiles and machine guns tomorrow.

Still don’t believe the warning? Read what one commentator wrote (with obvious pride) about a similar small drone — the Switchblade:

“…it is an ingenious, miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is also a weapon.”

Do the research: Drones are cheaper than helicopters, they are more agile, they are more accurate, they are quieter, they are smaller — all of which makes them exponentially deadlier. Drones are indeed the quieter, quicker killer and they will be used to the best of those abilities.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Genetic Social Network: Facebook has your Personal Information; Now Google wants your DNA

Old-Thinker News
By Daniel Taylor

Facebook has amassed a gigantic database of human intelligence from its millions of users. This information has been used by police in the arrest of suspects, and is milked by marketers. What if a similar system gathered genetic information?

In 2005 it was revealed in a book called The Google Story that Dr. Craig Venter, known for his creation of synthetic lifeforms, was in discussions with Larry Page and Sergey Brin [founders of Google] to:

“…generate a gene catalogue to characterize all the genes on the planet and understand their evolutionary development. Geneticists have wanted to do this for generations… Google will build up a genetic database, analyze it, and find meaningful correlations for individuals and populations.”

Google has been funding a program to do just that called 23 and me. In 2006 the organization was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google.

Will the general public be acclimated to share their genetic information online as they were with Facebook to share personal information? Facebook has altered the public perception of privacy. As Time magazine reported in 2010, “The willingness of Facebook’s users to share and overshare — from descriptions of our bouts of food poisoning (gross) to our uncensored feelings about our bosses (not advisable) — is critical to its success.”

A recent article from Discover magazine pointed out that:

“Many researchers believe that personal genomics will really not hit the biomedical sweet spot until you have on the order of a million people sequenced. But even then in the American system how to get a hold of all that information is going to be problematic, since it will likely be decentralized.”

What this article fails to point out is that it has become known that the DNA of newborns has been secretly collected in America for decades. Samples have even been provided to U.S. Military labs. Also present in this issue is the prospect of who own the copyright your DNA.

If the government already has a database of millions of people’s DNA, what function could an organization like 23 and me fulfill?

Managing public perception is perhaps where the answer can be found. Having your DNA in a database to share with your friends in a familiar social network setting is a good way to introduce the masses to the idea. Also, Google is an extension of government agencies. As Facebook has proven, it is much easier to have the general public willingly volunteer their personal information.

The Yale Scientific Magazine announced earlier this month that with the 23 and me genetic social network, “…it is easier than ever for people to find out their genetic risks for diseases, as well as connect with others who share parts of their genome.” It remains to be seen whether 23 and me will become a widespread success like Facebook, but it certainly has a powerful backing. As of last year, 23 and me reached 125,000 users who have submitted gene samples.

Google founder Larry Page met with Craig Venter in California at the Edge billionaires meeting in 2010. Also present were representatives from the State department, Bill Gates, Anne Wojcicki, Bill Joy and dozens of other tech company CEO’s and scientists.

The Edge billionaire meetings have discussed the future of genetic engineering, biocomputation and re-designing humanity. Physicist Freeman Dyson described the individuals leading this group as having god-like power to create entirely new species on earth in a “New Age of Wonder”. He describes them as:

“…a new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet.”

The technological elite are engaged in a mission to attain full spectrum dominance over life and its complex processes, and in the process re-write the genetic code of the planet. The harvest of your genetic information brings this vision a step closer to reality.