Horowitz: It’s Time To End The Great American COVID-19 Police State

Except that tyranny is raising its ugly and toxic head, there is no excuse or rationale to implement a police state in America because of COVID-19 or any other disease. Citizens must contend for Civil Liberties at every level of government. ⁃ TN Editor

We now have the most severe, widespread, and protracted form of martial law in our nation’s history … except as it applies to dangerous criminals who are undeterred and released. How much worse will we allow this to get until we call a foul on these gross constitutional violations?

As I observed last week, states have wide latitude to forcibly quarantine individuals or groups of people from the general population. But they don’t have the power to shut down the entire general population. Also, as the Supreme Court has said many times, there are times when life, liberty, and property can be infringed upon, but it must be narrowly tailored to the least invasive means needed to achieve the compelling state interest. What is happening now is anything but narrow.

Consider the following:

  • A 19-year-old woman was given a citation and forced to go back home after a state trooper in York County, Pennsylvania, caught her simply “going for a drive.” She was alone in a car, the ultimate social distancing. There is no way under any emergency power that such a broad, arbitrary and gratuitous edict can be justified under the Constitution, given the severity of its restriction on personal liberty. Meanwhile, subways are still open!
  • Numerous states have arbitrarily banned nonessential medical services, defined as pretty much anything that is not an urgent emergency. It would be one thing if the areas were overrun with COVID-19 patients, but as I reported yesterday, these hospitals are in fact empty and are now laying off vital medical staff because of the unlawful edicts.
  • In Los Angeles County, a paddleboarder was arrested for being in the ocean … alone! The San Diego sheriff bragged about giving people a $1,000 citation for sitting alone in their cars at the beach. Again, no violations of federal health and distancing guidance occurred. This is straight unconstitutional fascism.
  • David Schuster of Winnebago, Minnesota, was hit with a criminal complaint after he was caught playing cards with three of his buddies in his bar. The bar was closed to the public, but the policeman saw the lights on. He faces up to 90 days in prison and a $1,000 fine. I’m sure that bar was spreading the virus as much as subways and buses. Perhaps more than the 86-year-old anti-abortion protester who was given a citation by San Francisco police for dropping leaflets against abortion. Meanwhile, abortion clinics are open while hip replacements are banned.
  • Evidently, the virus is worse at night and attacks people when it’s dark. Cities like Laredo, Texas, are now adopting a mandatory curfew after 10 p.m. unless you are wearing an ID or have a letter that shows you are an essential worker. A city government that has no problem harboring illegal aliens and bristles at immigration enforcement as “show me your papers: totalitarianism has no problem applying it to Americans walking or driving alone, which has zero bearing on spreading a virus.
  • For years we were told that to use the military more aggressively at our international border to repel an invasion – the quintessential use of the military – was somehow a violation of the Posse Comitatus law, which bars the feds from using the military to enforce domestic laws. Now, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the same man who championed the program of training Saudis on our military bases, is signaling that governors can use the National Guard to enforce house arrest edicts.
  • Google is now developing a tool to track people to see if they are following the edicts. The New York Times already publicized a heat map of movement based on cell phone data. For years, law enforcement has been stripped of every tracking tool to catch criminals and terrorists. Everything was a concern for alleged criminals’ privacy. Now, they are searching for any innovative means to use against everyday Americans.

At what point will we the people stand up to this capricious nonsense, especially as these same politicians release criminals and illegal aliens, while lying to us about the math and science behind their unilateral edicts? Why is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis the only leader who recognizes that “we can’t start ripping up the Constitution?”

The same states that couldn’t set their conditions for early voting or regulate abortion clinic health standards without a federal judge intervening are now free to crush our life, liberty, and property at their most basic level – free of any due process, time constraints, or judicial oversight. The only judicial review now is for abortion clinics, criminals, and illegal aliens.

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The Slippery Slope From Handwashing To House Arrest

The bigger risk to America is when the abnormal becomes the new normal after the threat of COVID-19 subsides. Too many autocrats in leadership are overstepping the Constitution and are emboldened to continue the abuses. ⁃ TN Editor

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”—Viktor Frankl

We still have choices.

Just because we’re fighting an unseen enemy in the form of a virus doesn’t mean we have to relinquish every shred of our humanity, our common sense, or our freedoms to a nanny state that thinks it can do a better job of keeping us safe.

Whatever we give up willingly now—whether it’s basic human decency, the ability to manage our private affairs, the right to have a say in how the government navigates this crisis, or the few rights still left to us that haven’t been disemboweled in recent years by a power-hungry police state—we won’t get back so easily once this crisis is past.

The government never cedes power willingly.

Neither should we.

Every day brings a drastic new set of restrictions by government bodies (most have been delivered by way of executive orders) at the local, state and federal level that are eager to flex their muscles for the so-called “good” of the populace.

This is where we run the risk of this whole fly-by-night operation going completely off the rails.

It’s one thing to attempt an experiment in social distancing in order to flatten the curve of this virus because we can’t afford to risk overwhelming the hospitals and exposing the most vulnerable in the nation to unavoidable loss of life scenarios. However, there’s a fine line between strongly worded suggestions for citizens to voluntarily stay at home and strong-armed house arrest orders with penalties in place for non-compliance.

More than three-quarters of all Americans have now been ordered to stay at home and that number is growing as more states fall in line.

Schools have cancelled physical classes, many for the remainder of the academic year.

Many of the states have banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

At least three states (Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) have ordered non-essential businesses to close.

In Washington, DC, residents face 90 days in jail and a $5,000 fine if they leave their homes during the coronavirus outbreak. Residents of Maryland, Hawaii and Washington State also risk severe penalties of up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine for violating the stay-at-home orders. Violators in Alaska could face jail time and up to $25,000 in fines.

Kentucky residents are prohibited from traveling outside the state, with a few exceptions.

New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., is offering its Rikers Island prisoners $6 an hour to help dig mass graves.

In San Francisco, cannabis dispensaries were included among the essential businesses allowed to keep operating during the city-wide lockdown.

New Jersey’s governor canceled gatherings of any number, including parties, weddings and religious ceremonies, and warned the restrictions could continue for weeks or months. One city actually threatened to prosecute residents who spread false information about the virus.

Oregon banned all nonessential social and recreational gatherings, regardless of size.

Rhode Island has given police the go-ahead to pull over anyone with New York license plates to record their contact information and order them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

South Carolina’s police have been empowered to break up any public gatherings of more than three people.

Of course, there are exceptions to all of these stay-at-home orders (in more than 30 states and counting), the longest of which runs until June 10. Essential workers (doctors, firefighters, police and grocery store workers) can go to work. Everyone else will have to fit themselves into a variety of exceptions in order to leave their homes: for grocery runs, doctor visits, to get exercise, to visit a family member, etc.

Throughout the country, more than 14,000 “Citizen-Soldiers” of the National Guard have been mobilized to support the states and the federal government in their fight against the coronavirus. While the Guard officials insist they have not been tasked with martial law, they are coordinating with the Pentagon, FEMA and the states/territories on COVID-19 response missions.

A quick civics lesson: Martial law is a raw exercise of executive power that can override the other branches of government and assume control over the functioning of a nation, state, or smaller area within a state. The power has been exercised by the president, as President Lincoln did soon after the start of the Civil War, and by governors, as was done in Idaho to quell a miner’s strike that broke out there in 1892.

In areas under martial law, all power rests with the military authority in charge. As British General Wellington wrote, “martial law” is not law at all, but martial rule; it abolishes all law and substitutes for it the will of the military commander. Military personnel are not bound by constitutional restrictions requiring a warrant, and may enter and search homes at without judicial authorization or oversight. Indeed, civil courts would no longer be functioning to hear citizen complaints or to enforce their constitutional rights.

Thus far, we have not breached the Constitution’s crisis point: martial law has yet to be overtly imposed (although an argument could be made to the contrary given the militarized nature of the American police state).

It’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

If this is not the defining point at which we cross over into all-out totalitarianism, then it is at a minimum a test to see how easily we will surrender.

Curiously enough, although Americans have been generally compliant with the government’s suggestions and orders with a few notable exceptions, there’s been a small groundswell of resistance within parts of the religious community over whether churches, synagogues and other religious institutions that hold worship services should be exempt from state-wide bans on mass gatherings. While many churches have resorted to drive-in services and live-streamed services for its congregants, others have refused to close their doors. One pastor of a 4,000-member church who stood his ground, claiming that the government’s orders violate his right to religious freedom, was arrested after holding multiple church services during which attendees were reportedly given hand sanitizer and made to keep a six-foot distance between family groups.

It’s an interesting test of the First Amendment’s freedom of assembly and religious freedom clauses versus the government’s compelling state interest in prohibiting mass gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Read full story here…




Frightened People Shed No Tears For Loss Of Freedom

Humanity is eating itself. The more frightened people become, the more willing they are to accept any dictator who will protect them. Of course, no dictator will protect his subjects and that is the irony of the entire coronavirus stampede. ⁃ TN Editor

The last days and weeks of the coronavirus epidemic give an interesting insight into the human psyche. Elementary liberties are restricted all over the world, such as the freedom of movement or private property. Yet most people accept these restrictions without blinking, as the state declares their indispensability.

A chronology of the events in Madrid: on Sunday, March 8, a large World Women’s Day demonstration against the alleged rule of the Patriachate was held. There were 120,000 particiants, and members of the government took part in it, marching side by side in the first row.

They had called for strong participation. Just one day later it was announced that starting on Wednesday, March 11, kindergartens, schools, and universities in Madrid would be closed. Since Sunday, March 14, there a curfew has been in place, which is enforced by police and military force. Cyclists and joggers trying to keep fit in the fresh air have been fined heavily.

Spaniards are no longer even allowed to be in the private gardens of apartment blocks, even if families take turns using them. In short, we are no longer allowed to use our own gardens. They have been temporarily expropriated.

Most people are little bothered by the fact that the state is violating their freedom massively. They regard it as necessary and good. They do not question the state´s authority to restrict our freedom at all. Rather, they denounce those who want to move freely and make use of their property rights. When two brothers were seen playing soccer in the garden of an acquaintance’s apartment block, the police were called.

People denounce playing children, who are regarded as harmful to public health, and put up posters saying “Quédate en casa” (stay at home). This is a block warden mentality. The most worrying thing is the high number of willing state collaborators. The parallels with the past are unnoticed. No one seems to care, and it is not even discussed.

If people are just scared enough, they entrust themselves to a (temporary) dictatorship without grumbling. They give up their freedom in the hope of being saved by state leaders advised by wise experts. Fear makes people controllable. Instead of protesting against the violation of their property rights, they clap their hands every day at 8 p.m. in Spain. Initially, the applause was mainly to show support for doctors and nurses, but in the meantime cheers for the police have been mixed in.

The state leaders plan the violation of liberty centrally. They do not have the necessary information to give a rational answer to the coronacrisis. They take into account the benefits of the curfew and economic shutdown but not the costs, because these are not quantifiable.

One of the immediate costs is the loss of a more rapid immunization of the population. But there are other health costs. Being confined to one’s own four walls, with the corresponding lack of physical exercise, will lead to increased cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, strokes, and thromboses, among other things. The psychological burden of being locked up is especially immense. The psychological strain will cause some marriages and families to break up; trauma and depression will be created.

The economic collapse triggered by the political reaction to the coronavirus has its own health costs, such as entrepreneurs who suffer heart attacks and unemployed people who fall into depression or alcohol.

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Zachery McCoy

‘Geofence’ Warrant Traps Innocent Bike Rider At Scene Of Crime

Police can now get warrants to demand that Google give up ‘geofence’ records of everyone who was near the scene of a crime. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can get you busted as a suspect and possible arrest. ⁃ TN Editor

The email arrived on a Tuesday afternoon in January, startling Zachary McCoy as he prepared to leave for his job at a restaurant in Gainesville, Florida.

It was from Google’s legal investigations support team, writing to let him know that local police had demanded information related to his Google account. The company said it would release the data unless he went to court and tried to block it. He had just seven days.

“I was hit with a really deep fear,” McCoy, 30, recalled, even though he couldn’t think of anything he’d done wrong. He had an Android phone, which was linked to his Google account, and, like millions of other Americans, he used an assortment of Google products, including Gmail and YouTube. Now police seemingly wanted access to all of it.

“I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew the police wanted to get something from me,” McCoy said in a recent interview. “I was afraid I was going to get charged with something, I don’t know what.”

There was one clue.

In the notice from Google was a case number. McCoy searched for it on the Gainesville Police Department’s website, and found a one-page investigation report on the burglary of an elderly woman’s home 10 months earlier. The crime had occurred less than a mile from the home that McCoy, who had recently earned an associate degree in computer programming, shared with two others.

Now McCoy was even more panicked and confused. He knew he had nothing to do with the break-in ─ he’d never even been to the victim’s house ─ and didn’t know anyone who might have. And he didn’t have much time to prove it.

McCoy worried that going straight to police would lead to his arrest. So he went to his parents’ home in St. Augustine, where, over dinner, he told them what was happening. They agreed to dip into their savings to pay for a lawyer.

The lawyer, Caleb Kenyon, dug around and learned that the notice had been prompted by a “geofence warrant,” a police surveillance tool that casts a virtual dragnet over crime scenes, sweeping up Google location data — drawn from users’ GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular connections — from everyone nearby.

The warrants, which have increased dramatically in the past two years, can help police find potential suspects when they have no leads. They also scoop up data from people who have nothing to do with the crime, often without their knowing ─ which Google itself has described as “a significant incursion on privacy.”

Still confused ─ and very worried ─ McCoy examined his phone. An avid biker, he used an exercise-tracking app, RunKeeper, to record his rides. The app relied on his phone’s location services, which fed his movements to Google. He looked up his route on the day of the March 29, 2019, burglary and saw that he had passed the victim’s house three times within an hour, part of his frequent loops through his neighborhood, he said.

“It was a nightmare scenario,” McCoy recalled. “I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike and now it was putting me at the scene of the crime. And I was the lead suspect.”

A powerful new tool

The victim was a 97-year-old woman who told police she was missing several pieces of jewelry, including an engagement ring, worth more than $2,000. Four days after she reported the crime, Gainesville police, looking for leads, went to an Alachua County judge with the warrant for Google.

In it, they demanded records of all devices using Google services that had been near the woman’s home when the burglary was thought to have taken place. The first batch of data would not include any identifying information. Police would sift through it for devices that seemed suspicious and ask Google for the names of their users.

Kenyon said police told him that they became particularly interested in McCoy’s device after reviewing the first batch of anonymized data. They didn’t know the identity of the device’s owner, so they returned to Google to ask for more information.

Read full story here…




Damien Patton

Utah Creates Surveillance Panopticon By Giving Data To Private AI Company

Leaders in ‘conservative’ Utah have swan-dived into predictive policing and surveillance by granting a private company access to virtually all of its data systems and cameras in the state. This is Technocracy at work and reveals the deepest level of bonding between private and public entities. ⁃ TN Editor

Banjo is applying artificial intelligence to government-owned surveillance and traffic cameras across the entire state of Utah to tell police about “anomalies.”

The state of Utah has given an artificial intelligence company real-time access to state traffic cameras, CCTV and “public safety” cameras, 911 emergency systems, location data for state-owned vehicles, and other sensitive data.

The company, called Banjo, says that it’s combining this data with information collected from social media, satellites, and other apps, and claims its algorithms “detect anomalies” in the real world.

The lofty goal of Banjo’s system is to alert law enforcement of crimes as they happen. It claims it does this while somehow stripping all personal data from the system, allowing it to help cops without putting anyone’s privacy at risk. As with other algorithmic crime systems, there is little public oversight or information about how, exactly, the system determines what is worth alerting cops to.

In its pitches to prospective clients, Banjo promises its technology, called “Live Time Intelligence,” can identify, and potentially help police solve, an incredible variety of crimes in real-time. Banjo says its AI can help police solve child kidnapping cases “in seconds,” identify active shooter situations as they happen, or potentially send an alert when there’s a traffic accident, airbag deployment, fire, or a car is driving the wrong way down the road. Banjo says it has “a solution for homelessness” and can help with the opioid epidemic by detecting “opioid events.” It offers “artificial intelligence processing” of state-owned audio sensors that “include but may not be limited to speech recognition and natural language processing” as well as automatic scene detection, object recognition, and vehicle detection on real-time video footage pulled in from Utah’s cameras.

In July, Banjo signed a five-year, $20.7 million contract with Utah that gives the company unprecedented access to data the state collects. Banjo’s pitch to state and local agencies is that the more data that’s fed into it, the better its product will work. Thus, the company has spent the last year trying to get as many state and local agencies as possible to give it access to its CCTV and traffic cameras, audio sensors, and other data.

On this it has been incredibly successful. Banjo has installed its own servers in the headquarters of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), a civilian agency, and has direct, real-time access to the thousands of traffic cameras the state operates. It has jacked into 911 systems of emergency operations centers all over the state, according to contracts, emails, and other government documents obtained by Motherboard using public record requests, as well as video and audio recordings of city council meetings around the state that we reviewed.

Its contract with the state says that Banjo’s technology will be deployed or is in the process of being deployed in all 29 of Utah’s counties, in the state’s 13 largest cities, and in 10 other cities with “significant relevance” as well as for “campus security” for the University of Utah. A representative for Banjo told the city of Springville, Utah in January that a total of roughly 70 other cities and counties within Utah had agreed to give Banjo their data. It is also working with the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Highway Patrol, according to public records.

So far, however, the Utah Attorney General’s office could not provide Motherboard with an example of a real-life case in which Banjo has been used, though it insisted that it had indeed been used.

Banjo is yet another in a new crop of predictive policing and artificial intelligence-focused policing tools. Unlike other tools, such as Palantir—which is used by ICE and is so controversial that there have been multiple protests about its use—Banjo claims that it does not help police find criminals, it helps them to find “emergencies” and locate criminal acts.

“We essentially do most of what Palantir does, we just do it live,” Bryan Smith, Banjo’s top lobbyist, told the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center Operations Board, which is made up of police chiefs and 911 dispatch officials, in August. “So Palantir is a tool you use for analysis, kind of to deep dive investigate certain things. What we want to do is deliver you the information right at the moment. Think of a Google Maps [you’ll get] a pin that drops with a [computer-aided dispatch] caller and attached to that event, within sub one second with intelligence related to that event.”

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China Requiring Electronic Tracking For Coronavirus Quarantine

For coronavirus victims who are quarantined in their own home, China is making sure they stay there by using devices similar to the electronic ‘bracelets’ that courts and jails use for tracking prisoners. ⁃ TN Editor

The Hong Kong government has announced it has 500 electronic monitoring tags ready to distribute to Hong Kong people placed under home quarantine upon returning to the SAR after having spent time in Hubei province, the epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The government’s chief information officer, Victor Lam, unveiled the e-tag at a press briefing this afternoon, saying that any Hong Kong residents who have been to Hubei in the past 14 days must undergo home quarantine of 14 days, a measure the new electronic bracelets are meant to ensure.

The tag is paired to a person’s smartphone — using Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE, technology — and is plugged into the mains at the wearer’s home.

If the person wearing the tag unplugs the phone and leaves the quarantine zone with it, or if the distance between the tag and the phone exceeds 20 meters, an alert will be sent to the Department of Health and the police.

The authorities will also get an alert if the tag is broken or removed. Anyone who violates the home quarantine order faces up to six months in jail and a fine of HK$5,000 (US$644).

Lam added that because of concerns about personal privacy, the e-tag will not collect any personal data, and the tags aren’t equipped with GPS. When asked by reporters how will they be able to find anyone who absconds, Lam said they will first try calling the person on their phone.

At the moment, 500 tags are ready to be handed out, and an additional 1,000 can be made available within two weeks if necessary.

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Biometric Privacy Rights

Shock: U.S. 4th Worst Abuser Of Biometric Privacy Rights

The Chinafication of America is well underway. The only three countries with a worse record than the U.S. are China, Malaysia and Pakistan. This should be a massive wake-up call for all Americans to demand that this madness be stopped. ⁃ TN Editor
 

Does anyone really believe America is still the land of the free?

Since 9/11, DHS, the FBI, the CIA, and countless other alphabet soup agencies have turned the United States into a public surveillance monstrosity.

In 19 years, one terrorist attack has done what no one else could have dreamed of: turn America’s freedoms into a distant memory.

Abusing citizen’s rights and privacy used to be the hallmark of dictatorships and police states like the CCCP or North Korea.

A recent study conducted by Comparitech, rated 50 countries from best to worst at protecting citizen’s biometric data.

The study found that America is one of the world’s worst abusers of citizen’s biometric privacy.

“While China topping the list perhaps doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, residents of (and travelers to) other countries may be surprised and concerned at the extent of biometric information that is being collected on them and what is happening to it afterward.”

This really should not come as a surprise, because last year Comparitech revealed that American and Chinese cities lead the world in spying on their citizens. Last week, I wrote an article explaining how 2019 would go down as the year that facial recognition and corporate surveillance became commonplace in America.

Comparitech’s recent study on biometric privacy compared how 50 countries collect and use data to identify innocent people:

  • Many countries collect travelers’ biometric data, often through visas or biometric checks at airports
  • Every country we studied is using biometrics for bank accounts, e.g. fingerprints to access online app data and/or to confirm identities within the banks themselves
  • Despite many countries recognizing biometric data as sensitive, increased biometric use is widely accepted
  • Facial recognition CCTV is being implemented in a large number of countries, or at least being tested
  • EU countries scored better overall than non-EU countries due to GDPR regulations protecting the use of biometrics in the workplace (to some extent)

The USA is the 4th worst abuser of citizen’s biometric privacy 

Comparitech warns, “these 5 countries show a concerning lack of regard for the privacy of people’s biometric data.” That’s right, the former “land of the free” has become the land of the surveilled and tracked.
How can that be you ask?

According to Comparitech, the United States scores highly in most areas due to:

  • Having biometrics in passports, ID cards, and bank accounts.
  • Having a biometric voting system (optical scan equipment used in a large number of states).
  • Not having a specific law to protect citizens’ biometrics. While there is a handful of state laws that protect state residents’ biometrics (as can be seen in our state privacy study), this does leave many US citizens’ biometrics exposed as there is no federal law in place.
  • Implementing the widespread use of facial recognition cameras with law enforcement pushing for further use in the identification of criminals. For example, the FBI and ICE have recently been criticized due to their use of facial recognition technology to scan drivers’ license photos without gaining the citizens’ consent beforehand. Equally, some city-level bans have been put in place with San Francisco (CA), Oakland (CA), Berkeley (CA), and Somerville (MA) banning government use of facial recognition technology.
  • The growing use of biometrics in the workplace. Many companies use employees’ biometrics for certain actions, e.g. using a fingerprint to gain access to a work computer. Again, some state laws offer a little more protection but this still leaves many employees’ biometrics exposed.
  • Fingerprints being required for most American visas and everyone’s fingerprints being collected upon entry to the country.

Curiously, Comparitech failed to elaborate on DHS’s national Real-ID program which forces everyone to provide biometric information to drive or fly in America. If they had included Real-ID in their study it is my opinion that America would be 2nd only to China in abusing citizen’s biometric privacy.




Patriot Act

Patriot Act: ‘Normalizing The U.S. Government’s Mass Surveillance Powers’

The Patriot Act was a watershed for Technocrats as it has enabled total surveillance. It has changed the entire law enforcement culture and practice in America.

Moreover, this happened right under America’s nose because everyone was focused on infighting between Democrats and Republicans instead of watching the ongoing back-room collusion between the two parties (and others) to drive the Constitution into the ground. ⁃ TN Editor

While Congress subjects the nation to its impeachment-flavored brand of bread-and-circus politics, our civil liberties continue to die a slow, painful death by a thousand cuts.

Case in point: while Americans have been fixated on the carefully orchestrated impeachment drama that continues to monopolize headlines, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law legislation extending three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which had been set to expire on December 15, 2019.

Once again, to no one’s surprise, the bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle—Democrats and Republicans alike—prioritized political grandstanding over principle and their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.

As Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) predicted:

Today, while everyone is distracted by the impeachment drama, Congress will vote to extend warrantless data collection provisions of the #PatriotAct, by hiding this language on page 25 of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that temporarily funds the government. To sneak this through, Congress will first vote to suspend the rule which otherwise gives us (and the people) 72 hours to consider a bill. The scam here is that Democrats are alleging abuse of Presidential power, while simultaneously reauthorizing warrantless power to spy on citizens that no President should have… in a bill that continues to fund EVERYTHING the President does… and waiving their own rules to do it. I predict Democrats will vote on a party line to suspend the 72 hour rule. But after the rule is suspended, I suspect many Republicans will join most Democrats to pass the CR with the Patriot Act extension embedded in it.

Massie was right: Republicans and Democrats have no problem joining forces in order to maintain their joint stranglehold on power.

The legislation passed the Senate with a bipartisan 74-to-20 vote. It squeaked through the House of Representatives with a 231-192 margin. And it was signed by President Trump—who earlier this year floated the idea of making the government’s surveillance powers permanent—with nary a protest from anyone about its impact on the rights of the American people.

Spending bill or not, it didn’t have to shake down this way, even with the threat of yet another government shutdown looming.

Congress could have voted to separate the Patriot Act extension from the funding bill, as suggested by Rep. Justin Amash, but that didn’t fly. Instead as journalist Norman Solomon writes for Salon, “The cave-in was another bow to normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.”

That, right there, is the key to all of this: normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.

In the 18 years since the USA Patriot Act—a massive 342-page wish list of expanded powers for the FBI and CIA—was rammed through Congress in the wake of the so-called 9/11 terror attacks, it has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The Patriot Act drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well.

The Patriot Act also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience are now considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

The Patriot Act justified broader domestic surveillance, the logic being that if government agents knew more about each American, they could distinguish the terrorists from law-abiding citizens—no doubt a reflexive impulse shared by small-town police and federal agents alike.

This, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., was a fantasy that “had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen.

Federal agents and police officers are now authorized to conduct covert black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices while you are away and confiscate your personal property without first notifying you of their intent or their presence.

The law also granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited (at least 545 libraries received such demands in the first year following passage of the Patriot Act).

In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government has subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.

The federal government also made liberal use of its new powers, especially through the use (and abuse) of the nefarious national security letters, which allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies at the mere say-so of the government agent in charge of a local FBI office and without prior court approval.

In fact, since 9/11, we’ve been spied on by surveillance cameras, eavesdropped on by government agents, had our belongings searched, our phones tapped, our mail opened, our email monitored, our opinions questioned, our purchases scrutinized (under the USA Patriot Act, banks are required to analyze your transactions for any patterns that raise suspicion and to see if you are connected to any objectionable people), and our activities watched.

We’re also being subjected to invasive patdowns and whole-body scans of our persons and seizures of our electronic devices in the nation’s airports. We can’t even purchase certain cold medicines at the pharmacy anymore without it being reported to the government and our names being placed on a watch list.

It’s only getting worse, folks.

Largely due to the continuous noise from television news’ talking heads, most Americans have been lulled into thinking that the pressing issues are voting in the next election, but the real issue is simply this: the freedoms in the Bill of Rights are being eviscerated.

The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches and the like—all sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—a recitation of the Bill of Rights would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

What once were considered inalienable, fundamental “rights”  are now mere privileges to be taken away on a government bureaucrat’s say-so.

To those who have been paying attention, this should come as no real surprise.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the Constitution has been on life support for some time now, and is drawing its final breaths.

The American government, never a staunch advocate of civil liberties, has been writing its own orders for some time now. Indeed, as the McCarthy era and the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and others illustrates, the government’s amassing of power, especially in relation to its ability to spy on Americans, predates the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001.

What the Patriot Act and its subsequent incarnations did was legitimize what had previously been covert and frowned upon as a violation of Americans’ long-cherished privacy rights.

After all, the history of governments is that they inevitably overreach.

Thus, enabled by a paper tiger Congress, the president and other agencies of the federal government have repeatedly laid claim to a host of powers, among them the ability to use the military as a police force, spy on Americans and detain individuals without granting them access to an attorney or the courts. And as the government’s powers have grown, unchecked, the American people have gradually become used to these relentless intrusions into their lives.

In turn, the American people have become the proverbial boiling frogs, so desensitized to the government’s steady encroachments on their rights that civil liberties abuses have become par for the course.

Yet as long as government agencies are allowed to make a mockery of the very laws intended to limit their reach, curtail their activities, and guard against the very abuses to which we are being subjected on a daily basis, our individual freedoms will continue to be eviscerated so that the government’s powers can be expanded, the Constitution be damned.

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ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.




Western Tech Giants Propping Up China’s Surveillance State

Western firms have long served as prostitutes for tyrannical governments such as the Bolshevik Revolution in WWI and the rise of Hitler in WWII. That Big Tech is now supporting China’s Technocracy shows that they are “birds of a feather.’

The late Antony Sutton documented Wall Street’s nefarious affairs with despotic entities in several books: Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, National Suicide and The Best Enemy Money Can Buy. ⁃ TN Editor

A bombshell follow-up report to a major document leak which confirmed and detailed China’s vast Uyghur Muslim Xinjiang prison network and system for monitoring communications and whereabouts has named names. Names that is, of US tech giants that are actually aiding and abetting China’s multibillion-dollar surveillance industry being used to impose a total electronic police state on the communist country. And it’s not just Google and IBM, but a growing list of recognizable names.

U.S. companies, including Seagate Technology PLC, Western Digital Corp. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., have nurtured, courted and profited from China’s surveillance industry,” the scathing report begins. “Several have been involved since the industry’s infancy.”

These American companies gained greater scrutiny after the US Treasury recently targeted up to eight Chinese surveillance companies, blocking their ability to export US technology through which they could help the Chinese state in committing human rights and individual privacy violations. This included a federal ban on US agencies purchasing video surveillance equipment manufactured by Dahua, Hikvision, and Hytera Communications.

American companies over recent years have competed to enter China’s booming $10BN+ surveillance market, and also take advantage of Chinese companies’ rapidly progressing technology.

Stunningly, the WSJ investigation finds that “Of 37 Chinese firms singled out last November by the Beijing-backed China Security and Protection Industry Association for outstanding contributions to the country’s surveillance industry, 17 have publicly disclosed financing, commercial or supply-chain relationships with U.S. technology companies.” And further, “Several had multiple connections.”

Demonstrating the ‘indirect’ relationship between US companies and Chinese state surveillance, via the WSJ: “Hikvision, China’s largest surveillance systems maker, has bought technology from U.S. firms directly and through third parties. Hikvision was placed on the U.S. entity list in October, limiting some of the technology it can buy from the U.S. American companies said they comply with the law and export rules, and declined to comment on whether sales continue.”

For example, the report details Hewlett Packard Enterprise owns 49% of New H3C Technologies Co. Ltd. This Chinese company is well-known as providing internet control systems to Chinese security services. “According to company marketing materials, one end customer for its switches is Aksu, a Xinjiang city that conducts broad surveillance of residents in public spaces. Satellite images suggest the city is home to multiple internment camps,” the report concludes.

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face scans

China Now Requires Mandatory Face Scans For All Phone Users

As a Technocracy, China will turn the screws on data collection until they possess every conceivable piece of information on every citizen, including DNA and psychographic/behavioral profile. This is the “science of social engineering.’ ⁃ TN Editor

China will require telecom operators to collect face scans when registering new phone users at offline outlets starting Sunday, according to the country’s information technology authority, as Beijing continues to tighten cyberspace controls.

In September, China’s industry and information technology ministry issued a notice on “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”, which laid out rules for enforcing real-name registration.

The notice said telecom operators should use “artificial intelligence and other technical means” to verify people’s identities when they take a new phone number.

A China Unicom customer service representative told AFP that the December 1 “portrait matching” requirement means customers registering for a new phone number may have to record themselves turning their head and blinking.

“In next steps, our ministry will continue to…increase supervision and inspection…and strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users,” said the September notice.

Though the Chinese government has pushed for real-name registration for phone users since at least 2013 — meaning ID cards are linked to new phone numbers — the move to leverage AI comes as facial recognition technology gains traction across China where the tech is used for everything from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.

Online, Chinese social media users reacted with a mix of support and worry over the December 1 facial verification notice, with some voicing concerns their biometric data could be leaked or sold.

“This is a bit too much,” wrote one user on Twitter-like Weibo, commenting under an article about the new rules.

“Control, and then more control,” posted another.

While researchers have warned of the privacy risks associated with gathering facial recognition data, consumers have widely embraced the technology — though China saw one of its first lawsuits on facial recognition last month.

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