Last Spring, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began the roll-out of a nationwide biometric identification system for suspects, a billion-dollar overhaul of how the Bureau identifies and tracks suspects. The first aspect of the Lockeed-Martin-designed system to be unveiled was a new fingerprinting database for law enforcement.
The most recent portion of NGIS, however, has more in common with Facebook and Google Image search than traditional law enforcement identification methods.
The photo-recognition component of the Next-Generation Identification System is currently being implemented and will be available nationwide in January. According to an FBI document unearthed by the open-source website Public Intelligence, a beta version of NGIS’ photo-recognition component was introduced to law enforcement agencies in Flordia, Hawai’i, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington. The database currently holds 7.5 million mug shots from local, state and federal authorities, and is intended to allow law enforcement to match photos of unknown suspects to images of people in interconnected law enforcement databases. Continue reading
The struggle to bring the San Francisco Police Department’s involvement in the local Joint Terrorism Task Force back under civilian oversight is still dragging on – and the head of the FBI’s San Francisco office appears to be firmly in opposition to any reform efforts.
A memo from the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Law Caucus to a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors indicates that Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas, who heads the San Francisco Branch of the FBI, is firmly opposed to local regulations that bar police from monitoring people engaged in First Amendment activity.
The ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus say that Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas informed them of her stance on altering SFPD’s participation at a May 31, 2011 meeting. The memo also states that SAC Douglas does not approve of San Francisco’s regulations restricting SFPD from monitoring First Amendment activity. Continue reading
People record protestors facing off against police officers in Downtown Oakland on July 8, 2010.
On Monday, the First U.S. Circuit of Appeals out of Boston weighed in on a crucial issue for police accountability activists by ruling that citizens may videotape police officers are protected by the First Amendment. The ruling in Glik v. Cunniffe, et al (No. 10-1764) comes at a critical time when prosecutors and police in several states aside from Massachusetts (including Illinois, Maryland and Florida) are arresting and charging citizens with violations of wiretapping laws for recording police.
In California, a Vallejo man was arrested in April by local police for filming an arrest from within his garage.
The case at hand involved an incident in 2008. Boston attorney Simon Glik was arrested for filming the arrest of a young man by several police officers on the Boston Common. According to the First Circuit Opinion, Glik took out his cellphone and recorded the arrest when he believed officers were using excessive force to detain a demonstrator. Boston police took issue with Glik’s actions, detained him and confiscated his equipment.
Here is the narrative of the incident provided in the First District’s opinion: Continue reading
Last Friday, the federal government’s new anti-terror database, the Terror Screening Watchlist Service, went live. The database is loaded with an unknown amount of personal information, including names, photographs and biometric data. In a new turn that has civil liberties advocates crying foul, the Department of Homeland Security is claiming all information contained in the watchlist is confidential.
Earlier today, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several other groups filed a formal complaint with DHS about the blanket exemptions to the Privacy Act. Continue reading
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has undergone a sea change since the September 11 attacks. In the decade since 9/11, the Bureau has transitioned from a traditional law enforcement agency charged with tracking and apprehending criminals to a more “proactive” organization with the additional responsibility of counter-terrorism operations.
The FBI’s transition is so drastic that half of its 14,000 agents in the field are devoted to counter-terrorism work. Combined with a raft of new legal tools and the proliferation of fusion centers, the FBI’s current operations pose a new set of challenges to Congressional oversight of the Bureau.
A recent report by the Congressional Research Service provides a synopsis of the present-day FBI’s new powers and how they are used in terrorism investigations. Continue reading
A New York University Report alleges entrapment in numerous homegrown terrorism cases.
Stopping homegrown terrorist plots has become a top priority of both federal and local law enforcement in the decade since the September 11th attacks. While this heightened vigilance is warranted (just look at the Fort Hood shooting and the attempted Times Square bombing last year), Americans of Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian origin across the country have long complained about unwarranted government surveillance and scrutiny of their communities.
Civil rights advocates have raised concerns about alleged profiling of these communities as some 200 people have been brought for prosecution in homegrown terrorism cases. This week, New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Justice issued a report documenting the government’s extensive use of informants who they say enticed susceptible men of African-American or Middle Eastern background in to participating in terrorism plots that were nothing more than law enforcement stings.
Nearly a decade into the War on Terror, the United States’ intelligence apparatus is in full swing–and not just the campaign to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. An April 29th letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Ronald Weich to Nevada Senator Harry Reid Attorney outlines the scope of foreign and domestic intelligence gathering by the Obama Administration in 2010.
In order to obtain a warrant for electronic surveillance for “foreign intelligence purposes,” the government must make a request to a specially assigned judge serving in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a civilian court in Washington D.C. This procedure was established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to place some post-Watergate checks and balances on the government’s wiretapping activities (in 1972, President Richard Nixon authorized a break-in to the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate building, leading to a massive scandal, numerous indictments and Nixon’s resignation two years later).
Here’s a news flash for all you users of free email and document-storage services that hold your data in a remote “cloud,” or off-site location: The U.S. Department of Justice wants access to your information without a warrant. In recent years, appellate courts around the nation have gone back and forth about whether law enforcement has the right to access online information such as emails without a warrant. Most recently, the 6th Circuit of Appeals ruled in December that a warrant must be procured in order to access emails and other similar data.
However, the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has kept up the fight initiated under former President George W. Bush. The government is continuing to press the courts to allow emails to be obtained without a warrant.
Here is the official stance of the Obama Justice Department, as represented by Assistant Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker at a Tuesday hearing on the matter by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Baker was testifying to press Congress not to adopt a law that would afford electronic information the same Fourth Amendment protections Americans enjoy in the material world: