India: The State’s dilemma–people can’t be trusted, and cameras fog up with humidity

Digital cameras for closer look on secretariat visitors

RANCHI: To keep an eye on movement of every individual on the state secretariat, Jharkhand police are installing around 30 high resolution digital CCTV cameras. These cameras will be placed at strategic location, including the main gate, which will take picture even during rain and fog. At present there are some analog CCTV cameras are in place on the secretariat but pictures taken by them are not very clear.

The images are hazy when it rains or there is dense fog during winter.  The number of cameras are also a few, sources in the police department said. “Since the state is sensitive because of Maoist presence in 18 of the 24 districts and a number of top politicians are on the hit list of the rebels, we expect that advance CCTV system will help us in proper monitor the place where thousands of people visit every day,” said a source. Continue reading

When did “the land of the free” become a “police state”?

[The capitalist rulers of the USA have long claimed the country to be the fountain of democracy, brotherhood and freedom.  But along the way, the victims of the US’ rampant and violent growth have wondered “what in the world are they talking about?”

  • When the colonists and later the pilgrims arrived, their force hurled against the indigenous was certainly repressive.
  • When African people were kidnapped and brutally enslaved, and their exploitation enforced by the lash and the gun, this was not brotherhood at work.
  • When the US developed police forces to round up fugitive Africans, this was a police state.
  • When half of Mexico was seized, and turned into half of the USA instead, and the people were turned into illegal aliens, they were subjected to a police state.
  • When workers rose up to loosen the chains of their exploitation, and were shot down or jailed or executed, this was certainly a police state at work.
  • When Chinese were criminalized and banned, was this the brotherhood so proclaimed?
  • When Mexican-American citizens were rounded up, and blamed for the Great Depression of the 30’s, and hundreds of thousands were deported, this expulsion was characteristic of a police state action.
  • When Jim Crow enforced white supremacist rule with noose and whip and gun, with official badges worn or with the embrace or encouragement of officialdom, this was the police state at work.
  • When Japanese-Americans were rounded up and imprisoned, for the crime of being Japanese, this was surely a police state action.
  • When reformers and radicals and communists were banned from culture and schools and work, and many were jailed, was this an expression of the “land of the free?”
  • When people rose for civil rights and Black liberation, countless were beaten, jailed, and killed.  Many remain imprisoned today.  The face of a police state was seen by millions.
  • When the largest mass imprisonment program in the world as been expanded, largely against black and brown people, this speaks eloquently to the nature of US society.
  • And today, surveillance of Arabs and Muslims, black and brown youth, anti-war, environmental, women’s rights, and other political activists and opponents, and now electronic, social networking and drone surveillance continues to expand this repressive police state into every aspect of public and private life.

Some argue that one brutal or oppressive tool, or another, began this process.  Some of the earlier forms did not bother some people so much.  And some have been part of a privileged elite or so-called “middle class” which has enjoyed many of the “democratic” fruits obtained from an exploitative and oppressive system.  When do you think “the police state” truly has begun?  — Frontlines ed.]

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The coming drone attack on America

Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. In time, they will likely be weaponised

guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 December 2012

military drone spy

[By 2020, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 drones will be in use in US domestic airspace. Photograph: US navy/Reuters]

People often ask me, in terms of my argument about “ten steps” that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.

In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs. Continue reading

The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology

If you think that 24/7 tracking of citizens by biometric recognition systems is paranoid fantasy, just read the industry newsletters

by Naomi Wolf, guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 August 2012

A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were – so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant.

Except that it turned out to be true. News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government – for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

Fast forward: after the Occupy crackdowns, I noted that odd-looking CCTVs had started to appear, attached to lampposts, in public venues in Manhattan where the small but unbowed remnants of Occupy congregated: there was one in Union Square, right in front of their encampment. I reported here on my experience of witnessing a white van marked “Indiana Energy” that was lifting workers up to the lampposts all around Union Square, and installing a type of camera. When I asked the workers what was happening – and why an Indiana company was dealing with New York City civic infrastructure, which would certainly raise questions – I was told: “I’m a contractor. Talk to ConEd.”

I then noticed, some months later, that these bizarre camera/lights had been installed not only all around Union Square but also around Washington Square Park. I posted a photo I took of them, and asked: “What is this?” Commentators who had lived in China said that they were the same camera/streetlight combinations that are mounted around public places in China. These are enabled for facial recognition technology, which allows police to watch video that is tagged to individuals, in real time. When too many people congregate, they can be dispersed and intimidated simply by the risk of being identified – before dissent can coalesce. (Another of my Facebook commentators said that such lamppost cameras had been installed in Michigan, and that they barked “Obey”, at pedestrians. This, too, sounded highly implausible – until this week in Richmond, British Columbia, near the Vancouver airport, when I was startled as the lamppost in the intersection started
talking to me – in this case, instructing me on how to cross (as though I were blind or partially sighted).

Finally, last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use – or already uses – facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases. Continue reading

Thousands march in silence against NYPD’s ‘Stop and Frisk’

Democracy Now’s coverage of the Stop ‘Stop and Frisk’ march

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By Frederick Bernas, CNN — June 18, 2012

New York (CNN) — Rather than celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday afternoon, Horace Russell marched with several thousand people to take a stand against the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy.

“I feel it every single day, practically,” said Russell, who works as a teacher in the Bronx. “I’ve been pulled over and pushed against fences, frisked, but have never been arrested.”

Russell’s story sounded familiar to many of Sunday’s marchers, who want to see action from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — either by abolishing or reforming stop-and-frisk.

Last year, nearly 685,000 people were stopped by officers in cases that ended with no meaningful charge, according to police department statistics. Of these, 87% were African-American or Latino, the police department says.

“They profile me because I’m a Rastafarian and I have dreadlocks, so therefore I get pulled over just for my looks,” said Russell.

Sunday’s silent march started at 110th Street and headed down Fifth Avenue, ending at 78th Street after passing Bloomberg’s townhouse on 79th Street.

“I don’t know a single black or Latino male who doesn’t say he is basically afraid to be out on the streets,” said the Rev. Stephen Phelps, a senior minister at the Riverside Church near West Harlem. He was one of a diverse group of faith leaders, and representatives of some 300 organizations , brought together by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Continue reading

Drones over America. Are they spying on you?

Deputy Amanda Hill of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado prepares to use a Draganflyer X6 drone equipped with a video camera to help search for a suspect in a knife attack. Drones are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters.  [Mesa County Sheriff’s Unmanned Operations Team/AP]

“Thousands of drones could be routinely flying over the United States within the next ten years. They can help with law enforcement and border control, but they also raise questions about invasion of privacy.”

By , Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor / June 16, 2012

Most Americans have gotten used to regular news reports about military and CIA drones attacking terrorist suspects – including US citizens – in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere abroad.

But picture thousands of drone aircraft buzzing around the United States – peering from the sky at breaches in border security, wildfires about to become major conflagrations, patches of marijuana grown illegally deep within national forests, or environmental scofflaws polluting the land, air, and water.

By some government estimates, 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. Operated by agencies down to the local level, this would be in addition to the 110 current and planned drone activity sites run by the military services in 39 states, reported this week by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a non-government research project. Continue reading

Quebec’s ‘truncheon law’ rebounds as student strike spreads

A draconian law to quell demonstrations has only galvanised public support for young Quebecois protesting tuition fee hikes

, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 May 2012

Thousands of demonstrators march to mark the 100th day of a student strike against tuition hikes in Montreal, Quebec, 22 May 2012. Photograph: Olivier Jean/Reuters

At a tiny church tucked away in a working-class neighbourhood in Montreal’s east end, Quebec’s new outlaws gathered on Sunday for a day of deliberations. Aged mostly between 18 and 22, their membership in a progressive student union has made them a target of government scorn and scrutiny. And they have been branded a menace to society because of their weapons: ideas of social justice and equal opportunity in education, alongside the ability to persuade hundreds of thousands to join them in the streets.

Under a draconian law passed by the Quebec government on Friday, their very meeting could be considered a criminal act. Law 78 – unprecedented in recent Canadian history – is the latest, most desperate manoeuvre of a provincial government that is afraid it has lost control over a conflict that began as a student strike against tuition hikes but has since spread into a protest movement with wide-ranging social and environmental demands.

Labelled a “truncheon law” by its critics, it imposes severe restrictions on the right to protest. Any group of 50 or more protesters must submit plans to police eight hours ahead of time; they can be denied the right to proceed. Picket lines at universities and colleges are forbidden, and illegal protests are punishable by fines from $5,000 to $125,000 for individuals and unions – as well as by the seizure of union dues and the dissolution of their associations.

In other words, the government has decided to smash the student movement by force.

The government quickly launched a public relations offensive to defend itself. Full-page ads in local newspapers ran with the headline: “For the sake of democracy and citizenship.” Quebec’s minister of public security, Robert Dutil, prattled about the many countries that have passed similar laws:

“Other societies with rights and freedoms to protect have found it reasonable to impose certain constraints – first of all to protect protesters, and also to protect the public.”

Such language is designed to make violence sound benevolent and infamy honourable. But it did nothing to mask reality for those who have flooded the streets since the weekend and encountered police emboldened by the new legislation. Riot squads beat and tear-gassed people indiscriminately, targeted journalists, pepper-sprayed bystanders in restaurants, and mass-arrested hundreds, including more than 500 Wednesday night – bringing the tally from the last three months of protest to a record Canadian high of more than 2,500. The endless night-time drone of helicopters has become the serenade song of a police state. Continue reading

The police violence that many have always known, and others now discover

[New artwork from Rachel Marie Crane-Williams, on the USprisonculture.com blog.  We look forward to more of her cartoon art of exposure and reality. — Frontlines ed.]