A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘United Police States of America’ tag

The Only Solution is Prisons in Space

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What is a greater accomplishment, putting a man on the moon or building a prison? I would imagine that most of the people reading this would choose the former. In fact, I hope that most of the people reading this would consider the comparison absurd. But when you’re talking to a politician the two accomplishments are of equal importance:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) pointed to one of man’s greatest scientific achievements as evidence that his state could build more prisons.

Noting that 2019 would mark the 50th anniversary of his state putting a man on the moon, Bentley argued that Alabama should be able to build more facilities.

“If Alabamians can put man on the moon, we can build new prisons,” Bentley said during his State of the State address on Tuesday. The Saturn V rocket, which propelled Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969, was built at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) put a man on the moon they first asked themselves what would be accomplished by doing so. Then they asked themselves whether a cheaper solution existed. Because NASA is a government agency the motivation was statist in nature, to show the world that American had a bigger dick than the Soviet Union. There wasn’t a cheaper option because putting a man on the moon was the only way to overcome the fact that the Soviet Union put the first satellite and man into space. No lesser endeavor would have done.

But Governor Bentley isn’t even smart enough to ask why more prisons are necessary or whether a cheaper solution exists. The reason more prisons are necessary is because politicians continue creating new laws that turn formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. There are a lot of cheaper options for dealing with that problem. For example, the politicians could simply stop creating new crimes. Better yet, they could save the state some money by decriminalizing a bunch of currently criminal actions. Then they could commute the sentence of anybody currently rotting in a cage for committing one of those crimes. Instead the politicians continue creating new crimes so, of course, see the need to also create new prisons.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Governor Bentley decides to combine the two ideas and demand that Alabama build prisons in space.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Your Privilege to Privacy Has a Lot of Exception

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I remember hearing a rumor that the Bill of Rights included an amendment regarding privacy. You wouldn’t know it living in our society though. Between the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive surveillance apparatus, law enforcement’s tendency to deploy cell phone interceptors without so much as a warrant, and the recent trend of municipal governments deploying license plate scanners throughout their realm of influence it’s pretty obvious that if we had a right to privacy it’s effectively dead now. But every so often the courts find a shred of privacy remaining. When they do they work efficiently to destroy it:

It’s a case I first wrote about a year ago when the Minnesota Court of Appeals reinstated charges against a Meeker County resident after a district court threw out the case against Leona Rose deLottinville because sheriff’s deputies captured her while she was visiting a boyfriend. The lower court had also ruled that evidence seized in the arrest could not be used against her because the warrant for her arrest did not authorize police to search her boyfriend’s apartment.

In upholding that decision Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court said the woman, who was suspected of possessing meth, had no greater expectation of privacy when visiting another home than in her own home. [Updated]

[…]

“We understand that a homeowner might well be surprised and distressed to learn that police may enter at any time to arrest a guest,” he said. “But there is no indication in this case of any such abuse; deLottinville was visible to the officer before he entered the home. And the question of what rights the homeowner may have in such a situation is not before us.”

In a dissent, however, Justice Margaret Chutich said Lillehaug the majority opinion “fails to protect the right of a host from unreasonable governmental intrusion into the sanctity of her home, a right at the ‘very core’ of the Fourth Amendment.”

Of course the majority ruled based on the rights of the kidnapped individual, which completely ignored the rights of the homeowner. At least Justice Margaret Chutich understood this fact. Unfortunately, she was part of the minority and as we all know in a democracy the majority rules.

I believe the potential for abuse of this ruling is obvious. Home owners in Minnesota can now lose their privacy privileges if they invite the wrong person over. How can a homeowner decided whether or not they’re inviting the wrong person over? I guess they have to call their local police department and ask if a warrant has been issued for any guests they have over.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Increasing Government Opaqueness

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Barack Obama promised to create the most transparent government in history. After eight years his administration managed to create one of the most opaque governments in history. His predecessor’s administration, which at least saved us the lying about creating a transparent government, is continuing in his footsteps:

But on March 1st, the FBI is intentionally rolling back the technological clock, and will only allow requests via fax or snail mail, plus a limited amount through their online portal.

This will undoubtedly hinder the public’s ability to get information from the agency. On top of eliminating a far less burdensome method of communication, submitting through the FBI’s portal requires including personal information, including phone number and address, and agree to the site’s terms of service. Nested in the TOS is the requirement that users only make one FOIA request per submission per day.

At least the current administration won’t get a free pass from the political left like the last one did.

This change in policy is an example of the low level nonsense the State pulls to make the lives of its detractors more difficult. On the surface it doesn’t seem like much. After all, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) hasn’t been changed. Below the surface the difficulty of filing a FOIA request has been increased slightly, which will likely discourage some people from filing such requests. In time the difficulty will be raised slightly again and again and again. Eventually filing a FOIA request will be such a pain in the ass that almost nobody will do it. Then the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) will have achieved its goal of making FOIA a toothless law without having to actually violate it.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 10th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Ihre Papiere Bitte

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Many World War II movies have a scene where normal folk are walking down the street minding their own business when they’re suddenly confronted by a pair of police officers who say, “Ihre Papiere bitte.” Usually the people being confronted will hand over a set of documents, the officers will look them over, and then one officer will say, “Ihre Papiere sind nicht in Ordnung.” Such scenes are used to show the audience that Nazi Germany was an authoritarian police state. But if demanding identification from people minding their own business made Nazi Germany a police state what does it make the United States:

PHOENIX – You could go to jail for four months if you get caught without an ID as a passenger in a car if a new law proposal passes.

[…]

Current law only requires the driver of a vehicle to carry a drivers license, which serves as evidence of identity.

If this bill passes, a passenger would also be required to have evidence of identity. Failure to do so would be a class 2 misdemeanor, which allows for up to four months in jail by current state law.

Isn’t it funny how all of the things the United States government once criticized authoritarian regimes for doing are either being done or are being proposed here? And isn’t if funny that many people living here have managed to delude themselves enough to believe that they live in the freest country on Earth?

Written by Christopher Burg

February 8th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Freedom of the Press

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Ever since the various governments within the United States declared that it was okay for them to keep secrets the freedom of the press has been eroding. In recent years that steady erosion has turned into a complete collapse. Now we live in a world where journalists face felony charges for covering events:

Four more journalists have been charged with felonies after being arrested while covering the unrest around Donald Trump’s inauguration, meaning that at least six media workers are facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.

A documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter were each charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DC’s law against rioting, after being caught up in the police action against demonstrators.

Notice how the journalists are being charged under the rioting laws? If they were being charged for covering the event that would be an overt suppression of the press. As anybody who has lived in this country long enough will tell you, the politicians here prefer covert suppression over overt suppression. Charging the journalists with covering the wrong event would raise a bunch of questions about the First Amendment. But charging them for participating in a riot avoids those questions and gives a reason for the tough on crime crowd to support the suppression.

Heroes Out Doing Hero Things

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I know many of you are probably tired of reading stories about cops killing somebody needlessly. I’m certainly getting sick of writing posts about them! But issues aren’t fixed by sweeping them under the rug. With that out of the way, we have yet another incident where officers gunned down somebody needlessly and then apparently lied about it:

The video shows multiple police officers cornering James Hall, 47, in the back of a Chevron gas station mini-mart, where police and the man engage in a brief standoff.

Hall appears to shift his weight between two counters near a soda fountain just before an officer shoots and he collapses to the tiled floor.

The grainy surveillance images appear to partly contradict the initial account of the Fontana Police Department, which described Hall as armed with a knife and advancing on officers before police shot him dead.

Shifting his weight? Armed with a knife and advancing? Who could tell the difference?!

Police officers should be judged on the same use of force rules as anybody else. Had I shot a gun at somebody who wasn’t advancing on me I’d probably spend a few years in a cage. But a lot of people are willing to give officers are pass because they “have a hard job” and “just want to go home to their families at night”. Both excuses, of course, apply to almost everybody but for some unknown reason only seem to hold weight when applied to those with magic badges.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 24th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Snitches Get Dents

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Is your vehicle a snitch? If you have a modern vehicle, especially one with Internet connectivity, the answer is almost certainly yes:

One of the more recent examples can be found in a 2014 warrant that allowed New York police to trace a vehicle by demanding the satellite radio and telematics provider SiriusXM provide location information. The warrant, originally filed in 2014 but only recently unsealed (and published below in full), asked SiriusXM “to activate and monitor as a tracking device the SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio installed on the Target Vehicle for a period of 10 days.” The target was a Toyota 4-Runner wrapped up in an alleged illegal gambling enterprise.

[…]

So it was that in December 2009 police asked GM to cough up OnStar data from a Chevrolet Tahoe rented by a suspected crack cocaine dealer Riley Dantzler. The cops who were after Dantzler had no idea what the car looked like or where it was, but with OnStar tracking they could follow him from Houston, Texas, to Ouchita Parish, Louisiana. OnStar’s tracking was accurate too, a court document revealing it was able to “identify that vehicle among the many that were on Interstate 20 that evening.” They stopped Dantzler and found cocaine, ecstasy and a gun inside.

[…]

In at least two cases, individuals unwittingly had their conversations listened in on by law enforcement. In 2001, OnStar competitor ATX Technologies (which later became part of Agero) was ordered to provide “roving interceptions” of a Mercedes Benz S430V. It initially complied with the order in November of that year to spy on audible communications for 30 days, but when the FBI asked for an extension in December, ATX declined, claiming it was overly burdensome. (The filing on the FBI’s attempt to find ATX in contempt of court is also published below).

As a quick aside, it should also be noted that the cell phone you carry around contains the hardware necessary to perform these same forms of surveillance. So don’t start bragging about the old vehicle you drive if you’re carrying around a cell phone.

There are two major problems here. The first problem is technological and the second is statism. There’s nothing wrong with adding more technological capabilities to a vehicle. However, much like the Internet of Things, automobile manufacturers have a terrible track record when it comes to computer security. For example, having a builtin communication system like OnStar isn’t bad in of itself but when it can be remotely activated a lot of security questions come into play.

The second problem is statism. Monitoring technologies that can be remotely activated are dangerous in general but become even more dangerous in the hands of the State. As this story demonstrated, the combination of remotely activated microphones and statism leads to men with guns kidnapping people (or possibly worse).

Everything in this story is just the tip of the iceberg though. As more technology is integrated into automobiles the State will also integrate itself more. I have no doubt that at some point a law will be passed that will require all automobiles to have a remotely activated kill switch. It’ll likely be proposed shortly after a high speed chase that ends in an officer getting killed and will be sold to the public as necessary for protecting the lives of our heroes in blue. As self-driving cars become more popular there will likely be a law passed that requires self-driving cars to have a remotely accessible autopilot mode so police can command a car to pull over for a stop or drive to the courthouse if somebody is missing their court date.

Everything that could be amazing will end up being shit because the State will decided to meddle. The State is why we can’t have nice things.

United States Postal Service Increasing its Surveillance

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The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced that photographing every piece of mail is no longer enough surveillance for its taste so it will be expanding its efforts:

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is expanding its presence online, targeting dark net drug dealers and their use of snail mail in distributing their goods across the country.

New job listings indicate that the USPIS, the law enforcement element of the national postal service, is seeking Investigative Analysts and Intelligence Specialists to lead operations to tackle cybercrime and black market websites, reports Motherboard.

“Candidates shall have demonstrated experience in using cyber intelligence tools and software tools to actively search and mine the publicly available Internet and the dark net/deep web,” the job duty section on one listing reads.

The analyst or intelligence researcher will aim to seek out “pattern of life” data “in an effort to determine physical attribution of an internet identity.” In other words, they’ll be in charge of digging through information that can be used to uncover the individuals behind online drug dealing networks.

Always be wary of a package delivery service that also has its own police force.

The government loves redundancy. What the USPS is working to accomplish is the same thing that the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and probably a dozen other federal agencies are already doing. Why is the USPS investing resources into a job that’s already being done by many other agencies? Why not hand the job of finding drug dealers over to the Drug Enforcement Agency? Because the State loves redundancy, especially when it comes to surveillance.

While this is a privacy concern it’s also an efficiency concern. Reproducing effort requires more resources. So even if you are one of those people who believes that paying taxes is righteous and good, you might want to ask why your tax dollars are being wasted on funding the exact same program a dozen times over.

Just a Few Bad Apples

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Chicago is an interesting case study. In addition to being proof that gun control laws don’t reduce gun violence, the city also manages to having increasing levels of violent crime at a time when violent crime as a whole is going down. But wait, there’s more! Not only is violence performed by nongovernmental entities up in Chicago, but violence performed by government entities is also up:

CHICAGO ― The Chicago Police Department regularly violates citizens’ civil rights, routinely fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct and poorly trained officers at all levels, according to a sweeping Justice Department probe of the nation’s second-largest police department.

The findings echo those of an April 2016 report released by Chicago’s then-new Police Accountability Task Force, which emphasized that the police department must face a “painful but necessary reckoning” that includes acknowledging its racist history and its consequent legacy of corruption and mistrust ― particularly between the department and the minority communities it polices.

What else could we expect from a police department that operates its own black sites?

Chicago may have the honors of being the first city with a police department that is so corrupt that even the Department of Justice can cover it up anymore. There’s also a good chance that it will enjoy the honors of being the second city to join Detroit in complete collapse.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Liability Shield

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I’ve discussed the redundant layers that the State has put into place to protect itself from meaningful change. One such layer is police unions. Last year we saw how police unions managed to get violent officers reinstated in both November and December.

Cities sign contracts with police unions that often shield officers from liability. Reuters looked at 82 police union contracts and found some interesting clauses:

• A majority of the contracts call for departments to erase disciplinary records, some after just six months, making it difficult to fire officers with a history of abuses. In 18 cities, suspensions are erased in three years or less. In Anchorage, Alaska, suspensions, demotions and disciplinary transfers are removed after two years.

• Nearly half of the contracts allow officers accused of misconduct to access the entire investigative file – including witness statements, GPS readouts, photos, videos and notes from the internal investigation – before being interrogated.

• Twenty cities, including San Antonio, allow officers accused of misconduct to forfeit sick leave or holiday and vacation time rather than serve suspensions.

• Eighteen cities require an officer’s written consent before the department publicly releases documents involving prior discipline or internal investigations.

• Contracts in 17 cities set time limits for citizens to file complaints about police officers – some as short as 30 days. Nine cities restrict anonymous complaints from being investigated.

Law enforcement is the idea that a handful of trusted individuals can be given power over everybody else. Theoretically this idea could work if the trusted individuals are held to a higher standard that everybody else. In practice those individuals are almost always held to a lower standard. Handing out authority without accountability is a recipe for disaster.

Consider the first point in the above excerpt. If an officer has a history of violent behavior it might not show up because records of previous incidents were purged. This seems rather odd when you consider how permanent criminal records are for you and me. A criminal record for an average individual can haunt them for the rest of their life. And we’re told that such records are necessary because recidivism is a very real threat. I guess badges guard against liability and recidivism.

The second point is also an interest double standard. If you’re arrested you will be interrogated before you’re allowed to see any of the evidence collected against you. In fact, you generally only get to see the evidence against you after you’ve been charged and your lawyer demands it from the prosecutor. But in many cities officers accused of wrongdoing are allowed to view all of the evidence against them before they are interrogated.

Police union contracts are giant double standards that give law enforcers a significant advantage when it comes to accusations of wrongdoing. This makes it difficult to holding bad cops accountable. The fact that holding bad cops accountable is difficult encourages unsavory sorts to pursue a career in law enforcement. I think you can see where this road ends.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am