A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘United Police States of America’ tag

NYPD Suspends Use of Body Cameras

without comments

What were sold as a tool for law enforcer accountability turned into a tool for evidence gathering. Body cameras have failed to reign in bad police behavior but they still provided us little people with some amusement as law enforcers tried to explain how really egregious looking footage was actually a misunderstanding. It appears as though the New York Police Department (NYPD) has tired of explaining the embarrassing footage because it has completely suspended their use:

The NYPD’s plan to outfit every officer with body cameras has run into trouble. The department has pulled about 2,990 Vievu LE-5 cameras across the city after one officer’s camera caught fire near a Staten Island precinct. There’s a “possible product defect” with the LE-5, the NYPD said in a statement, and it was removing existing models out of an “abundance of caution.” Most of the force’s 15,500 cameras (including LE-4 models) aren’t affected.

As one of my friends said, I wonder how long the officer had to hold a lighter to their body camera before it stayed lit.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 24th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Obedience School

without comments

The public schooling system isn’t about providing children with an education, it’s about turning children into obedient subjects. Any education a child may receive is nothing more than an unintended consequence. Nowhere is this more evident that in the Texas schooling system, which now requires students to pass an obedience class in order to graduate:

Starting this school year, English, history and math, are not the only classes required to graduate high school in Texas.

A new state law requires students in grades nine through 12 to receive a class, paired with a 16-minute video, that aims to teach them how to deal with law enforcement during a traffic stop.

Known as the Community Safety Education Act, Senate Bill 30 was signed into law by the 85th Texas Legislature to help ease tensions between police and students in the wake of multiple shootings by police of unarmed citizens that have taken place across the United States in recent years.

Law enforcers are gunning down unarmed citizens and the response isn’t to punish the law enforcers but to put the burden of surviving a law enforcement encounter on the citizenry? This says pretty much everything that needs to be said about statism.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 19th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Fake Facebook Profiles of Law Enforcement

without comments

Do you remember that really hot chick who tried to friend you on Facebook? The one who claimed to be single and horny? There’s a good chance that “she” was a cop:

Police officers around the country, in departments large and small, working for federal, state and local agencies, use undercover Facebook accounts to watch protesters, track gang members, lure child predators and snare thieves, according to court records, police trainers and officers themselves. Some maintain several of these accounts at a time. The tactic violates Facebook’s terms of use, and the company says it disables fake accounts whenever it discovers them. But that is about all it can do: Fake accounts are not against the law, and the information gleaned by the police can be used as evidence in criminal and civil cases.

Investigators know this, which is why the accounts continue to flourish.

This should come as a surprise to approximately nobody. Law enforcers have been busy turning this country into a surveillance state. Meanwhile, Facebook has been busy collecting every shred of personal information about as many people as it can. They’re a match made in Heaven, or more aptly Hell.

The best defense against this, other than not using Facebook, is to only add people whose identity you have personally verified. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a person you know in real life isn’t an undercover cop, but verifying identities will at least cut down on the low level efforts to surveil you.

Live Streaming Summary Executions

without comments

The Company Formerly Known as Taser (Axon) has announced a new line of body cameras that allow law enforcers to live stream their antics:

Police officers wearing new cameras by Axon, the U.S.’s largest body camera supplier, will soon be able to send live video from their cameras back to base and elsewhere, potentially enhancing officers’ situational awareness and expanding police surveillance.

[…]

Axon plans to test the device, the Axon Body 3, with a group of agencies early next year and ship to U.S. customers in the summer. (The initial price of $699 doesn’t include other costs, like a subscription to Axon’s Evidence.com data management system.) A built-in antenna transmits HD video over dedicated 4G LTE cellular networks, while another feature triggers the camera to start recording and alerts command staff once an officer has fired their weapon, a possible corrective to the problem of officers forgetting to switch them on.

Now the whole department can tune in for the summary execution of the unarmed black man!

Less you mistakenly believe that this live streaming capability might give oversight committees the ability to oversee law enforcers by randomly activating the live streaming capability, never fear, the live streaming capability can only be activated when the officer wearing the camera enables it:

Giving supervisors the ability to live-stream from officers’ chests has raised privacy concerns among police too. Axon’s system does not allow supervisors to remotely begin live-streaming from an officer’s camera unless it is in recording mode–that is, once an officer presses a large button in the center of the camera or is activated automatically by the sound of a gunshot, for instance. The video streams will also be limited to those with permission through the Evidence.com software.

That’s a relief! I was almost worried that there was a chance that an overseer might randomly activate an officer’s body camera can catch them doing something unlawful!

Of course the live video is streamed to Evidence.com, which is a service geared towards preventing the use of collected evidence from being used to defend an accused party or from bring charges against a law enforcer who has been caught doing something illegal.

Axon has covered all of its bases. There’s no possibility that these new features will be used to hold law enforcers accountable, which will make them popular with law enforcement departments.

Living in a Surveillance State

with 2 comments

People often argue about whether Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four more accurately predicted our current predicament. I tend to believe that both books predicted different aspects of the present. Governments have certainly invested heavily in dumbing down and distracting the population in order to make them more docile and therefore easier to rule. But they have also invested heavily in ensuring that they can watch everything you do wherever you go:

The next time you drive past one of those road signs with a digital readout showing how fast you’re going, don’t simply assume it’s there to remind you not to speed. It may actually be capturing your license plate data.

According to recently released US federal contracting data, the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding the footprint of its nationwide surveillance network with the purchase of “multiple” trailer-mounted speed displays “to be retrofitted as mobile LPR [License Plate Reader] platforms.” The DEA is buying them from RU2 Systems Inc., a private Mesa, Arizona company. How much it’s spending on the signs has been redacted.

This is why I laugh at people who leave their cellphone at home when they “don’t want to be tracked.” If you drive your vehicle somewhere, there’s an ever increasing chance that the license plate will be recorded by a government scanner. If you take public transit, there’s an almost guaranteed chance that your face will be caught on a surveillance cameras inside of the vehicle (and an ever increasing chance that facial recognition software will automatically identify you). If you walk, you’ll likely be recorded on any number of private and public surveillance cameras (which, again, are more and more being tied to facial recognition software to automatically identify you).

Everything has pros and cons. One of the cons of technology becoming more powerful and cheaper is that surveillance technology has become more powerful and cheaper. Tracking an individual, especially in metropolitan areas, is trivial. Fortunately, surveillance is a cat and mouse game. One of the pros of technology becoming more powerful and cheaper is that countersurveillance technology is becoming more powerful and cheaper.

Making Security Illegal

without comments

A recent court ruling has potentially made secure devices and effective security services illegal:

The Canadian executive of a 10-year-old company that marketed its purportedly secure BlackBerry services to thousands of criminals (who paid at least $4,000 per year, per device) has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge, federal prosecutors in San Diego said Tuesday.

[…]

As the Department of Justice said in a Tuesday statement:

To keep the communications out of the reach of law enforcement, Ramos and others maintained Phantom Secure servers in Panama and Hong Kong, used virtual proxy servers to disguise the physical location of its servers, and remotely deleted or “wiped” devices seized by law enforcement. Ramos and his co-conspirators required a personal reference from an existing client to obtain a Phantom Secure device. And Ramos used digital currencies, including Bitcoin, to facilitate financial transactions for Phantom Secure to protect users’ anonymity and launder proceeds from Phantom Secure. Ramos admitted that at least 450 kilograms of cocaine were distributed using Phantom Secure devices.

[…]

At the time of his arrest, the Department of Justice said that the Ramos case was the “first time the U.S. government has targeted a company and its leaders for assisting a criminal organization by providing them with technology to ‘go dark,’ or evade law enforcement’s detection of their crimes.”

From what I could ascertain, the reason Vincent Ramos was arrested, charged, and declared guilty was because he offered a device and service that allowed his customers to actually remain anonymous. This is what most Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers, I2P, Tor, and other anonymity services offer so will one of them be the next Department of Justice target?

I’m going to take this opportunity to go on a related tangent. Ramos was charged because his devices and service were being used by other people to facilitate illegal activities such as selling cocaine. Ramos himself wasn’t, as far as I can tell, performing those illegal activities. Since the illegal actions in this case weren’t performed by Ramos, why was he charged with anything? Because the illegal activities being performed with his devices and service were related to the drug war and the drug war has served as the United States government’s excuse to go after anybody it doesn’t like.

Anything that can be tacitly tied to the drug war can be punished. If an officer doesn’t like you, they can claim that the cash you have on hand is evidence that you are participating in drug crimes and use civil forfeiture to seize your stuff. If your roommate is dealing drugs without your knowledge, prosecutors can claim that you actually do have knowledge and charge you with a plethora of crimes. If you offer a product that anonymizes users, prosecutors can charge you for aiding drug dealers. All of the supposed civil rights you enjoy suddenly go out the window when the word drugs is involved.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Want to Avoid Being Swatted? Sign Up for Our Anti-Swatting Service Today!

without comments

You know police procedures are inadequate when convincing SWAT teams to storm random addresses happens so often that there’s a term for it. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) was recently caught up in a rather embarrassing swatting incident. Instead of taking responsibility for its inadequate procedures it has decided to put the burden on the citizenry:

On its official “swatting” resource site, the Seattle Police Department acknowledges how swatting works, along with the fact that citizens have requested a way to submit their own concerns or worries about being a potential victim. (Full disclosure: after having my own personally identifiable data distributed in a malicious manner, I asked SPD for this very thing… in 2015.)

“To our knowledge, no solution to this problem existed, so we engineered one,” SPD’s site reads. The site claims that swatting victims are “typically associated with the tech industry, video game industry, and/or the online broadcasting community.”

SPD’s process asks citizens to create a profile on a third-party data-management service called Rave Facility (run by the company Smart911). Though this service is advertised for public locations and businesses, it supports private residences as well, and SPD offers steps to input data and add a “swatting concerns” tab to your profile.

Want to avoid being swatted? Sign up for our anti-swatting service today! If you don’t sign up, then the department cannot be held responsible for murdering you when some random jackass on the Internet calls in a fake hostage situation.

What gets me is not just that swatting happens so often that there’s a term for it but that it happens so often that the SPD website has a page dedicated to it. If swatting happens so often that your department has to dedicate a page to it, then your procedures for responding to random hostage situation calls need some serious overhauling.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 4th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Bias within the System

without comments

Radley Balko wrote an excellent article outlining just the tip of the iceberg that is the overwhelming evidence that the legal system in the United States is racial biased.

The entire article is worth reading but I wanted to take a moment to highlight the third paragraph because it addresses a common myth about the system:

Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives concluded, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.

One thing on which the “left” and “right” (in this context “left” is being used to refer to those who believe the system is racially biased while “right” is being used to refer to those who disagree with those on the “left”) commonly agree is that the definition of a racially biased system is based on those within it. The “left” tend to argue that the legal system in the United States is racist because the majority of those within it are racists. The “right” often adopt this definition because it’s easy to argue against. Since both groups subscribe to this definition of systemic racism, the argument over whether the legal system is racially biased tends to involve people on the “right” pointing to people within the system who aren’t racist while people on the “left” refute their argument by claiming that those people are actually racist (if no evidence exists supporting their accusation, they argue that the person is a closet racist).

Systemic racism isn’t defined by who composes the system but by what rules govern the system.

The legal system in the United States would continue to show a racial bias even if the entire system was composed by individuals who didn’t contain a single racist bone in their body (assuming, of course, that they also followed the rules). This is because the rules governing the system ensure a racially biased outcome. How is that accomplished without the laws overtly being based on race? By criminalizing activities that are more often enjoyed by individuals who belong to a target race (I say this with the understanding that race itself is arbitrarily defined).

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say we have a racist politician who wants to write a law that will primarily put more black men in prison. How can he go about accomplishing this without mentioning race in his law? First he would identify an activity that is more often enjoyed by black men than white men. If we’re discussing fashion, it is more common for black men to wear pants that hang below their waist than it is for white men so that would make a good candidate. So our hypothetical politician could write a law criminalizing the act of wearing pants that hang below the waist. What do you think the arrest statistics are going to look like after one year? They will almost certainly show that far more black men were arrested than white men. As an added bonus, the arrest statistics will likely contain a few white men, which will give the politician evidence to argue that the law isn’t racist. Even if the majority of people who are tasked with enforcing the law (again, assuming they follow the rules) aren’t racist, the statistics will show a racial bias because the law targets an activity more commonly enjoyed by black men.

A system like this will more reliably deliver the desired outcome of its creators than a system that is composed of individuals who share the same desires as its creators. Why? Because the people who compose a system tend to change rather quickly whereas the rules that govern a system tend to change far less frequently. Moreover, even if the system is infiltrated by individuals who disagree with its creators’ desires, there isn’t anything they can do to change the system without breaking the rules (and thus being exposed and dismissed).

It’s unfortunate that the definition of systemic racism is far more complex than the commonly used definition. People tend to shy away from complexity. Although shying away from complexity is a sane default, it’s the wrong response when the seemingly simpler definition is wrong.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Marijuana You Say? Case Dismissed!

with 2 comments

Do you remember the Dallas law enforcers that went to Botham Jean’s apartment to plant, err, find evidence to assassinate his character? This is probably going to come as a shock but they found something:

One of the warrants became a public record Thursday afternoon when it was returned to the judge who signed it. It was shortly after Jean’s funeral had ended. It listed several items found in Jean’s apartment, including a small amount of marijuana.

I can see the courtroom now. The officer’s defense attorney mentions that the search warrant resulted in the discovery of marijuana. The judge says, “Marijuana you say?” He then taps his gavel and says, “Case dismissed!”

Truth be told, the discovery of marijuana is irrelevant to the case at hand. Even if Officer Guyger was aware that Jean was in possession of cannabis, she had no warrant to enter the premise. Without a warrant or an invitation, which she never claimed to be given, she was in his dwelling unlawfully. But I’m sure the discovery of cannabis will give all of the boot lickers their much needed reason to defend Officer Guyger’s actions and that’s what the warrant was all about, assassinating Jean’s character.

Creating Justification After the Fact

with one comment

Most of you have probably heard about Officer Amber Guyger, the Dallas law enforcer who entered Botham Jean’s apartment and summarily executed him. When I first heard about the story, Guyger was enjoying a paid vacation. That vacation ended when she was arrested after the story had spread across the Internet. However, she was still granted the professional courtesy of receiving a few days to craft her story. Even with a few days her story was pretty feeble though. She claimed that she mistook the man’s apartment for her own (apparently black men have a magical power where they can quickly remove all of your furnishings from an apartment and replace them with new furnishings) and only shot Jean after he failed to respond to verbal commands.

Now it appears as thought the department is extending a bit more professional courtesy by helping Guyger’s defense team find some kind of evidence with which to smear Jean’s character:

Now KXAS reports that the day after the shooting, a Dallas Police Department investigator obtained a warrant to search Jean’s apartment. The warrant, signed by 292nd District Court Judge Brandon Birmingham, says the police intended to look for “any contraband, such as narcotics,” that could “constitute[e] evidence of a criminal offense.”

If I entered another person’s apartment and gunned them down, I highly doubt that the local police department would extend me the courtesies of giving me a few days to craft my story and searching my victim’s apartment for evidence that could help my defense lawyer smear them. Those levels of courtesy are only granted to members of the brotherhood.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 13th, 2018 at 11:00 am