•Secretive N.Y. eavesdropping unit admits spying on Muslims in America a huge waste of time & money
By Victor Thorn
After squandering millions of taxpayer dollars and subjecting thousands of Muslim Americans to surveillance, a six-year investigation by the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Demographics Unit has proved to be a total failure, resulting in not even a single case being opened against suspected-to-be-guilty parties. According to Assistant Chief Thomas Galati, “I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a demographics report, and I was here since 2006.”
Up until last year, NYPD officials have denied the existence of this police body, which was created with assistance from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Today, it has been renamed the Zone Assessment Unit.
The extent to which this blanket investigation has gone is staggering. During its six-year tenure, NYPD agents amassed an enormous database on mosques, shopping centers, Muslim residences, workplaces, restaurants and social groups. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informants and undercover agents placed hidden cameras in mosques, secretly recorded conversations, eavesdropped on sermons and infiltrated student groups—all on persons that lacked any evidence of criminal activity or wrongdoing.
At a federal level, The Washington Post reported on Sept. 16, 2005 that the Bush administration undoubtedly lent its support, using 9-11 as its rationalization.
“Mosques and other houses of worship do not have special protection from surveillance under U.S. law,” David Fahrenthold of the Post wrote.
Barack Obama’s Cabinet seems more conflicted, with Attorney General Eric Holder voicing concerns, while chief counterrorism adviser John Brennan weighed in with entire confidence that the NYPD, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Chief Raymond Kelly and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) have operated in full accordance with the law in order to keep their city free of terrorist activities.
During an August 24 interview with AMERICAN FREE PRESS, Muhammad Rahman of the Islamic Circle of North America discussed his concerns that these investigations are still ongoing. “Even though it has come out that nothing was there, which we’ve said from the beginning, I don’t think it’s over, because the mayor and police chief keep justifying it,” he said.
Rahman offered a different solution to Big Brother’s snooping.
“Our door is always open,” he said. “Come and speak with our community leaders. We’ll tell them what they’re doing isn’t the right way. Why don’t we form a partnership and work together?”
Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Muneer Awad voiced his organization’s anger over this matter in an August 21 statement. “It should now be abundantly clear to all unbiased individuals that the NYPD spying program was unproductive, counterproductive and discriminatory and that it did not make our nation more secure,” he said.
Short of such revelations, this type of behavior will persist, as freelance journalist Murtaza Hussain noted: “There has developed a cottage industry of pseudo-intellectuals with a vested financial and career interest in ensuring that terrorism [is] seen as an urgent public threat, and which is vociferously intolerant of any argument to the contrary no matter how much evidence piles up against them.”
Your Privacy Now a Thing of the Past?
By Victor Thorn
Following the false-flag terror attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush reportedly snapped to Attorney General John Ashcroft, “Don’t let this happen again.” The Bush-Cheney team knew there was more to the story than 19 patsy Muslim hijackers invading our nation.
But more importantly to Bush & Co., it provided never-ending justification for a rapidly expanding surveillance society that now threatens to monitor every movement that we make—even every thought that we have.
Some of the devices currently being used to spy on Americans are quite obvious. This year, Congress gave the OK for 30K drones to zip through the sky collecting data. Local police and federal agencies such as the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) utilize these unmanned aircraft to locate everything from fugitives to marijuana fields. But to get really creative, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has developed remote-controlled drones the size of hummingbirds, spiders, snakes and insects that come equipped with microphones and mini-cameras. The benefit of keeping a flyswatter handy has now taken on an entirely new meaning.
Streetlight cameras that resemble those in communist China are outfitted with not only facial recognition technology (FRT), but also the capacity to record pedestrian conversations. These all-seeing units are being installed in most major cities and will be able to search massive databases that will be online by 2014. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) warned, “[Currently] there is no law regulating law enforcement use of facial recognition technology.”
But Big Brother refuses to stop at merely recognizing us. BRS Labs has engineered a “precrime” camera that, after tapping into memory functions, can spot suspicious behavior inside airports or bus depots. In the halls of academia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) boasts of software that can decipher a computer user’s facial expressions.
In London, even before the 2012 Olympic games, 51K closed-circuit television cameras monitored the city, meaning that most citizens were photographed 300 times per day.
This trend has spiraled so far out of control that Disneyland can actually snap a picture of your family on a ride, match it up via FRT, and then link it to credit card information. After disembarking from a roller coaster, it should be no surprise if “Mickey Mouse” asks if you’d like to purchase this keepsake, even though you never requested it. And there’s no need to have your credit card handy—the Walt Disney Co. would already have that on file, so you can make your purchase instantly by just saying, “Yes.”
And these technological advances will seem like child’s play in a few years.
Fingerprint readers can now collect data from a distance of 20 feet. Iris scanners can provide surveillance on up to 50 people a minute.
Why worry about a national ID card when biometrics can determine one’s vital statistics without even stopping someone?
Speaking of which, if anyone plans on traveling to Canada in 2014, the U.S. government has signed an agreement by which border agents can use iris scans to obtain information, thus bypassing the trouble of worrying about phony passports.
Then again, nearly every adult has already volunteered their whereabouts at all times via the use of cellphones, in-car Global Positioning System (GPS) transponders and handheld computers that can zero in on your locale within the radius of one square foot. Of course, if all else fails, Google Maps has become so sophisticated that satellites can pinpoint the numbers attached to your front door.
Even our nation’s capital and schools have gotten into the game. If AFP readers decide to visit Washington, computerized license plate readers will soon be capable of tracking your vehicle from the time you enter the city limits until you depart.
In Philadelphia, middle school students were given laptops that they could take home. A nice gesture, except they also came with functioning web-cams which could have been used to spy on the kids. Another school district in Texas resorted to radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to determine whether teenagers were cutting class.
Some elderly readers may feel safe saying, “I don’t have a cellphone or computer.” Regrettably, they’re not exempt from the surveillance state, either. If you’ve recently installed an alarm system, you may want to search for two-way microphones and web-streaming cameras. And how about a large screen TV for Sunday football games? Better check for fish-eye cameras that peer back at you. CIA Director David Petraeus even dropped a hint about new “smart” appliances like refrigerators that he claims the CIA can tap into via embedded bugs.
Finally, if privacy is of any concern, websites like Facebook and Google and an array of data-mining corporations, along with hackers that prey on wireless computer transmissions to capture bank records or email correspondence, are constantly prowling through cyberspace. Or, if you feel like downloading a pirated movie or music soundtrack, Internet Service Providers can now legally cut off all bandwidth until users agree to quit accessing copyrighted material.
Big Brother is getting abusive.
A Few Tips to Protect Your Personal Privacy
By Victor Thorn
When speaking about Big Brother in the year 2012, bestselling novelist Brad Thor quipped, “Orwell couldn’t have predicted this.” Others in the computer and social-media field almost gleefully flaunt their prowess. Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems (acquired by Oracle Corporation on January 27, 2010) observed: “Privacy is dead. Deal with it.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said clinging to privacy is no longer “part of the social norm.”
With website search engine Google operating nearly 1M servers, many of them compiling data on users in huge databanks, is it realistic to believe our lives are no longer an open book?
During an August 24 interview, Grant J. Kidney, an Iowa-based graphic designer and video producer, told AFP: “We live in a modern digital world where we’re all interconnected. Still, it’s time to dump the fear and admit that we want to exercise our First Amendment rights to the fullest. Our privacy will not be compromised.”
How can people protect themselves without becoming hermits? Fortunately, the answer lies primarily with us. If you don’t choose to reveal personal information, then consciously opt not to do so. This means avoiding social-media websites like Facebook that possess an “open graph function,” which automatically shares your information by default. If you’re concerned about search engines that release data to agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA), go to the library and browse there.
The NSA’s main headquarters is at Fort Meade, Maryland and it has additional facilities at Fort Gordon, Georgia, San Antonio, Texas and their newest at Camp Williams, Utah. This facility, named the Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative (CNCI) Data Center or Utah Data Center for short, is a $2B facility which will be able to hold many billions of times more data on everyone.
If readers make purchases online, every precaution should be made to use sites that guarantee secure servers.
Other practical matters merely require common sense. When buying a new computer, make sure your old hard drive is entirely wiped clean before disposing of it so that banking records, Social Security numbers or even web browsing habits can’t be retrieved.
Cellphones can be problematic in that they not only track your whereabouts, but also friends or relatives with whom you speak.
Even activities as seemingly harmless as posting photos from a birthday party can release a great deal of personal info to savvy lurkers. Specifically, most digital cameras and cellphones now contain what are called geotags. Once a parent posts their pictures on a website, anyone knowledgeable enough to read these geotags knows precisely where the snapshots were taken.
In essence, as opposed to 1984 where Big Brother forced his way into people’s lives, today many of us—especially those from younger generations that accept this situation as normal—freely expose our innermost details on the Internet.
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and the author of over 30 books.