Police State U.S.A.

Watertown2

On April 19, 2013, during a manhunt in the Boston suburb of Watertown, MA, for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, police and federal agents spent the day storming people’s homes and performing illegal searches

Heavily armed SWAT police ripped people from their homes at gunpoint, marched the residents out with their hands raised above their heads in submission, and then stormed the homes to perform their warrantless searches.

Watertown1

This was part of a larger operation that involved a total lockdown of Watertown. A No-Fly Zone was declared over the town of 31,915; roads were barricaded; vehicle traffic was prohibited. People were ordered to stay indoors; businesses were told not to open. National Guard soldiers helped with the lockdown, and were photographed checking IDs of pedestrians on the streets, while SWAT teams searched house to house, all without a warrant.

Giuseppe Macri reports for The Daily Caller, April 17, 2014, that a year later, in the name of securing Boston against future attacks, an artificially intelligent, self-learning surveillance network is in place, watching the entire city and all of its inhabitants.

Built by Texas-based Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc. (BRS Labs), headed by former Secret Service special agent John Frazzini, Boston’s city-wide surveillance system, AISight, not only watches and analyzes human behavior, but learns from it to identify suspicious or abnormal activity, completely free of additional human programming, guidance or monitoring.

AISight

AISight starts out by simply monitoring its environment, which is recorded through a closed-circuit television network of high-quality surveillance cameras spread throughout Boston, and builds up a profile of normal behavior. After accumulating enough data, AISight draws upon its artificial neural networks that are designed to mimic analytical human brain functions, to recognize, learn and permanently register abnormal behavior without any additional pre- or post-programming.

The core of the system itself needs surprisingly little installation and additional hardware, and can be attached to huge, sprawling networks of outdated cameras already present in any city. After a few days of hardware and software installation, AISight can begin autonomously building an ever-changing knowledge base of activity seen through every camera on a city’s video network.

AISight’s analysis of human behavior based on surveillance footage promises to change the way humans conduct their surveillance of other humans, and is already being adopted in Chicago and Washington, D.C. as well.

Though BRS Labs states it is “concerned about the privacy rights of individuals everywhere,” the potential for abuse by such a pervasive surveillance systems is evident, which only adds to Americans’ privacy concerns about the bulk surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Ironically, although both the NSA and AISight surveillance is justified in the name of anti-terrorism and national security, numerous government officials, congressional representatives, national security experts and even the White House have admitted such surveillance has done little to nothing to prevent potential terrorist incidents.

All of which prompted John Fund, national-affairs columnist for the National Review and a senior editor at The American Spectator, to raise the alarm about America’s devolution into a police state.

In an article title “The United States of SWAT?” for National Review Online, April 18, 2014, Fund warns that “Military-style units from government agencies are wreaking havoc on non-violent citizens”:

Regardless of how people feel about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over his cattle’s grazing rights, a lot of Americans were surprised to see TV images of an armed-to-the-teeth paramilitary wing of the BLM deployed around Bundy’s ranch.

They shouldn’t have been. Dozens of federal agencies now have Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to further an expanding definition of their missions. It’s not controversial that the Secret Service and the Bureau of Prisons have them. But what about the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? All of these have their own SWAT units and are part of a worrying trend towards the militarization of federal agencies — not to mention local police forces.

“Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier,” journalist Radley Balko writes in his 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop. “The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop — armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.” 

Fund notes that the proliferation of paramilitary federal SWAT teams inevitably brings abuses that have nothing to do with either drugs or terrorism against harmless, often innocent, Americans, including:

  • Kenneth Wright of Stockton, Calif., who was “visited” by a SWAT team from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011. Agents battered down the door of his home at 6 a.m., dragged him outside in his boxer shorts, and handcuffed him as they put his three children (ages 3, 7, and 11) in a police car for two hours while they searched his home. The raid was allegedly intended to uncover information on Wright’s estranged wife, Michelle, who was suspected of college financial-aid fraud but who wasn’t even living with Wright.
  • In 2010, a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.
  • In 2010, a Phoenix, Ariz., sheriff’s SWAT team that included a tank and several armored vehicles raided the home of Jesus Llovera. What was Llovera’s alleged crime? Staging cockfights. During the sheriff’s raid, his dog was killed, and later all of his chickens were put to sleep. The tank, driven by the newly deputized action-film star Steven Seagal, plowed right into Llovera’s house. The incident was filmed and, together with footage of Seagal-accompanied immigration raids, was later used for Seagal’s A&E TV law-enforcement reality show.

Heritage Foundation senior legal analyst Brian Walsh says it is inexplicable why so many federal agencies need to be battle-ready: “If these agencies occasionally have a legitimate need for force to execute a warrant, they should be required to call a real law-enforcement agency, one that has a better sense of perspective. The FBI, for example, can draw upon its vast experience to determine whether there is an actual need for a dozen SWAT agents.”

police state

Since 9/11, the feds have issued a plethora of homeland-security grants that encourage local police departments to buy surplus military hardware and form their own SWAT units. By 2005, at least 80% of towns with a population between 25,000 and 50,000 people had their own SWAT team. Once SWAT teams are created, they will be used. The number of raids conducted by local police SWAT teams has gone from 3,000 a year in the 1980s to over 50,000 a year today.

Many veteran law-enforcement figures have severe qualms about the turn police work is taking, and for good reasons. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution’s Third Amendment, against the quartering of troops in private homes, was part of an overall reaction against the excesses of Britain’s colonial law enforcement. “It wasn’t the stationing of British troops in the colonies that irked patriots in Boston and Virginia,” Balko writes. “It was England’s decision to use the troops for everyday law enforcement.”

Short of disbanding the paramilitary SWAT units which he recognizes is “politically impossible,” Fund recommends the following:

  1. The feds should stop shipping military vehicles to local police forces.
  2. Federal SWAT teams shouldn’t be used to enforce regulations, but should focus instead on potentially violent criminals.
  3. Like cameras mounted on the dashboards of police cars, SWAT-team members should be similarly-equipped with helmet cameras to bring abuses to light and exonerate officers falsely accused of abuse.

UPDATE (Nov. 15, 2014):

See “Pentagon pressed to change program arming police with military gear

~StMA

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12 responses to “Police State U.S.A.

  1. Reblogged this on Fellowship of the Minds and commented:
    A year after the Boston Marathon bombings, a pervasive surveillance system over the entire city of Boston is in place. Nor is Boston the only U.S. city being watched.

    That, and the militarization of local police and federal agencies that include the Railroad Retirement Board (!), add up to a disquieting picture of America as a police state.

    Like

  2. I have no sympathy for the Bundy’s and their ilk, but the BLM clearly overacted. And I do not support the use of SWAT teams to enforce civil or non-violent criminal behaviour. Some Federal agonies do need SWAT teams because they supervise facilities against which domestic terrorists have and may continue to threaten attacks. Fraud, cockfighting and illegal shipping of contaminated milk may be crimes, even Federal crimes, but they rarely, if ever, require SWAT team. can you imagine a SWAT team raiding your local Safeway because of a recall of contaminated meat?

    BTW – raw milk should NEVER be fed to babies or small children. It is very likely to contain botulinum, listeria and other germs that can cause severe illness and often death, particularly for babies under 1 year old whose immune systems are still undeveloped. There is no health benefit and very real danger in consuming raw milk or products made with raw milk.
    And cock-fighting or dog fighting is beneath contempt in a civilized country, but neither are crimes that require SWAT teams unless there is evidence of armed resistance to law enforcements.

    I have no problem with cameras on streets under the doctrine that citizens have no right to privacy when in public places. The basic doctrine is that anything the constable could observe without entering private property can be recorded on cameras. But that does not justify home invasion without warrants unless a clear and present danger is present.

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    • Sorry, but it is BS that raw milk will kill children. Exactly how many centuries have people been drinking raw milk? And how long have we had pasturization? I’m living proof that it is harmless. I’m 66 and grew up with raw milk, before pasturizing was forced on the public.

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    • “BTW – raw milk should NEVER be fed to babies or small children.”
      DUH! Read communist blogs much?
      If raw milk was poison, it would not be NATURE’S first food for new-born mammals, like yourself.

      “I have no sympathy for the Bundy’s and their ilk…”
      Their ilk? So you have a problem with those who stand up for your freedom to post lame, uneducated left-winger remarks on public forums?

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  3. anchorageknight

    While being exposed to the actual daily operations of state, local and military
    police organizations goes a long way toward calming my nerves – mainly
    because of the attitudes of everyone involved as well as the fairly high quality
    of the training materials in general:

    It remains that I have been concerned for some time about the (in my view) tendency to overarm police officers in general – as the article says “blurring the lines between military and police” organizations – as well as the (in my view) tendency of a host of Federal agencies with little need for combat operations to acquire actual military weapons and vehicles.

    There are two different problems here.

    First – local police in the USA have historically had a “wild west” mentality – and oddly the larger, more organized and controlled big city police forces tend to use deadly force far more than is required, often with unfortunate effects on citizens and pets and property. The less organized, less well armed, smaller local and rural police forces tend to be far more circumspect in their armament, doctrine and policy, and as a result have far less trouble with weapons use. And the almost unknown military police forces – both Federal and state – are ironically the MOST likely to patrol unarmed, or if armed, with weapons lacking rounds in the chamber (rendering the chances of accidents close to zero). The combination of more deadly weapons with this “police should be armed 24/7 and should think in terms of solving problems with firearms” is, I believe, a mistake. Surprisingly, USMC MP doctrine is the precise opposite: you are trained that “your voice is your first, fifth and fifteenth line of defense;” that “you are not Rambo and it is impossible to control numbers of people unless you are using your brain” and that “a weapon should never be drawn unless there is immediate prospect it is necessary.” In most jurisdictions, only the military police even consider the concept of unarmed patrols – which lest we forget was the ORIGINAL (British) idea when police were invented. I find the EFFECT of being unarmed HELPS the officers to focus on thinking in terms of problem resolution, and certainly reduces the risk of accidental firearms discharges. Even if one reasonably may need to shoot, in an urban area there is often NO direction in which it is risk free to do so. The standard of police shooting (5 out of 6 rounds miss the target at ranges of 7 meters or less) means that many rounds are going down range to hit something or someone OTHER than the intended target! If we go over to using automatic weapons, the proportion of misses will increase until it approaches military levels – which is (very conservatively put) thousands of rounds missing the intended target for every one that connects. This is probably not good public policy.

    Second – Federal police agencies with automatic rifle arms tend to become more like combat soldiers – or the secret police of a repressive regime – than local police do. Apart from the kinds of incidents cited in the article, I am aware of things like rape, property destruction, unlawful imprisonment of non-persons of interest, and abusive language and conduct by “officers” who have no sense they are bound by rules or ethics in any sense. I witnessed a man and a women burned to death – which the agent in charge said would happen before the fact to about 100 civilians who were not allowed to go about their lawful business on a state highway. On the same occasion, a news helicopter was falsely stated to be an escape vehicle, and it was nearly lost with all hands when buzzed by a military jet. On the same occasion, USCG cleared all forms of shipping and boats from Puget Sound. The subject of this attack was no doubt a murderer and terrorist – but his ability to affect anything was limited to perhaps 100 meters from the house he was hiding in and did not require shutting down the entire area. Since this was beside a US Naval base, had I known what was going to happen, I would have demanded a military police intervention: by naval regulation, an investigation of any problem may be initiated by “anyone: military, civilian, adult or child.” Police powers do not extend to depriving people of due process, even if accused of capital crimes. The real military, at least, still knows this. But some Federal “civilian” agencies seem not to.

    In my view, firearms are merely tools to be used when, if, and to the extent they can help limit danger to both law enforcement officers AND the public. The focus of police training and tactics should be on good psychology and in particular not on resolving problems with sheer firepower. In the worst of police type experiences in my life – including bank robberies (two), a prison riot, and a deliberate intervention against armed kidnappers – I was not armed at all – in one case going to the extreme of removing the tire iron from the trunk of my car before entering the grounds. In another I elected to use a clearly marked first aid kit with big red crosses as my “weapon” – I planned to resolve it very fast as there was a shooting victim from a shotgun who would bleed out if it were not. I knew that if I entered, and did not behave in a threatening way, the odds were high I would find an opportunity to take control, one way or another. And I did. What makes a policeman combat effective is the similar to what makes a soldier effective – it is clear thinking. However, soldiers operate on battlefields. Unless we want to turn our country into a battlefield, we need to have police forces that think in terms of peacekeeping, not overpowering the ‘enemy’ using military style force with powerful military weapons.

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  4. In Watertown, they were looking for two known white male college-age males… obviously all women, children and old people regardless of skin color needed to be marched out of their houses at gunpoint to verify not being the suspects. (What’s wrong with that picture?)

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  5. Reblogged this on CLINGERS… BLOGGING BAD ~ DICK.G: AMERICAN ! and commented:
    GyG!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  6. Pingback: Police State U.S.A. |

  7. And yet Sandy Berger remains free to abscond with classified
    information without fear of apprehension or punishment.

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  8. Thank you StMA for this incredible post. All of these situations remind me of the Nazis raiding Germany and other countries in Europe, holding up people with guns and bayonets. This is unconscionable!

    Like

  9. Pingback: APCz and MRAPz in tha Hood: Tha Militarization of tha Police | Moorbey'z Blog

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