US Forest Service admits putting surveillance cameras on public lands

* Charleston man surprised when he found one while camping with daughter

Last month, Herman Jacob took his daughter and her friend camping in the Francis Marion National Forest. While poking around for some firewood, Jacob noticed a wire. He pulled on it and followed it to a video camera and antenna.

The camera didn’t have any markings identifying its owner, so Jacob took it home and called law enforcement agencies to find out if it was theirs, all the while wondering why someone would station a video camera in an isolated clearing in the woods.

He eventually received a call from Mark Heitzman of the U.S. Forest Service.

In a stiff voice, Heitzman ordered Jacob to turn it back over to his agency, explaining that it had been set up to monitor “illicit activities.” Jacob returned the camera but felt uneasy.

Why, he wondered, would the Forest Service have secret cameras in a relatively remote camping area? What do they do with photos of bystanders?

Read moreUS Forest Service admits putting surveillance cameras on public lands

Philip Giraldi: Vanishing Liberties

Another must read article by former CIA field officer Philip Giraldi.

Philip Giraldi was the foreign policy advisor to Ron Paul during his last presidential run.

giraldi
Philip Giraldi


If the seemingly unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ever do come to a close and a new war with Iran, Somalia, or Sudan can somehow be avoided, the most serious long term damage from the conflicts will be to the fundamental freedoms that Americans have cherished for more than two hundred years. The erosion of America’s liberties has been driven by fear of terrorism but it is enabled by leaps in technology coupled with new legislation and a police state mentality that have made every citizen a target. Hate crimes and laws targeting the internet provide a framework that relies on advanced monitoring technology to criminalize behavior that would have been considered off limits for privacy reasons ten years ago.

The National Security Agency can monitor every phone call made in the United States and quite likely every e-mail. European security agencies have the same capabilities and have gone far down the road of legitimizing state intrusion into private activities, limiting free speech and free association. In Britain, most cities and highways are now monitored by CCTV cameras and the police have begun to use aerial drones to observe and record demonstrations of groups considered to be extreme including the right wing British National Party. New legislation in Germany will require all internet users to be licensed with a backtracking feature that will enable the government to determine where any internet transmission originated. The new regulations will require all users to have a tamper proof internet ID and will be enforced by special police. All telecommunications data, to include both internet and telephone, is already retained by the German service providers for six months, a law that has been in effect since 2008. The government can obtain the stored information by court order. It is particularly interesting to note what German politicians and officials said in support of the new legislation. One commented that it is necessary to stop the internet from becoming a “lawless chaos room.” Another described the internet as a “source of criminality, terrorism, and much similar filth.” Yet another said “What is illegal offline is also illegal online.”

Countries like China and Iran already control the servers for internet as well as the cell phone centers in their country and have not been shy about shutting down communications. In many places in Europe internet services are often screened by software that blocks certain websites and the use of words or phrases that are considered objectionable. This screening is also becoming common in hotels and other public places that offer internet services in the United States. But what is really dangerous is the combination of technologies that make it possible to control the internet with legislation that gives the authorities the ability to go after users who are deemed to be breaking the law, such as is happening in Germany.

Can there be any doubt that the monitoring of the internet to control “terrorism” and “filth” will in fairly short order also be used to repress the viewpoints of individuals and groups that are considered to be politically unacceptable? And what better weapon to use against dissidents than the criminal justice system, most particularly the hate crime legislation that is becoming both increasingly more common and more draconian in both the United States and in Europe? Hate crimes are the antithesis of the old principles that there is “equal justice under law” and that “justice is blind.” They essentially create specially protected classes of people within the criminal justice system, permitting selective enforcement of the law. Normally when there is an crime, the police investigate and make an arrest and the judiciary prosecutes. The perpetrator is punished in a manner proportionate to the seriousness of the offense. But if an incident is deemed a hate crime, i.e. that it may have been motivated by prejudice or bigotry, the penalties are harsher and the federal government has the option of trying the suspect if the state court for some reason fails to convict. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid justified the dismantling of two thousand years of jurisprudence recently, saying “”There is a difference between assaulting someone to steal his money or doing so because he is gay, or disabled, or Latino or Muslim.” Reid’s interesting interpretation notwithstanding, many would argue that hate crimes create an unconstitutional special tier of justice while the ability to try someone twice constitutes double jeopardy.

Read morePhilip Giraldi: Vanishing Liberties

UK: Government To Install Surveillance Cameras In Private Homes

State to spy on parents, make sure kids go to bed on time, attend school

1984-surveillance

The UK government is about to spend $700 million dollars installing surveillance cameras inside the private homes of citizens to ensure that children go to bed on time, attend school and eat proper meals.

No you aren’t reading a passage from George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, this is Britain in 2009, a country which already has more surveillance cameras watching its population than the whole of Europe put together.

Now the government is embarking on a scheme called “Family Intervention Projects” which will literally create a nanny state on steroids, with social services goons and private security guards given the authority to make regular “home checks” to ensure parents are raising their children correctly.

Telescreens will also be installed so government spies can keep an eye on whether parents are mistreating kids and whether the kids are fulfilling their obligations under a pre-signed contract.

Around 2,000 families have been targeted by this program so far and the government wants to snare 20,000 more within the next two years. The tab will be picked up by the taxpayer, with the “interventions” being funded through local council authorities.

Read moreUK: Government To Install Surveillance Cameras In Private Homes

Police store photos of peaceful protesters on criminal database

Police are storing details of innocent people who attend political demonstrations for more than seven years, it has emerged.

The ­Metropolitan Police last night confirmed it uses a criminal database to hold private information about protesters, including those who have not been convicted or accused of any crime.

The records are said to contain photos obtained by video surveillance of rallies and meetings as well as details of the demonstrators’ political affiliations.

Activists who attended anti-war marches, climate change campaigns and protests against the proposed third Heathrow runway are among those whose personal data is stored on the Crimint database, which also contains intelligence on suspected criminals.

Last night civil liberty campaigners said that the police could be breaking the law by keeping information on innocent people. The Met Police’s video surveillance techniques are well known but it was previously unclear whether and for how long they kept the data.

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty’s legal officer, said: “A searchable database containing photographs of people who are not even suspected of criminal activity may well violate privacy rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. It is particularly worrying if peaceful protesters are being singled out for surveillance.”

Read morePolice store photos of peaceful protesters on criminal database

CCTV installed to monitor classrooms

CCTV cameras and microphones are being installed in schools to monitor children’s behaviour and teachers’ performance in what union leaders described as ‘Big Brother’ tactics.

CCTV installed to monitor classrooms
Although taking part in the monitoring sessions is voluntary, headteachers say they expect the majority of their staff to participate Photo: GETTY

Four schools in Salford, Greater Manchester, have installed cameras and microphones in special training classrooms.

The 360-degree cameras are so powerful that observers can see what children are writing.

Read moreCCTV installed to monitor classrooms

Every step you take: UK underground centre that is spy capital of the world

Visitors from around the world come to marvel at Westminster CCTV system


How the control centre of one of the country’s most extensive CCTV systems works

Millions of people walk beneath the unblinking gaze of central London’s surveillance cameras. Most are oblivious that deep under the pavements along which they are walking, beneath restaurant kitchens and sewage drains, their digital image is gliding across a wall of plasma screens.

Westminster council’s CCTV control room, where a click and swivel of a joystick delivers panoramic views of any central London street, is seen by civil liberty campaigners as a symbol of the UK’s surveillance society.

Related articles:
Liberty groups unite to defend UK rights (Observer)
Government plans to keep DNA samples of innocent (Guardian)
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warns of surveillance culture (Times)
Spy chief: We risk a police state (Telegraph):

Using the latest remote technology, the cameras rotate 360 degrees, 365 days a year, providing a hi-tech version of what the 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham conceived as the “Panopticon” – a space where people can be constantly monitored but never know when they are being watched.

The Home Office, which funded the creation of the £1.25m facility seven years ago, believes it to be a “best-practice example” on which the future of the UK’s public surveillance system should be modelled.

So famed has central London’s surveillance network become that figures released yesterday revealed that more than 6,000 officials from 30 countries have come to learn lessons from the centre.

Read moreEvery step you take: UK underground centre that is spy capital of the world

Big Brother CCTV to spy on pupils aged four – complete with CPS evidence kit

    Tim Loughton
    Shadow Children’s Minister Tim Loughton is chairman of Classwatch

    Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four.

    The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers’ backs are turned.

    Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile ‘evidence’ of wrongdoing.

    The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.

    The microphones and cameras can be used during lessons and when a classroom is unattended, such as during lunch breaks.

    But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children.

    Read moreBig Brother CCTV to spy on pupils aged four – complete with CPS evidence kit

    Secret service steps up inauguration security


    As many as 4 million people are expected to attend Obama’s inauguration at the Mall.

    WASHINGTON (AP) – Law enforcement officials bracing for the largest crowds in inaugural history are preparing far-reaching security – thousands of video cameras, sharpshooters, air patrols – to safeguard President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in.

    People attending the ceremony and parade on Jan. 20 can expect to be searched by machines, security personnel or both. Precautions will range from the routine – magnetometers like those used at airports – to countersnipers trained to hit a target the size of a teacup saucer from 1,000 yards away. Plus undercover officers, bomb sniffing dogs and air patrols.

    The Secret Service – the agency coordinating the security – also has assigned trained officials to identify and prevent cyber security risks. And, as it does at every inauguration, the service has mapped out escape routes for the 44th president.

    In addition Washington’s 5,265 surveillance cameras, spread around the city, are expected to be fed into a multi-agency command center.

    Read moreSecret service steps up inauguration security

    The cost of resisting China’s Big Brother

    CHINA: Clampdown on activists who expose surveillance through new technology

    “WE HAVEN’T seen you before. Which media are you from?” a middle-aged woman asked a tall man operating a video camera outside a Beijing court.

    “I’m from an independent newspaper,” the videographer replied with a slight smile on his face. The woman and her friend, who were queueing to take documents into the court, chuckled after hearing a statement that they all knew was false. “He’s police,” one of the women said a few minutes later.

    The exchange outside the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court was a rare moment of levity in the normally serious, sometimes violent business of monitoring and controlling rights activists, dissidents, independent religious leaders, separatists and others deemed a threat to China’s state security.

    Related article: China: Police State 2.0 is Ready for Export

    The plain-clothes police officer was taking footage of petitioners, journalists, lawyers and supporters of dissident Hu Jia, who was sentenced that day in April to three and a half years in prison for subversion. “Surveillance is both overt and insidious,” said Phelim Kine, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch. Overt surveillance in China is used “both to intimidate, and as a lesson to the neighbours”, Kine said.

    Hu won the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought last month. He and fellow activist Gao Zhisheng were also nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Hu, 35, is the most prominent of a growing number of activists who have tried to reflect the intense glare of state surveillance back at those trying to monitor and control them.

    The activists’ photographs, video, transcripts and diaries, usually distributed via the internet, have given outsiders rare glimpses into surveillance and abuses of power by China’s vast public security network. China tolerates some local activism but it confronts those who begin to operate at a national or international level. The relatively few national-level activists who have mastered the use of the internet and digital technology like Hu and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, are “desperately outnumbered” by the people watching them, Kine said.

    “It tells you that those people like Hu Jia, who do master the technology and get the message out, are prey to retribution,” Kine. “What you see in China is that anyone who reaches a certain level of prominence, those people face serious consequences,” he said.

    Read moreThe cost of resisting China’s Big Brother

    Sir Ken Macdonald: Centuries of British freedoms being broken by security state

    Centuries of British civil liberties risk being broken by the relentless pressure from the ‘security state’, the country’s top prosecutor has warned.

    Outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald warned that the expansion of technology by the state into everyday life could create a world future generations “can’t bear”.

    In his wide-ranging speech, Sir Ken appeared to condemn a series of key Government policies, attacking terrorism proposals – including 42 day detention – identity card plans and the “paraphernalia of paranoia”.

    Instead, he said, the Government should insist that “our rights are priceless” and that: “The best way to face down those threats is to strengthen our institutions rather than to degrade them.”

    The intervention will be seen as a significant setback to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who last week saw her plans to lock up terror suspects for 42 days before being charged thrown out by the House of Lords.

    It is also a blow to Miss Smith’s plans for a super-database to record the details of millions of people’s online presence, including emails, SMS messages and Facebook profiles as well as the controversial identity card programme.

    Sir Ken chose to issue his tough warning about the perils of the “Big Brother” state in his final speech as DPP, days before he leaves his post at the end of this month.

    He warned that MPs should “take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can’t bear”.

    Sir Ken, who has held the post for the past five years, said: “We need to take very great care not to fall into a way of life in which freedom’s back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security State.

    “Technology gives the State enormous powers of access to knowledge and information about each of us, and the ability to collect and store it at will.”

    Read moreSir Ken Macdonald: Centuries of British freedoms being broken by security state