Tag Archive: surveillance programs

2,000 cases may be overturned because police used secret Stingray surveillance

A motion filed Friday says the State’s Attorney’s office colluded with police to withhold ‘discovery’ material obtained via Stingrays from defendants

From The Guardian/ by Nicky Woolf

More than 2,000 cases could be overturned in Baltimore as the first motion for a retrial is filed accusing the state’s attorney’s office and the police of “deliberate and willful misrepresentation” of the use of the secret surveillance equipment known as Stingrays.

The motion, which was filed on behalf of defendant Shemar Taylor by attorney Josh Insley in the Baltimore city circuit court on Friday, says the state’s attorney’s office colluded with the police department to withhold “discovery” material from the defendants and the courts about the use of the Stingray device. Taylor was convicted of assault, robbery and firearm possession.

Manufactured by the Harris corporation and around the size of a briefcase, Stingrays are one of a class of surveillance devices known as “cell-site simulators”, which pretend to be cellphone towers in order to extract metadata, location information, and in some cases content from phones that connect to it.

Prosecutors are required to reveal the evidence against defendants in the “discovery” phase of a criminal trial.

However, a Guardian investigation in April revealed a non-disclosure agreement that local police and prosecutors were forced to sign with the FBI before using the Stingray devices, which mandated them to withdraw or even drop cases rather than risk revealing Stingray use. (more…)

The Dystopian Danger of Police Body Cameras


From Common Dreams/ By Rachel Levinson-Waldman

Police-worn body cameras are the newest darling of criminal justice reform. They are touted as a way to collect evidence for criminal investigations, oversee and expose abusive police practices, and exonerate officers from fabricated charges. While the nation continues to debate how effective these body cameras are for police departments, less attention has been paid to the appearance of body cameras in other public sectors, most recently in our schools.

Since Michael Brown was shot by a member of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department last summer, at least 16 cities have introduced body camera programs. In the past month alone, at least seven cities have begun studying, initiated, or expanded body camera programs. President Obama has asked Congress to allocate $75 million for technology and training in body-worn cameras, and the Department of Justice recently provided the first $20 million in grants.

As these programs began to proliferate, schools took notice. In Houston, Texas, 25 school officers have started wearing body cameras in a pilot program, and the school district plans to expand the program to all 210 members of the force.

An Iowa school district has even taken this initiative one step further, buying cameras for principals and assistant principals to wear while interacting with students and parents. While the administrator overseeing the program has said the cameras are not intended to monitor every activity, he expressed the hope that any complaint could be investigated through body camera footage, suggesting that principals would need to record early and often. (more…)

The Spread of Electronic Monitoring: No Quick Fix for Mass Incarceration


From Prison Legal News/ By James Kilgore

In a troubled criminal justice system desperately looking for alternatives to incarceration, electronic monitoring is trending. North Carolina has tripled the use of electronic monitors since 2011. California has placed 7,500 people on GPS ankle bracelets as part of a realignment program aimed to reduce prison populations. SuperCom, an Israeli-based Smart ID and electronic monitor producer, announced in early July 2014 that they were jumping full force into the U.S. market, predicting this will be a $6 billion-a-year global industry by 2018.

The praise singers of electronic monitoring are also re-surfacing. In late June 2014, high-profile blogger Dylan Matthews posted a story on Vox Media, headlined “Prisons are terrible and there’s finally a way to get rid of them.” He enthusiastically argued that the most “promising” alternative “fits on an ankle.” Joshua Earnest, press secretary for the Obama White House, even suggested ankle bracelets as a solution to getting the 52,000 unaccompanied immigrant children out of border detention centers and military bases in the U.S. Southwest.

The reasons behind this popular surge of electronic monitoring are obvious: Prisons and jails (along with immigrant detention facilities) are overflowing from decades of mass incarceration. State, local and even federal authorities are looking for budget-cutting quick fixes. In the era of the smart phone, smart watch and smart textiles, nothing reads solution like technology. (more…)

Body cameras could transform policing – for the worse

freskos-daviddeshaiesNew facial-recognition technology will enable police to justify stops with a mere glance


The day after video surfaced of a North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer shooting Walter Scott in the back, the town’s mayor announced plans to outfit all its police officers with body cameras. The New York Police Department has started to put cameras on officers, and the White House has announced a $263 million program to supply 50,000 body cameras to local police.

Advocates for these cameras hope that they will hold police accountable for their behavior. Skeptics point out that unobstructed video footage did nothing to win an indictment in the police killing of Eric Garner. But this debate has overlooked another possibility. Even if cameras reduce police violence, they could transform how citizens interact with police once facial recognition technology allows officers automatically to identify each individual they lay eyes on.

Facial recognition technology isn’t science fiction. Police in the United Kingdom, Dubai and Canada already wear cameras that can recognize faces to identify suspects and missing persons. Apps for Google Glass allow wearers to automatically connect faces to photos, and Taser — the leading seller of police body cameras — is developing cameras that integrate facial recognition with police databases. (more…)

Carrboro Aldermen Examine Guidelines for Police Body Cameras


(Click here for an article on some of the many problems with body cameras)

From Chapelboro

Carrboro police officers may soon be required to wear cameras on their bodies.

Last year’s incidents in Ferguson and New York invigorated conversations across the nation about police misconduct and racial discrimination. Earlier this month the United States Department of Justice issued a damning report on Ferguson police, finding explicit racial bias among officers against African Americans (including racist emails sent by officers).

At Tuesday’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, Member Michelle Johnson said body cameras will not end police racial profiling. But some think body cameras could reduce police misconduct by recording interactions between officers and the public.

Carrboro officials have been discussing police body cameras for the last half year. Carrboro’s draft policy sets guidelines for use of cameras and management of the video taken. (more…)

How Police Body Cameras Were Designed to Get Cops Off the Hook



In the wake of protests over police violence against black men, many civil rights activists are calling for a high-tech solution: strapping wearable body cameras to cops. The idea is to hold police accountable for unnecessary violence. But the history of police body cams reveals that the devices have often had the opposite effect.

On the afternoon of March 1st, a band of Los Angeles Police shot a homeless man. Video of the incident was captured by both a witness armed with a cell phone, and by body cameras strapped to the officers. Despite the evidence, what actually happened on Skid Row before police shot Charly Keunang remains a matter of dispute. How it went down depends on who you ask — and, more importantly, on whose video you’re watching.

The civilian shot video from a short distance away, and the footage shows officers circling Keunang before a physical struggle erupts. Keunang is thrown to the ground. Officers struggle to contain him. He’s resisting but subdued. He’s not going anywhere but he hasn’t been cuffed. Then after some yelling, three officers open fire. (more…)

Police Violence Is Not A Problem Because Of Its Invisibility


Officers wearing riot gear walk through a park in downtown St. Louis on Sunday.

From Ben Brucato

For months, in response to the killing of Michael Brown, Ferguson and Saint Louis have been sites of ongoing rebellion, with frequent actions of solidarity throughout the United States. Last week, after a grand jury declined to indict Michael Brown’s murderer, Officer Darren Wilson, protests erupted across the country.

In response, today US President Obama proposed a national program to outfit 50,000 police officers with body-worn cameras. Many, including Michael Brown’s family, advocate in favor of wearable cameras for police. Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange.org wrote today that, “If what happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson had been captured on video, we would not be here today—and Michael Brown might be alive.” This advocacy is predicated on the idea that police violence is a problem because it remains hidden.

For most of a century, police studies have operated under the idea that policing’s most crucial function—the use of force in the production of social order—is something that occurs outside of the public view. In their influential book, Above The Law, Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe explained this hidden quality of policing has historically been a defining one, but that it was changed with the video recorded beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers.

Policing’s new visibility, as John B. Thompson calls it, is a consequence of surveillance that is rapidly approaching ubiquity. An institution once defined by operating outside of public view is now on exhibition as a result of cameras. Not only are private and government security cameras capturing many spaces—public and private alike—on video, but dash-mounted cameras in police cruisers and weapon-mounted cameras have produced a kind of self-surveillance (in addition to their primary intended functions of gathering evidence to criminally implicate civilians). On-officer wearable cameras, first developed by Taser, were developed from earlier stun-gun cameras (which, captured the moments before Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was shot and killed by police in White Plains, NY).

If we believe police violence is a problem as a result of it being hidden from public view, we should expect to see a crisis in the police institution over the past two decades since the beating of Rodney King. As Skolnick and Fyfe wrote, “in the absence of videotapes or other objective recording of gratuitous violence, brutality rarely causes public controversy and is extremely difficult to prove.” But as I wrote last week, police violence appears to be on the rise in the presence of this new visibility. As much as we might hope for a simple, technological fix to the problem of police violence, more cameras are not the answer. (more…)

What a “Mike Brown Law” Means for Ambarella and Digital Ally


Click on image for full sized poster

From Investor Place

AMBA and DGLY are set to soar if police body cameras go mainstream

It might seem difficult to connect Ambarella Inc (AMBA) and Digital Ally, Inc (DGLY) to the social conflicts of America. But these two stocks are actually poised to soar now more than ever as the tragic events of Ferguson, Missouri reach a new phase: healing.

For months there has been unrest in the 21,000-person town of Ferguson stemming from the August death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

Last night, a grand jury found that there was no probable cause to indict Wilson, effectively closing the criminal case. But what does this unfortunate series of events have to do with the stock market?


Quite a lot, actually. (more…)

FBI’s “Suicide Letter” to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance

mlklettersFrom The Electronic Frontier Foundation

The New York Times has published an unredacted version of the famous “suicide letter” from the FBI to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter, recently discovered by historian and professor Beverly Gage, is a disturbing document. But it’s also something that everyone in the United States should read, because it demonstrates exactly what lengths the intelligence community is willing to go to—and what happens when they take the fruits of the surveillance they’ve done and unleash it on a target.

The anonymous letter was the result of the FBI’s comprehensive surveillance and harassment strategy against Dr. King, which included bugging his hotel rooms, photographic surveillance, and physical observation of King’s movements by FBI agents. The agency also attempted to break up his marriage by sending selectively edited “personal moments he shared with friends and women” to his wife.

Portions of the letter had been previously redacted. One of these portions contains a claim that the letter was written by another African-American: “King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes.” It goes on to say “We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done.” This line is key, because part of the FBI’s strategy was to try to fracture movements and pit leaders against one another. (more…)