U.S. Postal Service ‘mail imaging’ program used for law enforcement, surveillance

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Posted on 24th November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Via Police State USA

Law enforcement granted unfettered access to individuals’ mail patterns without warrants.

(Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The U.S. Postal Service runs a massive dragnet surveillance program of all the mail in the United States; enabling law enforcement to generate profiles of associations and contacts of every American.

Two key programs play a role in the surveillance. The first is called “Mail Imaging.” As the name suggests, the program involves taking a digital photograph of every piece of physical mail that crosses through the USPS. The images provide a permanent record of the source and destination addresses posted on all packages and letters in the country.

The scope of the program is absolutely huge. The New York Times reported that about 160 billion pieces of mail were scanned in 2012.

Ostensibly, the Mail Imaging program is used to sort mail. However, law enforcement agencies are regularly granted access to this data without even the requirement of obtaining a warrant. The massive trove of data can be used to profile individuals and gather intelligence on their private lives. For example, the government can glean who the individual corresponds with; who the individual does business with; who sends the individual birthday cards; who sends the individual monthly bills; who the individual contracts for legal services.

A second program, called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program is engaged when there is special interest in a targeted individual. Reportedly, the program allows law enforcement to “track or investigate” the contents of mail connected to specific people.

An audit performed by the USPS Office of the Inspector General concluded that few safeguards (not warrants) that exist were not faithfully applied to the program. As often as 20% of the law enforcement surveillance requests were not properly approved, the audit revealed. The lax system was recently described in a report by Politico:

Meanwhile, some of the safeguards set up to catch these shortcomings were missing: The Postal Service wasn’t regularly conducting the annual reviews required by federal rules.

While many Americans have abandoned so-called snail mail for most of their communications, the auditors found the Post Office issued 49,000 mail cover orders in the past fiscal year. And postal workers were often slow to stop recording and sending data on mail even after those orders expired: The audit found 928 covers considered “active” even though the orders for them had expired.

“There are a lot of mail covers, but they don’t seem to be very careful about following their own rules,” said Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies.

The mail imaging and surveillance program was secretly established in 2001 and not publicly revealed for over a decade. The extents of the surveillance are still not fully known, because anything considered to be related to “national security” is evidently held secret and not subject to FOIA disclosure requests. The Times elaborated:

The mail cover surveillance requests cut across all levels of government — from global intelligence investigations by the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command, which requested 500 mail covers from 2001 through 2012, to state-level criminal inquiries by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which requested 69 mail covers in the same period. The Department of Veterans Affairs requested 305, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security asked for 256. The information was provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information request.

Postal officials did not say how many requests came from agencies in charge of national security — including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection — because release of the information, wrote Kimberly Williams, a public records analyst for the Postal Inspection Service, “would reveal techniques and procedures for law enforcement or prosecutions.”

The secrecy behind the activities of key federal agencies is disconcerting. Traditionally, warrants were required to physically open mail, but that check and balance has been eroded during the rise of the War on Terror. President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement on the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act on December 20, 2006, that authorities had the power to conduct “physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.”

It is unknown to what extent the federal government is opening mail for intelligence collection, because the courts have broadly allowed government secrecy on national security issues.

The various mail surveillance programs employed by the USPS and law enforcement agencies leaves us with the conclusion that privacy in the mail is tenuous at best. The massive dragnet holds similarities to that of the NSA in its effort to track the digital and telephone communications of every American.

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FUN IN A POLICE STATE

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Posted on 21st November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Police terrify teachers and students with surprise, guns-drawn ‘active shooter drill’

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Posted on 17th November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

 Via Police State USA

“We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us.”

(Image: Larry St.Pierre/Shutterstock)

WINTER HAVEN, FL — Classrooms full of students and staff members were terrified when gun-wielding police officers unexpectedly charged in and locked down their middle school — an event that was actually part of a realistic drill that no one was allowed to know about.

The disturbing event happened early in the school day at Jewett Middle Academy on Thursday, November 13th, 2014.  Without explanation, the principal announced at 9:00 a.m. that the school was being put into lockdown.

Moments later, police officers swept through the school, classroom-by-classroom, with weapons drawn.  The bewildered children and teachers actually thought they were in real danger.

“We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us,”  said 7th grader Lauren Marionneaux to FOX affiliate WTVT.

The event was an “active shooter drill,” which are becoming commonplace in America’s public schools, with varying degrees of realism and notification.  Ostensibly promoted as a way to thwart school shootings, the controversial and dangerous drills also subtly shape the perspectives of young, impressionable minds.

Many schools run such drills during the summer or when class is not in session.  Many use volunteers rather than unsuspecting students.  But not in Polk County, Florida.

“I thought he was going to shoot me,” said student Stacy Ray to FOX 13, after seeing an officer carrying a rifle sweep through her classroom.

The teams of officers were not carrying prop firearms.  The weapons were real and they were loaded with real ammunition, police confirmed to the Washington Post.

Frightened children began to send text messages to their parents, sending them into a panic.  No parent had been notified that the dramatic event was going to occur, nor asked permission, nor granted consent.  The first official explanation came in an email, on the day after the drill.

The secrecy was intentional and required, administrators confirmed.

“We do not give advanced notice of fire drills,” the school rationalized to to parents in an email, “in order to evaluate how safety procedures work.”

After many criticisms, the only thing that officials agreed to change in Polk County is the presence of actual, loaded weapons during the drills.  The drills will continue, without warning or consent, whether parents like it or not.

“It really is to protect the children,” said Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird.

 

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Elderly couple fined $80K, raided by police because of pallets in their yard

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Posted on 30th October 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Via Police State USA

Town “spends thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers” to rob a pair of retirees.

The Marathon County SWAT vehicle arrives to confiscate property from elderly Roger Hoeppner. (Photo: Ryan Lister)

STETTIN, WI — An elderly couple was traumatized when two dozen sheriff’s deputies swarmed their rural home, prepared to confiscate their property because of zoning ordinance violations.

The outrageous raid took place at the 20-acre property of Roger and Marjorie Hoeppner, who live in a wooded area on Highway 29 in the tiny town of Stettin, Wisconsin. The October raid was the culmination of years of harassment from the town against the couple, which Mr. Hoeppner believes is a “vendetta” against him.

It all stems from the town of Stettin — population 2,554 — making forcible demands to property owners about the appearance of their private land. The town, including Town Chairman Matt Wasmundt, took a particular interest in the Hoeppners’ property, which contains tractors, stacks of pallets, and other property belonging to the couple.

Mr. Hoeppner runs a business in which he repairs both tractors and broken pallets. Aside from interfering with his income, Hoeppner objects on the belief that he was being singled out, as he believes many other residents fall afoul of the same ordinances.

The six-year legal fight is summarized by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

In 2008, the town sued Hoeppner over claimed violations of ordinances about zoning, signs, rubbish and vehicles. About a year later, the two sides settled; Hoeppner was supposed to clean up his property, and the town was supposed to open discussions about its zoning.

The town felt Hoeppner had not complied, and it brought a motion for contempt and enforcement. In September 2010, a judge ordered Hoeppner to remove certain items from his land.

The following May, the judge found Hoeppner had still not complied and authorized the town to seize assets. In the summer of 2011, the town hauled away several tractors, pallets, equipment and other items and auctioned them off for “pennies on the dollar,” according to Lister.

But the dispute wasn’t over. In April 2013, the judge entered a final judgment that imposed a $500-a-day fine against Hoeppner for not adhering to the original May 2011 order, and granting the town’s legal fees.

Hoeppner appealed, but lost in a March ruling. So by Oct. 2, he owed the town about $80,000, according to court records, and the Town of Stettin obtained a writ of execution to collect — without notice to Hoeppner or his attorneys, they say.

Roger and Marjorie Hoeppner.  (Photo: Ryan Lister)

To collect the egregious $80,000 fine, officials called up some muscle to present a show of force against the elderly couple. The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department dutifully followed orders and marched onto the Hoeppners’ property and put the homeowner in shackles.

The deputies literally drove Mr. Hoeppner to the bank and forced him to withdraw money from his retirement account to pay off the extortive court order.

A total of 24 deputies participated in the raid, and brought their armored quarter-million-dollar Lenco Bearcat vehicle.

The deputies literally drove Mr. Hoeppner to the bank and forced him to withdraw money from his retirement account to pay off the extortive court order.

Mrs. Hoeppner was so traumatized by the raid that she had to be taken to the hospital.

“Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice…and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment” with a police raid, said attorney Ryan Lister to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The lawful oppression of the Hoeppners — which cost the couple $200,000 in legal fees and fines — perfectly illustrates the inherent injustice of zoning ordinances. When petty tyrants are able to dictate the rules for other people’s private property, homeowners are faced with a choice to submit or potentially lose everything, even over the most menial of complaints.

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Accountability CheckAlert_HandBlinking

Town of Stettin
, Wisconsin
Phone: (715) 845-3535
Email: [email protected]

Town Chairman Matt Wasmundt
Phone: (715) 571-1483
Email: [email protected]

Police impose checkpoints, deploy drones at high school football game

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Posted on 27th October 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

The noose tightens.

 

Via Police State USA

“It is very scary to come here tonight,” said one fan. “Now we have armed guards. I couldn’t carry my purse…”

At the entrance to a Summerville High School football game, police officers scan fans with metal detectors and examine personal belongings in a bin.  (Photo: WCIV

SUMMERVILLE, SC — Fans were startled by the heavy presence of police officers, drone surveillance, and warrantless checkpoints upon entry at the local high school football game.

The prison-like security at Summerville High School was called “the reality of the world we live in today.” As students and fans filed into the homecoming football game on Friday, October 24th, 2014, they were forced to place their belongings in a bin for police examination, then walk through a metal detector. Stadium-goers were restricted from bringing certain items into the stands.

A Summerville High School student is startled when a metal detector buzzes as she tries to enter the homecoming football game.  (Photo: WCIV

“It is very scary to come here tonight,” said Summerville resident said Ann Almers to WCIV. “It’s such a change, I’ve been coming to the stadium for so many years. Now we have armed guards. I couldn’t carry my purse, I forgot my phone. I’m a little out of sorts.”

Fans also were quick to notice the conspicuous presence of police officers mixed among the crowd and perched on the rooftops, surveillance drones whirring overhead, and even SWAT team members ready for action.

The security bonanza was imposed because school district officials had allegedly been tipped off that rival gangs might fight at the game, WCIV reported. No incidents of violence were reported.

The event might have been the site of the most elaborate and intrusive level of security employed at any high school sports event to date. With a precedent set, more schools are sure to follow suit with drone surveillance and police checkpoints.

See video of the checkpoints via WCIV:

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Video shows officer coaxing friendly pets closer with kissing noises before opening fire

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Posted on 19th October 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Via Police State USA

“Words can’t even explain that,” commented the dog’s owner.

A Cleburne Texas officer makes kissing noises to attract a loose family dog, only to shoot it on video.

CLEBURNE, TX — Body-cam video shows how an officer coaxed a family dog toward him with friendly kissing sounds before raising his weapon and firing.

The incident took place on August 10, 2014, when dogs belonging to Quinton Tatum and Amanda Henderson escaped from their fenced-in yard while the married couple was not at home. Some neighbors called the government to complain that the dogs were loose and interfering with them walking from their car to their house.

When a Cleburne police officer arrived at the scene, one of the pit bulls happily approached him, wagging its tail, and licked his face. This was included in the police report and can be seen on video from the officer’s body cam.

After the friendly interaction with the first dog took place in the front of the house, the officer then attempted to locate the other two dogs. They turned out to be playing in a nearby irrigation ditch between the homes, in a more obscured area.

As recorded on his body-camera, the Cleburne officer then began coaxing the dogs over to him by making kissing sounds, which can be heard in the video. The dogs respond by wagging their tails and exhibiting very friendly body language, video shows.

That’s when the officer raises his pistol and began firing. Three shots can be heard, along with a pitiful yelp.

One dog rolled over and died from the gunshots. The other frightened pet backed away, paused, then ran home.

View the moments of the shooting below:

Soon after, an animal control officer arrived on the scene with a catchpole to collect the remaining two dogs who were still alive. Video shows that animal control officer didn’t even need to use the catchpole, since speaking to the dogs in a friendly tone was all that was required to get them to follow her to a secure area with tails wagging.

The officer’s narrative is the subject of some speculation from witnesses and many who have viewed the video.

The official report states: “I raised my duty weapon to the ready position – pointed at the growling dog’s head. As soon as I lifted my pistol, the dog began coming up the hill, continuing to growl and display its teeth… I fired three shots at it.”

No growling or teeth baring is evident from the video at all. In fact, every angle of the dogs portrays them as friendly.

“Words can’t even explain that,” commented Mr. Tatum after viewing the video of the officer tricking his pet before opening fire.

The Cleburne police department is claiming that the video has been taken out of context and reiterates that the officer was only “assisting” the dog-phobic 9-1-1 callers, suggesting that they were “pinned” inside their vehicle by “aggressive” dogs.

The incident remains under department review, and the identity of the shooter remains without consequence. He has been identified as Officer Kevin Dupre.

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Police shoot, kill Georgia grandfather during no-knock drug raid

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Posted on 9th October 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Via Police State USA

A man is shot dead thinking he was confronting burglars, just 2 nights after his home had been robbed.

(Source: Getty Images)

EAST DUBLIN, GA — A drug task force gunned down a grandfather in his home during a botched late-night raid that was based on the word of a self-confessed meth addict and burglar who had robbed the property two nights prior. His grieving widow is disputing the official story regarding the no-knock raid that led to her husband’s untimely death.

* * * * *

The devastating incident occurred the evening of September 24, 2014. David Hooks and his wife of 25 years, Teresa, had settled in for the evening; Mr. Hooks was asleep and his wife was upstairs in her craft room.

At approximately 11:00 p.m., she noticed a vehicle abruptly race down her driveway. She saw men jump out of the vehicle and approach her home, donning black and camouflage clothing, shrouded in hoods.

Mrs. Hooks bolted for the bedroom to alert her sleeping husband. “The burglars are back,” she insisted. Earlier that week, the couple’s home had been burglarized and an SUV stolen from the driveway.

David Hooks

Mr. Hooks, a 59-year-old businessman, sprang from his bed and picked up a firearm, then took a defensive stand to protect his wife and home from the intruders. As he exited his bedroom, the back door of the house was breached, and gun-wielding home invaders charged in.

What happened next was described as “chaos.” The intruders used their weapons to send a hail of gunfire into the residence; a total of 16-18 shots from rifles and .40 caliber handguns.

When the gun smoke cleared, it became evident that the intruders were actually a Drug Task Force and members of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Response Team (SRT). Mr. Hooks was killed without returning fire.

The officers claimed to be looking for methamphetamines. After searching the home forty-four (44) hours, not a single trace of narcotics was retrieved.

The warrant — which was acquired only 1 hour before the raid — had been founded on information provided by the very same burglar who had stolen the Hooks’ Lincoln Aviator SUV two nights prior. The self-described thief and meth-addict was Rodney Garrett, who alleged that he had obtained drugs from inside the vehicle he had stolen from David and Teresa Hooks.

Laurens County Magistrate Judge Faith Snell was presented with this information and readily signed the warrant, granting the sheriff’s department the permission it needed to launch a mid-night assault on the unsuspecting couple.

Mrs. Hooks points out some damning inconsistencies in the official version of events versus what she says actually happened. She insists that the police did NOT use emergency lights or sirens, and the police did NOT knock or announce before breaking down their door. The couple had every reason to believe that they were being robbed — again.

The SRT team, on the other hand, claimed that after loudly knocking on the door and repeatedly announcing, “sheriff’s department, search warrant,” Mr. Hooks came to the door carrying a shotgun and pointed it at the officers, who had to shoot in self-defense.

Drawing further questions in the official story was the fact that Mr. Hooks was not shot at the back door — he was shot through an interior wall. According to a statement released on behalf of the Hooks family, the shooters had no way of “knowing who or what was on the other side of the wall.”

Representing Mrs. Hooks, Attorney Mitch Shook said that the “true facts of this tragedy are in stark contrast” to the official narrative. “There’s a lot more to it than law enforcement has reported,” he said.

The attorney questioned why a no-knock raid was performed on the couple; why so late at night. He pointed out that the Mr. Hooks ran two successful businesses and was far from fitting the profile of a meth user.

“There is no question the officers were aware the home had been burglarized only two nights earlier,” read the Hooks family’s official statement.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation intends to review the case.

Georgia has been the site of numerous atrocities and wrong-door raids committed in the name of Prohibition. The blood will continue to flow so long as such wrong-headed laws and tactics are upheld as acceptable.

PLAYGROUND FOR PSYCHOPATHS

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Posted on 3rd October 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Guest Post by Fred Reed

 

Gapple and Oogle, Our Defenders

Names Encrypted for Their Security

I read that Apple and Google have begun encrypting the data of customers so that nobody, including Apple and Google, have plaintext access to it. This of course means “so that the government will not have access to it.” The FBI is terribly upset about this, the first serious resistance against onrushing Orwellianism. God bless Apple and Google. But will they be able to stand up to the feds?

Here is a curious situation indeed. The government has become our enemy, out of  control, and we have to depend on computer companies for any safety we may have.

NSA spies on us illegally and in detail, recording telephone conversations, reading email, recording our financial transactions, on and on. TSA makes air travel a nightmare, forcing us to hop about barefoot and confiscating toothpaste. The police kick in our doors at night on no-knock raids and shoot our dogs. In bus stations we are subject to search without probable cause. The feds track us through our cell phones. Laws make it a crime to photograph the police, an out-and-out totalitarian step: Cockroaches do not like light. The feds give police forces across the country weaponry normal to militaries. Whatever the intention, it is the hardware of control of dissent. Think Tian An Men Square in China.

And we have no recourse. If you resist, you go to jail, maybe not for long, not yet anyway, but jail is jail. Object to TSA and you miss your flight. They know it and use it. The courts do nothing about this. They too are feds.

Fools say, “If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.” This might be true, or partly true, or sometimes true, or occasionally plausible, if government were benevolent. It isn’t.

The feds—whatever the intention of individuals—are setting up the machinery of a totalitarianism beyond anything yet known on the earth. It falls rapidly into place. You can argue, if you are optimistic enough to make Pollyanna look like a Schopenhaurian gloom-monger, that they would never use such powers. They already do. The only question is how far they will push. What cannot be argued is that they have the powers

Which means that if they decide in a few years, or tomorrow, to crack down on “hate speech,” and then on speech that they say they think might suggest terroristic links, and then on anti-American speech as defined by them (does anyone remember HUAC?), they will have the tools.

The mere knowledge that one is watched, or may be being watched, is enough to subvert political freedom. Already journalists have to assume that their communications are intercepted, and sources, assuming the same thing, stop being sources.

We are in the cross-hairs and what happens in the next very few years will determine in what direction we go. And when we have to depend on commercial companies like Apple and Google to protect us from our government, things are bad.

The FBI wants a “back door” in the encryption used by our telephones, so that it can spy on us—for our own good, you see, for our own good. Uh-huh. Of course if the government has a back door, others can find it.

The crucial question: Do we have more to fear from largely imaginary terrorists, or from the FBI? Your chances of being killed by terrorists are essentially zero, even if you live in Washington or New York, and far less if you live in Memphis or Raleigh-Durham. (To express this we need the concept of negative zero, which I hearwith offer to the mathmatical community.) Your chances of living in an electronically locked-down police state are very high. This is far more dangerous to what the United States was than even a successful bombing of a mall.

What goes through the minds of those who are doing this to us? In my former guise as a police reporter I knew a few FBI types. They were pathologically normal, smelled of too much soap and wholesomeness, resembled armed accountants with the other-worldly assurance of scientologists. They were deeply convinced that they were the Angels Gabriel protecting us from whatever, including ourselves—and they were as intellectual as colonels, which is to say as intellectual as fire plugs. In particular, they did not think in terms of constitutional liberties. Since their intentions were good, they figured that nobody should interfere with them. And they were on a power trip, as we used to say.

Not good.

Those at the policy level are another thing.  Many are intelligent, some extremely so. They understand not just the laws, but law. Many have educations of the first quality. Harvard was not always a prep school for I-banking. They are familiar with history, understand the philosophy of constitutional government, and understand the consequences of our current direction. They know what they are doing. And keep doing it.

Why? Partly because they are screened to be as they are. Just as the military attracts highly aggressive men, who then want a war in which to use their training (would Tiger Woods practice his golf swing for a lifetime without wanting to be in a tournament?) politics attracts and favors the unprincipled and manipulative. It is a playground for psychopaths, for the charmingly conscienceless, for the utterly self-concerned. These now rule us.

This is obvious. Yet in the past there were sometimes men who understood that, to maintain a constitutional democracy, you have to pay the price of allowing freedom. They, and the courts, actually defended the right of people to say things that the government and its client groups did not like. They saw the danger of trying to control every aspect of everyone’s life. Today? Neither the courts, nor the Supreme Court, nor the President, nor the Congress, nor the military, nor the intelligence agencies shows any sign of wanting to rein in the abuses. It’s Apple and Google or nothing, and the government will threaten them with everything short of beheading. Maybe short of beheading.

 

For an expert, readable, and non-technical explanation of just how secure your data aren’t, read The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. For the best (so far as I know) but fairly technical website on computer security, Schneir on Security and subscribe, for free, to his Crypto-Gram.