In a cryptic news release, the Capitol Police said the person was arrested “in the area of the U.S. Capitol” but that “at no time was the public or congressional community in any danger.”
The FBI by mid-January will activate a nationwide facial recognition service in select states that will allow local police to identify unknown subjects in photos, bureau officials told Nextgov.
The federal government is embarking on a multi-year, $1 billion dollar overhaul of the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to more quickly and accurately identify suspects, partly through applying other biometric markers, such as iris scans and voice recordings.
Often law enforcement authorities will “have a photo of a person and for whatever reason they just don’t know who it is [but they know] this is clearly the missing link to our case,” said Nick Megna, a unit chief at the FBI’s criminal justice information services division. The new facial recognition service can help provide that missing link by retrieving a list of mug shots ranked in order of similarity to the features of the subject in the photo.
Today, an agent would have to already know the name of an individual to pull up the suspect’s mug shot from among the 10 million shots stored in the bureau’s existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to inspect for potential matches. Users typically will request 20 candidates, Megna said. The service does not provide a direct match.
“The trouble with government as it is, is that it doesn’t represent the people. It controls them.” ~ John Lennon (1966)
“When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Listen closely and what you will hear, beneath the babble of political chatter and other mindless political noises distracting you from what’s really going on, are the dying squeals of the Fourth Amendment. It dies a little more with every no-knock raid that is carried out by a SWAT team, every phone call eavesdropped on by FBI agents, and every piece of legislation passed that further undermines the right of every American to be free from governmental intrusions into their private affairs.
Meanwhile, President Obama and John Boehner are exchanging political niceties on the golf course, Congress is doing their utmost to be as ineffective as possible, and the Tea Party — once thought to be an alternative to politics as usual — is clowning around with candidates who, upon election, have proven to be no better than their predecessors and just as untrustworthy when it comes to protecting our rights and our interests. Yet no matter how hard Americans work to insulate themselves from the harsh realities of life today — endless wars, crippling debt, sustained unemployment, a growing homeless population, rising food and gas prices, morally bankrupt and corrupt politicians, plummeting literacy rates, and on and on — there can be no ignoring the steady drumbeat of the police state marching in lockstep with our government.
Incredibly, with little outcry from the populace, the lengths to which the government will go in its quest for total control have become more extreme with every passing day. Now comes the news that the FBI intends to grant to its 14,000 agents expansive additional powers that include relaxing restrictions on a low-level category of investigations termed “assessments.” This allows FBI agents to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect individuals, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing. (Incredibly, during the four-month period running from December 2008 to March 2009, the FBI initiated close to 12,000 assessments of individuals and organizations, and that was before the rules were further relaxed.)
This latest relaxing of the rules, justified as a way to cut down on cumbersome record-keeping, will allow the FBI significant new powers to search law enforcement and private databases, go through household trash, and deploy surveillance teams, with even fewer checks against abuse. The point, of course, is that if agents aren’t required to maintain a paper trail documenting their activities, there can be no way to hold the government accountable for subsequent abuses.
These new powers, detailed in a forthcoming edition of the FBI’s operations manual, extend the agency’s reach into the lives of average Americans and effectively transform the citizenry into a nation of suspects, reversing the burden of proof so that we are now all guilty until proven innocent. Thus, no longer do agents need evidence of possible criminal or terrorist activity in order to launch an investigation. Now, they can “proactively” look into people and groups, searching databases without making a record about it, conducting lie detector tests and searching people’s trash.
Moreover, as FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni revealed, agents want to be able to use the information found in a subject’s trash to pressure that person to assist in a government investigation. Under the new guidelines, surveillance squads can also be deployed repeatedly to follow “targets,” agents can infiltrate organizations for longer periods of time before certain undisclosed “rules” kick in, and public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars can be investigated without the need for extra supervision.
All of this has been sanctioned by the Obama administration, which, as the New York Times aptly notes, “has long been bumbling along in the footsteps of its predecessor when it comes to sacrificing Americans’ basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism” and now “seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did.” In fact, this steady erosion of our rights started long before Bush came into office. Indeed, it has little to do with political affiliation and everything to do with an entrenched bureaucratic mindset — call it the “Establishment,” if you like — that, in its quest to amass and retain power, seeks to function autonomously and independent of the Constitution.
What we are witnessing is a coup d’etat that is aimed at overthrowing our representative government and replacing it with one that outwardly may appear to embrace democratic ideals but inwardly is nothing more than an authoritarian regime. And the Establishment is counting on the fact that Americans will gullibly continue to trust the government and turn a blind eye to its power grabs and abuses.
The relationship between the American people and their government was once defined by a social contract (the U.S. Constitution) that was predicated on a mutual respect for the rule of law and a clear understanding that government exists to serve the people and not the other way around. That is no longer the case. Having ceded to the government all manner of control over our lives, renouncing our claims to such things as privacy in exchange for the phantom promise of security, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being trapped in a prison of our own making.
Formally established in late 2009 to collect the fingerprints, iris scans, and facial images of Afghan national security forces, the program’s initial goal was to keep criminals and Taliban insurgents from infiltrating the army and police force. But information sharing—with partners like the FBI—is also a key component of the program.
“The FBI has collected thousands of latent prints from the battlefield in Afghanistan,” said Special Agent Janeen DiGuiseppi, our liaison officer in Kabul for the biometrics program. “When the Afghans started enrolling people, we began to cross-check our records with theirs.”
In fact, when they searched their database, the Afghans identified the 82nd unidentified latent print the FBI passed to them and found that it belonged to an individual they had arrested a few months before as an accessory to a crime. The individual’s prints had originally been collected in 2007 in connection with a different crime.
“We were able to give the Afghans information to help them prosecute the case,” DiGuiseppi said. “That’s exactly the kind of information exchange we are looking for—going both ways. It helps solve crimes, and it enhances security for Afghans and Americans in the war theater.”
The biometric program answers two basic questions, said Air Force Lt. Col. Cristiano Marchiori, an advisor to the program: “Who are you, and are you a bad guy?” Already 300,000 Afghans have been enrolled, from soldiers and police to criminals in prison. The ability of the Afghans to collect, store, and match this data against other sources of information is an invaluable tool as the government strives to prevent fraud and corruption.
The centerpiece of the program is the Afghan Automated Biometric Identification System (AABIS), administered by about 50 Afghans at the Ministry of Interior in Kabul. The FBI supports the effort through training and mentoring, along with data sharing, said DiGuiseppi. “So far it’s been a great partnership. And as the program grows, it will become even more useful.”
At the biometrics offices, three shifts of examiners catalog and check fingerprints on large computer screens, while technicians prepare “jump kits”—laptop computers, scanners, and other equipment used in the field to collect fingerprints, facial images, and iris scans. The Afghan colonel who supervises the program emphasized that Afghans are doing all the collections and maintaining the database, but he readily acknowledged the FBI’s role in the program. “We are very thankful for the FBI’s help and their willingness to train and assist us,” he said.
The partnership is mutually beneficial. “A strong Afghan biometric program reduces the enemy’s anonymity and his capability to operate anonymously in the battle space,” said Marchiori. “If we have one unique identifier—a set of prints, an iris scan—it’s hard for the enemy to hide among the population when he’s trying to register a vehicle or vote or move around the country freely.”
Afghan Ministry of Interior officials plan to use the biometrics program to enroll eight million citizens as part of a national ID effort. “This is for the betterment of the country,” one Afghan official said. “This is for security and for helping the Afghan people.”
|MISSION AFGHANISTAN: PART 1 – THE FBI’S ROLE IN THE WAR ZONE|
|MISSION AFGHANISTAN: PART 2 – FBI’S MAJOR CRIMES TASK FORCE|
|MISSION AFGHANISTAN: PART 3 – CONTRACT CORRUPTION|