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Spying on US
June 27, 2005 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Meet the new watchers California's National Guard has formed a new unit: Known as the Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion program, the project is part of an expanding nationwide effort to better integrate military intelligence into global anti-terrorism initiatives. Although Guard officials said the new unit would not collect information on American citizens, top National Guard officials have already been involved in tracking at least one recent Mother's Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain American soldiers, according to e-mails obtained by the Mercury News.
posted by amberglow (74 comments total)

 
At what point is the American public going to wake up? I mean, seriously, a Nazi flag could be flying over the White House, and there would still be people going, "Pfft. You're overreacting."

yes, i know, Godwin. fyad.
posted by keswick at 1:43 PM on June 27, 2005


Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean that they're NOT out to get you.
posted by clevershark at 1:47 PM on June 27, 2005


What i found most weird about this is that it's the National Guard, not the FBI. Why are they doing this? Are they exempt from oversight or the regulations that, thanks to the Patriot Act, used to rein in the more egregious abuses?
posted by amberglow at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2005


Working in the intelligence field, although reserve instead of guard, I can tell you that there are constantly classes on what we can and cannot do, including the unlawfulness of military units investigating US civilians (except article 32 proceedings).

I can also tell you that almost everything they teach you about what is proper procedure tends to get thrown out the window as soon as a directive comes down that requires "extensive measures" to complete.

Remember, our current system plants responsibility only on the generals and privates, despite all the oaths we take. The people in the middle have outstandingly become responsibility-impervious sheep, at least as long as they're willing to pass the buck, and I'm sickened as I watch it happen again and again to my fellow jr. officers.
posted by mystyk at 1:55 PM on June 27, 2005


It does seem a bit odd that a State Guard unit would be tasked with this type of thing. Clearly this is a function that should/would be handled at a federal level, no? Unless they are fronting for the Feds?

That such a group exists is not surprising to me. That it exists in a State National Guard unit does. Why would the State of CA want to sponsor this? Extra federal $$ maybe?

...envisions his team as being a one-stop shop for local, state and national law enforcement to share information.

The Intel convenience store?
posted by a3matrix at 2:00 PM on June 27, 2005


have you ever spied on other law-abiding Americans, mystyk?
posted by amberglow at 2:01 PM on June 27, 2005


Just to point out the text in the article, "Guard spokesman Zezotarksi said that the monitoring did not involve anything more than keeping tabs on the protest through the media and that no one went to observe the demonstration."

So "tracking" means "watching CNN and being aware of something." I'm aware of the slippery slope, but we're not talking about profiling people, we're not talking about infiltrating a group, we're not talking about even going to the event and taking pictures. We are just talking about the National Guard (whose job it is to keep the peace in the event of civil disturbance) being aware of what's going on by watching the news. I'm not sure how that's as bad as people are suggesting.

On preview: envisions his team as being a one-stop shop for local, state and national law enforcement to share information

Remember that one of the big post-9/11 complaints was that information was siloed between different departments and levels of government. One suggestion was that more communication would have led to an increased liklihood of putting all of the pieces together earlier.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:01 PM on June 27, 2005


Sweet Jesus, Mefi has been infiltrated by mystyk!!!

;-)
posted by a3matrix at 2:02 PM on June 27, 2005


Where the fuck does the Guard have any jurisdiction to monitor peace rallies? Who in the Guard imagined that it did? Why is that guy still in the Guard, given that he swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and yet is in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act?
posted by orthogonality at 2:02 PM on June 27, 2005


have you ever spied on other law-abiding Americans, mystyk?

Again, read the article and be cautious about your use of hyperbole. I'm not sure that "watching CNN" and "spying on" are even remotely the same thing.

On preview: Where the fuck does the Guard have any jurisdiction to monitor peace rallies?

The guard is charged with keeping the peace. They did not attend the rally, track individuals, or anything. There was an email sent up saying "hey, there's a rally going on this weekend" and they got all of their information from watching the mainstream media. I'm not sure how that's even "monitoring" really.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2005


And you believe them why, thedevil? It's laughable.
posted by amberglow at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2005


And you believe them why, thedevil? It's laughable.

Because no evidence has been produced to the contrary, other than a bunch of hyperbole and stretched language. Some people like to see facts and evidence before leaping to believe conspiracy theories. Just sayin'.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:06 PM on June 27, 2005


Intelligence officers will have access to sensitive national security information that they can analyze and potentially share with state and local law enforcement, he said.

'We are trying to integrate into their systems and bring them information that they don't have,' O'Neill said.


hmm..."sensitive national security information" and "information they don't have"-- from watching CNN. Right.
posted by amberglow at 2:07 PM on June 27, 2005


hmm..."sensitive national security information" and "information they don't have"-- from watching CNN. Right

I'm going to assume that you're accidentally conflating two events instead of intentionally trying to blur the picture.

Event 1 - The group is established in order to facilitate information transfer. This does involve "sensitive national security information" and "information they don't have".

Event 2 - The governor's office sends a heads-up email (which seems to be quoted verbatim in the article) and it is forwarded around but otherwise not followed-up upon. The response emails also seem to be quoted verbatim, suggesting that the reporter had full access to them. Nowhere in the context of this event is there anything about "sensitive information". Nowhere in the emails does it suggest anything beyond watching the news. Nowhere in the emails does it suggest any active investigation. Nobody quoted in the story suggests any active investigation.

In other words, since the mission of the group is to investigate, they must have done so in a given case? Please.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:12 PM on June 27, 2005


amberglow wrote: have you ever spied on other law-abiding Americans, mystyk?
I'm actually glad you asked, jokingly or not, because these are the type of questions that need to be asked. In the capacity of my job? Gladly no. In a looser context, like my following an ex to verify that she was in fact cheating on me? Yes. However, I have observed instances where oversight has failed, and have even been chastized for questioning methods used by fellow officers that were clear violations. I have watched complaints form me and a few dedicated others get swept under the rug, because "in this kind of job, the ends justify the means" (as one LtCol. put it).

It's very likely that the whole watching CNN thing is a lunch-break activity, and that many things we don't want to believe the government would stoop to are going on all the time. There are entire units dedicated to effective PR so that stories like this can be defused into "watching CNN."

On Preview: TDDL, the unit is being set up as a data mining, collection, and organizing center. It refines data, and searches for occurrences that may be presentable. For example, have you ever been photographed at a rally? how about more than one? Chances are they've linked your appearances in a database somewhere if you have. This activity is not an "active investigation," but it doesn't have to be in order to violate the rules of intelligence oversight.
posted by mystyk at 2:27 PM on June 27, 2005


From the article:
"'The National Guard doesn't need to do this,' said Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer who first exposed the military's domestic spying operations in 1970. 'Its job is not to investigate individuals, but to clear streets, protect facilities and help first responders.' .... Pyle, ...now a professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, said the evolving intelligence programs are susceptible to dangerous 'mission creep' that led to overaggressive tactics during the Vietnam War."
Exactly ... a slippery slope.
posted by ericb at 2:30 PM on June 27, 2005


For example, have you ever been photographed at a rally? how about more than one?

Irrelevant - nobody has alleged that the National Guard attended this rally, or does so for other rallies, or intends to do so. Nobody has alleged that that the National Guard has photographed people at this rally, at other rallies, or intends to do so.

Chances are they've linked your appearances in a database somewhere if you have.

I've been to a number of San Francisco anti-war rallies. The manpower and technology requirements of such a project are well beyond what is available to the California National Guard. The Guard has trouble telling its head from its ass on a regular basis... there's simply no way for the Guard to produce that kind of system in-house. Your broad use of "they know who you are and what you do" is tough to rebut without knowing a bit more information about who "they" are. Who keeps this giant database? Who programmed it? How have the problems in face-recognition been solved to allow massive-scale identificaiton of people in huge crowds without placing obvious cameras all over? If it really does exist then why haven't the programmers, database admins, data-entry people, photographers, and others involved come forward?

This activity is not an "active investigation," but it doesn't have to be in order to violate the rules of intelligence oversight.

If there were a massive database of faces (above) that would be an "active investigation" in that they would be going out of their way to gather information and process it. Second, nobody has accused them of that. Do you have any facts or evidence to suggest that hte California National Guard is engaged in such practices?

The only thing this story is based on is trying to allege that being aware of a rally is "tracking" it and then insinuating a lot worse.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, while I respect your concern for facts and not leaping to conclusions, surely you can understand why this alarms a lot of us. Does the word "Cointelpro" ring any bells?
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on June 27, 2005


freaky, indeed. although when we're talking about this version of "turning into nazis", i think it's really just, as mentioned in the article, turning back the clock to the sixties. what that says about who/what the US has been in varying styles all along... well, i'll leave that for another day.

as an activist, i think most of us have been aware of haphazard surveillance of various sorts for ever. (pictures, video, infiltrators, cops pretending to be reporters...) nothing new here. except the guard has bigger guns.
posted by RedEmma at 2:46 PM on June 27, 2005


Does the word "Cointelpro" ring any bells?

It does. The problem is that by crying wolf at this story it makes people concerned with privacy, individual liberty, and limited government less credible when there is a significant problem that demands action. As far as I can tell in this case we have an organization that is set up to share information (which could lead to problems) but has not yet violated any of the many laws which regulate the ability of the military to take action within the US. There's a reason why those laws are in place, and if anybody has evidence of a violation then I would love to see it.

However, the mere fact that there exists such a group does not automatically make it evil. As mentioned above, information-sharing is one of the big suggestions of the 9/11 comission report to increase security without having to take more invasive actions. So far there has been no evidence that the group has done anything untoward, and it seems that the ACLU and others are keeping a close eye upon it.

The fact that there was an email exchanged about the existance of a rally (especially when the National Guard is the group that would be called out in the event of a civil disturbance) doesn't tell me much about the liklihood of the group violating individual privacy or any of the laws regulating military action in the US. I would hope that the first-responders for civil disturbances were aware of any large rallies scheduled for the future - be they political or not. Heck, I would hope that the CA National Guard was kept appraised of when the Michael Jackson verdict came out since there was a non-zero chance for riots then (see Rodney King, etc).

In other words, the information about "tracking" the rally has little or no connection to the "real" story (there exists a group that could possibly do bad things). It's a distraction and/or a lame news peg.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:50 PM on June 27, 2005


The manpower and technology requirements of such a project are well beyond what is available to the California National Guard.

Not so in Massachusetts:
"The notion of creating intelligence 'fusion centers' is slowly gaining momentum. Massachusetts is setting up one, but it is housed in the State Police headquarters, not its National Guard." [from the above article]
The security system that was installed in Boston for last summer's Democratic National Convention (with high-tech monitoring throughout) was donated to the city. It has been used for security purposes for the World Series 2004, the New England Patriot and Red Sox Victory parades, etc.
posted by ericb at 2:53 PM on June 27, 2005


The system is in use for legitinate purposes. No "tin foil" hat here, but - as pointed out from past instances of corrdinated intelligence gathering - there always exists the possibility that such a system could be employed for nefarious puposes.
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on June 27, 2005


legitinate legitimate
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on June 27, 2005


aargh ... coordinated
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on June 27, 2005


That's why "check-and-balnces" are necessary.
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2005


The security system that was installed in Boston for last summer's Democratic National Convention (with high-tech monitoring throughout) was donated to the city. It has been used for security purposes for the World Series 2004, the New England Patriot and Red Sox Victory parades, etc.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the Boston system (which I do agree is shady at best) is just a traditional camera system with a lot more cameras than normal linked into one big network. To my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong) they don't do any sort of facial recognition or anything like that, let alone automatic cross-referencing.

It's a HUGE leap (in both technology and fear factor) from a network of traditional cameras to automated face-recognition and cross-referencing.

On preview: What you said, ericb about being used for legit (ha) purposes but having the potential for abuse.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2005


And I haven't even had my first drink! ... "balances"
posted by ericb at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2005


Boston Logan Airport has been testing two facial recognition systems since the disaster of September 11th. I believe they were also used as part of the DNC security. [Let me look into this].
posted by ericb at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2005


Boston Logan Airport has been testing two facial recognition systems since the disaster of September 11th.

The Logan experiment failed and is no longer in use.

The failure suggests, again, that it is outside the grasp of a National Guard unit to develop such a system. It might be possible for a larger body in the future, but right now it's just not happening.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2005


So, when're these guys gonna rename themselves "Nightwatch", exactly
posted by kaemaril at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2005


That's really the point I was trying to make. It's not that all systems in place are going to be used nefariously, but rather that they could be. I only say that with authority because I have sat through the what-you-can-and-cannot-do briefs for years, and have not only seen others violate intel oversight, but have been asked to do it myself. I try to hold my head high on this one (don't worry, I know I'm an absolute asshole in other respects) simply because it's not only what was taught, but what feels proper.
posted by mystyk at 3:05 PM on June 27, 2005


It's not that all systems in place are going to be used nefariously, but rather that they could be.

Cool. I was mostly responding to keswick (et al) through you. Nothing personal.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2005


Oh, Logan may have failed, but that's not always the case. McCarran Intl. in Vegas has a system modified from those used throughout the Nevada casinos. It does work, has automatic facial recognition and cataloging, is fully searchable, and they're even trying to work out algorithms to tell if people look more nervous than they should as they approach the security counters.
posted by mystyk at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2005


"Raytheon Company's facial recognition system powered by Visionics' FaceIt Argus System achieved a high rate of successful matches in field tests recently carried out at Boston's Logan International Airport. The system was deployed in a real-life setting at a security checkpoint where subjects were matched against a watch list. "[Press Release]

Two disputed tests (see here and here) involved systems from Identix and Viisage
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2005


On preview - TDD - yes ... I've found the USA article...but, this is interesting ... from the Boston Globe article:
"But Meir Kahtan, spokesman for Identix in Minnetonka, Minn., defended his company's FaceIt identification system, saying company statistics showed an 85.7 percent correct identification rate during the Logan test.

'To characterize it as a failure is disinformation,' Kahtan said. 'Given the results of the Logan test, the catch rate was sufficient to have stopped between 11 and 12 of the 19 terrorists' on Sept. 11, 2001, said Kahtan."
posted by ericb at 3:18 PM on June 27, 2005


It appears that Raytheon's facial recognition test - while not part of the Identix and Viisage test - went well.
posted by ericb at 3:19 PM on June 27, 2005


Even if the face recognition software doesn't exist now it is a pretty safe bet that it will one day. And on that day they can simply feed in the old tapes and photos.
posted by srboisvert at 3:20 PM on June 27, 2005


And ... yes, mystyk's point about Las Vegas indicates that the "state-of-the-art" has likely evolved since the 2002 Logan test involving Identix and Viisage.
posted by ericb at 3:21 PM on June 27, 2005


saying company statistics showed an 85.7 percent correct identification rate during the Logan test

If the best a system can do is 85% against a narrow watch-list it simply won't work to cross-link a large population (ie, 10,000+ demonstrators). There's a big difference between identifying whether a given face is on a short list of target faces and having to search through all of the 10,000+ other faces and see if it matches any of them. With 85% accuracy (assuming all false-negatives) after multiple observations the amount of noise (eg, multiple people mis-identified as being the same person, and a single person being identified as being different people) would quickly overwhelm the signal.

Anyway, the point is that the CA National Guard doesn't have any such system and isn't on the verge of getting one.

And on that day they can simply feed in the old tapes and photos.

Even the slightly creepy system in Boston gets rid of old tapes after a month unless they've been manually identified as being "keepers." Keeping tapes around requires massive amounts of storage space and hardware.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2005


Posse comitatus absolutely does not apply to units of the National Guard which are not called to Federal Service (like units in Iraq or in training for deployment there).

Until then, they are units of the state government with a core mission to prevent civil unrest and restore order if prevention fails. Understanding how of a bunch of pacifists singing "Kumbaya" can devolve into overturned cars and smashed-in storefronts is critical -- because it has happened more than a few times in the past 40 years.

Under current circumstances, more war is at least as likely as less in the next few years, and I somehow think the San Francisco activists are going to be upping the ante when the bombs start dropping on (insert name here). The National Guard needs to be prepared.
posted by MattD at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2005


However, the mere fact that there exists such a group does not automatically make it evil.

Very true, but given that authority is always and everywhere tempted to expand its powers and use them in whatever ways it can get away with, I think "better safe than sorry" is the operative motto here: I'd rather have people overreacting to what turn out to be harmless events than comfortably sleeping away the slow tightening of the iron fist. I understand the concern about crying wolf, and reasonable people can differ about when it makes sense to raise the alarm, but in this particular political era my antennae are hypersensitive.

This is a great discussion, by the way.
posted by languagehat at 3:27 PM on June 27, 2005


Even the slightly creepy system in Boston gets rid of old tapes after a month unless they've been manually identified as being "keepers." Keeping tapes around requires massive amounts of storage space and hardware.

This makes me wonder about Las Vegas casinos - which monitor 24/7/365. For how long do they archive their multiple video streams? Also, with digital compression, can't one conveniently store massive amounts of video these days?
posted by ericb at 3:27 PM on June 27, 2005


Understanding how of a bunch of pacifists singing "Kumbaya" can devolve into overturned cars and smashed-in storefronts is critical

After looking at CodePink's (one of the organizers of the California Mothers' Day event) website, something tells me that they pose little threat of mass chaos.
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on June 27, 2005


But - on the other hand - it's best to keep close tabs on the Raging Grannies and Gold Star Families for Peace - the other co-sponsors of the event. Dangerous looking fols, they are!
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on June 27, 2005


"Dangerous looking folks" ... now time for that drink!
posted by ericb at 3:37 PM on June 27, 2005


After looking at CodePink's (one of the organizers of the California Mothers' Day event) website, something tells me that they pose little threat of mass chaos.

You know, you probably have a point. But I suspect that a policy of "we'd like to know about all demonstrations, no matter who sponsors them" is a safer policy than trying to pick-and-choose based on who are "dangerous looking folks" (your language). Of course there'd be an uproar if minority groups or others seemed to be "followed" (if watching CNN counts as "following") more closely so I would hope that the policy is "we're aware of what's going on in the community, regardless of who is involved."
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:40 PM on June 27, 2005


"dangerous looking folks"
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on June 27, 2005


- meant as a joke!
posted by ericb at 3:49 PM on June 27, 2005


We are just talking about the National Guard (whose job it is to keep the peace in the event of civil disturbance) being aware of what's going on by watching the news.

So the National Guard is sorta like the counterpart to the Second Amendment? Civvies are allowed to bear arms, because they need to be able to overthrow the government if it gets too powerful; and the NG is there to stop them from doing that?

If so, interesting that they're stepping up monitoring efforts. Is someone in the upper echelons worried about civil war?

If that isn't what the NG is about, someone please explain to us non-'Muricans, k?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:49 PM on June 27, 2005



posted by ericb at 3:53 PM on June 27, 2005


Eric, perhaps you could credit us for a little intelligence, and not obsessively spell-correct your posts after hitting "Post." It's not like anyone is really going to misunderstand you.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:53 PM on June 27, 2005


My apologies, FFF, but a bit of a perfectionist here.

Is someone in the upper echelons worried about civil war?

Ah, Echelon - as was talked about before here and here.
posted by ericb at 3:56 PM on June 27, 2005



posted by matteo at 3:59 PM on June 27, 2005


If so, interesting that they're stepping up monitoring efforts. Is someone in the upper echelons worried about civil war?

Your premise that this is "stepping up monitoring efforts" seems to be false since the point of the group was to increase information flow, not monitoring.

That said, it doesn't flow that the only reason why there would be increased "monitoring" would be because there is a prediction of civil war. There are plenty of good reasons why it would make sense to increase information flow. Not the least of which is that the US has learned from the 9/11 comission report that often different agencies have information that could be pieced-together into something meaningful if it were shared.

The National Guard is not necessarily prepared to stop civil war. They are prepared to stop riots. Riots are not civil war. Riots happen from time to time (think Rodney King, etc) and the National Guard is supposed to keep the peace for the safety of all. As much as I love looting and burning, they are not acts that we should allow to happen freely. No shortage of people get hurt (intentionally, carelessly, and accidentally), cities get destroyed, and communities are torn apart.

As we saw in the WTO protests and some of the San Francisco protests, things can get out of hand very quickly even if there are only a few bad apples (thinking black bloc) amid a bunch of thoughtful peaceful protesters. None of those people were at all involved in starting a "civil war", but they are trying to start riots. So, yes, the National Guard can be called out for reasons other than stopping "civil war".
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:01 PM on June 27, 2005


And police and the FBI aren't satisfactory why? We need the National Guard doing this too why?
posted by amberglow at 4:46 PM on June 27, 2005


ericb
My apologies, FFF, but a bit of a perfectionist here

... but only a bit, and only after you've hit "Post"? You know, there's also that nice big friendly "Spell Check" button right next to the "Preview" button ...
posted by kcds at 4:57 PM on June 27, 2005


What I find interesting here is thedevildancedlightly's apparent obsession with convincing people that this is no big deal.

You'd think there was a hidden agenda in there somewhere. But then I'm just a paranoid old kook.
posted by clevershark at 5:48 PM on June 27, 2005


ericb, seriously, quit doing that. Nobody cares except you, and there's a word for people who deliberately go around annoying everybody else for their own pleasure. Don't make me use it.
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on June 27, 2005


Why is it a big deal?

The various governmental agencies were criticized for not sharing information after 9/11. The CA Nation Guard has set up a group to help share information.

So far as I can tell, the argument against them is, "Yeah, there are laws against them doing something bad, but they could!" Surely it is obvious that this is a flawed argument. ("There are laws against me driving my car into pedestrians, but I could, therefore...")
posted by event at 6:06 PM on June 27, 2005


ddl: It's a HUGE leap (in both technology and fear factor) from a network of traditional cameras to automated face-recognition and cross-referencing.

Ha, ha, ha. What do you think Pointdexter and company were up to at DARPA? That sort of thing is old hat. Very old hat. What's interesting is that it appears to be seeping down to the Guard.

If you look back at the WTO protests, there was an Army team running around in the streets with wireless video mapping who was leading the demonstrations and what their pattern of activity and location was. It was only sheerest coincidence that the Seattle police then staged plainclothes snatch operations on some of them.

*wipes tears of laughter from eyes*
posted by warbaby at 6:58 PM on June 27, 2005


I'm not sure whether mystyk's comments in this thread are brave or foolish, but I appreciate the honesty.
posted by tizzie at 7:03 PM on June 27, 2005


The trouble is this: how many such units now exist to monitor potential bad guys? FBI? CIA? Homeland security? State police? Local police? And now the National Guard?

From a logistical point of view, this layer-upon-layer of information is likely to make the situation worse, not better.

But, this is one of a handful of things we've heard about in recent years to keep tabs on bad guys that have the potential to be used illegally and against US citizens. The trouble is, an all instances we are told by the government agencies, in essence, "trust us, we'll only use our powers for good."

Well that's just the problem. Without extensive, transparent, and public oversight, it is completely guaranteed that at some point these systems will be abused. If it's not already happening already, I guarantee you that we are on track for a repeat of COINTELPRO or worse.

The troubling thing to me is how it is seen as a conspiracy theorist's position to be annoyed and demand oversight and better explanation with such programs, as well as extensive public debate on whether we even want them. Because it ain't: it's the unequivocally right position to take.
posted by teece at 7:09 PM on June 27, 2005


Event: It's not "There are laws against it but they still could." It's "There are laws against it, but that hasn't stopped them before, nor does it appear to be stopping them now if you go from the first hand experience of some people in the field." I may not be in that unit, but I'll be damned if you think that they're not going to stretch boundaries. I've seen it in dozens of units already, and to be more specific, I haven't known one yet that hasn't ignored intel oversight whenever doing so was more convenient. I have been fighting the problem all along, but one LT's voice is easily drowned.

Tizzie: Probably a little of both. The Army does have whistleblower laws though, so as long as I don't release anything classified or give away opsec methods that aren't available to any determined researcher, the existance of this thread will protect me from itself. I'm a strong proponent of full, transparent oversight because I've seen what happens the moment what you do is behind closed doors to most.
posted by mystyk at 7:19 PM on June 27, 2005


it's totally appreciated, mystyk.
posted by amberglow at 7:29 PM on June 27, 2005


It's not the information sharing that's worrying. I think we can agree that the suggestions of 9/11 commission report as well as certain aspects of the Patriot Act that encourage cooperation between federal, state, and local authorities when it comes to information sharing are basically good ideas. Although power consolidation tends to be in and of itself pretty creepy, cooperation (without overstepping jurisdictions) is fine.

What's bothersome is that it appears to many of us (myself included) that this interdepartmental cooperation has brought with it many other insidious consequences. "Sharing" information seems to have resulted in an obsessive gathering of information in such a way that we perceive it to be an authoritarian infringements on our rights and dignities. Considering that we've been down that route with McCarthysim, Hoover, and Cointelpro (not to mention assassinations of Black Panthers, etc) within the past 50 years and only began to bounce back from that in the 90s, I think it's an acceptable knee-jerk reaction to worry about the Intelligence Community getting out of hand. Especially when intelligence gathering is directed towards protesters and political outsiders.

It just seems as though, despite there being actual domestic terrorists in the US (not just some hippies burning SUVs), we're still bombarded with images of terrorists as being exclusively brown and Arab. With that in mind (as well as this administration's position on disagreement with the executive office: eg. Rove's recent statements about liberals), spying on citizens comes off as being mostly authoritarian scare tactics.
posted by Jon-o at 7:52 PM on June 27, 2005


Oh, and speaking for myself, I'll put up with a whole lot of instability before I can even imagine being comfortable giving up any rights...
posted by Jon-o at 7:58 PM on June 27, 2005


No modern surveillance system uses tapes. They use big, cheap disk arrays. Five years ago I worked in an office which had two dozen cameras and spooled a week of video. This wasn't a top of the line system.

Given the massive price-slashing of data storage and updates in video compression, it's safe to assume that it's economically feasible to store a ton of data for an extraordinarily long time.
posted by mosch at 8:23 PM on June 27, 2005


mosch writes "Given the massive price-slashing of data storage and updates in video compression, it's safe to assume that it's economically feasible to store a ton of data for an extraordinarily long time."

I don't know - video footage is an incredibly fast way to eat storage, specially if you expect "face-recognition" quality. That's the same problem everyone has by now at a smaller scale: storage is cheap but the physical space that storage requires is still a problem. It is a problem in a small office and it is also a problem in a huge government operation, in different magnitudes.

keswick writes "At what point is the American public going to wake up? I mean, seriously, a Nazi flag could be flying over the White House, and there would still be people going, 'Pfft. You're overreacting.'"

And, alas, hasn't thread developed just to prove your point...
posted by nkyad at 9:17 PM on June 27, 2005


Clearly what the intelligence agencies need is a P2P network.
posted by ddf at 10:10 PM on June 27, 2005


It seems to me that part of the problem is a bit of confusion. The government is supposed to watch. Okay. But isn't the Real Deal that the PEOPLE are supposed to watch the government? Isn't it OUR government, and aren't we, ultimately, responsible for the actions of our government?

After all, if the United States ends up having to pay reparations for its wrongs, this money comes from taxes, and that comes from The People. We so like to separate ourselves from "the government" that I think we forget the very concept that founded the United States, the whole "For the People, by the People" thing. It isn't just a cute cliche. Regardless of whether what 'they' are up to is threatening to us directly, it still is something for which we all share responsibility.

Since 9-11, They have been using terrorism as a justification for all kinds of things. But this works both ways. When government starts messing around, we come under a set of circumstances which clearly requires an increase in oversight of the government.

As for abuse: No one appears to have thought of time Tom Delay used Homeland Security to track down the missing Democrats from the Texas legislature.
posted by Goofyy at 2:43 AM on June 28, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: every totalitarian government's dream (yeah, well, they put me in the coffin, and I heard some nails being driven into it, but hell, that doesn't mean they are going to bury me).
posted by acrobat at 5:22 AM on June 28, 2005


If you don't think that monitoring systems will be abused, you understand very little about the economics forces that incentivize their creation in the first place.

It is my opinion that the tendency towards and capacity for abuse (that is, unregulated use of the systems for individuals' personal goals) in surveillance systems are greater forces than the ostensible justifications for their creation.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:43 AM on June 28, 2005


i think it's really just, as mentioned in the article, turning back the clock to the sixties.

So, where's the good music, cheap weed, and bare breasted free lovin' hippie chicks?
posted by jonmc at 7:14 AM on June 28, 2005


The California National Guard is being investigated after being accused of spying on some state residents and destroying documents that may prove the allegations.
...
Protest groups gathered at the Sacramento County National Guard Center in Rancho Cordova Wednesday, demanding answers to the allegations. And state Sen. Joseph Dunne, D-Garden Grove, has called for a formal investigation.
"The fact of the matter is, the guard is now refusing access by the state Senate of all information relating to the units and its activities," Dunne said.
The activity in question allegedly took place in the National Guard's Information Synchronization Knowledge Management and Intelligent Fusion Program.
National Guard officials said that they are only monitoring public Web site and news stories.
A National Guard spokesman said: "(We) never spied on people, and we don't intend to start."
Dunne said he won't believe the denial until his get his own investigation.
"President Bush said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. President Clinton said that he didn't have sex with that woman. We can go down the list of public officials that have made very sincere-sounding denials, only to be proven incorrect later," Dunne said.
The senator said he has learned that Pentagon officials are in Sacramento investigating the incident. Dunne and legislative investigator Larry Drivon fear that the investigation could hit a brick wall if military officials seize the evidence. ...
posted by amberglow at 8:03 PM on July 7, 2005


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