Fusion Centers Target The Homeless, Substance Abusers, Protesters And More

A damning report on the Maine Information Analysis Center (MIAC) or Fusion Center, reveals just how intertwined corporate and government surveillance of the public has become.  

“Official secrecy, moreover, cloaks fusion centers, so what little public information is available on a particular fusion center rarely provides much detail on its unique profile.”

The MIAC Shadow Report reveals how law enforcement goes out of their way to hide who’s actually in charge of public surveillance and is pre-occupied with people committing conventional crimes. 

“Fusion centers are the nerve system of mass criminalization” the report warns. A major concern of the authors is how fusion centers use private corporations to conduct secret facial recognition and social media surveillance of ‘people of interest’ and warns that self-governing fusion centers are fraught with peril.

Despite there being a statewide ban of using facial recognition to ID innocent people in Maine there is evidence MIAC uses data brokers to do an end-run around privacy bans.

“This legislation bans the use of the technology in most areas of government and strictly limits its use by law enforcement.9 In our review of BlueLeaks documents, we found documents that raise questions about the MIAC’s use of private data brokers and ability to analyze cell phone data. These systems, like the recently regulated facial recognition technology, also pose existential threats to privacy and other basic rights.”

The report also found that fusion centers are being used to surveil people with mental illnesses, substance abuse, and the homeless.

It appears that the majority of what fusion centers do is ID ‘suspicious people, people of interest, suspects, missing persons, and wanted people.’

“The majority of MIAC documents concern the sharing of criminal information. Two-thirds of the BlueLeaks documents definitely shared by the MIAC—939 of 1,382—are (1) requests to identify a suspect or a wanted person, locate a person of interest or missing person, or provide information about possible crimes or suspicious circumstances or (2) bulletins and reports on specific incidents, cases, or individuals considered relevant to law enforcement but not directly connected to a criminal investigation by a police agency in Maine.”

Supermarkets, gas stations, utility companies, universities and hospitals receive daily ‘civil unrest’ reports 

The report reveals that fusion centers send daily intelligence (civil unrest) reports to 4526 registered users in Maine. The reports focus on protests and political violence, lumping together subjects like “civil unrest,” “extremism,” and “terrorism.” 

“This expansive list includes law enforcement officers and intelligence officials from across Maine, the New England Region, and across the country. It extends beyond law enforcement and intelligence to other government officials such as Department of Motor Vehicles personnel and school superintendents. The MIAC’s reach extends outside of the public sector. Many large corporations receive MIAC products, including Avangrid, Hannaford’s, ExxonMobile, and Bath Iron Works. Civil society organizations and nonprofits are also involved, such as universities, hospitals, and even special interest groups. The president of the Maine Chamber of Commerce, for example, is a registered user of the MIAC but, in contrast, there are no representatives from organized labor listed.” 

The report also revealed that fusion centers are monitoring people who commit property crimes or shoplifting and sends daily reports to businesses.

“Private firms also access documents. The most prolific private sector reader of MIAC reports is the Auburn Mall. Auburn, along with neighboring Lewiston, are the twin cities of Maine. They are post-industrial mill towns, which have not yet been gentrified. They contain the four highest poverty census tracts in the state. The opioid epidemic has devastated this region. Mall security at the Auburn Mall mostly reads documents on persons who have been arrested for opioid use and shoplifting.”

The Maine Beaconwarns, “counterterrorism has morphed into supercharged policing of drug, and property crimes,” and says “this is public-private surveillance.”

How easy is it for police officers to use fusion centers to secretly collect information on an innocent person?

MIAC, like fusion centers everywhere “can acquire and retain information that is unrelated to a specific criminal or public safety threat, as long as it determines that such information is useful.” As the report states, “the policy provides no definitions or standards for determining when information is useful in the administration of public safety.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Fusion centers can basically spy on anyone, even if they are not a ‘public safety threat,’ as long as a police officer determines that the information they collect on a person is useful!  

The report also revealed that fusion centers are ‘acquiring, retaining and sharing information about individuals and organizations based solely on their religious, political, or social views or activities.’

Fusion centers commonly send “situational awareness bulletins” to police departments about a person’s mental illness, saying these types of disclosures are common.

The report also reveals how police departments and the Rand Corporation create “strategic subject and HEAT lists” of anyone police think could commit a future crime[s].

Fusion Centers use TransUnion to secretly monitor people’s social media

“Documents received in response to FOAA requests provide evidence that the MIAC currently uses commercial databases as part of its investigations. For example, one heavily redacted record shows a TransUnion report on a redacted individual, which provides information on jobs, emails, usernames, aliases, and numerous social media profiles and internet sites.118 Another document traces a case that begins with a citizen report of “violent politically motivated rhetoric on Facebook” and leads immediately to a request to “begin to look into this individual” by a MIAC staffer. A case number and record are then created, and multiple reports are completed, including a “TLO (Comprehensive and Social Media)” report.”

The report proves that fusion centers are using data brokers to routinely collect highly sensitive personal information on people without a warrant. 

“The TLO document also contains the report itself, which includes information on bankruptcies, liens, properties, corporate affiliations, and other information which is fully redacted and cannot be identified.”

“MIAC routinely monitors social media accounts and/or conducts background checks on individuals associated with lawful public protests, frequently citing a pretextual criminal offense (subjects may litter during the protest, for example) to justify the collection. MIAC then retains all the data collected even after finding no indication of a threat, hazard, or criminal activity.”

Last week The Intercept reported that the state of New York wants to spend millions to create a statewide fusion center-run social media surveillance network.

“New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, unveiled details of her own policing initiatives to crack down on gun crime — but hardly anyone seemed to notice. Embedded within the dozen bills and hundreds of line items that make up her plan for next year’s state budget, Hochul’s administration has proposed tens of millions of dollars and several new initiatives to expand state policing and investigative power, including agencies’ ability to surveil New Yorkers and gather intelligence on people not yet suspected of breaking the law.”

According to the MIAC report, fusion centers can use a “possible threat, crime analysis” or essentially any reason to justify spying on a person’s social media accounts. Using fusion centers to ID and surveil homeless people and juveniles is horrifying, as “we do not know what happens to these individuals when they become subjects of the MIAC intelligence reports.” 

As is typical of fusion center research, searching for ‘fusion centers and crime analysis’ returned vague results, as evidenced by this gem from DHS’s Fusion Center Fact Sheet: “Fusion centers conduct analysis and facilitate information sharing, assisting law enforcement and homeland security partners in preventing, protecting against, and responding to crime and terrorism.”


The closest and most disturbing definition of ”fusion centers and crime analysis” can be found in the Bureau of Justices, “Fusion Center Guidelines: Developing and Sharing Information and Intelligence in a New Era” report.

“The goal is to rapidly identify emerging threats; support multidisciplinary, proactive, and community-focused problem-solving activities; support predictive analysis capabilities; and improve the delivery of emergency and nonemergency services.” (page 13.)

What does that mean? It means fusion centers are guessing or predicting that someone could be a threat to the homeland or one of a possible 23 different types of violent extremists.There is a disturbing link between fusion centers and mass incarceration.

 “In addition to the previously discussed role of the MIAC in monitoring racial justice protests and the over-policing of the crimes of poverty, the MIAC records published with BlueLeaks include documents produced by the MIAC and “passed through” from other agencies that concern unhoused people, undocumented people, and youths running away from home or the juvenile justice system.”

It is not hard to see how a person of color, a homeless person or a substance abuser could receive a harsher sentence simply because a fusion center has a secret file on them.

Now is the time to press our leaders and politicians to put an end to fusion centers, the need to keep them going has long since passed. (Twenty-one years and counting since 9/11.) 

Allowing 79 fusion centers to use corporations and data brokers to collect massive amounts of personal information on anyone for any reason has and will continue to come at a high cost to our freedom.  

23 Different Types Of Violent Extremists And Counting, Will You Be Classified As One?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants Americans to believe since 2011, when the word “extremists” was just starting to take root in the public’s consciousness, there has been an explosion of violent extremism. 


The DHS report made dubious claims like al-Qa‘ida was trying to recruit Americans and radicalize terrorism across the country, which coincidentally was also the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The report mentions extremists and violent extremists interchangeably during a time when Americans were beginning to question the war on terror.
In May 2011, National Public Radio wrote, “Why We Must End The War On Terror” and asked in September, “Is It Time To End The War On Terror?” Similar articles were being published across the country asking the same thing.


Fast forward eleven years, to 2022 and the war on terror shows no signs of abating. 


DHS, who could be mistaken for magicians if it were not so ironic, have convinced law enforcement that America now has at least twenty-three different types of extremists.


There does not appear to be a master list of American extremists published by DHS or the Department of Justice.


I used four sources to compile this list of twenty-two different types of violent extremists, but I fear that the government’s “official list” is far larger.

  1. Anti–government violent extremist
  2. Anti-war extremist
  3. Anti–authority violent extremist
  4. Anarchist violent extremist
  5. Domestic violent extremist
  6. Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist
  7. Militia violent extremists 
  8. Sovereign citizen violent extremist 
  9. Individual violent extremist
  10. Involuntary celibate–violent extremist
  11. Abortion extremist
  12. Anti-abortion extremist 
  13. Animal rights extremist 
  14. Environmental extremist 
  15. Right-wing extremist 
  16. Left-wing extremist 
  17. Christian Identity extremist
  18. Islamist extremist 
  19. Muslim extremist 
  20. Racist extremist 
  21. Nativist extremist
  22. Schoolboard extremist

Sources: National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism,  A Schema of  Right-Wing Extremism in the United States,  Homegrown Violent Extremist Violent Indicators (2019) report and the National School Board.


Two weeks ago, the Tallahassee Democrat revealed that a Hot Yoga shooting in 2018 was the result of “Misogynist extremism.”

“Scott Beierle had a long trail of misogynist and criminal behavior that was missed by authorities before he walked into Hot Yoga in 2018 in Tallahassee, killing two people and injuring five, the U.S. Secret Service determined in a new report.”

“The case study focused on 40-year-old Beierle — who killed himself minutes after the shooting began — and linked his behavior to the greater threat of what investigators called misogynistic extremism, sometimes referred to as male supremacy.” 

According to the report by the National Threat Assessment Center (a component of the Secret Service) a man who killed two women attending a hot yoga class was an act of “Misogynist extremism” making it the twenty-third different type of violent extremism in the U.S.

“The behavioral history of the Hot Yoga Tallahassee attacker illustrates many of the behavioral threat assessment themes identified through years of U.S. Secret Service research examining targeted violence. Further, this attacker’s history highlights the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism. This gender-based ideology, sometimes referred to as male supremacy, has received increased attention in recent years from researchers, government agencies, and advocacy groups due to its association with high-profile incidents of mass violence. Some of these attacks were perpetrated by individuals who espoused specific types of misogynistic extremism, including anti-feminists and involuntary celibates.”

After reading this report it appears that there are probably at least two more types of violent extremists: “Anti-feminist extremists and “involuntary celibate extremists” that the public is not aware of. 

All indications are that the Feds are re-classifying attacks on women as violent extremism.

“It is further important to note that misogynistic violence is not restricted to high-profile incidents of mass violence. Misogyny frequently appears in more prevalent acts of violence, including stalking and domestic abuse. No matter the context, responding to the threat posed by these beliefs requires collaboration across multiple community systems, including law enforcement, courts, mental health providers, and domestic violence and hate crime advocacy groups.”

Taking what we know of DHS, the Secret Service and the FBI it would not be stretch of the imagination to see people who stalk, abuse and rape women and kids being charged with ‘Domestic Abuse extremism’ and up to ten more crimes.

The FBI’s new “National Incident-Based Reporting System” is designed to do just that, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The article describes how the Baltimore Police Department, like police departments across the country, are now charging people who have committed a single crime with up to 10 additional crimes.

“The transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which is mandated by the FBI, will increase the number of crimes reported. The new system requires law enforcement to report multiple crimes, up to 10, that might be associated with a single incident.”

“For example, a burglary at a home in which the burglar assaults a homeowner would result in the entry of at least two separate crimes, the burglary of the home and the assault of the homeowner.” 

A recent story in Homeland Security Today hints that the Feds have created or will create ‘Cryptocurrency Domestic extremists’ saying that a “whole-of-society response” is necessary to stop them. 

“To mitigate the continued threat posed by white supremacist extremists and their supporters, the U.S. government and the private sector should institute policies that target extremists’ use of cryptocurrency,” noting that a whole-of-society response will be necessary to mitigate this risk.

It is only a matter of time before people who use cryptocurrency are called Cryptocurrency Domestic extremists.

Last year, a District Attorney in Arizona called BLM protesters, “gang members” effectively creating BLM extremists.

Police who testified before the grand jury accused the protesters of being part of a violent criminal street gang called “ACAB” — “ACAB” means “All Cops Are Bastards,” a phrase commonly used at protests against police violence.

The Arizona DA and police tried to convince the jury that BLM protesters are essentially BLM violent extremists. 

A recent DHS “Report to the Secretary of Homeland Security Domestic Violent Extremism Internal Review” claimed that people who doubt the results of elections and vaccines pose an elevated threat to the Homeland. Does that mean the Feds have secretly created ‘Election Doubter extremists’?

Reclassifying domestic violence and workplace violence as violent extremism appears to be a reality according to DHS.

“[T]he Department and its Components did not track domestic violent extremism allegations as their own sub-category of misconduct. Instead, such allegations were classified under another sub-category (e.g., workplace violence). Second, the responsibility to investigate allegations regarding violent extremist activity varied across the Department and its Components. Investigations could be led by multiple offices such as the DHS Office of Inspector General, Component offices responsible for internal investigations, or the Component’s Insider Threat Program. Further, other gaps that limited our ability to collect and validate data included (1) the lack of an official definition of “domestic violent extremist;” (2) guidance as to what constitutes violent extremist activity, or an established list of behaviors that may be indicators of violent extremism; (3) the lack of a centralized, interoperable DHS-wide investigative case management system; and (4) lack of standardized reporting and information sharing mechanisms for investigating allegations of violent extremist activity.”

What “behaviors” could make someone an alleged domestic violent extremist? No one can can say for sure, not even DHS: “DHS lacks a definitive list of behaviors that may be indicators of domestic violent extremism…” (page 8).

Based on the above information, one can expect that in the near future the Feds will add Anti-Republican extremists, Anti-Democrat extremists, Anti-Big Tech extremists, Anti-Vaccine extremists, Anti-Vaccine Passport extremists, Anti-Digital ID extremists, and Anti-School Book extremists to their growing list of violent extremists.

The reason why there is no publicly available master-list of violent extremists is obvious as DHS’s internal review revealed: “the lack of an official definition of domestic violent extremist; and guidance as to what constitutes violent extremist activity” means that there is no legal definition, PERIOD. 

We owe it to ourselves and the generations to follow to put a stop to this madness before the Feds re-classify everything they do not like as violent extremism.

FBI & Boston PD Work Together To Convene Grand Jury To Investigate Left-Wing Activists, Citing Jan 6

During the Trump years, the President loved to lay into the FBI, and in consequence, the FBI found new allies on the left. Lifelong Republican Jim Comey became a darling of the Sunday morning talk shows, and after the January 6 attack on Congress, the FBI went full tilt after insurrectionists, to the applause of many Democratic legislators.

Funny thing about the power of the State, though. It has a deep bias against those who want to disrupt, violently or peacefully, the economic, social or racial status quo. And for that reason, the FBI and the police are always going to be more natural enemies of left social movements than of right-wing militia folks.

Take, for example, Detective Andrew Creed of the Boston PD Field Operations Group, who is heavily involved with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center; and FBI Special Agent Steven Kimball, whose lamentable grasp of the context of Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s social media posts made international news and imperiled that prosecution.

Creed last showed up on our radar harassing and surveilling water protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation. Now, he and Kimball are back, harassing and surveilling people involved with a satirical documentary, “2020: The Dumpster Fire“, forthcoming on Apple TV and in theaters December 7.

The investigation, they claim, began when as part of the investigation of Jan. 6, a Proud Boy suggested that a trailer for this documentary was evidence of a plot to assassinate then-President Trump. (C’mon, if you can’t trust a Proud Boy’s word, who can you trust? Especially when Mr. Webber, the film’s director, had just finished up a documentary excoriating the Proud Boys…)

Unable to make a charge of plotting an assassination stick, this tyrannous tag-team got “Dumpster Fire”‘s producer, Embry Galen, fired from their day job. They’re threatening Lauren Pespisa, the film’s producer, with felon-in-possession charges for, during filming on private property in Maine, dressing up and holding a replica gun. And both she and the film’s director, Rod Webber, have experienced frequent visits to their door from Creed and Kimball.

The chilling effect which a potential prosecution would inflict on First Amendment rights is not hypothetical.  It is direct and far reaching.  Everyone involved in this film is in fear with the looming threat of prosecution.  If this goes to court, I can only imagine that anyone seeking to convey a message (especially a message which seeks to inspire debate, which is the most vital form of expression) would hesitate to risk it.  In the face of a government willing to scrutinize their production for any evidence of violation of law, then seek to prosecute it regardless of whether the violation implicated any true public safety concerns, many would choose to remain silent.

Murat Erkan, attorney for Lauren Pespisa

Alex Jones may think that Webber and Pespisa exemplify what is wrong with America, but Alex Jones’s hold on reality is only so-so. The truth is that the FBI and the police are clutching at any possible connection to January 6, to go after the same old targets: People on the left who embarrass and offend the powerful.

This is contemptible and unconstitutional. Please sign the petition to stop the prosecution of people involved with “2020: The Dumpster Fire.”

Secret Surveillance Outlawed In Boston

On October 20 at around 1pm, the Boston City Council unanimously approved a surveillance oversight ordinance.

Boston’s ordinance is the result of four years of work, beginning in November 2017 with representatives from Digital Fourth, Families for Justice as Healing, the Muslim Justice League, Jewish Voices for Peace and the ACLU of Massachusetts, and continuing with support from the Student Immigrant Movement and Unafraid Educators. The ordinance was first proposed for consideration by Michelle Wu in 2019, received significant support from Ayanna Pressley, Ricardo Arroyo, Andrea Campbell, Kim Janey and Lydia Edwards, and then went through considerable revisions to address the important topic of information sharing on BPS students with BPD and through them to ICE.

This is a big deal. Police departments across New England look to Boston PD. It will now be the job of local surveillance activists on the ground, to discover as much as we can about how surveillance technologies are used at Boston PD, and to organize to block approvals of intrusive technologies, just as we have been doing in Somerville and Cambridge.

To join our existing campaigns for ordinances in Watertown and Arlington, or to help us launch one in Newton, please contact digitalfourth@protonmail.com.

And if you think this is a good example of work worth doing, please consider donating to Restore The Fourth at www.restorethe4th.com/donate-now

Understanding Fusion Centers

Our local fusion center, BRIC, has been at the core of police efforts to surveil and suppress social movements for over a decade. And, since 2012, we’ve been calling them out on their abusive and un-Constitutional practices.

This October 30, please join us for a livestreamed discussion on fusion centers, with Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, law student Dani Hargus, and journalist Emma Best, moderated by our own Alex Marthews!

Boston’s Spy Center Thinks It Has (Almost) Free Rein To Open A File On You

Like the Stasi, but digital

We’re long-time critics of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, or “BRIC.” BRIC is one of over 80 “fusion centers” across the nation. that spy on Americans without probable cause.

We filed a public records request this January to delve deeper into BRIC’s surveillance practices. We partnered with the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Muslim Justice League and the Student Immigrant Movement, We have just received the first responsive record: BRIC’s “Criminal Intelligence File Guidelines.”

The key to understanding this document is that BRIC is legally obliged to follow 28 CFR Part 23. This is part of a Clinton-era Executive Order that tried to ensure that “criminal intelligence systems” don’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights. It makes it illegal for BRIC to keep a file on you not based on a “criminal predicate” — in other words, reasonable suspicion of your involvement in an actual crime.

As it turns out, BRIC’s attitude to this whole “Constitution” thing is a little … different.

BRIC’s Permanent Files

For its “Permanent” files, BRIC does indeed require a criminal predicate — though this document doesn’t include any information on how well that policy is followed.

BRIC’s Temporary Files

For its “Temporary” files, however, BRIC retains information on Boston area residents where “involvement in the suspected activity is questionable”, or where their identity cannot be established with certainty. The examples are that they have “possible associations with known criminals,” or that they have “criminal history” and “could again become criminally active.” BRIC retains “Temporary” files for up to a year, to see if information emerges that would enable to upgrade it to a “Permanent” file.

No. No, no. That’s not how the Fourth Amendment works. The government isn’t supposed to keep “criminal intelligence files” of people they generally believe to be Bad, or people with Bad Associations, based on a belief that they have a generalized propensity to commit crimes in the future. BRIC’s belief must be a reasonable one, based on evidence of your involvement in an actual crime. This violates 28 CFR Part 23 and, with it, the Fourth Amendment itself.

BRIC’s Interim Files

Oh, and it gets worse. Just in case their rules on “Temporary” criminal intelligence files don’t provide them with enough room to wiggle around the Constitution, BRIC allows itself a further category of “Interim” files. Apparently, BRIC can open an “Interim” file and retain it for up to 90 days if they receive “information that, absent additional information or change, would be deemed unnecessary for retention beyond a short term period,” or that is “specific to an anticipated event or incident with the potential for criminal conduct.”

I know, vague much?

It seems BRIC considers that they can open a file for 90 days based on literally anything at all. There’s no such thing as an “event or incident” with no “potential for criminal conduct.” This could cover everything down to your aunt’s Sunday evening knitting circle. “Interim Files” only exist as a category to allow BRIC essentially unfettered discretion.

To be fair, the Guidelines also tell BRIC employees what shouldn’t be in an intelligence file. This includes protected criminal record information, information “based solely on support of an unpopular cause”, information “based on ethnic background”, “based on religious or political affiliations” or “based on non-criminal personal habits;” and “associations that are not of a criminal nature.” However, we know from their gang databasing practices that their definition of what constitutes “associations of a criminal nature” is extremely broad, and that their notion of surveillance not “based solely” on religion, politics or ethnicity may differ sharply from Bostonians’ common understanding.

In practice, these Guidelines give BRIC permission to surveil “events or incidents” that it already dislikes and has a track record of surveilling; namely, protests that challenge the police themselves, or the current economic, social or racial arrangements in our society that police exist to violently defend.

Recommendations

We call on BRIC to make available to the public, with any legally necessary redactions, a representative sample of its current Temporary, Interim and Permanent Files, and then to delete the Temporary and Interim Files as contrary to the Fourth Amendment.

Then, at least, we will know how much surveillance BRIC is conducting that is not based on at least reasonable suspicion of involvement in an actual crime.

New Police Reform Bill Released

Quick summary of S. 2963, the MA police reform bill, as compared to previous versions.

Ignore the acres of verbiage on commissions. Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t, but they’re likelier to drag out and thwart police accountability than to promote it. So: What real reforms were blocked and what were included?

First, and most crucially, police reformers didn’t get any limitations on qualified immunity. Without that, police officers know they’ll still likely face no consequences for violating people’s rights in Massachusetts – which they do a lot. MA punted where CO led.

Second, the bill contains important, if long-overdue reforms. It outlaws police rape of people in their custody. It allows municipalities to not have a school resource officer. It limits school information sharing with gang databases. It limits no-knock warrants (RIP, Breonna Taylor.) The bill outlaws chokeholds resulting in unconsciousness or death. And it bans biometric surveillance without a time limit (though RMV is still allowed to do it).

But the final version also omits important things. No limits on military equipment acquisition by police; no data collection on police stops; it never envisioned doing anything on civil asset forfeitures, or requiring warrants for use of drones or stingrays or other police surveillance tech.

In summary: The reforms that are real are the ones police unions really felt they could not block. The fact that there are some reforms they couldn’t block shows that there are limits to their massive resistance. And the battle on qualified immunity is just beginning.

MA House Gets Vapors At Idea Of Actually Decertifying Officers, Banning Tear Gas

Here is this morning’s update on the current status of police “reform” in the House. For the topics the House has not yet considered, it’s not too late to call your House Rep and make your opinion known. All texts of amendments may be found at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4860/Amendments/House.

Key successes so far:
– #116, which we supported, passed narrowly. It placed further restrictions on no-knock warrants to protect children and elders. Yes, this means that almost half of our 80% Democratic House, thinks that on suspicion that illegal drugs exist in a home, the police should not have to check whether there are kids and elderly people inside before a SWAT team busts in, throws flash-bang grenades, and opens fire.
– #148, which we supported, passed. It strengthened penalties for police rape of people in custody, so at least there’s a consensus that that is wrong, I guess. Looking forward to seeing how many indictments are actually brought!

Key failures so far:
– #51, #54, #79, #107, #110, #129, #132 and #177, all of which we opposed, were some of the amendments which were folded into “Consolidated Amendment A” (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/GetAmendmentContent/191/H4860/A/House/Preview).* Consolidated Amendment A weakens the procedures of the Commission relative to the underlying House Amendment H4860 (the House bill). The Consolidated Amendment generally limits the ability of the Commission to investigate complaints until the police department has ruled on them, narrows the grounds for decertification, extends the appeal process for decertification, and gives the Commission greater discretion to not decertify. This basically means that the most important lesson Bob DeLeo is taking from the fury on the streets, is that it’s very important that any new Commission not be obliged to decertify officers who are shown to practice racist policing, to use excessive force, or to fail to intervene when they see other officers doing it.

– #77, which we supported, failed, as part of the process leading to the approval of Consolidated Amendment A. It was an effort to restore a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for decertification; the standard in the bill remains at “clear and convincing evidence.” There are further efforts, apparently, to increase the standard to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
– #111, which we opposed, passed. It narrowed information not allowed for schools to share with law enforcement.
– #187, which we opposed, passed. It replaced the state auditor as a member of the new Police Commission with the president of the DAs’ association, as part of “Consolidated Amendment B”, which covered who should and should not be a member of various Commissions set up by the bill (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/GetAmendmentContent/191/H4860/B/House/Preview).
– #200, which we supported, failed. It would have banned tear gas and other chemical weapons. Apparently, it’s just a step too far to ban substances whose use in war is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, from being used against people protesting police brutality.

Key amendments we support that have not yet been considered:
– #80: Establishes that database of police misconduct records should be publicly available and searchable
– #85: Public notice for Commission meetings, not simply by request
– #100: (also supported by ACLU and Progressive Mass): Creates direct right to sue for police abuse, not just via the AG’s office
– #131: (also supported by ACLU and Progressive Mass): Restores Senate language on local control of military equipment acquisition
– #201: Appears to bar 287(g) agreements of police or sheriffs’ departments with ICE in their current form

Key amendments we oppose that have not yet been considered:
– #33 would make the chokehold ban more limited, as would #114
– #91 is a mischievous and silly amendment that would strip legislators’ qualified immunity from civil suit as revenge for stripping police officers of theirs.
– #149, also opposed by ACLU, would remove warrant/imminent harm requirement for law enforcement access to RMV records
– #172, #173, #193, #197 and #204 would all replace the bill’s repellently weak reform of qualified immunity with an even weaker study committee to consider the issue.
– #215, among other things, would limit decertification for bias to intentional bias.

* It appears that if an amendment is folded into a “Consolidated Amendment”, it may be that its exact language need not appear in the Consolidated Amendment; it’s more like the amendment’s author agrees to implicitly withdraw the amendment if the language in the Consolidated Amendment passes.

Boston Just Banned Face Surveillance. What Now?

The Boston City Council voted unanimously on June 24 to ban government use of face surveillance technologies. Face surveillance systems are systematically worse at recognizing women and people of color, partly because the training datasets they learn with contain a preponderance of white, middle-aged men. Nothing about our criminal justice system requires the adoption of a technology that biases arrests and charging decisions more against Black people.

But if the technology ever somehow overcomes that, and becomes one hundred percent accurate, it becomes immensely more terrifying. In many cities already across the world, the police track wherever you go in public, and the authorities can easily form a picture of your habits and activities, to keep in their pockets for whenever you’re accused of a crime – or for whenever you grow inconvenient to them in other ways. Now, thanks to years of work by the #BosCops and #PressPause coalitions, which we’ve been a part of from the start, Boston will not be one of those cities. This matters.

Now we turn to what’s next. Face surveillance is a unique kind of threat, but the police should not deploy any surveillance technology without public hearings, and without the knowledge and approval of local elected officials. Those officials should have the power to approve or deny the use of such technologies. The surveillance state needs a little more sand in its gears, to stop the continuous ratchet of more and more invasive technologies. Next month – probably – the City Council will consider a surveillance ordinance that would do all that. Similar ordinances are already on the books in Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Lawrence, Northampton, and (as of July 1) Easthampton too, and many other municipalities across the nation.

But the face surveillance ordinance itself still, like any ordinance, has loopholes and limitations. We’ve written to the Boston City Council to lay out some of those problems:

  • So there won’t be a public network of City-owned cameras; what happens if there’s a private network, and the City simply requests that footage?
  • The City has the authority to regulate whether and how private businesses deploy face surveillance in the City. To address this, the city-wide ban on face surveillance should be amended to include language on how sports stadiums like Fenway Park, the TD Garden and retail stores like Home Depot, Macy’s, Best Buy and Kohl’s will be permitted to use face surveillance software, and require them to disclose use of it to the public.
  • And we still don’t know whether MBTA uses facial recognition; City agencies, including the police, should need a warrant for their footage.

Here’s our testimony on these points. And if you’d like to help with our continuing municipal campaigns to rein in surveillance in Massachusetts, email us today!

https://warrantless.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Digital-Fourth-response-to-Facial-Recognition-ban-070720.pdf

You Know What? Be The 0.001%.

By standing up for surveillance reform and privacy now, you can achieve wonders.

You only need a few people who really care to start making a real difference.

There are a lot of people who think that we can do nothing to prevent the US from turning into a Chinese-style surveillance dystopia. There are even more who feel daunted by the power and influence of the surveillance agencies and major tech companies, like there’s nothing they can do.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

We’re a small, if growing, movement. At any one time in the Boston area, there are probably only two hundred people taking meaningful actions to limit the free hand of police, FBI, DHS and NSA to stop, search and surveil us. If we’re talking people who make it their full-time job, then within the whole Boston area, we’re probably talking fewer than five people.

But despite these small numbers, our cause is both popular and just. Wherever we advance our proposed ordinances and by-laws, people like them by huge majorities. Cambridge and Somerville both now have surveillance oversight ordinances and bans on law enforcement use of facial recognition. Brookline, Arlington and many other places are working on similar measures. We’re already at 200,000 people just in Greater Boston who are protected in some measure from the surveillance state.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Truth is, you don’t need a majority. You need a few committed people, as few as one in ten thousand people, to start having an effect.

Extinction Rebellion began with just one courageous 15-year-old. Imagine what our small band could do with one more pair of hands…yours. Sign up here and let’s do great things together!

%d bloggers like this: