Privacy SOS

Friday must reads

Really, read these over the weekend:

Raven Rakia on body cameras and cop watching:

Police clearly see a difference between cop watch and body cameras. While Bratton has boasted of deploying body cameras, he has argued simultaneously that other people filming the cops could make it difficult for them to do their job. He does not dispute its legality, and issued a statement reminding officers that filming police is legal (codified in the 1977 court decision Codd v. Black). The current climate is more intense than usual, according to Julien who says that “especially since the Eric Garner case some cops have been even more bold” about disrupting cop watching. Police officers often threaten those filming with arrest, claiming they’ll be charged with obstructing governmental administration. Sometimes these threats become reality.

Emran Feroz on allegations that US forces at Bagram Air Force base tortured Afghans by raping them—with dogs:

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching story to emerge from Bagram has been buried in the German media and remains unknown to much of the world. Published by German author and former politician Juergen Todenhoefer in his latest book, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," the account stems from a visit to Kabul. At a local hotel, a former Canadian soldier and private security contractor named Jack told Todenhoefer why he could no longer stand working in Bagram.

"It's not my thing when Afghans get raped by dogs," Jack remarked.

Jane Mayer on the "Queen of Torture," a CIA employee who screwed up massively in the lead up to the 9/11 attacks and was then a "driving force" behind the subsequent US government torture programs:

It seems entirely possible—though, again, one can only speculate—that the C.I.A. overcompensated for its pre-9/11 intelligence failures by employing overly harsh measures later. Once they’d made a choice that America had never officially made before—of sanctioning torture—it seems possible that they felt they had to defend its efficacy, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

(At the request of the Obama administration, The New Yorker and other outlets didn't publish the CIA torture woman's name, but The Intercept did.)

Ben Popper on how the NYPD is stalking black youth's Facebook profiles, looking for every 'like', share, and follow, and using conspiracy charges to weaponize them in the criminal legal system:

Harlem, like many poor urban areas, had experienced its shares of notorious gangs like the Bloods and Crips. But the crews that the Henry boys grew up with were mostly small and local in nature, with no connection to a larger, national organization. Like an increasing number of such groups across the country, these crews consisted of a loose group of a dozen or so teens from the neighborhood. Sometimes they controlled nothing more than a single corner. "You could live on the east side of a project, and have problems with them dudes on the west side, one block away," says Asheem.

Affiliation with a crew, even a tangential one, can be a deciding factor in getting locked up. "I find it disturbing and scary," says Christian Bolden, a professor of criminology at Loyola University. "In many states, if police see you together with someone three times — and this can be in real life or in a picture they find online — that is enough to prove conspiracy. That puts the onus on young people to be smart and careful about who they are with and what they post. And if we know one thing about teenagers, it’s that they are rabidly social and often quite reckless." It was this exact mix of neighborhood affiliations and social media that entangled the fates of the Henry brothers.

Brent Skorup on how cops are going to use social media posts to determine whether or not you're a threat:

Public safety organizations, using federal funding, are set to begin building a $7-billion nationwide first-responder wireless network, called FirstNet. Money is now being set aside. With this network, information-sharing capabilities and federal-state coordination will likely grow substantially. Some uses of FirstNet will improve traditional services like 911 dispatches. Other law enforcement uses aren’t as pedestrian, however.

One such application is Beware, sold to police departments since 2012 by a private company, Intrado. This mobile application crawls over billions of records in commercial and public databases for law enforcement needs. The application “mines criminal records, Internet chatter and other data to churn out … profiles in real time,” according to one article in an Illinois newspaper.

Here’s how the company describes it on their website:

Accessed through any browser (fixed or mobile) on any Internet-enabled device including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, Beware® from Intrado searches, sorts and scores billions of commercial records in a matter of seconds-alerting responders to potentially deadly and dangerous situations while en route to, or at the location of a call.

Crunching all the database information in a matter of seconds, the Beware algorithm then assigns a score and “threat rating” to a person — green, yellow or red. It sends that rating to a requesting officer.

And finally, the CIA itself, in a sort of literature review of extrajudicial assassination campaigns. The document, published by Wikileaks, is titled "Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool." A highlight:

Potential negative effects of HVT operations include increasing the level of insurgent support, causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy, altering insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents, strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or deescalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.