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Rutherford Institute Launches Inquiry Into Government Use of Drivers’ License Photos to Build Facial Recognition Database, Track Citizens

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For Immediate Release: September 5, 2019

The Rutherford Institute

CHICAGO, Ill. — Pushing back against the expansion of secret government surveillance programs at the expense of individual privacy, The Rutherford Institute is asking the State of Illinois to disclose information about its participation in the federal government’s scheme to establish a massive facial recognition database by collecting the drivers’ license photographs of millions of Americans.

In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made on behalf of Illinois resident Dmitry Feofanov, The Rutherford Institute is seeking details about the federal government’s facial recognition program, which allows government agents to track citizens whenever they are in public. The request comes after it was disclosed in July 2019 that the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have mined information kept by state DMVs to create a massive database of biometric photos and personal information without the consent of citizens.

“Surveillance, DNA and biometric technologies have become convenient tools in the hands of government agencies to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “For a long time, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where and how it could access someone’s biometrics and use it against them. That is no longer the case. While the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent government officials from tracking a person’s movements or searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause—evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot—the founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we needed protection against widespread government breaches of our privacy on a biometric level.”

MAKE THE GOVERNMENT PLAY BY THE RULES OF THE CONSTITUTION: SUPPORT THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
Facial recognition programs, which can be used to identify people in photos, video, or in real-time, employ sophisticated technology to identify individuals using their faces. Advanced cameras scan a person’s features and then compare the “biometric” data obtained with a database of biometric photographs to determine the person’s identity. Law enforcement currently use mobile devices to identify people during police stops.

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification system has dramatically expanded the government’s surveillance capacity by using a variety of photos and other biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras, to not only track people but create a permanent “recognition” file on them within the government’s databases. However, the government’s capacity to track citizens is dependent on its database of biometric photographs of identified individuals.

In an effort to expand the government’s database, federal law enforcement agencies, and the FBI and ICE in particular, have been obtaining the photographs and associated identities of persons from state agencies that obtain biometric photographs in connection with issuing drivers’ licenses. According to the Government Accounting Office, since 2011, the FBI has conducted over 390,000 facial-recognition searches of federal and local databases, including state drivers’ license databases. Federal investigators have also established ongoing working relationships with state licensing officials. In its FOIA request to the Illinois Secretary of State, which is responsible for issuing drivers’ licenses in the state, The Rutherford Institute is seeking to know the extent to which the state has disclosed residents’ drivers’ license photographs to any federal or other government agencies.

The Rutherford Institute’s FOIA request is available here.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, defends individuals whose constitutional rights have been violated and educates the public about threats to their freedoms.

Source: https://bit.ly/2kwOwIv

American Apocalypse: The Government’s Plot to Destabilize the Nation Is Working

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The Rutherford Institute

By John W. Whitehead
August 21, 2019

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out … without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.” — H. L. MenckenThe U.S. government is working hard to destabilize the nation.

No, this is not another conspiracy theory.

Although it is certainly not far-fetched to suggest that the government might be engaged in nefarious activities that run counter to the best interests of the American people, doing so will likely brand me a domestic terrorist under the FBI’s new classification system.

Observe for yourself what is happening right before our eyes.

Domestic terrorism fueled by government entrapment schemes. Civil unrest stoked to dangerous levels by polarizing political rhetoric. A growing intolerance for dissent that challenges the government’s power grabs. Police brutality tacitly encouraged by the executive branch, conveniently overlooked by the legislatures, and granted qualified immunity by the courts. A weakening economy exacerbated by government schemes that favor none but a select few. An overt embrace of domestic surveillance tactics if Congress goes along with the Trump Administration’s request to permanently re-authorize the NSA’s de-activated call records program. Heightened foreign tensions and blowback due to the military industrial complex’s profit-driven quest to police and occupy the globe.

The seeds of chaos are being sown, and it’s the U.S. government that will reap the harvest.

Mark my words, there’s trouble brewing.

Better yet, take a look at “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command.

The training video is only five minutes long, but it says a lot about the government’s mindset, the way its views the citizenry, and the so-called “problems” that the government must be prepared to address in the near future through the use of martial law.

Even more troubling, however, is what this military video doesn’t say about the Constitution, about the rights of the citizenry, and about the dangers of locking down the nation and using the military to address political and social problems.

The training video anticipates that all hell will break loose by 2030—that’s barely ten short years away—but the future is here ahead of schedule.

READ MORE HERE

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Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces

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 The Rutherford Institute

By John W. Whitehead
August 12, 2019

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“It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence.

Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.”—Journalist Celisa Calacal

Yes, gun violence is a problem in America, although violent crime generally remains at an all-time low.

Yes, mass shootings are a problem in America, although while they are getting deadlier, they are not getting more frequent.

Yes, mentally ill individuals embarking on mass shooting sprees are a problem in America.

However, tighter gun control laws and so-called “intelligent” background checks fail to protect the public from the most egregious perpetrator of gun violence in America: the U.S. government.

Consider that five years after police shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old man in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been no relief from the government’s gun violence.

Here’s what we’ve learned about the government’s gun violence since Ferguson, according to The Washington Post: If you’re a black American, you’ve got a greater chance of being shot by police. If you’re an unarmed black man, you’re four times more likely to be killed by police than an unarmed white man. Most people killed by police are young men. Since 2015, police have shot and killed an average of 3 people per day. More than 2,500 police departments have shot and killed at least one person since 2015. And while the vast majority of people shot and killed by police are armed, their weapons ranged from guns to knives to toy guns.  READ MORE HERE:

Monsters with Human Faces: The Tyranny of the Police State Disguised as Law-and-Order

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By John W. Whitehead
July 24, 2019

“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.” ― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Enough already.

Enough with the distractions. Enough with the partisan jousting.

Enough with the sniping and name-calling and mud-slinging that do nothing to make this country safer or freer or more just.

We have let the government’s evil-doing, its abuses, power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny go on for too long.

We are approaching a reckoning.

This is the point, as the poet W. B. Yeats warned, when things fall apart and anarchy is loosed upon the world.

We have seen this convergence before in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mussolini’s Italy, and in Mao’s China: the rise of strongmen and demagogues, the ascendency of  over deep-seated principles, the warring nationalism that seeks to divide and conquer, the callous disregard for basic human rights and dignity, and the silence of people who should know better.

Yet no matter how many times the world has been down this road before, we can’t seem to avoid repeating the deadly mistakes of the past. This is not just playing out on a national and international scale. It is wreaking havoc at the most immediate level, as well, creating rifts and polarities within families and friends, neighborhoods and communities that keep the populace warring among themselves and incapable of presenting a united front in the face of the government’s goose-stepping despotism.

We are definitely in desperate need of a populace that can stand united against the government’s authoritarian tendencies.

Surely we can manage to find some common ground in the midst of the destructive, disrupting, diverting, discordant babble being beamed down at us by the powers-that-be? After all, there are certain self-evident truths—about the source of our freedoms, about the purpose of government, about how we expect to be treated by those we appoint to serve us in government offices, about what to do when the government abuses our rights and our trust, etc.—that we should be able to agree on, no matter how we might differ politically.  READ MORE HERE

The Jackboots Are Coming: Mass Arrests, Power Grabs and the Politics of Fear | By John W. Whitehead

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By John W. Whitehead
June 19, 2019

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.

This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-loving people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time.

The government’s overblown, extended wars on terrorism, drugs, violence and illegal immigration have been convenient ruses used to terrorized the populace into relinquishing more of their freedoms in exchange for elusive promises of security.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. More

The State of the Union: These Are Dangerous Times, and the Government Is To Blame

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By John W. Whitehead
February 4, 2019

“As I look at America today, I am not afraid to say that I am afraid.”—Bertram Gross, Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in AmericaThese are dangerous times.

Mind you, when I say that these are dangerous times, it is not because of violent crime, which remains at an all-time low, or because of terrorism, which is statistically rare, or because our borders are being invaded by armies, which data reports from the Department of Homeland Security refute.

No, the real danger that we face comes from none other than the U.S. government and the powers it has granted to its standing army to steal, cheat, harass, detain, brutalize, terrorize, torture and kill.

The danger “we the people” face comes from masked invaders on the government payroll who crash through our doors in the dark of night, shoot our dogs, and terrorize our families.

This danger comes from militarized henchmen on the government payroll who demand absolute obedience, instill abject fear, and shoot first and ask questions later.

This danger comes from power-hungry bureaucrats on the government payroll who have little to no understanding of their constitutional limits.

This danger comes from greedy politicians and corporations for whom profit trumps principle.

You want to know about the state of our union? It’s downright scary.

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Dial T for Tyranny: While America Feuds, the Police State Shifts Into High Gear

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By John W. Whitehead
April 30, 2018

“Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” — Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

Played out on the national stage and eagerly broadcast to a captive audience by media sponsors, this farcical exercise in political theater can, at times, seem riveting, life-changing and suspenseful, even for those who know better. READ MORE HERE!

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