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Rutherford Institute Challenges Police Use of License Plate Readers as Mass Surveillance Tool to Track Citizens Not Suspected of a Crime

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

RICHMOND, Va. — The Rutherford Institute has asked the Virginia Supreme Court to prohibit police from using license plate readers as mass surveillance tools to track citizens whether or not they are suspected of a crime. In filing an amicus brief in Neal v. Fairfax County Police Department, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that Fairfax County’s practice of collecting and storing license plate reader data violates a Virginia law prohibiting the government from amassing personal information about individuals, including their driving habits and location.

Mounted next to traffic lights or on police cars, Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR), which photograph up to 3,600 license tag numbers per minute, take a picture of every passing license tag number and store the tag number, date, time and location of the picture in a searchable database. The data is then shared with law enforcement, fusion centers and private companies and used to track the movements of persons in their cars. There are reportedly tens of thousands of these license plate readers now in operation throughout the country. It is estimated that over 99% of the people being unnecessarily surveilled are entirely innocent. The Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments today in Neal v. Fairfax County Police Department.

The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Neal v. Fairfax County is available at www.rutherford.org.

“Incredibly, Americans cannot even drive their cars without being enmeshed in the government’s web of surveillance. We’re on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances, and now, it’s focused its sights on our cars,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “By subjecting Americans to surveillance without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the data for later use, the government has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, there is no such thing as ‘innocent until proven guilty.’” More

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American Horror Story: The Shameful Truth About the Government’s Secret Experiments

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American Horror Story: The Shameful Truth About the Government’s Secret Experiments

The Rutherford Institute

www.rutherford.org

NOW PLAYING: It’s easy to denounce the full-frontal horrors carried out by the scientific and medical community within a totalitarian regime such as Nazi Germany. However, what do you do with a government that claims to be a champion of human rights while allowing its agents to engage in the foulest and most despicable acts of torture, abuse and human experimentation? Mind you, the U.S. government has seldom had its citizens’ best interests at heart. The government didn’t have our best interests at heart when it passed laws subjecting us to all kinds of invasive searches and surveillance, and censoring our speech and stifling our expression. It didn’t have our best interests at heart when it turned America into a battlefield and transformed law enforcement agencies into extensions of the military. Certainly the government did not have our best interests at heart when it conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populace—citizens and noncitizens alike—making healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins. Bottom line: a government that repeatedly lies, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority and abuses its power can’t be trusted.

 

The Rutherford Institute: Constitutional Q&A: American Community Survey

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Resources

PDF VERSION AVAILABLE HERE

Also available, The Rutherford Institute has developed a form letter that you may use in standing up against the government’s attempt to force you to disclose personal information

© 2017 The Rutherford Institute[1]

In an age when the government has significant technological resources at its disposal to not only carry out warrantless surveillance on American citizens but also to harvest and mine that data for its own dubious purposes, whether it be crime-mapping or profiling based on race or religion, the potential for abuse is grave. As such, any attempt by the government to encroach upon the citizenry’s privacy rights or establish a system by which the populace can be targeted, tracked and singled out must be met with extreme caution.

The American Community Survey (ACS) qualifies as a government program whose purpose, while seemingly benign, raises significant constitutional concerns.

Empowered by Congress with greater powers to amass information about citizens, the Census Bureau introduced the ACS in 2005. Unlike the traditional census, which is limited to a simple head count every ten years for the purpose of establishing representation in Congress, the ACS is sent on an ongoing basis to about 3 million homes every year at a reported cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.[2]

Individuals who receive the ACS must complete it or be subject to monetary penalties. Although no reports have surfaced of individuals actually being penalized for refusing to answer the survey, the potential fines that can be levied for refusing to participate in the ACS are staggering. For every question not answered, there is a $100 fine. And for every intentionally false response to a question, the fine is $500. Therefore, if a person representing a two-person household refused to fill out any questions or simply answered nonsensically, the total fines could range from upwards of $10,000 and $50,000 for noncompliance. More

A Week in the Life of the American Police State

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By John W. Whitehead

June 20, 2016

This commentary is also
available at www.rutherford.org.

“Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.”—Adlai Stevenson, 23rd Vice President of the United States

If you’ve been caught up in the circus that is the presidential election, you’ve likely missed the latest news about all the ways in which the government continues to erode our freedoms, undermine our sovereignty, abuse our trust, invade our homes, invade our privacy, destroy our property, hijack our bank accounts, and generally render itself above the law.

Then again, this is all par for the course from a militaristic government that is armed to the teeth, wages war against its own people, imprisons its citizens for profit, marches in lockstep with the corporate elite, and treats human beings as little more than cattle to be branded, bought, sold and butchered.

The following incidents constitute a typical week in the life of the American police state.

Not content with merely spying on our emails and phone calls, the NSA wants to spy on thermostats, refrigerators, and pacemakers.

Reinforcing fears about how easily surveillance technology can be abused by government officials, local police in California are using money acquired through asset forfeiture to buy surveillance equipment that was then used to blackmail city council members.

Small-town police departments continue to militarize their forces, acquiring military equipment such as BearCat armored vehicles and SWAT teams at an alarming rate.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the majority of people in the government’s criminal face-recognition database have never committed a crime.

The private prison business is booming, signaling a profitable windfall for investors and a death knell for any American unfortunate enough to run afoul of the many laws criminalizing otherwise legitimate behavior such as growing a garden on one’s front lawn or hosting a Bible study in one’s backyard. More

Victory: Oklahoma Moves to Enact Law Accommodating Religious Objections to Biometric Photo Requirement on Drivers’ Licenses

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RutherfordHeader_2This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

May 18, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Spurred on by a lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, the Oklahoma State Legislature is poised to enact a law that protects individuals from being forced to violate their religious beliefs by submitting to a biometric photograph as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license.

The Institute’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kaye Beach, a Christian, against the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS), asserts that requiring a biometric photo requirement as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license violates Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Unable to renew her driver’s license because of her objection to the biometric photo requirement, Beach has been deprived of common benefits and services that hinge on possessing a valid driver’s license, including the ability to acquire prescription medications, use her debit card, rent a hotel room or obtain a post office box. Upon being signed by the governor, the new law, S.B. 683, would require that the DPS issue a nonbiometric driver’s license to anyone raising a religious objection to the biometric photo and destroy any biometric images of the residents held by the DPS. In April 2016, Oklahoma’s Court of Civil Appeals reversed a lower court judgment against Beach and reinstated her lawsuit.

“Whether a person views a biometric ID card in the form of a driver’s license or other government-issued form of identification as the mark of the Beast or merely the long arm of Big Brother, the outcome remains the same: ultimate control by the government,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “As Kaye Beach’s case makes clear, failing to have a biometric card can render you a non-person for all intents and purposes, with your ability to work, travel, buy, sell, access health care, and so on jeopardized.” More

Warning Against Efforts to Muzzle Citizens & Avoid Transparency, Rutherford Institute Issues 1st Amendment Guidelines for Public Meetings

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For Immediate Release: March 9, 2016

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —Warning that representative government works best when the government’s actions are fully disclosed and citizens are allowed to speak honestly and openly to their elected representatives and other citizens without fear of retribution, The Rutherford Institute has issued guidelines for local boards, commissions and councils to consider and follow in order to best assure that the fundamental First Amendment rights of citizens are respected.

In recent years, numerous local boards and commissions have attempted to establish rules and regulations governing speech at public meetings that limit the content and manner of public expression in an attempt to “dial down” the intensity of these meetings and impose a more “civil” discourse. However, these restrictions on expression often run afoul of the First Amendment, making local officials self-appointed censors and arbitrary arbiters of what speech is and is not proper.

The Rutherford Institute’s Public Meetings Guidelines are available at www.rutherford.org.

“Until recently, local government meetings have remained one of the few legitimate forums available to citizens to personally address their government representatives about decisions that have immediate and substantial impact on their day-to-day lives,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Unfortunately, officials at all levels of government have succeeded in insulating themselves from their constituents through the use of free speech zones, electronic town hall meetings, security barriers, regulations restricting what is said at public meetings, and other tactics that run afoul of the First Amendment’s safeguards for free speech, public assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. These guidelines are intended to empower citizens to push back against those who would stifle the ardor of citizens, arbitrarily silence critics and impede efforts to assure transparency in government.”

The Rutherford Institute issued its guidelines after being contacted by residents of Charlottesville, Va., who were concerned about draconian changes to the City’s public comment rules regarding the content, duration and protocol for making public comments at City Council meetings. The City’s revised procedures include restrictions on video recording, a prohibition on “improper” comments, exclusion of individuals for disruptive or disorderly conduct, and limitations on who may be addressed. In denouncing the guidelines as overly vague and ambiguous, Institute attorneys have advised City officials that the changes to their meeting procedures violate the letter and spirit of Constitution by imposing obstacles to transparency and citizen engagement.

In calling on the Charlottesville City Council to revoke the rules it has adopted in order to ensure that Council meetings remain a forum for free speech, the Institute warned that if the City is serious about being a leader in the fight for open government, it must demonstrate a commitment to public participation in the democratic process. In 2015, Rutherford Institute attorneys advised the Greene County Board of Supervisors (also in Virginia) against rules adopted governing the open forum public comment period during Board meetings that could be used to censor unpopular but constitutionally protected speech.

The Rutherford Institute, a national nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., defends individuals whose constitutional rights have been violated and educates the public about threats to their freedoms. The Institute has spent more than 30 years advocating for transparency in government and championing the First Amendment right of the citizenry to speak candidly and openly to their elected representatives and other citizens.

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

Sheep Led to the Slaughter: The Muzzling of Free Speech in America

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John W. Whitehead

September 01, 2015

“If the freedom of speech be taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington

The architects of the American police state must think we’re idiots.

With every passing day, we’re being moved further down the road towards a totalitarian society characterized by government censorship, violence, corruption, hypocrisy and intolerance, all packaged for our supposed benefit in the Orwellian doublespeak of national security, tolerance and so-called “government speech.”

Long gone are the days when advocates of free speech could prevail in a case such as Tinker v. Des Moines. Indeed, it’s been 50 years since 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker was suspended for wearing a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War. In taking up her case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Were Tinker to make its way through the courts today, it would have to overcome the many hurdles being placed in the path of those attempting to voice sentiments that may be construed as unpopular, offensive, conspiratorial, violent, threatening or anti-government.

Consider, if you will, that the U.S. Supreme Court, historically a champion of the First Amendment, has declared that citizens can exercise their right to free speech everywhere it’s lawful—online, in social media, on a public sidewalk, etc.—as long as they don’t do so in front of the Court itself.

What is the rationale for upholding this ban on expressive activity on the Supreme Court plaza?

“Allowing demonstrations directed at the Court, on the Court’s own front terrace, would tend to yield the…impression…of a Court engaged with — and potentially vulnerable to — outside entreaties by the public.”

Translation: The appellate court that issued that particular ruling in Hodge v. Talkin actually wants us to believe that the Court is so impressionable that the justices could be swayed by the sight of a single man, civil rights activist Harold Hodge, standing alone and silent in the snow in a 20,000 square-foot space in front of the Supreme Court building wearing a small sign protesting the toll the police state is taking on the lives of black and Hispanic Americans.

My friends, we’re being played for fools. More

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