FBI, ICE dodgy facial recognition technology

This 8 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Some of the top law enforcement agencies in the United States, including the FBI and ICE, have been using the DMV’s database of driver license photos for facial recognition. This is being done without the knowledge or consent of those who have had their pictures taken, and represents a major violation of privacy for American citizens. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins explains what’s happening.

By Kevin Reed in the USA:

A mounting attack on democratic rights

FBI and ICE scanning driver’s license photos with facial recognition technology

10 July 2019

A report in the Washington Post this week revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been using facial recognition software to secretly scan databases of millions of driver’s license photos—a violation of basic democratic rights. The federal agencies have been engaged in the program for at least eight years.

According to documents made available to the Post by the Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology, the FBI alone has logged more than 390,000 facial recognition searches of federal and state databases since 2011, including the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) digital catalog of driver’s license photos in at least 21 states.

In Utah, according to the article, the “DMV database was the subject of nearly 2,000 facial-recognition searches from outside law enforcement agencies between 2015 and 2017—sometimes dozens of searches a day,” with dozens having returned a “possible match.”

The Post report says that many of the searches are part of the push to find and deport undocumented immigrants, and “that federal investigators have forged daily working relationships with DMV officials.” In states such as Utah, Vermont and Washington, where undocumented immigrants are permitted to obtain full driver’s licenses or limited driving privilege cards, “ICE agents have run facial-recognition searches on those DMV databases.”

According to Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, “People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial recognition] searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”

The latest exposure of widespread use of facial recognition software by federal police agencies is further evidence that the state apparatus is systematically violating basic democratic rights with high-tech surveillance tools. Behind the backs of the public, integrated networks, databases and artificial intelligence technologies are being used to build up a mass of information in the form of digital profiles or dossiers on every citizen. Other recent examples of the increased use of biometric surveillance of the public include:

• A March 9 report by NBC 7 San Diego based on a leaked Customs and Border Protection document showed that dossiers on 59 individuals who were involved in political activity opposed to the Trump administration’s immigration policy were gathered from social media accounts and used by the Department of Homeland Security to put a travel ban on the passports of US citizens.

• A June 17 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called “The Dawn of Robot Intelligence” said that the merger of the security camera infrastructure built up over decades with state surveillance “deep learning” and “neural networks” of artificial intelligence are being used to monitor the public 24/7 across the country.

• A hack and subsequent publication on June 14 of the corporate data of DHS contractor Perceptics revealed that facial recognition technology is being utilized by the US government on roadways and border crossings to monitor the traveling public.

• A Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology report called “America Under Watch” revealed that major US cities such as Detroit have secretly built up a facial recognition infrastructure that is monitoring the public in “parks, schools, immigration centers, gas stations, churches, abortion clinics, hotels, apartments, fast-food restaurants, and addiction treatment centers,” and is connected with “databases containing hundreds of thousands of photos, including mugshots, driver’s licenses, and images scraped from social media.”

Facial recognition technology is the marriage of high-resolution video and photographic images with artificial intelligence software. The images on photo IDs or those captured by security cameras in public places such as airports, parks, roadways or businesses—are scanned by the software to assemble a map of key facial geometric relationships.

Among these relationships are the distance between the eyes, the distance from the forehead to the chin or from the nose to the chin. These “facial landmarks”—some systems measure as many as 97 landmarks—are then assembled into a profile known as the “facial signature.” These facial signatures, which are being collected and stored by the millions in government databases, are unique to each individual and a form of biometric data comparable to fingerprints and human DNA.

However, fingerprints and DNA are ostensibly collected by law enforcement according to procedures based on long-established legal principles of “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.” In the mass processing and storage of facial signatures by the FBI and ICE derived from state-issued ID photo databases, all such formalities have been dropped. In many cases, requests for searches are made with nothing more than an email from the police agency to a DMV official. Among the providers of advanced facial recognition systems for the law enforcement agencies is Amazon. According to earlier media reports , Amazon’s Rekognition artificial intelligence software is used by the state of Oregon for the purpose of scanning photo databases and matching facial identities, including locating individuals through photos on their social media accounts.

Other reports said that Amazon met with ICE officials and promised to help “target or identify immigrants.” Also, in one of its facial recognition patent applications, Amazon proposed to develop a “database of suspicious persons” that could be integrated with home security technologies and create a “neighborhood-wide surveillance system.”

That these truly Orwellian biometric data gathering techniques are being developed by the tech giants and utilized increasingly by the state intelligence apparatus is a warning to the working class. These revelations represent an escalation of the surveillance of the public that was exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents showing that the US government is electronically storing every phone call and email of the entire population.

The House Homeland Security Committee heard testimony on Wednesday regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s use of facial recognition and biometric technology after numerous recent media reports exposed the use of these tools for secret police surveillance of the public. The hearing was chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, who set the tone for the two-hour exercise in obfuscation and defense of mass public surveillance with his opening remarks, saying, “I am not opposed to biometric technology, and recognize it can be valuable to homeland security and facilitation”: here.

Massive photo databases secretly gathered in US and Europe to develop facial recognition: here.

What is inside turtles’ shells?

This 9 July 2019 video says about itself:

What’s Inside A Turtle Shell

A turtle can’t crawl out of its shell. In fact, the shell is actually part of a turtle’s skeleton, as much of our ribcage is of ours. But if you could peer inside a shell, you’d find some of the most unusual features in the animal kingdom, such as a butt — err, cloaca — that some species use to breathe underwater.

Birds feeding in Panama, video

This video from Panama says about itself:

Pair of Buff-throated Saltators Join Thick-billed Euphonias On Feeder – July 10, 2019

Two Buff-throated Saltators join some Thick-billed Euphonias on the feeder. Buff-throated Saltators are predominantly vegetarian and eat fruit, blossoms, berries and even fresh leaves. They also eat insects and have been known to follow and eat army ants.

United Nations denounces Trump’s concentration camps

This 10 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Jacob Soboroff, MSNBC correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about reports obtained exclusively by NBC News from migrant children held in a detention facility in Yuma, Arizona who describe not just overcrowding but also describe sexual assault and retaliation by border agents for protesting harsh conditions.

By Josh Varlin in the USA:

UN human rights chief denounces “undignified conditions” for immigrants in US concentration camps

10 July 2019

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement Monday condemning the conditions for immigrants detained by the US government in concentration camps along the southern border with Mexico. Her statement cites the separation of children from their parents, the “undignified conditions” in the network of detention centers and other gross violations of human rights and international law that are the official policy of the Trump administration.

Bachelet noted the publication of a report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General which revealed systematic overcrowding, lack of showers and meals that made immigrants sick.

Children sleeping on mats with thermal blankets in a detention center in McAllen, Texas [Credit Customs and Border Protection]

The former president of Chile said she is “deeply shocked that children are forced to sleep on the floor in overcrowded facilities, without access to adequate healthcare or food, and with poor sanitation conditions.”

Bachelet directly criticized the primary goal of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which is to round up, detain and deport immigrants without regard for due process and international law: “States do have the sovereign prerogative to decide on the conditions of entry and stay of foreign nationals. But clearly, border management measures must comply with the State’s human rights obligations and should not be based on narrow policies aimed only at detecting, detaining and expeditiously deporting irregular migrants.

“In most of these cases, the migrants and refugees have embarked on perilous journeys with their children in search of protection and dignity and away from violence and hunger. When they finally believe they have arrived in safety, they may find themselves separated from their loved ones and locked in undignified conditions. This should never happen anywhere.”

She also noted the government’s prosecution of immigrant rights organizations and activists for providing humanitarian assistance to immigrants, saying, “The provision of lifesaving assistance is a human rights imperative that must be respected at all times and for all people in need—it is inconceivable that those who seek to provide such support would risk facing criminal charges.”

In March, four activists with No More Deaths were sentenced to probation and fined for leaving water jugs and food for migrants making the dangerous crossing from Mexico to the United States. Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, faces a retrial on felony charges for caring for and feeding migrants after the first jury refused to convict him.

Bachelet, a pediatrician, specifically denounced the detention of children, declaring, “Detaining a child even for short periods under good conditions can have a serious impact on their health and development—consider the damage being done every day by allowing this alarming situation to continue.”

The recent DHS Inspector General report revealed that of the 8,000 detainees across five CBP facilities, 2,669 were children. Of these children, 826 had been held longer than 72 hours, and 50 were younger than 7 years old. Three of the facilities lacked showers for children.

Even for adults, Bachelet said, “Any deprivation of liberty … should be a measure of last resort.”

As is typical of UN statements, Bachelet’s statement contains a toothless plea for the US and other governments to “work together to address the root causes compelling migrants to leave their homes.”

Instead, the Trump administration is extending its war on immigrants south of the US border by cutting aid to Central American governments and pressuring the Mexican government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, into deporting more immigrants in June than in any month since 2006.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, backed a military coup against elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in 2009,

It was more Obama’s then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who backed the Honduras coup.

creating horrific conditions in Honduras that have forced tens of thousands of workers annually to seek a better life outside the country.

Further indicating that the US government has no intention of heeding Bachelet’s statement, on July 3 DHS requested another 1,000 National Guard troops to the border between Texas and Mexico. The request, made public Monday by the Department of Defense, implements an order from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, allowing for the state’s National Guard to assist Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

When Abbott issued the order last month, he called Congress “a group of reprobates” for supposedly not doing enough to stop immigrants. “They carp about a humanitarian crisis and about reforming an immigration system all the while refusing to pass laws to fix the problem”, he said to justify deploying soldiers to block impoverished immigrants from reaching the US.

The Corpus Christi Caller Times reported, “The troops are expected to arrive at various locations along the border later this month to assist federal authorities.”

They will join 1,900 other National Guard troops and 2,300 active-duty troops on the border.

Chillingly, a Pentagon spokesman told CNN that the new troops will be deployed because “[s]upplemental holding support is requested for CBP facilities located at Donna and Tornillo, Texas.” DHS did not elaborate when requested by CNN. However, this raises the prospect of National Guard troops directly staffing the concentration camps.