Friday, November 11, 2011

FOIA lawsuit reveals FBI collecting biometric information for massive interagency database

Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

Big Brother is on the march in the United States and as I have previously shown, once one delves into the depths of this system it is nothing short of astounding to the point where Orwell wouldn’t even believe it was possible.

Previously my articles have focused mostly on the Department of Homeland Security’s role in this and how their programs are criminalizing Americans who have done absolutely nothing wrong while eroding our freedoms and liberties to a dangerous degree.

However, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights along with the National Day Labor Organizing Network and the Benjamin Cardozo Immigrant Justice Clinic, it has now emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an equally large player in the high-tech police state in which we find ourselves.

An article by Sunita Patel and Scott Paltrowitz on CommonDreams points out, “Big Brother is already upon us.” This is a point that I attempt to make at every possible juncture as it is crucial for Americans to realize that an Orwellian high-tech police state is not something on the distant horizon but something in which we already live.


The documents obtained reveal that the FBI “views massive biometric information collection as a goal in itself” as a part of the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system.

The NGI system aims to collect fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans, identifying marks, scars, tattoos, facial characteristics and voice recognition.

These are not necessarily collected from arrested suspects but also from mobile biometric scanning devices and fingerprints left anywhere and everywhere.

This biometric information can then be used in conjunction with facial recognition technology and threat assessment algorithms that can be deployed in an airport or even on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), better known as a drone.

These drones can then track you, record your movements, who you meet with, and just about anything else. Tie this in with the Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) being tested by the Department of Homeland Security and you have a record of not only incredibly detailed biometric information but also social habits, daily schedules, etc.

All of this can be conducted without the subject’s knowledge or consent which makes this technology even more powerful as intelligence agencies can conduct surveillance on many individuals without any need to worry about being detected.

The most important aspect for anyone to grasp about these issues is that all of this technology can easily be tied together and collected in a centralized database in which astounding amounts of information from a variety of sources can be collated and analyzed.

The highly personal information stored in the NGI system is already accessible by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, U.S. Coast Guard, and through the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division (CJIS) more than 75 potential foreign nations.

The CJIS has already carried out a test on latent finger and palm prints in which they collected more than one million palm prints from crime scenes or literally any other location in which palm prints could be recovered.

They have also scheduled a pilot program for iris scanning and developed plans for deployment of biometric collection equipment across the nation to collect scars, marks, tattoos and facial measurements for facial recognition.

The NGI program will utilize so-called “FBI Mobile,” a type of technology first deployed by the military in warzones that is used to collect biometric information in the field without even having to arrest the subject.

The precursor to the NGI program was called Secure Communities (S-Comm) which was launched in 2008.

S-Comm links the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) databases with the FBI’s criminal database.

With this system, any time a local, state, or tribal law enforcement officer carries out a routine criminal background check, the subject of the background check’s information is transferred to the DHS database.

S-Comm was implemented in a highly deceptive manner, at first offering an opt out policy which would allow local agencies to opt out of receiving information while still requiring to send all information. Later, the FBI decided that S-Comm participation was mandatory, while waiting to disclose this fact to states and the public.

Furthermore, the FBI and DHS have both prevented states and local agencies from imposing limits on how the FBI uses the data they gather.

In a somewhat disturbing statement, senior ICE official Gary Mead told local advocates at a New York debate that governors did not have the right to restrict information sharing because letting the FBI share the information is the “price of admission” for joining “the FBI club.”

In a fact sheet published on the NGI and S-Comm, the following disturbing fact is highlighted: “Many details about the scope, impact and process of the NGI and the legal basis for the FBI’s policies are still unknown and have not been scrutinized by the media or the public.”

It also reveals that one of the major driving forces, like most of the government’s actions, is profit. Specifically, a billion dollar contract with Lockheed Martin issued in 2008 to work on the NGI with the FBI.

This is the same Lockheed Martin which represents part of the 0.01% of America that are acting in an even more parasitic manner than the 1% – the war profiteers that rake in record profits while killing Americans and innocent people abroad.

It might seem alarmist or sensationalist, but when the authors of the CommonDreams piece say, “This ubiquitous world-wide surveillance of anyone and everyone should serve as a wake up call (sic) for what the future may hold” they are simply reflecting reality.

They point out that we are being brought “closer to an extensive and inescapable surveillance state, where we blindly place our hands on electronic devices that capture our digital prints, stare into iris scanning devices that record the details of our eyes, and have pictures taken of different angles of our faces so that the FBI and other federal agencies can store and use such information.”

Of course these images taken at different angles can be compiled into a 3-Dimensional model of the face which can then be used for faster, more accurate facial recognition, even by drones flying at an altitude at which they are essentially invisible to the unsuspecting individual on the ground.

There is another major consideration ignored by the FBI and DHS: the fact that major mistakes are made by federal agencies.

One apt example is American citizen Mark Lyttle, a man who was deported and transferred to five different countries in four months when an administrator incorrectly typed “Mexico” as Lyttle’s place of birth.

Lyttle, who suffers from mental disabilities which made him unable to understand the criminal proceedings and following deportation, spent months living on the streets, in shelters, and in prisons in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, all because an administrator typed the wrong birthplace.

Thankfully, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up the case and filed lawsuits in federal courts in Georgia and North Carolina on behalf of Lyttle.

Or there is the case of American born lawyer and former Army lieutenant Brandon Mayfield who was erroneously accused of the 2004 train bombing in Madrid after which he was held by police for two weeks.

All of this was based on a supposed match between Mayfield’s fingerprints and latent prints found at the scene, of course this match was later found to be inaccurate.

The entire fiasco lasted two and a half years and in 2006 the Oregon lawyer was awarded $2 million by the U.S. government along with a formal apology to him and his family.

Then there is the case of a Massachusetts man, John Gass, who had his driver’s license revoked because a facial recognition system found that his authentic license was fraudulent.

These types of egregious and hardly negligible mistakes are only going to become more prevalent as the FBI employs new facial recognition and biometric technology.

This was shown by a study published by the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University entitled, “Facial Recognition Technology: A Survey of Policy and Implementation Issues” by Lucas D. Introna and Helen Nissenbaum.

The study found that when facial recognition technology is used among large populations, like the massive federal database, incorrect identifications will indeed occur due to the lack of variation among faces.

The Gass case proves that this is already a problem and the database is in a relatively infant stage compared to how massive the NGI collection of data will be once information on every American has been gathered.

This is especially true when one considers that since sharing information is “the price of admission” into the “FBI club” many foreign governments and federal agencies will be handing over sensitive personal information of their citizens.

George Orwell couldn’t have possibly imagined the scope and pervasiveness of the invisible surveillance state we currently find ourselves in, though his infamous 1984 gives a glimpse of what a much more low-tech version of today’s world would look like.

The technology is growing to the point where many people do not even know it exists or how they are being tracked and monitored.

Hopefully by spreading information like this far and wide we can actively combat the Big Brother surveillance state before it grows to the point that there is no possible way to turn back.

If you care about the future of America and the world, I beg of you, spread this information far and wide as bringing massive awareness to this subject is the only way to halt the growth and hopefully reverse the trend.

Only by bringing this real Big Brother technology out into the mainstream can we wake up the majority of the populace to the fact that these are not silly conspiracy theories but indeed heavily documented and irrefutable facts.

To read more about the NGI and S-Comm programs, see these additional FOIA documents.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at admin@EndtheLie.com

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