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FBI Plans $1 Billion Biometric Database

The FBI announced that they are spending $1 billion to create the world's largest & most comprehensive biometric database. The database will contain voice samples, fingerprints, DNA samples, data about each individuals unique "body language", iris scans, & detailed information about facial features. This article will discuss this & several other programs and laws in place to violate your privacy and strip you of personal freedoms.

Bigger. Faster. Better?

The latest in a long chain of domestic surveillance laws, programs, and "presidential directives" is the recent unveiling of the FBI's new national biometric security database. The federal government is planning to spend over $1 billion to create and maintain a database, accessible to law enforcement agencies nationwide, that will contain, amongst other things:
  • Fingerprints
  • DNA samples
  • Iris scans(what your eyes look like -- at a range of up to about 15 feet)
  • The unique way your body moves as you walk, talk, sit, etc (useful for identifying people in crowds, from hundreds of yards away on surveillance cameras)
  • Detailed information on how your face looks (remember those cameras they use to film protests?)
  • Sample recordings of your voice (pulled from their CALEA-compliant recordings of your phone calls)

This information will be gathered from a wide variety of sources, and will be stored in an underground facility that is about the size of two football fields.

Of course, they have promised to use this responsibly, and said that they are working very hard to make sure that it doesn't interfere with your personal freedoms. The director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division said that this new database was "Bigger. Faster. Better." than anything currently in existence. The first two words are most definitely an accurate description. It's that last one that I don't believe is true. Basically, it comes down to whether or not you trust the U.S. government to do the right thing (you know, the one that routinely tortures people, spends around $500 billion each year on tools of death and destruction, and allows factories to dump millions of tons of toxic waste into your water each year).

Here are a couple of articles on the FBI's new pet project & biometrics in general:

The biometric database is only one of a wide range of policies that have recently been carefully slipped under the noses of the American people, who are currently distracted with electioneering politicians and holiday shopping sprees. In this article, I'd like to discuss several of these policies and how they are quickly dissolving your personal freedoms.

Total Information Awareness

Before we discuss the new biometric database, let's put it into the context of other domestic surveillance programs and laws that are currently in effect. These programs are often discussed in isolation, sometimes ignoring the connections between them. But they are all coming from the same people, and are all working towards a single goal.

What is the ultimate goal of these sorts of programs? That is, in which direction is the U.S. government trying (and succeeding thanks to our tacit compliance) to take us with these programs? To understand this, we only need to look to what was previously known as the Information Awareness Office (IAO). The proposed goal of the IAO was to achieve what is known as "total information awareness". This is a fancy way of saying that they are working towards developing systems that can gather information about the whereabouts and communications of the entire population, and quickly analyze the data to identify "threats", using advanced computer systems. That is, they want to completely remove any possibility of privacy -- they want to know everything (TOTAL information awareness). They want to know what everyone is saying at all times, so that there is absolutely no possibility of resistance to their rule.

Like the School Of The Americas (now called the "Western Hemisphere Institute For Security Cooperation"), and COINTELPRO (I don't know what they call it now, but we all know they haven't stopped infiltrating and disrupting activist groups) -- the IAO also had a name change once it fell under the public eye, but all of the programs are still being funded and developed at places such as the Department of Homeland Security's Centers of Excellence.

Some of these programs include, amongst several others:
  • Speech-to-Text Software
    Software used in transcribing your voice communications into computer-readable text. This allows them to use computers more effectively, to automatically scan the billions of phone communications they intercept each day. Right now, this task requires a large number of human operators to listen to the calls and identify "threats", so it is very slow and inefficient. Once these technologies are developed, they can have supercomputers convert all of your calls into text (much easier to write computer software to analyze text than audio), which can be automatically scanned for subversive or threatening phrases, and can then be promptly reported to law enforcement agencies.

  • Human Identification at a Distance
    These are technologies that use previously recorded data (from the biometric database we mentioned earlier) regarding your body language and facial features to identify people out of crowds from surveillance cameras. Each person has a unique way of walking, unique postures when sitting, unique ways of moving their arms and hands as they speak to people. This data will be fed through supercomputers to analyze the information collected from the nationwide network of surveillance cameras, and determine who everyone in the footage is. Detailed data on peoples faces and eyes will also be used including the structure and shape of the face, the unique shape of your iris, and the way you smile and move your mouth as you speak.

  • Scalable Social Network Analysis
    By monitoring who everyone is communicating with and what they are saying to eachother, they are creating maps of social networks. Mapping social networks is a fancy way of saying that they know everyone you interact with, what your relationship to them is, and what you have said to them. They use this information to create a "map" -- i.e. a detailed diagram or list -- of the connections between you and everyone in your "social network" -- i.e. your group of friends, family, and co-workers. This can be used to keep track of activist groups and individuals. Radicals and activists who might not be open about their views in public, and would normally go unnoticed by the authorities, can be rooted out if the computers notice them communicating with people who are in a radical social network. That is, if they talk to enough radicals, even if they don't say anything radical, they will be added to the social network -- radical by association if you will.

  • Effective Analysis Across Heterogeneous Databases
    This one might not be clear if you've never programmed a computer before, so I'll try to put it into simple terms. When you write a computer program to extract and analyze text data, you -- the programmer -- have to tell the program exactly how the data to be extracted will be formatted in the "database" (which could be an email, web page, or word document), and then tell it what to do with that data once it has been extracted. The internet is a mish-mash of data in an infinitely complex array of different formats. Each person has their own unique writing style, people often use incorrect grammar, web sites are organized and formatted differently, etc. This makes it very hard to write a computer program that can scan the entire internet to monitor what everyone is writing (although writing it for a *specific* individual site such as MySpace or LiveJournal is relatively simple, and is already a well-developed reality). The kind folks at the former IAO are working to develop capabilities to efficiently collect data from all websites, emails, phone calls, etc., store the information into a single centralized database in a simple, machine-readable format, and develop tools to quickly scan through all of this information for "threat indicators".

  • This is just a taste of the things they are cooking up to defend "freedom" and protect the "homeland". Most of these technologies are already very highly developed and in use today -- the main function of the IAO is to improve them, and most importantly, centralize all of the data into a singular database to increase efficiency.

    This might sound like something you read in "1984" or "Brave New World" -- it's far worse. Orwell and Huxley wrote these books far before the introduction of modern computers, telecommunication technology, forensic analysis (DNA, fingerprints, etc) and video surveillance technology. They couldn't have possibly imagined the extent to which technology invade our lives, and enable the State to strip it's subjects of privacy and personal freedom. This is not science fiction, its reality. It's happening right now, and only gets further developed and more effective with each passing day of apathy and inaction.

    Here are a few links regarding the IAO, and current research that is taking place in these fields:

    Data Collection

    The IAO projects require an extensive program of data collection to feed the information into their database for analysis, and a set of laws to allow the collection of this data. One such law -- the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) -- has been in effect since the reign of Clinton in the late '90s. Essentially, CALEA states that every telecommunications company (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Cingular, and the like) are all required under federal law to install specially-designed supercomputers (called NarusInsight) in their offices that route ALL electronic communications (phone calls, emails, which web sites you visit -- EVERYTHING electronic) to federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The communications are transmitted over a private nationwide network known as DCSNET, which is run by Sprint Corporation under contract from the federal government. DCSNet is basically their own private internet, which transmits nothing but intercepted communications, creating a "point-and-click" surveillance system, which allows federal agents to instantly pull up communications data any person in the U.S. You might have heard about this due to the ongoing legal battle between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and AT&T, regarding AT&T installing these computers in their offices in San Francisco.
    If not, read about it. It will change the way you feel when talking on the phone -- it feels a lot different when you know a federal agent is on the line with you.
    None of this requires a warrant, or subpoena or any other such irritating legal trivialities. Sure, it's unconstitutional, but that's just a piece of paper anyway -- and a piece of paper doesn't mean anything to someone with nuclear weapons. They know that nobody is actually going to do anything about it other than complaining. They are listening to everyone now, regardless of who you are or where you are from. And ALL telecommunication providers are required to install the equipment, which means that there is not a SINGLE thing you write, view, or say over an electronic medium that is not recorded and analyzed by the federal government. But don't worry -- they've promised to use it responsibly.

    It is important, regardless of whether you do trust the FBI or not, that you at least realize that everything you say or do on the internet or phone IS being watched. And not in the science-fiction future -- RIGHT NOW. This is especially important to activists and other such people who communicate via email or cell phones, and chronicle their activities on sites like MySpace, LiveJournal, or Blogger. Posting personal information on these sites equivalent to writing your own FBI profile. Do you really want to share what you are doing, feeling, and thinking with Federal Law Enforcement agents?

    There are numerous other data collection and analysis programs such as (ECHELON and Carnivore) that are in effect at the moment, or have been in the past (and are likely still operating under different names) that have the same purpose -- collecting, storing, and analyzing electronic communications. Domestic surveillance is nothing new -- it's something that all governments have done -- but it is getting more extensive every day as scientists further develop surveillance technologies.

    There are too many of these programs to discuss here, and due to their nature are far too complex to fully explore in one article. But there is ample information about much of it on the internet. Below are some links regarding CALEA and DCSNET, and a few other large-scale domestic surveillance programs, that the U.S. public is aware of:

    NSPD-51: Catastrophic Emergency

    So they're listening to everything you say. Some people don't seem to feel threatened by this (which is scary in it's own right). They say, "I haven't broken any laws, so they can listen all they want." The problem is that George W. Bush has been tossing out "presidential directives" and "military orders" which are quickly making "laws" a thing of the past. With "National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-51" He has "legally" granted himself the ability to impose a state of martial law, during what he calls a "catastrophic emergency", which he defines as:

    • any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions

    That sounds like it covers quite a few situations, doesn't it? I suppose that a large scale protest like those directed against the WTO in Seattle, or even a Critical Mass ride, could be construed to be something that causes "mass disruption" that severely affects the "infrastructure, economy, and government functions". He also threw natural disasters and a whole host of other things in there. The point is that a "catastrophic emergency" is any event that he tells us is a "catastrophic emergency".

    What is he allowed to do during these times of "catastrophic emergencies"? Well, he speaks in very broad terms in the "directive", and there is a "classified" section which the public is not able to see (interesting that "our" government won't allow us to see what it is doing) but a few things are clear:

    • The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government. In order to advise and assist the President in that function, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (APHS/CT) is hereby designated as the National Continuity Coordinator. The National Continuity Coordinator, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), without exercising directive authority, shall coordinate the development and implementation of continuity policy for executive departments and agencies. The Continuity Policy Coordination Committee (CPCC), chaired by a Senior Director from the Homeland Security Council staff, designated by the National Continuity Coordinator, shall be the main day-to-day forum for such policy coordination.

      That is, the president is in charge during this time. And he and his advisory commitee (who he has chosen) will decide what happens. Notice that the meddling legislators and judges are left out of the equation...

    • As far as the other branches of government, he mentions that the "Enduring Constitutional Government" will be "coordinated by the President, as a matter of comity with respect to the legislative and judicial branches".

      "Comity" means that he is promising that although he is not granting them any power during this "emergency" he promises that he will respect their wishes. Of course, this is a president, like each president before him, he doesn't exactly have the best track record in the honesty department. So I'm not sure how much this promise is worth...

    • His stated purpose is: "Protecting against threats to the homeland and bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes or attacks against the United States or its people, property, or interests"

      Note that he mentions domestic enemies (that means you), and that you don't have to attack people or property to be an enemy. It applies to attacking INTERESTS as well. That means saying the wrong things, putting graffiti on a federal highway overpass, or throwing a pie at a politician makes you an "enemy". And we know what happens to his "enemies" ... torture camps, indefinite imprisonment without trial, etc.

    • Federal Government ... plans and operations shall be appropriately integrated with the emergency plans and capabilities of State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to promote interoperability and to prevent redundancies and conflicting lines of authority. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall coordinate the integration of Federal continuity plans and operations with State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency.

      That is, he's in charge of all of the resouces at the state, local, and tribal level too. He is just making clear that he is in control of every single thing in the country, no matter whose is normally in control of it. He wants it ALL.

    • Vital resources, facilities, and records must be safeguarded, and official access to them must be provided
      Provision must be made for the acquisition of the resources necessary for continuity operations on an emergency basis

      That is, he can take as much money as he needs to ensure "continuity", and can take over any "vital resources, facilities, or records" that he says he needs. Exactly what "resources, facilities, and records" is he talking about? Doesn't really specify that does it. Well I guess that means that he has access to whatever he says he needs to maintain "continuity" -- which is everything (if he wants it to be).

    These and a whole host of other powers are granted to him (by him), whenever he decides that there has been a "catastrophic emergency", which is anytime he wants it to be. That is, whenever he feels like it, our president can declare martial law, with himself as supreme commander of...well...just about everything.

    Modern Day McCarthyism

    Besides the president's self-granted ability to declare martial law, there are other things in the works. The president isn't the only one who's up to no good. The U.S. House of Representatives just recently passed U.S. House Resolution 1955, also known as the " The Violent Radicalization & Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007". This law, which was passed by a 404 to 6 vote in the House of Representatives, is legalizing the creation of a modern day McCarthy Commission whose function is to root out "violent radicals" and "homegrown terrorists". It was passed under a "suspension of rules", so that it could quickly be passed without being noticed, and received very little media coverage.

    Like the "enemies" of Bush's NSPD-51, you don't actually have to do anything violent to be considered a violent radical.

    They have defined "violent radicalization" as:

    the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.

    And "homegrown terrorism" is defined as:

    the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

    So you don't actually have to do anything illegal -- just "promoting" (talking about) or "adopting" (believing in) something that their anti-radical "Commission" deems as an extremist view, makes you into a "terrorist". This means you lose all of your supposed constitutional rights, and can be tried by the "Commission" instead of a civilian court.

    Here are some links regarding HR1955:

    HR 1955 is very similar to President Bush's military order regarding "enemy combatants" which states:

    Given the danger to the safety of the United States and the nature of international terrorism, and to the extent provided by and under this order, I find ... that it is not practicable to apply in military commissions under this order the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts.

    That is he can imprison and torture (he calls it "enhanced" interrogation) any foreigner he wants without evidence and without a trial. Why? Because it's not "practicable" to give them a fair trial or provide evidence. It's more "practical" for him to just be able to call someone an "enemy combatant", and have them tortured, imprisoned, or killed.

    US House Resolution 1955 is essentially the same law directed towards U.S. citizens instead of foreigners, which gives the "commission" the ability to do the same to any U.S. citizen that they deem to be a "violent radical" -- without being impaired by such "impractical" processes like providing evidence or a trial by jury.

    Interestingly, they've also been developing a program known as Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally (FALCON) which is merging the local, state, and federal police apparatus and putting them under the direction of our leaders in Washington. They have at this time performed four large "sweeps" where they have practiced working together and arresting 10000-15000 people at a time, from all over the nation, for various crimes. As far as they've reported most of these crimes are not "political" crimes, but what is scary about it is the fact that once they get their "violent radical" removal commission running, they will have a well-developed, thoroughly tested program for quickly arresting tens of thousands of these "homegrown terrorists" at once -- similar to Stalin's purges of political dissidents in Soviet Russia.

    So now we're back to the FBI's new "biometric database". What does this mean for you? It means that even if you keep your mouth shut over the phone, and don't write anything "radical" or "subversive" in your emails or on your MySpace page, you are still being watched every time you walk out the door. It means that every time you walk past a government-owned surveillance camera, or every time a police car drives by (they all have surveillance cameras inside them), your information will be checked against a centralized database of suspected "terrorists" and "radicals". Like them monitoring your phone calls, this is according to some people, "not a problem" as long as you aren't doing anything "illegal". But now that Bush's "presidential directives" have given him the power to suspend the "principles of law and the rules of evidence", as he puts it, there is no way for you to know whether or not you've done anything illegal until the president, his military tribunal, or the anti-radical "commission" have told you so.

    You live in a nation where all of your private communications are monitored, surveillance cameras are storing information about your body language in a government supercomputer, thousands of spy satellites are watching you from overhead, the "Commander and Chief" can arbitrarily impose a state of martial law any time he chooses, they are developing systems to arrest thousands of people at once & giving the federal government control of the local and state police apparatus, political activism and radical speech are now equated to "homegrown terrorism", and you can be imprisoned & tortured indefinitely without a trial. These are the things they openly admit to -- what do you think they are doing that they aren't telling about?

    But it's nothing new. They were hanging anarchists in the early 1900s. They were doing studies on mass mind control during the '40s and '50s (the Macy Conferences & MKULTRA), right about the time they started dumping nuclear waste left over from making their missiles into your drinking water. COINTELPRO was targeting activist groups 40 years ago. Reagan was funding death squads in the '80s. Now they've begun to take the steps towards overt military dictatorship, and people are just standing around and watching like it's just another story about Britney Spear's drug problems. Maybe we should stop pretending like this "democracy" concept is anything other than a lie to keep people passively hoping that the billionaires that make up these ridiculous laws will begin to do the "right thing". Let's be honest, and call it what it really is -- a technologically advanced police state.

    The rich and their military goons are moving towards complete domination of every aspect of your life. They are watching everything you do. They are threatening you with torture & imprisonment. This "biometric database" is just one more step in that direction. They aren't showing any signs of stopping voluntarily.

    What are you going to do about it?