Left Forum 2016
May 20-22, 2016
- 1 Friday, May 20th
- 2 Saturday, May 21st
- 3 Sunday, May 22nd
Friday, May 20th
Privacy, Surveillance and Secure Internet Access: Planning the Fight
Maritza Arrastia, Nicholas Merrill, Lars Bretthauer, Shahid Buttar, Hamid Kahn, Brandi Collins, Joseph Torres, Jackie Smith
We've used the internet for collaboration and coordination, so there's no surprise it's under attack.
Shahid. History gives us one reason to be concerned about a loss of privacy. Losing privacy means losing the freedom to meet and organize. The right to speak includes not only the right of speaking, but also the right of others to listen.
It's hard to escape the secrecy around surveillance. There's little transparency in government surveillance. Section 702 is expiring next year, and the NSA has been unwilling to discuss their surveillance programs with congress.
Transparency can help level the playing field, especially at the state and local level.
Brandi. Color of Change started in New Orleans, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The governments and corporations were not afraid to let people drown.
Surveillance and policing traditionally target marginalized communities. Let's look at the difference between mass and targeted surveillance. Mass surveillance comes with the benefit of doubt; targeted surveillance comes with a presumption of guilt.
Buses are equipped with audio and video recorders, but buses are mostly ridden by poor people. You're targeted based on your identity.
Law enforcement has harassed activists based on their social media postings. There are many stories which have been told in isolation, but they're all held together by a common thread.
Hamid. "Suspicious behavior" is anything that could be interpreted as operational planning. The police and industry are starting to use predictive algorithms to identify "potential" criminals. How much profit is being made of DHS programs that claim to improve domestic security. There's confiscation of private property and criminalization of normal behavior.
Most often, fusion center data collection targets minority populations. This marginalization is done under the guise of national security.
Nick. I started an ISP in 1994, because I saw the internet as a powerful tool for social change. Around 2004, I received a visit from a group of FBI agents, who delivered an NSL (national security letter) to my company. These letters come with a gag order; you're not allowed to tell anyone about receiving one. This turned into a lawsuit that dragged on for twelve years. It took seven years before I could talk about the letter at all. The lawsuit has taken up a quarter of my life.
Over the last few years there's been a big movement for internet freedom. Lots of young people are getting involved.
Lori. I'm doing a PhD on data retention and state access to data. Topics I'm focusing on include
- Digitization, commodification, and appropriation of communications data.
- The legalization of surveillance, and transfer of data between organizations.
- The various anti-surveillance campaigns taking place.
- What part of the state is protected by surveillance.
Whistleblower and journalist protections are becoming more important.
There's a need for international solidarity. For example, German surveillance laws are likely to be introduced with the disclaimer "this isn't nearly as bad as what the NSA is doing". Surveillance is a modern technique for suppressing social struggles.
Joseph. Surveillance and racism are intertwined. The Snowden revelations brought a lot more people into this discussion. Most of the surveillance policy comes from a white libertarian perspective. We've often said that if you can't talk about this in terms of race, you'll never win.
How can we keep tabs on the new technologies that law enforcement is using? How can we intervene? What's the long-term policy play?
The media has been a part of white supremacy - they were used to find and capture runaway slaves. All the forms of oppression we've seen in the physical world are now happening in the virtual world. Often, people in criminal justice don't understand technology, and vice-versa.
Jackie. I've noticed two trends among universities. First, they're starting to be run very much like corporations; second, they're being subject to austerity and budget cuts. Universities have seen many staff and faculty cuts. Many universities outsource email to the likes of Google. To many kids, Google is their primary contact with the internet.
Google claims to have stopped scanning educational email for advertising in 2004. But Google may still be connecting metadata from educational and non-educational accounts. Last February, UC Berkeley filed a law suit, claiming that the scanning was still taking place.
Google has deep ties with the government. They co-operated heavily with the PRISM program. Since Google is such a centralized collector of data, they're a prime target for government data requests.
Integrity and confidentiality is critical for doing research, and concentrated control of data is a barrier to that.
Comment: Google puts a lot of effort into trying to sell their products to universities, even outside the United States.
Comment: Your concerns about Google are well-founded. The EFF recently filed an FTC complain over Google's tracking and monitoring of students. Google is bringing surveillance culture into our schools.
You can fight this at the local level. Unlike federal officials, locals ones are accessible.
Comment: This is all a continuation of history. The police started off as corporations -- they were slave catchers. Corporations continue to play this role. Many universities receive grants from federal government, and this makes them less likely to openly oppose government suppression.
Question: What can we do, besides making appeals for our constitutional rights?
There are several things you can do. Litigation is one thing. You can try to use the legislative process - make sure your legislators are aware of any abuses. You can also use technology to fight back.
Strong encryption and free software can make mass surveillance technically unfeasible. Use encryption, even if you're not worried about the government reading your communications; this helps provide cover for others.
Laws are subject to culture. Artistic dissent can be a very powerful way to move public opinion.
Constitutional protections are a tool, but there's no substitute for organizing and getting things done on the ground.
Surveillance has always been going on 24/7. Surveillance hits really hard if you live on skid row without a computer or a fancy phone.
We have a system that's designed for social control. You can do a lot of things to people, once you make them seem undesirable. There has to be a shift in the way we
perceive the system as working.
Question: What about PGP? Is it useful? Is it necessary?
PGP is encryption software, and around 14 million people use it. It can be hard to teach, though. PGP was a huge step forward for privacy. Signal had good encryption, and it's pretty easy to use. WhatsApp adapted Signal's algorithm.
Question: What are some alternatives to Facebook and Google docs?
People have done organizing for much longer than Facebook has been around. It's a tool, but no one is required to use it. Door-knocking is still a very effective way to reach people.
Online organizing can be useful, but if you wed yourself to a specific platform, then you're putting yourself in a box. No amount of on-line organizing can ever replace effective off-line organizing.
Question: What's your number one call to action?
FISA section 702. Engage with your representative, and make sure they're willing to let it expire. Congress tends to come home for an August break, and that's a good time to do this.
Try to get more transparency around how Stingrays and similar devices are used. The same goes for biometrics and the FBI's next-generation ID system. There's also the 1033 program, which transfers military equipment to local police departments.
Do research. What programs does your local police department participate in? Each surveillance technology does not exist in a vacuum. Data collected through one means is often connected with data collected through some other means. Fight any efforts that would require companies to backdoor encryption.
Saturday, May 21st
Deep State: The Fabricated Global War on Terrorism - Why the Left Should Unite to Expose and Rebel Against It
Cheryl Curtiss, Gearoid O'Colmain, Wayne Madsen, Michael Springmann
The "deep state" is the unelected, unaccountable, corporate security state. It's responsible for the global war on terror.
Michael. The United States is running terrorist campaigns around the world, largely directed as Muslims. This started with a campaign to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan.
We recruited the nastiest, most radicalized people we could find. The group has changed names over the years, but many of the same people are still involved.
During the 1980s, US diplomats were pressured to issue lots of Visas, mainly for the sake of national security. These visas were issued to Mujaheddin recruits. There was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq until roughly 2003, when the US invaded.
Libya had the highest standard of living in the Middle East, until the US destabilized it. Our government is working on Syria now.
The people we backed are now moving to Europe, as refugees. After destabilizing the Middle East, the next step will be the destabilization of Europe.
Roughly every 40 months, the US finds a reason to have a major military operation somewhere in the world. We spend a huge amount of money on this wars. At home, we have problems with roads, bridges, and clean water.
The Saudis supposedly have ties to the 9/11 attacks. They provided money and training. We have 28 pages of documentation about this, and no one wants it declassified. Write to your congressional representatives. Ask why we're spending so much money on wars. Tell them we want to see what's in those 28 pages.
Jim. ISIS was made in the USA, to advocate for a US agenda. The US wanted to take out seven (middle eastern) governments during the next several years. Our policy used to be "never attack until attacked first". Today, we're one of the biggest military aggressors in the world.
In Feb. 2015, Iraqi forces shot down two UK cargo planes. This was big international news, but not big US news.
In April 2015, we refused to recognize ISIS as a separate terror group. We were supporting them at the time. Judicial Watch obtained DIA documents in May 2015, which showed the US backing ISIS, to destabilize Syria. Stephen Kelly, a former CIA contractor, gave a statement saying that ISIS was formed to protect Israel from the Arabs. Other documents show that ISIS beheadings were staged in Hollywood and/or Tel Aviv production studios.
Time magazine found evidence that ISIS has been smuggling weapons through US territories. In Washington, DC, ISIS is known as John McCain's army.
The US didn't bomb ISIS. We used them as cover to bomb infrastructure in Syria. Paris was attacked because France was too supportive of the creation of an independent Palestinian state. France passed many draconian laws after the Paris attacks, including laws to prohibit the criticism of Israel. France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and many G20 countries are supporting ISIS.
ISIS came to prominence during the Obama administration, while Clinton was secretary of state. Clinton was deeply involved in Libya. As president, Clinton wants to bomb Iran into oblivion.
Russia allegedly has 20,000 of Clinton's emails, which they took from her server. They're debating on whether to release them.
Gearoid. We have to understand the concept of "weapons of mass migration". Mass migration is used as a form of attack, and to provide a pretext for military intervention. This idea has been used several times since the second world war. The goal is to destabilize governments. Syria and Libya are just the latest examples.
Countries with smaller populations, Macedonia for example, are in danger of being overrun. This could spread throughout eastern and central Europe. You have to make a distinction between refugees and migrants. Migrants are fleeing conflict. The Arab spring was partially sponsored by US activists. The US made a conscious effort to exploit ethnic and sectarian divisions, to set different groups against each other.
During the Iraq war, over a million people migrated to Syria, to get away from the fighting. This was one of the factors in Syria's destabilization.
There's deep dissent in NATO right now. Some members blame the US for the current conflict in Ukraine.
Groups in the US have helped finance these migrations to Europe. They're goal is to destroy gains made by Europe's working class, and destroy European social programs.
France backed an Ivory Coast coup attempt in 2002. The coup failed, but it turned into a civil war. By 2004, the country was divided into revolutionaries and government. Imperialism loves rebels, but it hates revolutionaries.
Western countries want to keep the southern hemisphere in a perpetual state of underdevelopment. That keeps the southern hemisphere under the control of western capitalism.
Why would the US want to destabilize Europe? Many of the European elites want to expand trade relations with Russia. The US doesn't want that.
Question: How much support does the US give to Israel?
Since 1948, we've given Israel around $148 billion/year. We're still sending them money.
Question: The first speaker mentioned Visa corruption. Who was involved in that?
I'm not sure who from DC was involved; foreign ambassadors were the ones promoting the idea. They thought they were issuing Visas to freedom fighters. In reality, the were issuing Visas to terrorists.
Question: What might be the fate of ISIS, especially with Russia's bombing and publicity campaigns?
It would be easy to take out ISIS with the support of Russia and Iran. But the US isn't going to do that.
Question: What's the end game? What's the strategic goal behind this?
There are several goals. We want to destroy Europe as an economic competitor to the US. We also want to convince Europe to be afraid of Islam, and to support Israel's agenda. Eventually, we'll wind up with a bankrupt Europe and a bankrupt US. The fundamental goal is for the corporations to rule the world.
Land Trusts and Perpetually Affordable Housing
Walter South, Peter Marcuse, Tom Angotti
Peter. A community land trust separates ownership of land from ownership of buildings on the land. In the 20th century, land trusts were commonly used to assemble parcels of undeveloped land, to prevent them from being developed. Their use for affordable housing is relatively recent.
Speculation in land is different than speculation in housing. Land's value comes from the value of a location, relative to other locations. Community land trusts can avoid this kind of speculation.
Typically, a land trust maintains ownership of the land, and enters into a lease with the owner of a building. They're regulated more at the state and local level.
Cooper square is dedicated to providing low-cost housing in perpetuity. There's a documentary coming about this. This project took around 50 years of work, starting in the 1950s. The project originally targeted urban renewal. People organized against urban renewal projects, and got a promise from the mayor in 1961, to develop a plan for permanent affordable housing.
By the 1970's federal low-income housing funds were drying up. Property owners walked away from their properties, which effectively gave ownership to the city. The city turned the property over, debt free. Today, there are 340 units of low-cost housing on the lower east side. The rent is around $540/month. We also got a 40-year tax exemption. Getting property debt-free with a tax exemption is a huge help.
The East Harlem Community Land Trust targets the homeless, and people at the very bottom of the income scale.
Dudley Street in Boston is another example. The city owned a bunch of vacant lots, and residents fought dumping on those lots. They got the city to turn over the land.
Keeping land affordable is a huge struggle. If people don't know the history, they might be inclined to sell it off decades later.
There are around 200 community land trusts in the US. A lot of public land is also in trust, but leased out to corporations. Burlington, VT has the largest community land trust in the country.
You need two things to start a community land trust: land and a community. The community element is really important.
Cooper Square belongs to a limited equity co-operative. They lease land from the trust. They're very conscious about the role of housing, and the role of community. Peter. Columbia University provided a community benefits agreement, which included $10M for affordable housing.
In 1945 our national housing policy was based around single-family homes in the suburbs. This was a by-product of manifest destiny, westernization, and an excess of land. Cities, and inner cities in particular, were seen as a place to escape from. One of the earliest suburbs was actually Ferguson, MO.
With suburbanization came the process of redlining. Suburbanization also brought about the home mortgage interest deduction. This is a tax benefit that goes to the wealthiest part of the population. Suburbanization led to the advent of malls, many of which are being abandoned today.
We have increased the percentage of people who own their own homes, but we have also increased segregation. When property tax revenue drops, cities tend to raise revenue via traffic courts.
Cities are becoming popular again. There's been a 32% increase in city populations over the last 10 years. Kids are less interested in getting drivers licenses, and there's more demand for public transit.
Affordable housing is generally targeted to a specific AMI (area median income). A community land trust could cater to a range of AMIs For example:
- 10% at 50% AMI
- 10% at 50-80% AMI
- 60% at 80-175% AMI
- 20% below market rate
In NYC, AMI is $86k for a family of three.
The goals is to have property that costs 2.5x a family's income. When you sell, you'll get that 2.5x back - any additional money goes back to the land trust.
We advocate for passive, energy efficient housing. More insulation reduces utility costs.
In the US, around 30% of our income goes towards housing. That's a higher percentage than most other countries.
A land trust might incorporate some element of mixed use. Commercial income can offset the cost of maintaining residential units. On average, it costs $1000/month to maintain a residential unit.
Question: What are the prospects and challenges for community land trusts in the United States?
Community land trusts try to de-commodify land and reduce land speculation. There's also an ideological element of community. Land trusts are not the same thing as affordable housing. Land trusts take maintenance costs into account, and try to be self-sustaining. Affordable housing often needs outside funding in order to be sustainable.
Maybe land shouldn't be privately owned. Public ownership is an alternative.
There are risks associated with mixed-use development. If the residential units are subsidized by commercial space, a business failure can put the residential units in jeopardy.
The type of ownership is not the problem. Capitalists like low-cost housing, because it reduces the cost of labor.
Question: In a community land trust with mixed-use development, do you charge market rate for the commercial spaces?
You might make more money, but you may wind up with a business where the residential tenants can't afford to shop. You need to keep human values at the center of your project.
Question: Who puts in money for the initial purchase of land?
Foreclosed/tax delinquent property can be gotten from cities. You could also seek money from neighboring cities, who might want the benefit of more affordable housing.
When developing affordable housing, don't be afraid to pursue all of the perks and benefits that a developer would try to pursue.
Question: When a community land trust comes out of struggle, how do you pass that sense of struggle on to the next generation?
People have to be engaged. You don't win a struggle and get to live happily ever after.
Question: What's the status of community land trusts (in NYC)?
In NYC, there are groups debating with the city council, to define the benefits associated with having a community land trust. You don't need the legislative definition, though. But you do need the struggle.
Question: Beyond housing, are there alliances trying to address the other things that people need in order to live?
There are groups that emphasize neighborhood and community. Some groups focus on open space and community gardens. You can salvage an individual property, but what's it a part of?
Shut It Down! Black Struggle Class Struggle
Alexis Toliver, Julia Wallance, Ben Woods, Dan Georgakas
Julia. (Who works for http://www.leftvoice.org/). What does "Shut it down" mean? It's about making it impossible for someone not to take a position. You're either with the black community, or you're with the cops. As working people, we have the power to shut the system down.
Ben. The Baltimore uprisings happened when there was a black mayor, a black district attorney, a black national guard, and even a black president. The mayor even referred to the rioters as "thugs".
Treyvon Martin wasn't murdered in an inner city. He was murdered in a middle-class neighborhood. Black people in the US are effectively a domestic colony.
In 1964 there were around 350 black people in office. Today there are over 10,000, but they're still a form of elite. There's deep inequality within the black community, and there hasn't been much of a class struggle over it. There will be a black class
struggle, against the black bourgeois, and against the integration of the black working class into capitalism. There's still a contradiction between colonizer and colonized.
The black lives matter movement has brought in a lot of new people, but it hasn't gotten to black nationalism and internationalism. We're pushing for community control over the police. Not just review boards, but a say in how hiring and firing takes place.
Dan. (He wrote a book called "Detroit: I do mind dying"). I was born and raised in Detroit. There was a radical education movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Detroit was very racist, and we even had a group that was to the right of the KKK. They were around in the 1920s and 1930s.
Detroit had a league of revolutionary workers. In May 1968, they led a wildcat strike that closed the main Dodge plant. Although it was a wildcat strike, it wasn't spontaneous. They developed a whole string of worker demands, using Marxist language.
Several different groups formed, and this eventually led to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. They brought a lot of imagination into the struggle. Workers were the first focus; popular power is strongest at the point of production. If black workers go on strike, the whole country shuts down.
When you organize workers, you immediately enter family situations. You're affecting society.
The League had a six person executive body - they didn't want a single person to dominate. Having six leaders also made it harder to behead the organization. It created more diversity, and gave more power to the base.
The League didn't want to support other branches (i.e., in other industries, or other parts of the country). They didn't have the money or manpower, and they didn't know who the people in these other branches might be. They felt that every location should have its own local leadership and programs. Local groups should form independently, and come together later, if it made sense to do so. If there were problems, a local group could work things out with the local members.
The mass media is very pro-status quo. They don't speak truth to power. In their view, only power knows what the truth is. But it's important to speak truth to people who don't have power.
The Inner City Voice was a worker's paper. The police department threatened printers who printed it. Eventually, we had to go to Chicago to get the paper printed.
Newspapers don't work today, but political orientation and boldness is still important.
Julia. It's important to engage people, and talk about different perspectives. When police killed a young kid in Buenos Aries, a lot of workers walked out in protest. You can kill us, but we have the power to shut down the country economically. The police are not our fiends. They're not part of the working class. They don't stand with us on picket lines.
We need to work together, to understand each other's struggles. Mexico is participating in a constitutional assembly right now, and we should make an effort to understand what they're struggling for.
Question: In your involvement with unions, were you able to make connections at an international level? Can you help control the oppression in other areas?
I'm a member of the CWA. South Africa has one of the most exciting labor movements. They're pushing for a true labor revolution, including taking back land and resources. They're trying to build that solidarity.
Imperialism is the only way that outsourcing works. People in other countries are exploited, all over the world. There's not an international union to stand up against this. We need to kick out the trade union bureaucracy that's in bed with the Democratic party. They're preventing us from gaining ground.
Question: People are always energized by discussions about unions. The states supports college courses and state workers take them. Students think the unions are corrupt. Do you see more politicization in unions? Why do workers vote against their own interests?
The IBEW wants workers to become more class conscious, but not revolutionary. Unions have lost a lot of ground over the years. The Black Panthers organized communities, but they didn't organize workplaces. We'll have to re-learn all of the past workplace struggles.
Political education is important, but that's not happening very much. Who don't we think about shutting down union bureaucracies now? We should think about forming a class-based party. No capitalists, no police, no bigots.
Question: How do you educate union members about the power they could have?
Also, we have a large number of people who are unemployed. How do we connect with them?
There has always been an alliance between prosecutors and the police; the legal system is connected to the police system. The courts are against us; they're part of the capitalist system. It's better to organize around a class strategy than a legal strategy.
The League tried to change the nature of courts by getting control over criminal court judgeships.
You can be strategic in who you target. For example, suppose your company has one significant supplier. Shutting down that supplier will shut down your whole company. This kind of strategy can be very effective.
Question: What are the core lessons that can be applied to today's working class? The League's worst mistake was in not mobilizing women.
Organize from the ground up. Having power concentrated in the base gives you much more power overall. You have to listen to your base.
Comment: The League inspired several generations. What you do on the ground really affects the orientation of your union.
We have to build a situation where workers are ready to strike for themselves. This starts on the ground. People actually have to do things.
Question: Where are our struggles going, and where do we want them to go?
It's not just one issue. There's not one issue I can state in response to mass deportation or our imperialist wars.
Comment: In my union, we have white leaders and black rank and file. The leadership feels weak, and they're terrified of a mobilized base.
Question: A lot of people don't support Sanders because he's a socialist, and they're afraid of that. How do we build support for socialism?
Bernie calls himself a socialist, and talks about democratic socialism. That in itself is a big change, and gives us more opportunity to talk about it.
Elder revolutionaries have a lot to offer us. It's important for us to learn and evolve together.
The union bureaucracy is completely tied to imperialism. The imperialists will ask the unions to pound pavement during the election, and we need to push back.
There's a difference between business unions and social justice unions. Today, we have business unions. Social justice unions are what get people involved.
Sunday, May 22nd
The Rise of Big Surveillance: How Oakland Pushed Back and Won
Heather La Mastro, Ali Winston, Brian Hofer, Joshua Smith, Shahid Butar
Several speakers were members of the Oakland Privacy Working Group.
Ali. Cities have adopted an "all threats" model for counter-terrorism and crime. The federal government provided grants for fusion centers. Oakland was building a "domain awareness center" for the port of Oakland, and eventually for the whole city. The domain awareness center included video cameras, automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), gunshot detectors, cameras in schools, and highway traffic cameras. Information collected from the domain awareness center would feed into other fusion centers in California, and into DHS.
NYC has a similar system, Chicago too. Oakland's system was built by a defense contractor named SAIC.
The original mission was the port of Oakland, but the system expanded well beyond that.
Since their inception, fusion centers and comprehensive surveillance centers have had little to no effect on deterring violent crime.
Joshua (@domainawareness). InQTel and Palantier are my favorite players to watch. Palantier is headed by Alex Carp and Peter Thiel. They run the database for Oakland's ALPR system.
We found out about the domain awareness center around one week before the proposal came before city council, but the planning actually started in mid-2008. It was designed to interface with DOJ networks, and eventually an urban fusion center. In short, the goal was to create a centralized monitoring facility.
Oakland has a camera lending program, where the city partners with businesses and individuals. The city gets access to their video feeds. The program included setting up a lot of dummy cameras, so you don't know which ones are real and which ones are fake.
NCRIC is the North California Regional Intelligence Center. It's located in San Francisco.
Fusion centers are a post-9/11 development, and never worked as well as their designers intended. CA has started to merge them with Emergency Operations Centers, or EOCs.
The FBI has ten agents working inside the Oakland Police Department. They have their own offices, and their own internal IT system.
Oakland PD hid microphones around courthouses in Oakland, so they could record conversations around the courthouse. For example, lawyers talking to their clients. You have to conduct research from all angles. Pay attention to names, keywords, and the companies involved. Then, decide where to focus your efforts.
Document scanners with OCR are a huge asset when it comes to dealing with FOIA documents. You'll get a big pile of paper, and scan it. The OCR allows digitizes the text, and makes it searchable. Words that appear are important. Words that don't appear are just as important.
Through public records requests, we obtained thousand of emails about the planning process for the domain awareness center. A lot of the emails mentioned responding to mass protests. There was no mention of shootings, violent crime, and homicides. The whole thing was planned as a surveillance apparatus, not as a crime prevention tool.
What is domain awareness? It's an effective understanding of anything to do with the "domain". This includes an civil unrest and activists.
During the Oakland Port shutdown, the Oakland coast guard maintained 70 live camera feeds of the protesters. We've also learned that the bay area uses the NSA's Ozone Framework software.
https://publicintelligence.net/ published copies of the Oakland PD emails that we obtained through public records requests. We also obtained copies of contractor invoices for work on the domain awareness center. The center's help desk software
comes from an Israeli-based remote access vendor. The center had approximately 350 TB of storage capacity. Some SAIC documents referred to the center as "NSA West". Oakland's public record system uses a piece of software called Record Trac. It was built by a military intelligence contractor.
Here are a few helpful sites for doing public records investigations:
- https://www.fbo.gov/. Federal business opportunities.
- https://www.propublica.org/, for IRS form 990s.
- http://registry.faa.gov, for FAA N-number registrations
- http://www.broadcastify.com/ for streams of police scanners
- http://bayareauasi.org/. Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative
- http://urbanshield.org/ for defense and law enforcement training materials.
- Your own city web site
There are sky spies in Oakland. These are surveillance aircraft that fly around the city. If you can get the N-number from the aircraft's tail, you can find out who it's registered to. Once you get the registration, follow it down the rabbit hole.
After a demonstration or riot, try to get your hands on spent ordinance or cartridges. Review video footage, and try to pick out model numbers that appear on equipment. You can use this information to look up manufacturer's specifications, product documents, safety specifications, and such.
If you find a good video, make a copy of it. Stuff on the web can disappear. The US state department had a collection of declassified files on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. A while later, the state department pulled them all down. This is another example of where saving copies pays off.
Brian. One of our goals was to raise awareness of Oakland's domain awareness center. The first time the project came before city council, it was listed on the consent agent. People in the city - and the city councilors - didn't understand the degree of surveillance that the feds wanted to do. The city council didn't kill the project immediately, which led to a long public awareness effort.
Shahid. In Santa Clara, there's a proposal to subject police acquisition of surveillance technology to the public. There are pre- and post-deployment transparency requirements. The ordinance it technology agnostic; it has to be, because the technology changes every year.
Transparency is the minimum threshold for enabling a debate. Data reporting requirements are an important step further. For example, was the technology used for investigating homocides, or was it used for profiling minorities? There should be limits on data collection and retention. Collecting evidence is okay, but collecting intelligence is not. There should be dissemination limits. This is usually an uphill fight, but it's an effective way to politicize an issue.
Brian. How do you minimize the impact of surveillance? Put a specification of purpose in place. This is a border around what a surveillance program is allowed to do. Tie the program to very specific allowable uses. Big data sets make it possible to violate privacy after the fact. You need to know policies, and which offices are involved. There have to be compliance reports and performance monitoring requirements. When reports are released, you should revisit the stated uses, vs how the data collected was actually used. Even if you can't shut down civil liberties abuses, you can at least avoid spending a lot of money on stuff that doesn't work.
You can't shut law enforcement out of this process, but you can ask them to show necessity. Politicians don't want to be outliers. Public turnout is key. Your local policy makers want to be re-elected.
Question: When the government surveils you 24/7, the relationship becomes more akin to master and slave. Do cities really want this, or is this happening because we're unaware?
Some areas want it and some don't, even within the same city. Some people might want cameras to prove that they weren't doing anything wrong. Many of these measures are designed to provide the appearance of security without providing the reality of security.
Police militarization started in the 1990s, because they were getting downed by narco traffickers in Miami and LA. Of course, we now know that the narco traffickers were being funded by the CIA.
Question: Some groups are being shut out of public meetings. How do you connect with your committee members when this happens?
Share resources and work products. Talk to groups, build coalitions and partnerships. California's state constitution gives us an inalienable right to privacy, and that's been a big help in fighting surveillance. NYC is harder, because you don't have that state constitutional protection.
In NYC, Muslim communities have been targeted since 9/11. That's one group you can ally with. BLM activists are another.