The movement sent a press release to the media and MPs with about 40 demands on Thursday.
The claims of the “yellow vests” now officially go beyond the issue of fuel prices alone. In a lengthy statement sent to the media and members of parliament on Thursday 29 November, the movement’s delegation listed a series of demands it wanted to see implemented.
“Deputies of France, we inform you of the people’s directives so that you can transpose them into law (…). Obey the will of the people. Enforce these instructions”, write the “yellow vests”. Delegation spokespersons are to be received on Friday at 2 p.m. by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Minister of Ecological Transition François de Rugy.
Increase of the minimum wage to 1,300 euros net, return to retirement at age 60 or abandonment of withholding tax…. The list includes many social measures, but also measures concerning transport, such as the end of the increase in fuel taxes and the introduction of a tax on marine fuel and kerosene. Here is a non-exhaustive list of claims:
– Zero homeless : URGENT.
– More progressiveness in income tax, i.e. more brackets.
– Smic at 1,300 euros net.
– Promote small businesses in villages and town centres. Stop the construction of large commercial areas around large cities that kill small businesses and more free parking in city centres.
– Large plan of Insulation of the dwellings to make ecology by making savings to the households.
– Taxes: that BIG companies (MacDonald’s, Google, Amazon, Carrefour…) pay BIG and that small companies (craftsmen, very small SMEs) pay small.
– Same social security system for all (including craftsmen and self-employed entrepreneurs). End of the RSI.
– The pension system must remain united and therefore socialized. No point retreat.
– End of the fuel tax increase.
– No retirement below 1,200 euros.
– Any elected representative will be entitled to the median salary. His transport costs will be monitored and reimbursed if justified. Entitlement to a meal ticket and a holiday voucher.
– The salaries of all French people, as well as pensions and allowances, must be indexed to inflation.
– Protecting French industry: prohibit relocations. Protecting our industry means protecting our know-how and our jobs.
– End of seconded work. It is abnormal that a person working in France does not enjoy the same salary and rights. Anyone authorised to work on French territory must be on an equal footing with a French citizen and his employer must contribute at the same level as a French employer.
– For job security: further limit the number of fixed-term contracts for large companies. We want more permanent contracts.
– End of the CICE. Use of this money to launch a French hydrogen car industry (which is truly ecological, unlike the electric car.)
– End of the austerity policy. We stop paying interest on the debt that is declared illegitimate and we start paying down the debt without taking money from the poor and the less poor, but by collecting the $80 billion in tax evasion.
– That the causes of forced migration be addressed.
– That asylum seekers are treated well. We owe them housing, security, food and education for minors. Work with the UN to ensure that reception camps are opened in many countries around the world, pending the outcome of the asylum application.
– That rejected asylum seekers be returned to their country of origin.
– That a real integration policy be implemented. Living in France means becoming French (French language courses, French history courses and civic education courses with a certificate at the end of the course).
– Maximum salary set at 15,000 euros.
– That jobs be created for the unemployed.
– Increase in disabled benefits.
– Limitation of rents. More affordable housing (especially for students and precarious workers).
– Prohibition to sell property belonging to France (dam, airport…)
– Substantial resources granted to the judiciary, police, gendarmerie and army. Whether law enforcement overtime is paid or recovered.
– All the money earned by motorway tolls will be used for the maintenance of France’s motorways and roads as well as for road safety.
– As the price of gas and electricity has risen since privatisation took place, we want them to become public again and prices to fall significantly.
– Immediate end of the closure of small lines, post offices, schools and maternity hospitals.
– Let us bring well-being to our seniors. Prohibition to make money on the elderly. White gold is over. The era of grey well-being is beginning.
– Maximum 25 students per class from kindergarten to high school.
– Substantial resources brought to psychiatry.
– The popular referendum must be incorporated into the Constitution. Creation of a readable and effective website, supervised by an independent control body where people can make a legislative proposal. If this bill obtains 700,000 signatures, then this bill must be discussed, supplemented and amended by the National Assembly, which will have the obligation (one year to the day after obtaining 700,000 signatures) to submit it to the vote of all French people.
– Return to a 7-year term of office for the President of the Republic. The election of deputies two years after the election of the President of the Republic made it possible to send a positive or negative signal to the President of the Republic regarding his policy. This helped to make the voice of the people heard.)
– Retirement at age 60 and for all persons who have worked in a profession that wears out the body (e. g. bricklayer or boner) entitled to retirement at age 55.
– A 6-year-old child not caring for himself, continuation of the PAJEMPLOI assistance system until the child is 10 years old.
– Encourage the transport of goods by rail.
– No withholding tax.
– End of presidential lifetime benefits.
– Prohibition to make merchants pay a tax when their customers use the credit card. Tax on marine fuel oil and kerosene.
« Law & Order. Inculpation par un grand jury fédéral (USA) de 3 policiers de Saint-Louis ayant tabassé l’un de leurs collègues infiltré au cours d’une #manifestation. »
Four St. Louis Police Officers Indicted for Civil Rights Violations and Obstruction of Justice | OPA | Department of Justice
A federal grand jury in St. Louis indicted four St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) Police Officers for their conduct in connection with the arrest and assault of a fellow SLMPD police officer who was working undercover in downtown St. Louis during last year’s protests following the acquittal of a former SLMPD officer of a first-degree murder charge brought by the State of Missouri relating to the shooting death of a civilian.
The indictment charges Officers Dustin Boone, 35, Bailey Colletta, 25, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, with various felony charges, including deprivation of constitutional rights, conspiracy to obstruct justice, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice.
“Law enforcement officers have an important duty to protect the members of the communities they serve and to enforce the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute matters involving allegations of federal criminal civil rights violations.”
“These are serious charges and the vigorous enforcement of civil rights is essential to maintaining public trust in law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen. “The SLMPD recognized the importance of this investigation and its leadership has cooperated at every turn. I continue to have great confidence in the brave and honorable men and women of the SLMPD, Chief John Hayden, and Public Safety Director Judge Jimmie Edwards.”
New Law Could Give U.K. Unconstitutional Access to Americans’ Personal Data, Human Rights Groups Warn
Nine human rights and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department today objecting to a potential agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom that would give British law enforcement broad access to data held by U.S. technology companies. The possible agreement stems from the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or CLOUD Act, for which Justice Department officials have lobbied since 2016 and which President Donald Trump signed into law in (...)
anthropologist Gabriella Coleman contemplates anonymity; Edward Snowden explains blockchain; journalist Julia Angwin and Pioneer Award-winning artist Trevor Paglen discuss the intersections of their work; Pioneer Award winner Malkia Cyril discusses the historical surveillance of black bodies; and Ken Montenegro and Hamid Khan of Stop LAPD Spying debate author and intelligence contractor Myke Cole on the question of whether there’s a way law enforcement can use surveillance responsibly.
The End of Trust is available to download and read right now under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
Arizona border residents speak out against Donald Trump’s deployment of troops
Residents from Arizona borderland towns gathered Thursday outside the Arizona State Capitol to denounce President Donald Trump’s deployment of at least 5,200 U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The group of about a dozen traveled to Phoenix to hold the event on the Arizona State Capitol lawn. The press conference took place as a caravan of migrants seeking asylum continues to move north through Mexico toward the United States.
“The U.S. government response to asylum seekers has turned to military confrontation,” said Amy Juan, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who spoke at the event on the Arizona State Capitol lawn.
“We demand an end to the rhetoric of dehumanization and the full protection of human rights for all migrants and refugees in our borderlands.”
Juan and her group said many refugees confronted by military at the border will circumvent them by way of “dangerous foot crossings through remote areas.”
“Already this year, hundreds of remains of migrants and refugees have been recovered in U.S. deserts,” Juan said. “As front-line border communities, we witness and respond to this tragedy firsthand.”
While she spoke at a lectern, others held a sign saying, “Troops out now. Our communities are not war zones.”
As the press conference unfolded, the Trump administration announced a plan to cut back immigrants’ ability to request asylum in the United States.
Those from Arizona borderland towns are also concerned that border communities, such as Ajo, the Tohono O’odham Nation, Arivaca and others, may see an increased military presence.
“I didn’t spend two years in Vietnam to be stopped every time I come and go in my own community,” said Dan Kelly, who lives in Arivaca, an unincorporated community in Pima County, 11 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
A major daily hiccup
Many border-community residents complain the current law enforcement presence, absent the new U.S. troops, creates a major hiccup in everyday life.
“Residents of Arivaca, Ajo, the Tohono O’odham Nation, they are surrounded on all sides by checkpoints. They are surrounded on all sides by border patrol stations. Every time they go to the grocery store, they pass a border patrol vehicle,” said Billy Peard, an attorney for ACLU Arizona.
Juan says she gets anxiety from these checkpoints because she has been stopped and forced to get out of her car while federal agents and a dog search for signs of drugs or human smuggling.
Juan calls the fear of these type of situations “checkpoint trauma.”
“It’s really based upon their suspicions,” she said of authorities at checkpoints. “Even though we are not doing anything wrong, there’s still that fear.”
Many of those speaking at Thursday’s event accused the federal government of racial profiling, targeting Latino and tribal members. They said they are often subjected to prolonged questioning, searches, and at times, harassment.
“A lot of people can sway this as a political thing,” Juan said. “But, ultimately, it’s about our quality of life.”
EU border ’lie detector’ system criticised as pseudoscience
Technology that analyses facial expressions being trialled in Hungary, Greece and Latvia.
The EU has been accused of promoting pseudoscience after announcing plans for a “#smart_lie-detection_system” at its busiest borders in an attempt to identify illegal migrants.
The “#lie_detector”, to be trialled in Hungary, Greece and Latvia, involves the use of a computer animation of a border guard, personalised to the traveller’s gender, ethnicity and language, asking questions via a webcam.
The “deception detection” system will analyse the micro-expressions of those seeking to enter EU territory to see if they are being truthful about their personal background and intentions. Those arriving at the border will be required to have uploaded pictures of their passport, visa and proof of funds.
According to an article published by the European commission, the “unique approach to ‘deception detection’ analyses the micro-expressions of travellers to figure out if the interviewee is lying”.
The project’s coordinator, George Boultadakis, who works for the technology supplier, European Dynamics, in Luxembourg, said: “We’re employing existing and proven technologies – as well as novel ones – to empower border agents to increase the accuracy and efficiency of border checks. The system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.”
Travellers who have been flagged as low risk by the #avatar, and its lie detector, will go through a short re-evaluation of their information for entry. Those judged to be of higher risk will undergo a more detailed check.
Border officials will use a handheld device to automatically crosscheck information, comparing the facial images captured during the pre-screening stage to passports and photos taken on previous border crossings.
When documents have been reassessed, and fingerprinting, palm-vein scanning and face matching have been carried out, the potential risk will be recalculated. A border guard will then take over from the automated system.
The project, which has received €4.5m (£3.95m) in EU funding, has been heavily criticised by experts.
Bruno Verschuere, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Amsterdam, told the Dutch newspaper De Volskrant he believed the system would deliver unfair outcomes.
A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’ - podcast
“Non-verbal signals, such as micro-expressions, really do not say anything about whether someone is lying or not,” he said. “This is the embodiment of everything that can go wrong with lie detection. There is no scientific foundation for the methods that are going to be used now.
“Once these systems are put into use, they will not go away. The public will only hear the success stories and not the stories about those who have been wrongly stopped.”
Verschuere said there was no evidence for the assumption that liars were stressed and that this translated to into fidgeting or subtle facial movements.
Bennett Kleinberg, an assistant professor in data science at University College London, said: “This can lead to the implementation of a pseudoscientific border control.”
A spokesman for the project said: “The border crossing decision is not based on the single tool (ie lie detection) but on the aggregated risk estimations based on a risk-based approach and technology that has been used widely in custom procedures.
“Therefore, the overall procedure is safe because it is not relying in the risk on one analysis (ie the lie detector) but on the correlated risks from various analysis.”
The technology has been designed by a consortium of the Hungarian national police, Latvian customs, and Manchester Metropolitan and Leibnitz universities. Similar technology is being developed in the US, where lie detection is widely used in law enforcement, despite scepticism over its scientific utility in much of the rest of the world.
Last month, engineers at the University of Arizona said they had developed a system that they hoped to install on the US-Mexico border known as the #Automated_Virtual_Agent_for_Truth_Assessments_in_Real-Time, or Avatar.
#wtf #what_the_fuck #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #technologie #expressions_faciales #Grèce #Hongrie #Lettonie #mensonge #abus #gardes-frontière #biométrie #biomarqueurs #corps #smart_borders #risques #université #science-fiction
ping @reka @isskein
Smart lie-detection system to tighten EU’s busy borders
An EU-funded project is developing a way to speed up traffic at the EU’s external borders and ramp up security using an automated border-control system that will put travellers to the test using lie-detecting avatars. It is introducing advanced analytics and risk-based management at border controls.
More than 700 million people enter the EU every year – a number that is rapidly rising. The huge volume of travellers and vehicles is piling pressure on external borders, making it increasingly difficult for border staff to uphold strict security protocols – checking the travel documents and biometrics of every passenger – whilst keeping disruption to a minimum.
To help, the EU-funded project IBORDERCTRL is developing an ‘intelligent control system’ facilitating – making faster – border procedures for bona fide and law-abiding travellers. In this sense, the project is aiming to deliver more efficient and secure land border crossings to facilitate the work of border guards in spotting illegal immigrants, and so contribute to the prevention of crime and terrorism.
‘We’re employing existing and proven technologies – as well as novel ones – to empower border agents to increase the accuracy and efficiency of border checks,’ says project coordinator George Boultadakis of European Dynamics in Luxembourg. ‘IBORDERCTRL’s system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.’
Smart ‘deception detection’
The IBORDERCTRL system has been set up so that travellers will use an online application to upload pictures of their passport, visa and proof of funds, then use a webcam to answer questions from a computer-animated border guard, personalised to the traveller’s gender, ethnicity and language. The unique approach to ‘deception detection’ analyses the micro-expressions of travellers to figure out if the interviewee is lying.
This pre-screening step is the first of two stages. Before arrival at the border, it also informs travellers of their rights and travel procedures, as well as providing advice and alerts to discourage illegal activity.
The second stage takes place at the actual border. Travellers who have been flagged as low risk during the pre-screening stage will go through a short re-evaluation of their information for entry, while higher-risk passengers will undergo a more detailed check.
Border officials will use a hand-held device to automatically cross-check information, comparing the facial images captured during the pre-screening stage to passports and photos taken on previous border crossings. After the traveller’s documents have been reassessed, and fingerprinting, palm vein scanning and face matching have been carried out, the potential risk posed by the traveller will be recalculated. Only then does a border guard take over from the automated system.
At the start of the IBORDERCTRL project, researchers spent a lot of time learning about border crossings from border officials themselves, through interviews, workshops, site surveys, and by watching them at work.
It is hoped that trials about to start in Hungary, Greece and Latvia will prove that the intelligent portable control system helps border guards reliably identify travellers engaging in criminal activity. The trials will start with lab testing to familiarise border guards with the system, followed by scenarios and tests in realistic conditions along the borders.
A mounting challenge
‘The global maritime and border security market is growing fast in light of the alarming terror threats and increasing terror attacks taking place on European Union soil, and the migration crisis,” says Boultadakis.
As a consequence, the partner organisations of IBORDERCTRL are likely to benefit from this growing European security market – a sector predicted to be worth USD 146 billion (EUR 128 bn) in Europe by 2020.
Project acronym: #iBorderCtrl
Participants: Luxembourg (Coordinator), Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Latvia
Project N°: 700626
Total costs: € 4 501 877
EU contribution: € 4 501 877
Duration: September 2016 to August 2019
AVATAR - Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time
There are many circumstances, particularly in a border-crossing scenario, when credibility must be accurately assessed. At the same time, since people deceive for a variety of reasons, benign and nefarious, detecting deception and determining potential risk are extremely difficult. Using artificial intelligence and non-invasive sensor technologies, BORDERS has developed a screening system called the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time (AVATAR). The AVATAR is designed to flag suspicious or anomalous behavior that warrants further investigation by a trained human agent in the field. This screening technology may be useful at Land Ports of Entry, airports, detention centers, visa processing, asylum requests, and personnel screening.
The AVATAR has the potential to greatly assist DHS by serving as a force multiplier that frees personnel to focus on other mission-critical tasks, and provides more accurate decision support and risk assessment. This can be accomplished by automating interviews and document/biometric collection, and delivering real-time multi-sensor credibility assessments in a screening environment. In previous years, we have focused on conducting the basic research on reliably analyzing human behavior for deceptive cues, better understanding the DHS operational environment, and developing and testing a prototype system.
Un #détecteur_de_mensonges bientôt testé aux frontières de l’Union européenne
L’Union européenne va tester dans un avenir proche un moyen de réguler le passage des migrants sur certaines de ses frontières, en rendant celui-ci plus simple et plus rapide. Ce moyen prendra la forme d’un détecteur de mensonges basé sur l’intelligence artificielle.
Financé depuis 2016 par l’UE, le projet iBorderCtrl fera bientôt l’objet d’un test qui se déroulera durant six mois sur quatre postes-frontière situés en Hongrie, en Grèce et en Lettonie. Il s’avère que chaque année, environ 700 millions de nouvelles personnes arrivent dans l’UE, et les gardes-frontières ont de plus en plus de mal à effectuer les vérifications d’usage.
Ce projet iBorderCtrl destiné à aider les gardes-frontières n’est autre qu’un détecteur de mensonges reposant sur une intelligence artificielle. Il s’agit en somme d’une sorte de garde frontière virtuel qui, après avoir pris connaissance des documents d’un individu (passeport, visa et autres), lui fera passer un interrogatoire. Ce dernier devra donc faire face à une caméra et répondre à des questions.
L’IA en question observera la personne et fera surtout attention aux micro-mouvements du visage, le but étant de détecter un éventuel mensonge. À la fin de l’entretien, l’individu se verra remettre un code QR qui déterminera son appartenance à une des deux files d’attente, c’est-à-dire les personnes acceptées et celles – sur lesquelles il subsiste un doute – qui feront l’objet d’un entretien plus poussé avec cette fois, des gardes-frontières humains.
Le système iBorderCtrl qui sera bientôt testé affiche pour l’instant un taux de réussite de 74 %, mais les porteurs du projet veulent atteindre au moins les 85 %. Enfin, évoquons le fait que ce dispositif pose assez logiquement des questions éthiques, et a déjà de nombreux opposants !
L’IA a été présentée lors du Manchester Science Festival qui s’est déroulé du 18 au 29 octobre 2018, comme le montre la vidéo ci-dessous :
New studies show how easy it is to identify people using genetic databases - STAT
n recent months, consumer genealogy websites have unleashed a revolution in forensics, allowing law enforcement to use family trees to track down the notorious Golden State Killer in California and solve other cold cases across the country. But while the technique has put alleged killers behind bars, it has also raised questions about the implications for genetic privacy.
According to a pair of studies published Thursday, your genetic privacy may have already eroded even further than previously realized.
In an analysis published in the journal Science, researchers used a database run by the genealogy company MyHeritage to look at the genetic information of nearly 1.3 million anonymized people who’ve had their DNA analyzed by a direct-to-consumer genomics company. For nearly 60 percent of those people, it was possible to track down someone whose DNA was similar enough to indicate they were third cousins or closer in relation; for another 15 percent of the samples, second cousins or closer could be found.
Yaniv Erlich, the lead author on the Science paper, said his team’s findings should prompt regulators and others to reconsider the assumption that genetic information is de-identified. “It’s really not the case. At least technically, it seems feasible to identify some significant part of the population” with such investigations, said Erlich, who’s a computer scientist at Columbia University and chief science officer at MyHeritage.
The Science paper counted 12 cold cases that were solved between April and August of this year when law enforcement turned to building family trees based on genetic data; a 13th case was an active investigation.
The most famous criminal identified this way: the Golden State Killer, who terrorized California with a series of rapes and murders in the 1970s and 1980s. With the help of a genetic genealogist, investigators uploaded a DNA sample collected from an old crime scene to a public genealogy database, built family trees, and tracked down relatives. They winnowed down their list of potential suspects to one man with blue eyes, and in April, they made the landmark arrest.
To crack that case, the California investigators used GEDmatch, an online database that allows people who got their DNA analyzed by companies like 23andMe and Ancestry to upload their raw genetic data so that they can track down distant relatives. MyHeritage’s database — which contains data from 1.75 million people, mostly Americans who’ve gotten their DNA analyzed by MyHeritage’s genetic testing business — works similarly, although it explicitly prohibits forensic searches. (23andMe warns users about the privacy risks of uploading their genetic data to such third party sites.)
“For me, these articles are fascinating and important and we shouldn’t shy away from the privacy concerns that these articles raise. But at the same time, we should keep in mind the personal and societal value that we believe that we are accruing as we make these large collections,” said Green, who was not involved in the new studies and is an adviser for genomics companies including Helix and Veritas Genetics.
He pointed to the potential of genomics not only to reunite family members and put criminals behind bars, but also to predict and prevent heritable diseases and develop new drugs.
As with using social media and paying with credit cards online, reaping the benefits of genetic testing requires accepting a certain level of privacy risk, Green said. “We make these tradeoffs knowing that we’re trading some vulnerability for the advantages,” he said.
James A. Winnefeld Speaks Out on the Opioid Crisis - The Atlantic
When speaking to Andersen, Winnefeld described how Jonathan was a quiet, kind, and clever kid, who suffered from anxiety and depression. After a false diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, Jonathan began drinking to come down from the Adderall he had been prescribed, and later moved on to harder substances such as opioids. Winnefeld and his wife tried to get Jonathan into intensive outpatient treatment, but no centers had space. During his senior year of high school, Jonathan began to spiral downward. He tried, unsuccessfully, to take his own life.
“We realized, at that point, that we could not keep our son safe,” Winnefeld said.
After about five days of searching, Winnefeld found a treatment center to take Jonathan. And after 15 months of treatment, Jonathan began to return to whom he once was. “It takes that long for the brain to recover from the physiological, psychological changes that have taken place,” Winnefeld said. “We saw his ambition come back. We saw his zest for life.”
During his treatment, Jonathan received his emergency-medical-technician qualifications. In an admissions essay to the University of Denver, Jonathan wrote about a time when he had to administer CPR to someone undergoing a heroin overdose in a McDonald’s bathroom. Winnefeld shared how Jonathan wrote that “at that moment, he had decided he would dedicate his life to helping people who could not help themselves.”
Yet addiction is a powerful thing, Winnefeld explained. Three weeks later, Jonathan passed away, relapsing on heroin that had been laced with fentanyl.
So the Winnefelds started SAFE, which Andersen described as “amazingly comprehensive in its approach to the opioid epidemic.” SAFE combats the opioid crisis from six different angles. It works on public awareness and trying to lower the stigma of addiction. It also focuses on prevention in vulnerable populations such as high schools, and seeks to have doctors moderate their prescription of opioids.
The nonprofit also emphasizes law enforcement’s response to opioid addiction, trying to assure that addiction isn’t criminalized. SAFE considers medical response critical to fighting the crisis, and works to make sure every first responder is equipped with the lifesaving drug naloxone, which can reverse the symptoms of an overdose.
Shadowy Black Axe group leaves trail of tattered lives - The Globe and Mail
Canadian police say they are fighting a new kind of criminal organization.
The signs began to appear two years ago: photos on Facebook of men wearing odd, matching outfits.
Then there were stories, even old police files, attached to the people in the photos: a kidnapping, a man run over by a car, brutal beatings over what seemed to be a small slight.
Mapping a secret criminal hierarchy for the first time is a rare kind of detective work. So when two Toronto police officers and an RCMP analyst in British Columbia started documenting the existence of something called the “Black Axe, Canada Zone,” they could not have predicted it would take them to funerals, suburban barbecue joints and deep into African history before they understood what they were seeing.
The Black Axe is feared in Nigeria, where it originated. It is a “death cult,” one expert said. Once an idealistic university fraternity, the group has been linked to decades of murders and rapes, and its members are said to swear a blood oath.
Most often, the group is likened to the Mob or to biker gangs, especially as it spreads outside Nigeria.
An investigation by The Globe and Mail that included interviews with about 20 people found that “Axemen,” as they call themselves, are setting up chapters around the world, including in Canada.
Like any criminal organization, it focuses on profit, police say. But instead of drug or sex trafficking, it specializes in a crime many consider minor and non-violent: scamming.
What police have also learned is that, when done on an “industrial” level as part of a professional global network, scams ruin lives on a scale they have rarely seen.
Two weeks ago, at a news conference attended by FBI officers, Toronto police announced they had taken part in an international crackdown on a money-laundering network through which more than $5-billion flowed in just over a year. Two local men charged with defrauding a Toronto widow of her life’s savings will eventually face extradition to the United States on money-laundering charges, they said.
Online fraud is fluid, global and hard-to-track, but it often requires local operatives. Several Toronto-area residents have been defrauded of at least $1-million each in the past two years, and police allege the money was wired with the help of Canadian residents linked to the Black Axe, and sometimes it was handed to the group’s associates in person. The recipients then sent the money ricocheting through bank accounts around the globe, with trusted members in countries on every continent helping with the transfers before it disappeared.
The sophistication of the money-laundering scheme reflects the efficiency of the scams, in which several people assume false identities and mix reality – bank accounts, real names and real websites – with fake documents.
The police added an extra charge for one of the men they arrested, Akohomen Ighedoise, 41: “participating in a criminal organization.”
Officers said in an interview they seized documents that will prove in court that Mr. Ighedoise separately helped a network of fraudsters launder money, that the fraudsters are members of the Black Axe and that he is their bookkeeper. The charge is the first time a Canadian has been publicly linked to the group.
Interviews with police, gang experts and Nigerian academics paint a picture of an organization both public and enigmatic, with an ostensible charitable purpose as well as secret codes and a strict hierarchy. Police say it has grown to 200 people across Canada.
Officers in Canada first heard the name “Black Axe” less than two years ago, said Tim Trotter, a detective constable with the Toronto Police Service. They are working quickly, trying to stop the group from becoming entrenched.
“I mean, 100 years ago, law enforcement dealt with the same thing, the Sicilian black hand, right? It meant nothing to anybody except the Sicilian community,” Det. Constable Trotter said. “And that’s what we have here – that’s what we believe we have here.”
Many scam victims lose a few thousand dollars. Soraya Emami, one of Toronto’s most recent victims, lost everything, including many friends.
In 1988, Ms. Emami fled her native Iran with her four sons. Her husband was jailed by the regime and his passport was held for years. Ms. Emami flew to Canada and became a real estate agent in North York.
It took 30 years to save for a nice house in quiet Stouffville, Ont. The rest of her earnings went to her boys, who grew up to be a doctor, an engineer, a computer engineer and a bank manager. Last year, the youngest – a fifth son, born in Canada – began university. She and her husband had never reunited, and for the first time in decades, Ms. Emami thought about dating.
“My kids grow up, and I feel lonely,” said the 63-year-old, who has long, wavy black hair. “I didn’t know how, and because I’m not [used to] any relationship, I feel shy.”
Ms. Emami saw a TV commercial for Match.com and joined, hesitantly. A few days later, she told a friend she had heard from a tanned, white-haired, very nice geologist. Fredrick Franklin said he lived just 45 minutes away, in Toronto’s wealthy Bridle Path neighbourhood.
He had spent years in Australia, and when they talked on the phone, she could not always understand his thick accent at first. He called her several times a day from Vancouver, where he was on a business trip, then from Turkey, where he travelled on a short contract. He was to fly home via Delta airlines on May 5. She would pick him up from the airport, and they would finally meet.
“I am a simple man in nature, very easy going,” he wrote in an e-mail, telling her about his son and granddaughters. “I have done the Heart and Stroke ride in Toronto for the past 2 years, have also done the MS ride from London to Grand Bend.”
A few days before his return date, Mr. Franklin called Ms. Emami in a panic. His bank had told him someone had tried to gain access to his account, he said. He could not clear it up from rural Turkey, so would she mind calling the bank and reporting back with his balance? He e-mailed the phone number for SunTrust bank, a 10-digit account number and a nine-digit tax ID number.
She spoke to a bank teller. The balance, she was told, was $18-million.
A few days later, Mr. Franklin asked for a small favour – could she send him a new phone and laptop – saying he would repay her upon his return. She acquiesced, believing he could pay her back.
Within a few weeks, she lost half a million dollars, and the scam would cost her the home in Stouffville.
What perplexes police about some of the Toronto romance frauds is not how the victims could be so naive, but how the fraudsters could be so convincing.
The SunTrust account appears to be real, The Globe determined after retracing the steps Ms. Emami took to access it. The bank said it could not verify the account’s existence, as that was client-related information.
In the course of the scam, Ms. Emami spoke to at least five people other than the Aussie geologist, including two in person.
In June, in what they called Project Unromantic, York Regional Police charged nine local people in several cases, including that of Ms. Emami, that added up to $1.5-million. They considered the criminals to be internationally connected. “We don’t know who’s at the top, but there seems to be a hierarchy,” Detective Courtney Chang said.
The Toronto police believe the crimes that led to their charges against Mr. Ighedoise are linked to the ones in York Region.
Canadian police came across the Black Axe by happenstance. In 2013, an RCMP analyst in Vancouver was investigating a West Coast fraud suspect and found a photo of him on Facebook with another man, said Det. Constable Trotter (the analyst would not speak to The Globe). Both were wearing unusual clothes and seemed to be at a meeting in Toronto.
The analyst discovered the second man was under investigation by Toronto financial crimes detective Mike Kelly, an old partner of Det. Constable Trotter. The analyst e-mailed Det. Constable Kelly to ask if he knew the significance of what the two men in the photo were wearing.
The uniform of the Black Axe is a black beret, a yellow soccer scarf and high yellow socks. These items often have a patch or insignia showing two manacled hands with an axe separating the chain between them, which sometimes also says “Black Axe” or “NBM,” standing for “Neo-Black Movement,” another name for the group. They often incorporate the numbers seven or 147.
The group tries to maintain a public image of volunteerism. It has been registered as a corporation in Ontario since 2012 under the name “Neo-Black Movement of Africa North America,” with Mr. Ighedoise among several people listed as administrators. In the United Kingdom, said Det. Constable Trotter, it has been known to make small donations – to a local hospital, for example – and then claim to be in a “partnership” with the legitimate organization.
In the GTA, the group got itself listed publicly in 2013 as a member of Volunteer MBC, a volunteer centre serving Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. But after expressing an interest in recruiting volunteers, the group involved never posted an ad, and staff at the centre said when they tried to follow up, they found the three yahoo.com addresses on file were no longer working.
Police found plenty of photos on social media of men in Axemen uniforms at what were said to be conferences or events.
Det. Constable Kelly and Det. Constable Trotter compiled a list of people in Canada photographed wearing Axemen outfits. From a car, they watched some of them attend a funeral. One mourner had yellow socks and a yellow cummerbund with NBM on it, Det. Constable Trotter said. The rest were dressed normally. Near the end of the ceremony, “all of a sudden the berets and everything came out, and then they put the coffin into the earth,” he said.
As they added names to their list, the investigators checked each one for connections to previous cases.
What they found were 10 to 20 episodes of serious violence over the past few years clearly linked to members of the group, many of them at a Nigerian restaurant in northwest Toronto, Det. Constable Trotter said. One man had been run over by a car; another was allegedly kidnapped and beaten with a liquor bottle for a day in an abandoned building; a man was knocked to the ground for refusing to fetch another man a beer. Witnesses generally refused to talk.
In one incident, a group of men had insulted another man’s girlfriend, and when he objected, they “beat the living hell” out of him, leaving him with cranial fractures, Det. Constable Trotter said.
“Without the understanding of the context, it’s just a bar fight,” he said. “But when we understand who those people were, and we realize, oh, they’re all affiliated to the group … that’s why no one called . And that’s why, when the police came, suddenly, oh no, those cameras don’t work. And that’s why, out of a bar full of people, the only witness was his girlfriend.”
That case and the kidnapping case are before the courts, Det. Constable Trotter said. The Globe tried to search for all court records linked to the bar’s address over the past few years, but was told such a search is impossible.
Police have six criteria to identify members of the group, Det. Constable Trotter said. If a person meets three of the six, he is considered a likely member.
Police have documents that show when certain people were “blended” or initiated into the group, including some in Toronto, he said. Members live mostly in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
“There’s evidence that they’ve been active since 2005, so that’s a decade’s worth of ability to lay under the radar and become ensconced in the criminal community,” he said.
To set up scams, they work from cafés or home and are “fastidious” about deleting their online history, Det. Constable Kelly said.
“They have names, titles, they show respect,” Det. Constable Trotter said. “They pay dues to each other. Individuals are detailed by higher-ranking individuals to do things.”
As they learned of the group’s fearsome reputation in Nigeria, the officers began to equate it more with established Canadian organized crime. At Afrofest in Woodbine Park one summer, a group of Axemen walked through in full uniform – not something anyone from the Nigerian community would do lightly, Det. Constable Trotter said. “I wouldn’t wear a Hells Angels vest if I wasn’t a Hells Angel.”
He began to worry the group’s brazenness would signify to the community that “Axemen are here. And they’re open about it, and the police are doing nothing.”
Fraternities such as the Black Axe were born during an optimistic time in Nigeria’s recent history, and at first they reflected it. In the postcolonial 1970s, they were modelled after U.S. fraternities. They attracted top students and were meant to foster pan-African unity and Nigeria’s future leaders.
When the country descended into widespread corruption after its oil boom, the fraternities split into factions and violently sought power on campuses, trying to control grades and student politics and gain the loyalty of the richest, best-connected students.
Through the 1990s and 2000s, the groups inspired terror: Students were hacked to death or shot in their sleep, and professors were murdered in their offices in what seemed to be random attacks. Researchers say such crimes were often assigned to new members in their late teens to prove their allegiance after a painful hazing in an isolated cemetery or forest.
“Sometimes, they are given some tough assignments like raping a very popular female student or a female member of the university staff,” Adewale Rotimi wrote in a 2005 scholarly article.
Raping the daughters of rich and powerful families, or the girlfriends of enemies, was another tactic of the groups to prove their dominance, Ifeanyi Ezeonu wrote in 2013.
In addition to innocent victims, one West African organization fighting cult violence says more than 1,700 fraternity members died in inter-group wars in a 10-year span. The groups were outlawed, and much of their ritualistic element – night-time ceremonies, code words – seemed to evolve to avoid detection, said Ogaga Ifowodo, who was a student in Nigeria during the 1980s and later taught at Cornell and Texas State universities.
“Early on … you could distinguish them by their costume,” he said. “The Black Axe, they tended to wear black berets, black shirt and jeans.”
The transformation was not a coincidence, Mr. Ifowodo said.
“At that time, we were under military dictatorships, and they had actually propped up the now-secret cults as a way of weakening the students’ movements,” he said. “It violates something that I think is sacred to an academic community, which is bringing into campus a kind of Mafia ethos.”
But this does not explain whether, or how, the fraternities could morph into a sophisticated global crime syndicate.
In Nigeria, the groups are not associated with fraud, said Etannibi Alemika, who teaches at Nigeria’s University of Jos. Mr. Ifowodo agreed. However, he also backed Toronto Police’s conclusion that Black Axe is one and the same as the Neo-Black Movement. In a briefing document posted online, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board says the two are closely linked, but speculates that the Black Axe is a “splinter group” of the NBM.
The NBM is known to carry out fraud, said Jonathan Matusitz, a professor at the University of Central Florida who has studied Nigerian fraternities. He said the group’s members have also been linked, mostly in Nigeria, to drug trafficking, pimping, extortion, and the falsification or copying of passports and credit cards.
“I think that the NBM movement is more about scamming people, and it has some associations with the Black Axe, which kills people,” he said. “Have they joined forces to have like a super-group? I hope not.”
Despite police fears, several people interviewed by The Globe, mostly business owners, said they had never heard of the Black Axe before the police news conference last week.
Kingsley Jesuorobo, a Toronto lawyer who has many Nigerian-Canadian clients, said he has never heard of anyone being intimidated by the group.
Mr. Jesuorobo said he is familiar with the Black Axe in the Nigerian context, but cannot imagine it posing a real threat in Canada. It is more likely that former members gravitate to each other for social reasons, he said.
“It would be a case of comparing apples and oranges to look at how these guys operate – the impunity that characterizes their actions – in Nigeria, and then sort of come to the conclusion that they can do the same thing here,” he said.
For Nigerian-Canadians, a cultural minority working hard to establish themselves, the idea is very troubling, he said.
“If these things are true, it would be a bad omen for our community,” he said.
After confirming her love interest’s $18-million bank balance, Ms. Emami did not hear from him for a few days. When they spoke again, she told him she had worried. He responded that it was a sign of how close they had become; she had sensed something had happened.
The geologist said that during his contract in Turkey, he had been in a mining accident. He was injured and could not get to Istanbul to replace his phone and laptop, which had been destroyed, so would she buy new ones and send them by courier? Ms. Emami went to the Apple Store at Fairview Mall and called him, asking if he could pay with his credit card over the phone. He said the store would not allow it, and the employee agreed. So she bought the $4,000 laptop and phone and shipped them.
A few days later, he called again: He needed $80,000 to pay the salary of an employee, promising to repay with interest. She told him she would have to borrow from her son, but he reassured her, and she wired the money in several instalments.
The day of his flight, a man called and said he was Mr. Franklin’s lawyer and was with him at the Istanbul airport. Someone injured in the mining accident had died, he said, and Mr. Franklin owed $130,000 to his family or he would go to jail.
“He’s calling me, he’s crying to me,” she said. “I didn’t have any choice. I go to friends and everybody I know. Because you know, when you’re trying to be a good person, everybody trusts you. …Whatever I asked, they give me.”
Even a friend of a friend, a cab driver, lent her thousands. “He told me, you know, dollar by dollar I collected this money,” she recalled.
Mr. Franklin sent her details of his rebooked flight, and she promised to pick him up and cook a meal. He would love that, he said; he liked chicken.
“You don’t believe how much food I make for him,” she said.
She was waiting with the packed-up meal the morning of his flight when the phone rang again. It was another lawyer, this time at the Frankfurt airport, he said. Mr. Franklin owed $250,000 in tax before he could leave the country with a valuable stone.
“My heart is just – crash,” she said. “I was crying on the phone. I said, ’Please don’t do this to me. … Why are you doing this to me? I told you from the first day, I’m borrowing this money from people.’”
A man saying he was Mr. Franklin’s son, who also had an Australian accent, called and told her he had remortgaged his house to save his father and might lose custody of his children because of it. Ms. Emami pulled together $158,000. When her bank would not let her transfer the money, she was instructed to meet a man and a woman in person who deposited it into their accounts.
Ms. Emami’s son and her manager at work persuaded her to go to police. When officers told her Mr. Franklin was not real and the money was likely gone for good, they called a psychiatrist to help her grasp the news.
She cannot pay her bills or afford groceries, her credit rating is destroyed and she is hunting for work despite crippling headaches. On Oct. 27, she was served with notice that she will lose her house in Stouffville in 20 days.
“I can’t sleep,” she said recently, crying.
She had always considered it her “duty” to help people in need, she said. Now her friends, even her sons, are angry that the scam impoverished them as well.
“It’s my life, it’s my relationships,” she said. “And after 30 years living here with five kids, you know, I can’t live in the street. I can’t go to the shelter.”
Other local women describe the lengths fraudsters went to to blend truth and fiction. One received a forged Ontario provincial contract. Two victims in York said the scammers impersonated an Edmonton mining executive. The fraudsters build Facebook and LinkedIn accounts that seem to be populated by friends and family.
“When we Google them, they do seem real,” one woman said.
Daniel Williams of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a federal intelligence-gathering agency on fraud, said the scammers profit from economies of scale. “What they did to you, they were doing to 8,000 people that day,” he said.
The agency gets more calls from fraud victims a day than it can answer, sometimes exceeding 2,000. Staff look for waves of calls complaining of the same methods.
Authorities estimate they are only ever aware of about 1 per cent to 5 per cent of fraud committed globally, Mr. Williams said. Many victims do not believe they have been scammed or will not report it out of embarrassment.
Fraudsters, sometimes using credit checks, also home in on well-off victims for special treatment, Det. Constable Kelly said.
“It’s just like, oh, we’ve got somebody on $100,000 level, let’s steer this to this person,” he said.
The amount taken from Toronto victims alone is “absolutely astonishing,” he said.
“If you were going to distribute cocaine, for example, you have to buy that cocaine from another smuggler somewhere, and you have to put up money for that,” he said.
“In fraud, what is your put-up? What is your overhead? Your commodity that you’re trading in, that you’re selling, is BS. BS is cheap, it’s abundant, it’s infinite. You know, it can be replicated again and again and again and again. … And that’s why it’s a better business.”
Fraudsters based in Canada work with people in Kuala Lumpur, in Tokyo, in Lagos, Det. Constable Kelly said.
At the turn of the 20th century in New York, Italian-owned banks started suffering bombings, and homes were mysteriously burned down. Police heard the incidents happened after warnings from something called the “black hand.” But no officers spoke Italian, and investigations were stymied.
It was not until the 1950s that widespread police crackdowns began. By that time, the group now known as the Mafia had spread around the world and made new alliances. The FBI estimates the organization has about 25,000 members and a quarter-million affiliates worldwide, including about 3,000 in the United States.
Police hope the charge against Mr. Ighedoise will send an early message to Canada’s Axemen. York and Toronto officers are working to confirm connections between the fraud ring that impoverished Ms. Emami and the ring that Mr. Ighedoise is alleged to help lead.
At their recent press conference, they appealed to the Nigerian community to report instances where the Black Axe has “intimidated” others.
They want to know how ambitious the group really is, Det. Constable Trotter said, and how much it is feared.
If Axemen rely on selling stories, he said, the most important one is for their own community: “That [they] have all the power and authority and the propensity for violence that [they] have back home, here in Canada.”
The NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight U.S. Cities
The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.
It is an efficient point to conduct internet surveillance, Klein said, “because the peering links, by the nature of the connections, are liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year.”
Christopher Augustine, a spokesperson for the NSA, said in a statement that the agency could “neither confirm nor deny its role in alleged classified intelligence activities.” Augustine declined to answer questions about the AT&T facilities, but said that the NSA “conducts its foreign signals intelligence mission under the legal authorities established by Congress and is bound by both policy and law to protect U.S. persons’ privacy and civil liberties.”
Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesperson, said that AT&T was “required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement entities by complying with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests, and other legal requirements.” He added that the company provides “voluntary assistance to law enforcement when a person’s life is in danger and in other immediate, emergency situations. In all cases, we ensure that requests for assistance are valid and that we act in compliance with the law.”
Dave Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent Communications, told The Intercept that he had no knowledge of the surveillance at the eight AT&T buildings, but said he believed “the core premise that the NSA or some other agency would like to look at traffic … at an AT&T facility.” He said he suspected that the surveillance is likely carried out on “a limited basis,” due to technical and cost constraints. If the NSA were trying to “ubiquitously monitor” data passing across AT&T’s networks, Schaeffer added, he would be “extremely concerned.”
An estimated 99 percent of the world’s intercontinental internet traffic is transported through hundreds of giant fiber optic cables hidden beneath the world’s oceans. A large portion of the data and communications that pass across the cables is routed at one point through the U.S., partly because of the country’s location – situated between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – and partly because of the pre-eminence of American internet companies, which provide services to people globally.
The NSA calls this predicament “home field advantage” – a kind of geographic good fortune. “A target’s phone call, email, or chat will take the cheapest path, not the physically most direct path,” one agency document explains. “Your target’s communications could easily be flowing into and through the U.S.”
Once the internet traffic arrives on U.S. soil, it is processed by American companies. And that is why, for the NSA, AT&T is so indispensable. The company claims it has one of the world’s most powerful networks, the largest of its kind in the U.S. AT&T routinely handles masses of emails, phone calls, and internet chats. As of March 2018, some 197 petabytes of data – the equivalent of more than 49 trillion pages of text, or 60 billion average-sized mp3 files – traveled across its networks every business day.
The NSA documents, which come from the trove provided to The Intercept by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, describe AT&T as having been “aggressively involved” in aiding the agency’s surveillance programs. One example of this appears to have taken place at the eight facilities under a classified initiative called SAGUARO.
In October 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves the surveillance operations carried out under Section 702 of FISA, found that there were “technological limitations” with the agency’s internet eavesdropping equipment. It was “generally incapable of distinguishing” between some kinds of data, the court stated. As a consequence, Judge John D. Bates ruled, the NSA had been intercepting the communications of “non-target United States persons and persons in the United States,” violating Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling, which was declassified in August 2013, concluded that the agency had acquired some 13 million “internet transactions” during one six-month period, and had unlawfully gathered “tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications” each year.
The root of the issue was that the NSA’s technology was not only targeting communications sent to and from specific surveillance targets. Instead, the agency was sweeping up people’s emails if they had merely mentioned particular information about surveillance targets.
A top-secret NSA memo about the court’s ruling, which has not been disclosed before, explained that the agency was collecting people’s messages en masse if a single one were found to contain a “selector” – like an email address or phone number – that featured on a target list.
Information provided by a second former AT&T employee adds to the evidence linking the Atlanta building to NSA surveillance. Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, alleged in 2006 that the company had allowed the NSA to install surveillance equipment in some of its network hubs. An AT&T facility in Atlanta was one of the spy sites, according to documents Klein presented in a court case over the alleged spying. The Atlanta facility was equipped with “splitter” equipment, which was used to make copies of internet traffic as AT&T’s networks processed it. The copied data would then be diverted to “SG3” equipment – a reference to “Study Group 3” – which was a code name AT&T used for activities related to NSA surveillance, according to evidence in the Klein case.
Amazon employees protest sale of facial recognition tech to law enforcement
A group of Amazon employees are pressuring company leadership to stop selling its facial recognition software to law enforcement and to stop providing services to companies who work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights. As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” a group of Amazon workers wrote in a letter (...)
Indigenous Women Have Been Disappearing for Generations. Politicians Are Finally Starting to Notice.
Aux États-Unis comme au Canada
Women on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington state didn’t have any particular term for the way the violent deaths and sudden disappearances of their sisters, mothers, friends, and neighbors had become woven into everyday life.
“I didn’t know, like many, that there was a title, that there was a word for it,” said Roxanne White, who is Yakama and Nez Perce and grew up on the reservation. White has become a leader in the movement to address the disproportionate rates of homicide and missing persons cases among American Indian women, but the first time she heard the term “missing and murdered Indigenous women” was less than two years ago, at a Dakota Access pipeline resistance camp at Standing Rock. There, she met women who had traveled from Canada to speak about disappearances in First Nations to the north, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration launched a historic national inquiry into the issue in 2016.
#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?
The searchers rummage through the abandoned trailer, flipping over a battered couch, unfurling a stained sheet, looking for clues. It’s blistering hot and a grizzly bear lurking in the brush unleashes a menacing growl. But they can’t stop.
Not when a loved one is still missing.
The group moves outside into knee-deep weeds, checking out a rusted garbage can, an old washing machine — and a surprise: bones.
Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, a 20-year-old member of the Blackfeet Nation, was last heard from around June 8, 2017. Since then her older sister, Kimberly, has been looking for her.
She has logged about 40 searches, with family from afar sometimes using Google Earth to guide her around closed roads. She’s hiked in mountains, shouting her sister’s name. She’s trekked through fields, gingerly stepping around snakes. She’s trudged through snow, rain and mud, but she can’t cover the entire 1.5 million-acre reservation, an expanse larger than Delaware.
“I’m the older sister. I need to do this,” says 24-year-old Kimberly, swatting away bugs, her hair matted from the heat. “I don’t want to search until I’m 80. But if I have to, I will.”
Ashley’s disappearance is one small chapter in the unsettling story of missing and murdered Native American women and girls. No one knows precisely how many there are because some cases go unreported, others aren’t documented thoroughly and there isn’t a specific government database tracking these cases. But one U.S. senator with victims in her home state calls this an epidemic, a long-standing problem linked to inadequate resources, outright indifference and a confusing jurisdictional maze.
Now, in the era of #MeToo, this issue is gaining political traction as an expanding activist movement focuses on Native women — a population known to experience some of the nation’s highest rates of murder, sexual violence and domestic abuse.
“Just the fact we’re making policymakers acknowledge this is an issue that requires government response, that’s progress in itself,” says Annita Lucchesi, a cartographer and descendant of the Cheyenne who is building a database of missing and murdered indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada — a list of some 2,700 names so far.
As her endless hunt goes on, Ashley’s sister is joined on this day by a cousin, Lissa, and four others, including a family friend armed with a rifle and pistols. They scour the trailer where two “no trespassing” signs are posted and a broken telescope looks out the kitchen window. One of Ashley’s cousins lived here, and there are reports it’s among the last places she was seen.
“We’re following every rumor there is, even if it sounds ridiculous,” Lissa Loring says.
This search is motivated, in part, by the family’s disappointment with the reservation police force — a common sentiment for many relatives of missing Native Americans.
Outside, the group stumbles upon something intriguing: the bones, one small and straight, the other larger and shaped like a saddle. It’s enough to alert police, who respond in five squad cars, rumbling across the ragged field, kicking up clouds of dust. After studying the bones, one officer breaks the news: They’re much too large for a human; they could belong to a deer.
There will be no breakthrough today. Tomorrow the searchers head to the mountains.
For many in Native American communities across the nation, the problem of missing and murdered women is deeply personal.
“I can’t think of a single person that I know ... who doesn’t have some sort of experience,” says Ivan MacDonald, a member of the Blackfeet Nation and a filmmaker. “These women aren’t just statistics. These are grandma, these are mom. This is an aunt, this is a daughter. This is someone who was loved ... and didn’t get the justice that they so desperately needed.”
MacDonald and his sister, Ivy, recently produced a documentary on Native American women in Montana who vanished or were killed. One story hits particularly close to home. Their 7-year-old cousin, Monica, disappeared from a reservation school in 1979. Her body was found frozen on a mountain 20 miles away, and no one has ever been arrested.
There are many similar mysteries that follow a pattern: A woman or girl goes missing, there’s a community outcry, a search is launched, a reward may be offered. There may be a quick resolution. But often, there’s frustration with tribal police and federal authorities, and a feeling many cases aren’t handled urgently or thoroughly.
So why does this happen? MacDonald offers his own harsh assessment.
“It boils down to racism,” he argues. “You could sort of tie it into poverty or drug use or some of those factors ... (but) the federal government doesn’t really give a crap at the end of the day.”
Tribal police and investigators from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs serve as law enforcement on reservations, which are sovereign nations. But the FBI investigates certain offenses and, if there’s ample evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes major felonies such as murder, kidnapping and rape if they happen on tribal lands.
Former North Dakota federal prosecutor Tim Purdon calls it a “jurisdictional thicket” of overlapping authority and different laws depending on the crime, where it occurred (on a reservation or not) and whether a tribal member is the victim or perpetrator. Missing person cases on reservations can be especially tricky. Some people run away, but if a crime is suspected, it’s difficult to know how to get help.
“Where do I go to file a missing person’s report?” Purdon asks. “Do I go to the tribal police? ... In some places they’re underfunded and undertrained. The Bureau of Indian Affairs? The FBI? They might want to help, but a missing person case without more is not a crime, so they may not be able to open an investigation. ... Do I go to one of the county sheriffs? ... If that sounds like a horribly complicated mishmash of law enforcement jurisdictions that would tremendously complicate how I would try to find help, it’s because that’s what it is.”
Sarah Deer, a University of Kansas professor, author of a book on sexual violence in Indian Country and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, offers another explanation for the missing and murdered: Native women, she says, have long been considered invisible and disposable in society, and those vulnerabilities attract predators.
“It’s made us more of a target, particularly for the women who have addiction issues, PTSD and other kinds of maladies,” she says. “You have a very marginalized group, and the legal system doesn’t seem to take proactive attempts to protect Native women in some cases.”
Those attitudes permeate reservations where tribal police are frequently stretched thin and lack training and families complain officers don’t take reports of missing women seriously, delaying searches in the first critical hours.
“They almost shame the people that are reporting, (and say), ’Well, she’s out drinking. Well, she probably took up with some man,’” says Carmen O’Leary, director of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains. “A lot of times families internalize that kind of shame, (thinking) that it’s her fault somehow.”
Matthew Lone Bear spent nine months looking for his older sister, Olivia — using drones and four-wheelers, fending off snakes and crisscrossing nearly a million acres, often on foot. The 32-year-old mother of five had last been seen driving a Chevy Silverado on Oct. 25, 2017, in downtown New Town, on the oil-rich terrain of North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation.
On July 31, volunteers using sonar found the truck with Olivia inside submerged in a lake less than a mile from her home. It’s a body of water that had been searched before, her brother says, but “obviously not as thoroughly, or they would have found it a long time ago.”
Lone Bear says authorities were slow in launching their search — it took days to get underway — and didn’t get boats in the water until December, despite his frequent pleas. He’s working to develop a protocol for missing person cases for North Dakota’s tribes “that gets the red tape and bureaucracy out of the way,” he says.
The FBI is investigating Olivia’s death. “She’s home,” her brother adds, “but how did she get there? We don’t have any of those answers.”
Other families have been waiting for decades.
Carolyn DeFord’s mother, Leona LeClair Kinsey, a member of the Puyallup Tribe, vanished nearly 20 years ago in La Grande, Oregon. “There was no search party. There was no, ’Let’s tear her house apart and find a clue,’” DeFord says. “I just felt hopeless and helpless.” She ended up creating her own missing person’s poster.
“There’s no way to process the kind of loss that doesn’t stop,” says DeFord, who lives outside Tacoma, Washington. “Somebody asked me awhile back, ’What would you do if you found her? What would that mean?’... It would mean she can come home. She’s a human being who deserves to be honored and have her children and her grandchildren get to remember her and celebrate her life.”
It’s another Native American woman whose name is attached to a federal bill aimed at addressing this issue. Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, was murdered in 2017 while eight months pregnant. Her body was found in a river, wrapped in plastic and duct tape. A neighbor in Fargo, North Dakota, cut her baby girl from her womb. The child survived and lives with her father. The neighbor, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to life without parole; her boyfriend’s trial is set to start in September.
In a speech on the Senate floor last fall, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp told the stories of four other Native American women from her state whose deaths were unsolved. Displaying a giant board featuring their photos, she decried disproportionate incidences of violence that go “unnoticed, unreported or underreported.”
Her bill, “Savanna’s Act,” aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases. It would also require the Department of Justice to develop a protocol to respond to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans and the federal government to provide an annual report on the numbers.
At the end of 2017, Native Americans and Alaska Natives made up 1.8 percent of ongoing missing cases in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, even though they represent 0.8 percent of the U.S. population. These cases include those lingering and open from year to year, but experts say the figure is low, given that many tribes don’t have access to the database. Native women accounted for more than 0.7 percent of the missing cases — 633 in all — though they represent about 0.4 percent of the U.S. population.
“Violence against Native American women has not been prosecuted,” Heitkamp said in an interview. “We have not really seen the urgency in closing cold cases. We haven’t seen the urgency when someone goes missing. ... We don’t have the clear lines of authority that need to be established to prevent these tragedies.”
In August, Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, asked the leaders of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to hold a hearing to address the problem.
Lawmakers in a handful of states also are responding. In Montana, a legislative tribal relations committee has proposals for five bills to deal with missing persons. In July 2017, 22 of 72 missing girls or women — or about 30 percent — were Native American, according to Montana’s Department of Justice. But Native females comprise only 3.3 percent of the state’s population.
It’s one of many statistics that reveal a grim reality.
On some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average and more than half of Alaska Native and Native women have experienced sexual violence at some point, according to the U.S. Justice Department. A 2016 study found more than 80 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetimes.
Yet another federal report on violence against women included some startling anecdotes from tribal leaders. Sadie Young Bird, who heads victim services for the Three Affiliated Tribes at Fort Berthold, described how in 1½ years, her program had dealt with five cases of murdered or missing women, resulting in 18 children losing their mothers; two cases were due to intimate partner violence.
“Our people go missing at an alarming rate, and we would not hear about many of these cases without Facebook,” she said in the report.
Canada has been wrestling with this issue for decades and recently extended a government inquiry that began in 2016 into missing and murdered indigenous women. A report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police concluded that from 1980 to 2012 there were 1,181 indigenous women murdered or whose missing person cases were unresolved. Lucchesi, the researcher, says she found an additional 400 to 500 cases in her database work.
Despite some high-profile cases in the U.S., many more get scant attention, Lucchesi adds.
“Ashley has been the face of this movement,” she says. “But this movement started before Ashley was born. For every Ashley, there are 200 more.”
Browning is the heart of the Blackfeet Nation, a distinctly Western town with calf-roping competitions, the occasional horseback rider ambling down the street — and a hardscrabble reality. Nearly 40 percent of the residents live in poverty. The down-and-out loiter on corners. Shuttered homes with “Meth Unit” scrawled on wooden boards convey the damage caused by drugs.
With just about 1,000 residents, many folks are related and secrets have a way of spilling out.
“There’s always somebody talking,” says Ashley’s cousin, Lissa, “and it seems like to us since she disappeared, everybody got quiet. I don’t know if they’re scared, but so are we. That’s why we need people to speak up.”
Missing posters of Ashley are displayed in grocery stores and the occasional sandwich shop. They show a fresh-faced, grinning woman, flashing the peace sign. In one, she gazes into the camera, her long hair blowing in the wind.
One of nine children, including half-siblings, Ashley had lived with her grandmother outside town. Kimberly remembers her sister as funny and feisty, the keeper of the family photo albums who always carried a camera. She learned to ride a horse before a bike and liked to whip up breakfasts of biscuits and gravy that could feed an army.
She was interested in environmental science and was completing her studies at Blackfeet Community College, with plans to attend the University of Montana.
Kimberly says Ashley contacted her asking for money. Days later, she was gone.
At first, her relatives say, tribal police suggested Ashley was old enough to take off on her own. The Bureau of Indian Affairs investigated, teaming up with reservation police, and interviewed 55 people and conducted 38 searches. There are persons of interest, spokeswoman Nedra Darling says, but she wouldn’t elaborate. A $10,000 reward is being offered.
The FBI took over the case in January after a lead steered investigators off the reservation and into another state. The agency declined comment.
Ashley’s disappearance is just the latest trauma for the Blackfeet Nation.
Theda New Breast, a founder of the Native Wellness Institute, has worked with Lucchesi to compile a list of missing and murdered women in the Blackfoot Confederacy — four tribes in the U.S. and Canada. Long-forgotten names are added as families break generations of silence. A few months ago, a woman revealed her grandmother had been killed in the 1950s by her husband and left in a shallow grave.
“Everybody knew about it, but nobody talked about it,” New Breast says, and others keep coming forward — perhaps, in part, because of the #MeToo movement. “Every time I bring out the list, more women tell their secret. I think that they find their voice.”
Though these crimes have shaken the community, “there is a tendency to be desensitized to violence,” says MacDonald, the filmmaker. “I wouldn’t call it avoidance. But if we would feel the full emotions, there would be people crying in the streets.”
His aunt, Mabel Wells, would be among them.
Nearly 40 years have passed since that December day when her daughter, Monica, vanished. Wells remembers every terrible moment: The police handing her Monica’s boot after it was found by a hunter and the silent scream in her head: “It’s hers! It’s hers!” Her brother describing the little girl’s coat flapping in the wind after her daughter’s body was found frozen on a mountain. The pastor’s large hands that held hers as he solemnly declared: “Monica’s with the Lord.”
Monica’s father, Kenny Still Smoking, recalls that a medicine man told him his daughter’s abductor was a man who favored Western-style clothes and lived in a red house in a nearby town, but there was no practical way to pursue that suggestion.
He recently visited Monica’s grave, kneeling next to a white cross peeking out from tall grass, studying his daughter’s smiling photo, cracked with age. He gently placed his palm on her name etched into a headstone. “I let her know that I’m still kicking,” he says.
Wells visits the gravesite, too — every June 2, Monica’s birthday. She still hopes to see the perpetrator caught. “I want to sit with them and say, ‘Why? Why did you choose my daughter?’”
Even now, she can’t help but think of Monica alone on that mountain. “I wonder if she was hollering for me, saying, ‘Mom, help!’”
Ash-lee! Ash-lee!! Ash-lee! Ash-lee!!
Some 20 miles northwest of Browning, the searchers have navigated a rugged road lined with barren trees scorched from an old forest fire. They have a panoramic view of majestic snowcapped mountains. A woman’s stained sweater was found here months ago, making the location worthy of another search. It’s not known whether the garment may be Ashley’s.
First Kimberly, then Lissa Loring, call Ashley’s name — in different directions. The repetition four times by each woman is a ritual designed to beckon someone’s spirit.
Lissa says Ashley’s disappearance constantly weighs on her. “All that plays in my head is where do we look? Who’s going to tell us the next lead?”
That weekend at the annual North American Indian Days in Browning, the family marched in a parade with a red banner honoring missing and murdered indigenous women. They wore T-shirts with an image of Ashley and the words: “We will never give up.”
Then Ashley’s grandmother and others took to a small arena for what’s known as a blanket dance, to raise money for the search. As drums throbbed, they grasped the edges of a blue blanket. Friends stepped forward, dropping in cash, some tearfully embracing Ashley’s relatives.
The past few days reminded Kimberly of a promise she’d made to Ashley when their mother was wrestling with substance abuse problems and the girls were briefly in a foster home. Kimberly was 8 then; Ashley was just 5.
“’We have to stick together,’” she’d told her little sister.
“I told her I would never leave her. And if she was going to go anywhere, I would find her.”
Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview
In late 2013, the Commissioner of the RCMP initiated an RCMP-led study of reported incidents of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across all police jurisdictions in Canada.
This report summarizes that effort and will guide Canadian Police operational decision-making on a solid foundation. It will mean more targeted crime prevention, better community engagement and enhanced accountability for criminal investigations. It will also assist operational planning from the detachment to national level. In sum, it reveals the following:
Police-recorded incidents of Aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing Aboriginal females in this review total 1,181 – 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims.
There are 225 unsolved cases of either missing or murdered Aboriginal females: 105 missing for more than 30 days as of November 4, 2013, whose cause of disappearance was categorized at the time as “unknown” or “foul play suspected” and 120 unsolved homicides between 1980 and 2012.
The total indicates that Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered and missing women.
There are similarities across all female homicides. Most homicides were committed by men and most of the perpetrators knew their victims — whether as an acquaintance or a spouse.
The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims.
This report concludes that the total number of murdered and missing Aboriginal females exceeds previous public estimates. This total significantly contributes to the RCMP’s understanding of this challenge, but it represents only a first step.
It is the RCMP’s intent to work with the originating agencies responsible for the data herein to release as much of it as possible to stakeholders. Already, the data on missing Aboriginal women has been shared with the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR), which will be liaising with policing partners to publish additional cases on the Canada’s Missing website. Ultimately, the goal is to make information more widely available after appropriate vetting. While this matter is without question a policing concern, it is also a much broader societal challenge.
The collation of this data was completed by the RCMP and the assessments and conclusions herein are those of the RCMP alone. The report would not have been possible without the support and contribution of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics at Statistics Canada.
As with any effort of such magnitude, this report needs to be caveated with a certain amount of error and imprecision. This is for a number of reasons: the period of time over which data was collected was extensive; collection by investigators means data is susceptible to human error and interpretation; inconsistency of collection of variables over the review period and across multiple data sources; and, finally, definitional challenges.
The numbers that follow are the best available data to which the RCMP had access to at the time the information was collected. They will change as police understanding of cases evolve, but as it stands, this is the most comprehensive data that has ever been assembled by the Canadian policing community on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Ribbons of shame: Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women
In Canada, Jessie Kolvin uncovers a shameful record of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Examining the country’s ingrained racism, she questions whether Justin Trudeau’s government has used the issue for political gain.
In 2017, Canada celebrated its 150th birthday. The country was ablaze with pride: mountain and prairie, metropolis and suburb, were swathed in Canadian flags bearing that distinctive red maple leaf.
My eye was accustomed to the omnipresent crimson, so when I crossed a bridge in Toronto and saw dozens of red ribbons tied to the struts, I assumed they were another symbol of national honour and celebration.
Positive energy imbued even the graffiti at the end of the bridge, which declared that, “Tout est possible”. I reflected that perhaps it really was possible to have a successful democracy that was progressive and inclusive and kind: Canada was living proof.
Then my friend spoke briefly, gravely: “These are a memorial to the missing and murdered Indigenous* women.”
In a moment, my understanding of Canada was revolutionised. I was compelled to learn about the Indigenous women and girls – believed to number around 4,000, although the number continues to rise – whose lives have been violently taken.
No longer did the red of the ribbons represent Canadian pride; suddenly it signified Canadian shame, and Indigenous anger and blood.
At home, I Googled: “missing and murdered Indigenous women”. It returned 416,000 results all peppered with the shorthand “MMIW”, or “MMIWG” to include girls. The existence of the acronym suggested that this was not some limited or niche concern.
It was widespread and, now at least, firmly in the cultural and political consciousness.
The description records that her sister, Jane, has “repeatedly called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.”
The oldest is 83, the youngest nine months. A random click yields the story of Angela Williams, a mother of three girls, who went missing in 2001 and was found dumped in a ditch beside a rural road in British Columbia.
Another offers Tanya Jane Nepinak, who in 2011 didn’t return home after going to buy a pizza a few blocks away. A man has been charged with second-degree murder in relation to her disappearance, but her body has never been found.
The description records that her sister, Jane, has “repeatedly called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.”
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Native American women constitute just 4.3% of the Canadian population but 16% of homicide victims. It isn’t a mystery as to why.
Indigenous peoples are less likely than white Canadians to complete their education, more likely to be jobless, more likely to live in insecure housing, and their health – both physical and mental – is worse.
Alcoholism and drug abuse abound, and Indigenous women are more likely to work in the sex trade. These environments breed vulnerability and violence, and violence tends to be perpetrated against women.
Amnesty International has stated that Indigenous women in particular tend to be targeted because the “police in Canada have often failed to provide Indigenous women with an adequate standard of protection”.
When police do intervene in Indigenous communities, they are often at best ineffectual and at worst abusive. Indigenous women are not, it appears, guaranteed their “right to life, liberty and security of the person” enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It didn’t take me long to realise that many of these problems – Indigenous women’s vulnerability, the violence perpetrated against them, the failure to achieve posthumous justice – can be partly blamed on the persistence of racism.
Successive governments have failed to implement substantial change. Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper merely voiced what had previously been tacit when he said in 2014 that the call for an inquiry “isn’t really high on our radar”.
If this is believable of Harper, it is much less so of his successor Justin Trudeau. With his fresh face and progressive policies, I had heralded his arrival. Many Native Americans shared my optimism.
For Trudeau certainly talked the talk: just after achieving office, he told the Assembly of First Nations that: “It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation.”
Trudeau committed to setting up a national public inquiry which would find the truth about why so many Indigenous women go missing and are murdered, and which would honour them.
Global Forest Watch offers mapping and data visualization fellowships
Through the fellowship program, the GFW team aims to bring its online forest change monitoring technology to scientists, journalists, conservationists, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and indigenous leaders willing to train and share their knowledge with others.
The fellowship consists of a five-month series of online training sessions and peer-to-peer interactions from July through December 2018 and provides a US $6,000 stipend. It aims to help participants build their technical skills, network with both their peers and GFW staff, and begin implementing a data-focused project.
About $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency stolen since 2017: cybercrime group | Reuters
#WHOIS data is a fundamental resource for investigators and law enforcement officials who work to prevent thefts, Jevans said.
He noted that WHOIS data is crucial in performing investigations that allow for the recovery of stolen funds, identifying the persons involved and providing vital information for law enforcement to arrest and prosecute criminals.
[#GDPR] “So what we’re going to see is that not only the European market goes dark for all of us; so all the bad guys will flow to Europe because you can actually access the world from Europe and there’s no way you can get the data anymore,” Jevans said.
The Golden State Killer Is Tracked Through a Thicket of DNA, and Experts Shudder
The arrest of a suspect has set off alarms among some scientists and ethicists worried that consumer DNA may be widely accessed by law enforcement. Genetic testing services have become enormously popular with people looking for long-lost relatives or clues to hereditary diseases. Most never imagined that one day intimate pieces of their DNA could be mined to assist police detectives in criminal cases. Even as scientific experts applauded this week’s arrest of the Golden State Killer (...)
Still too ‘tough on Arabs’ - Haaretz Editorial - Israel News | Haaretz.com
Police violence against the Arab community in Israel appears part of a racist policy led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government
Haaretz Editorial May 21, 2018
Over the weekend there was a demonstration in Haifa protesting the killings along the Gaza border fence. The violent suppression of this protest and the detention of 21 demonstrators, including Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center that advocates for Israeli Arabs’ rights, are a further sign of the growing restrictions on the democratic space available to this community.
The harsh events in Gaza should have brought multitudes out onto the streets, particularly in light of the complexities plaguing relations between Arab citizens and the state. In practice, the protest in Arab society was minor and measured: a partial strike lasting only a day and local protest gatherings. Despite this, the police failed to contain the demonstrations.
True, the protest in Haifa on Friday evening had no permit, but these are precisely the times when the police must use their discretion and show restraint. They should have used the presence of Farah, a veteran activist who once headed the Arab student union and who for years has been a partner to civic initiatives for Arab civil rights and against racism. A wise police force would have seen his presence as a channel for dialogue and an opportunity for calming tensions. Instead, the police used him to quell the protest.
In footage taken at the demonstration one sees that the police did not suffice with arresting him but marched him handcuffed through Haifa’s streets as a warning to others. Even though Farah was seen walking, he was hospitalized the next day; relatives said one of his knees had been broken in detention.
The Arab community is calling for an investigation into the police’s conduct in the demonstration, and the police are expected to carry out an internal probe into the Farah case. But this doesn’t suffice; the violence by the police against Arab protesters appears not random but intentional, part of an inflammatory and racist policy against the Arab community in Israel that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is leading.
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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich talk a lot about the importance of making police services more accessible to the Arab community, using every public platform to announce the opening of new police stations and the recruitment of Arab police officers. But the conduct in Haifa shows yet again that the police showed unwarranted “resolve” while ignoring the ramifications on the Arab community’s faith in law enforcement.
The Public Security Ministry and police brass must understand that the delegitimization of elected Arab officials and prominent Arab activists, as well as the suppression of any political protest by brutal arrests, won’t contribute to a sense of trust. On the contrary, police violence against Arab citizens widens the circle of mutual suspicion and deepens this community’s alienation.
By +972 Blog |Published May 21, 2018
’Police broke my knee, threatened my doctors,’ Arab civil society leader tells court
By Oren Ziv, Yael Marom, and Meron Rapaport
Seven require medical treatment for injuries sustained during their arrests or while in custody, including Jafar Farah, who says an officer broke his knee inside the police station. Police file criminal complaint against Arab MK Ayman Odeh for calling the officers who refused to let him visit a hospitalized protester ‘losers’.
“But we shouldn’t be surprised by police violence and this isn’t that big a story,” Atrash continued. “What are a few punches compared to the murder of children in Gaza? What’s important is that all of us in Haifa, Gaza, Ramallah or Beirut — we are one. We don’t want nicer police officers, we want the apartheid regime to end.”
”The demonstration on Friday was the third to take place in Haifa last week, and police had already employed aggressive tactics to try to shut them down. In addition to several arrests at the protests themselves, police arrested and detained a number of Palestinian and Jewish activists in Haifa to deter them from participating in and organizing protests.
There is no middle ground on encryption
Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation by David Ruiz
“Encryption is back in the headlines again, with government officials insisting that they still need to compromise our security via a backdoor for law enforcement. Opponents of encryption imagine that there is a ‘middle ground’ approach that allows for strong encryption but with ‘exceptional access’ for law enforcement. Government officials claim that technology companies are creating a world where people can commit crimes without fear of detection. Despite this renewed rhetoric, most experts continue to agree that exceptional access, no matter how you implement it, weakens security. The terminology might have changed, but the essential question has not: should technology companies be forced to (...)
How the Border Patrol Faked Statistics Showing a 73 Percent Rise in Assaults Against Agents
Last November, reports that a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents had been attacked with rocks at a desolate spot in West Texas made news around the country. The agents were found injured and unconscious at the bottom of a culvert off Interstate 10. Agent Rogelio Martinez soon died from his injuries. Early reports in right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart suggested that the perpetrators were undocumented immigrants, and President Donald Trump quickly embraced the narrative to bolster his (...)
Almost the entire increase — 271 purported assaults — was said to have occurred in one sector, the Rio Grande Valley, in South Texas. A large number of the assaults supposedly occurred on a single day, according to charts and details provided by Christiana Coleman, a CBP public affairs spokesperson. In response to questions from The Intercept, Coleman explained in an email that “an incident in the Rio Grande Valley Sector on February 14, 2017, involved seven U.S. Border Patrol Agents assaulted by six subjects utilizing three different types of projectiles (rocks, bottles, and tree branches), totaling 126 assaults.”
According to conventional law enforcement accounting, this single incident should have been tallied as seven agents assaulted — not seven agents times six perpetrators times three projectiles. Subtracting the seven agents from 126 leaves 119 extra “assaults” that falsely and grossly inflate the data, making it appear to the public that far more agents were assaulted.
Coleman did not respond when later asked if any of the seven agents were injured. According to the FBI, most Border Patrol agents for whom assault data has been publicly reported were not injured. Rocks and water bottles don’t always hit their mark. Or they are never thrown in the first place — for reporting purposes, apparently, the mere brandishing of an object constitutes assault.
“We’re Gonna Take Everyone” — Border Patrol Targets Prominent Humanitarian Group as Criminal Organization
Now, more than three months after the raid on the Barn, filings in the criminal case against Warren reveal new details about the January operation, bolstering suspicions that law enforcement has come to see #No_More_Deaths, an organization focused on preventing the loss of life in the borderlands, as a criminal organization aimed at aiding the unlawful entry of migrants into the U.S.
Les gardes-frontière qui tuent, #impunité
Les organisations d’aide aux migrants, poursuivies en justice...
Fatal encounters: 97 deaths point to pattern of border agent violence across America
In the last 15 years, agents with Customs and Border Protection have used deadly force in states up to 160 miles from the border, from Maine to California
Trump’s sending troops to the border to take on 200 kids and parents
According to President Donald Trump, the mightiest, richest country in the world is under a threat so huge and scary that it will require the deployment of military forces — as many as 2,000 to 4.000, Trump said Thursday — along its 2,000-mile southern border. The danger consists of a ragtag caravan formed by several hundred impoverished people, many of them children from tiny Central American nations. Yes, the time has come to protect America from marauding youngsters and their parents.
#Trump #frontières #armée #militarisation_des_frontières #USA #Etats-Unis
The cost of 2 National Guard border arrests would help a homeless vet for a year
President Donald Trump’s decision to send #National_Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border has drawn a mixed response. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey welcomed the move, while California Gov. Jerry Brown’s National Guard said it would “review” the request.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., had a specific complaint: He said it was a poor use of tax dollars.
“Using the National Guard to do border security is very expensive,” Gallego tweeted April 3. “For what it would cost the Guard to make just TWO arrests at the border, we could give a homeless veteran permanent housing for an entire year.”
Guard border deployment creates issues for Pentagon
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have now sent two requests for assistance to the Pentagon’s new Border Security Support Cell, which was hastily established to help coordination between the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Homeland Security.
It’s estimated that it will cost $182 million to keep 2,093 guardsmen at the border through the end of September, which represents just more than half of the personnel approved.
The amount covers $151 million in pay and allowances for the 2,093 personnel, as well as $31 million for 12,000 flying hours for 26 UH-72 Lakota helicopters, according to a defense memo on the amount.
The Cal. National Guard Is Working At the Mexican Border, But Mostly Behind The Scenes
In California - a state with strong differences with the White House on immigration policy - about 400 troops are on border duty. But they’re keeping a low profile.
Signalé par Reece Jones sur twitter, avec ce commentaire:
What are US National Guard troops doing at the border? Analyze intelligence, work as dispatchers, and monitor cameras “but not cameras that look across the border into Mexico”
L’armée américaine mobilisée pour défendre la frontière
En campagne pour les élections américaines de mi-mandat, le président Trump a focalisé son discours sur la caravane de migrants d’Amérique centrale qui fait route à travers le Mexique. Il a promis de tout faire pour empêcher ces demandeurs d’asile de pénétrer sur le territoire américain (“Personne n’entrera”), y compris de déployer “entre 10 000 et 15 000 soldats” en plus de la police aux frontières et de la police de l’immigration.
L’armée estime que seuls 20 % des migrants, soit 1 400 selon les estimations les plus hautes, iront jusqu’à la frontière qui se trouve encore à quelque 1 300 kilomètres et plusieurs semaines de marche, rapporte le Los Angeles Times. Le chiffre de 15 000 hommes correspond à peu près au nombre de soldats déployés en Afghanistan, observe le même quotidien. Les militaires envoyés à la frontière peuvent se poser des questions sur le sens de cette mission, comme l’illustre ici le dessinateur Chappatte.
U.S. Troops’ First Order at the Border: Laying Razor Wire
Soldiers fill local hotels, joke about finding ways to keep busy.
On Monday morning in this border town, about a dozen U.S. Army soldiers unfurled reams of razor wire on top of a wrought-iron fence alongside a bridge to Mexico.
The soldiers from the 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Riley, Kan., who wore helmets but didn’t appear to be armed, are among thousands of troops deployed in recent days to the southwest U.S. border as part of Operation Faithful Patriot.
Around border crossings throughout Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, military personnel have filled up hotels and delivered trucks packed with coils of razor wire as they begin to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
The personnel were sent in advance of the anticipated arrival of thousands of Central Americans, including children, traveling in caravans currently several hundred miles south of the nearest U.S. border crossing.
At the DoubleTree Suites Hotel in McAllen, Texas, the bar did brisk business Sunday night as soldiers who had changed into civilian clothes chatted over drinks. Some joked about needing to find ways to keep soldiers busy during their deployment.
The Anzalduas International Bridge, where the Kansas-based troops were working, is used only for vehicle traffic to and from the Mexican city of Reynosa. The wire was placed on top of fences at least 15 feet high along each side of the bridge that sat several dozen feet above an embankment.
Outside the port of entry where vehicles from Mexico are stopped after crossing the bridge, shiny razor wire recently placed around the facility glistened in the afternoon sun.
Migrants seeking asylum who cross the border illegally generally don’t come to the port, but swim or wade across the Rio Grande and turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.
Near another bridge connecting Hidalgo, Texas, to Reynosa, a concertina wire fence was recently erected along the river edge, a placement more likely to impede illegal migrants who arrive on foot.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have determined where the military placed razor wire, Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Monday during a briefing.
It is part of an effort previously announced by Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, to “harden the points of entry and address key gaps.”
Near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge about 22 miles southeast of McAllen, troops on Monday were working on what looked to be a staging area to prepare for coming work. Two armed military police officers stood guard, opening and closing a gate as flatbed trailers carrying heavy military trucks and transports with troops inside arrived. At least one tent apparently intended to house troops was in place Monday.
President Trump ordered the deployment last month after the first caravan made its way into Mexico. He had described the impending caravan’s arrival as an “invasion.”
The Pentagon said Monday that more than 5,000 troops are at or would be on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of the day, with about 2,700 in Texas, 1,200 in Arizona and 1,100 in California. Eventually, nearly 8,000 will be deployed, according to a U.S. official. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security have said the troops won’t be used to enforce immigration laws but will provide backup for Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers.
At the Vaquero Hangout, an open-air bar within eyesight of the Anzalduas bridge, a flag declaring support for the U.S. military hung from the rafters. It was business as usual on Sunday evening. Some patrons watched the Houston Texans’ NFL game, while others were focused on a live band, George and the Texas Outlaws.
A few folks briefly took notice of flashing lights from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle parked on the bridge as the soldiers lay down razor wire, an effort they would continue the next day.
Pentagon to begin drawdown of troops at border: report
The Pentagon is planning to begin a drawdown of troops at the southern border as soon as this week, the Army commander overseeing the mission told Politico on Monday.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan told the news outlet that the 5,800 active-duty troops sent to assist Customs and Border Protection at the U.S.-Mexico border should be home by Christmas.
“Our end date right now is 15 December, and I’ve got no indications from anybody that we’ll go beyond that,” said Buchanan, who is overseeing the mission from Texas.
Buchanan said engineer and logistics troops, which make up the largest parts of the deployment, will begin returning home soon.
According to Politico’s report, some troops will begin leaving the area before the so-called migrant caravan arrives at the border.
The news of the troops’ return comes as critics call President Trump’s request to send thousands of troops to the border a “political stunt.”
Trump before Election Day stoked fears over an approaching group of Central American migrants heading towards the southern border, which he referred to as an “invasion.” He requested the deployment of thousands of troops to the border in a support mission just before Nov. 6.
Some lawmakers have accused Trump of wasting resources and manpower on the mission, as reports have emerged that the troops are restless and underutilized.
Thousands of participants in the caravan over the weekend reached Tijuana, Mexico, where they were met with vast protests. Some of the protesters are echoing Trump’s language, calling the group a danger and an invasion, The Associated Press reported.
Most of the members of the caravan are reportedly escaping rampant poverty and violence in their home countries.
–-> commentaire sur twitter:
Just 3 weeks after deployment, Trump’s Pentagon is sending the military home from the border. They’ve served their purpose as the GOP’s 11th hour campaign force. Now we’re stuck with a hundred miles of trashy concertina wire and a $200 million bill.
Troops at U.S.-Mexican border to start coming home
All the troops should be home by Christmas, as originally expected, Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said in an interview Monday.
The 5,800 troops who were rushed to the southwest border amid President Donald Trump’s pre-election warnings about a refugee caravan will start coming home as early as this week — just as some of those migrants are beginning to arrive.
Democrats and Republicans have criticized the deployment as a ploy by the president to use active-duty military forces as a prop to try to stem Republican losses in this month’s midterm elections.
The general overseeing the deployment told POLITICO on Monday that the first troops will start heading home in the coming days as some are already unneeded, having completed the missions for which they were sent. The returning service members include engineering and logistics units whose jobs included placing concertina wire and other barriers to limit access to ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border.
All the troops should be home by Christmas, as originally expected, Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said in an interview Monday.
“Our end date right now is 15 December, and I’ve got no indications from anybody that we’ll go beyond that,” said Buchanan, who leads the land forces of U.S. Northern Command.
The decision to begin pulling back comes just weeks after Trump ordered the highly unusual deployment.
In previous cases in which the military deployed to beef up security at the border, the forces consisted of part-time National Guard troops under the command of state governors who backed up U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other law enforcement agencies.
But the newly deployed troops, most of them unarmed and from support units, come from the active-duty military, a concession the Pentagon made after Trump insisted that the deployment include “not just the National Guard.”
Buchanan confirmed previous reports that the military had rejected a request from the Department of Homeland Security for an armed force to back up Border Patrol agents in the event of a violent confrontation.
“That is a law enforcement task, and the secretary of Defense does not have the authority to approve that inside the homeland,” Buchanan said.
The closure earlier Monday of one entry point along the California border near Tijuana, Mexico, was only partial and did not require more drastic measures, Buchanan said.
“About half of the lanes were closed this morning, but that’s it,” he reported. “No complete closures.”
Other ports might be closed fully in the future, he said, but he did not anticipate any need to take more drastic measures.
“If CBP have reliable information that one of their ports is about to get rushed with a mob, or something like that that could put their agents at risk, they could ask us to completely close the port,” Buchanan said. “You understand the importance of commerce at these ports. Nobody in CBP wants to close a port unless they’re actually driven to do so.”
The troop deployment should start trailing off as engineer and other logistics troops wind down their mission of building base camps and fortifying ports of entry for the Border Patrol.
Army and Marine engineers have now emplaced about 75 percent of the obstacles they planned to, including concertina wire, shipping containers, and concrete barriers at ports of entry. “Once we get the rest of the obstacles built, we don’t need to keep all those engineers here. As soon as I’m done with a capability, what I intend to do is redeploy it,” Buchanan said. “I don’t want to keep these guys on just to keep them on.”
Logistics troops, too, will be among the first to head home. “I will probably ask to start redeploying some of our logistic capability,” Buchanan predicted. “Now that things are set down here, we don’t need as many troops to actually build base camps and things like that, because the base camps are built."
Among the troops who will remain after construction engineers and logisticians start departing are helicopter pilots, planners, medical personnel, and smaller “quick response” teams of engineers who can help Border Patrol personnel shut down traffic at their ports of entry.
In contrast to the speed of the deployment in early November and the fanfare surrounding it, the withdrawal promises to be slower and quieter — but Buchanan expects it to be done before Christmas.
“That doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” he added. “But right now, this is a temporary mission, and we’re tasked to do it until the 15th of December.”
Trump’s Border Stunt Is a Profound Betrayal of Our Military
The president used America’s military not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election.
A week before the midterm elections, the president of the United States announced he would deploy up to 15,000 active duty military troops to the United States-Mexico border to confront a menacing caravan of refugees and asylum seekers. The soldiers would use force, if necessary, to prevent such an “invasion” of the United States.
Mr. Trump’s announcement and the deployment that followed (of roughly 5,900) were probably perfectly legal. But we are a bipartisan threesome with decades of experience in and with the Pentagon, and to us, this act creates a dangerous precedent. We fear this was lost in the public hand-wringing over the decision, so let us be clear: The president used America’s military forces not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election outcome, an unprecedented use of the military by a sitting president.
The public debate focused on secondary issues. Is there truly a threat to American security from an unarmed group of tired refugees and asylum seekers on foot and a thousand miles from the border? Even the Army’s internal assessment did not find this a very credible threat.
Can the president deny in advance what could be legitimate claims for asylum, without scrutiny? Most likely, this violates treaty commitments the United States made as part of its agreement to refugee conventions in 1967, which it has followed for decades.
The deployment is not, in the context of the defense budget, an albatross. We are already paying the troops, wherever they’re deployed, and the actual incremental costs of sending them to the border might be $100 million to $200 million, a tiny fraction of the $716 billion defense budget.
Still, we can think of many ways to put the funds to better use, like improving readiness.
It’s also not unusual for a president to ask the troops to deploy to the border in support of border security operations. Presidents of both parties have sent troops to the border, to provide support functions like engineering, logistics, transportation and surveillance.
But those deployments have been generally in smaller numbers, usually the National Guard, and never to stop a caravan of refugees and asylum seekers.
So, generously, some aspects of the deployment are at least defensible. But one is not, and that aspect is the domestic political use — or rather, misuse — of the military.
James Mattis, the secretary of defense, asserted that the Defense Department does not “do stunts.” But this was a blatant political stunt. The president crossed a line — the military is supposed to stay out of domestic politics. As many senior military retirees have argued, the forces are not and should not be a political instrument. They are not toy soldiers to be moved around by political leaders but a neutral institution, politically speaking.
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Oh, some might say, presidents use troops politically all the time. And so they do, generally in the context of foreign policy decisions that have political implications. Think Lyndon Johnson sending more troops to Vietnam, fearing he would be attacked for “cutting and running” from that conflict. Or George W. Bush crowing about “mission accomplished” when Saddam Hussein was toppled. Those are not the same thing as using troops at home for electoral advantage.
Electoral gain, not security, is this president’s goal. Two of us served in the military for many years; while all troops must obey the legal and ethical orders of civilian leaders, they need to have faith that those civilian leaders are using them for legitimate national security purposes. But the border deployment put the military right in the middle of the midterm elections, creating a nonexistent crisis to stimulate votes for one party.
When partisan actions like this occur, they violate civil-military traditions and erode that faith, with potentially long-term damage to the morale of the force and our democratic practice — all for electoral gain.
The deployment is a stunt, a dangerous one, and in our view, a misuse of the military that should have led Mr. Mattis to consider resigning, instead of acceding to this blatant politicization of America’s military.
The Military Is ’Securing’ a 1,900-Mile Border with 22 Miles of Razor Wire
“#Operation_Faithful_Patriot” is nothing more than a very expensive, politically motivated P.R. campaign.
Skim through the Pentagon’s media site for Operation Faithful Patriot—the fittingly ridiculous name for the deployment of some 7,000 American troops to various spots along the Mexican border—and you’ll see lots of razor wire.
There are photos of American troops laying razor wire (technically known as concertina wire) along the California-Mexico border. Of wire being affixed to the top of fences and to the sides of buildings. Everywhere you look on the Pentagon’s site, you find wire, wire, and more wire. Photos of soldiers carrying rolls of unused wire, snapshots of forklifts bringing more of the stuff to the border, and even videos of wire being unrolled and deployed. It’s thrilling stuff, truly.
The message is not subtle. President Donald Trump might not have convinced Congress to blow billions for a fully operational border wall, but good luck to any immigrant caravan that happens to stumble into the thorny might of the American military’s sharpest deterrents.
The focus on concertina wire isn’t just in the Pentagon’s internal media. The Wall Street Journal dedicated an entire Election Day story to how troops in Granjeno, Texas, had “unfurled reams of razor wire on top of a wrought-iron fence alongside a bridge to Mexico.” Troops stringing wire also appeared in The New York Post, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.
There is so much concertina wire deployed to the southern border that if it were all stretched out from end to end, it would reach all the way from Brownsville, Texas, on the Gulf Coast to....well, whatever is 22 miles west of Brownsville, Texas.
Yes. Despite the deluge of photos and videos of American troops are securing the southern border with reams of razor wire, Buzzfeed’s Vera Bergengruen reports that “troops have deployed with 22 miles of the wire so far, with 150 more available.”
The U.S.–Mexico border is roughly 1,950 miles long.
The wire doesn’t seem to be getting strung with any sort of strategic purpose, either. That WSJ story about the troops in Texas hanging wire from a bridge says that the “wire was placed on top of fences at least 15 feet high along each side of the bridge that sat several dozen feet above an embankment” while the bridge itself remains open to vehicle traffic from Mexico. If there is a goal, it would seem to be making the border look more prickly and dystopian while not actually creating any sort of barrier.
It’s no wonder, then, that the troops deployed to the border are confused about why they are there. On Wednesday, when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited some of the troops stationed near McAllen, Texas, he was met with lots of questions and provided few answers.
“Sir, I have a question. The wire obstacles that we’ve implanted along the border....Are we going to be taking those out when we leave?” one of the soldiers asked Mattis, according to Bergengruen. Another asked Mattis to explain the “short- and long-term plans of this operation.”
“Short-term right now, you get the obstacles in so the border patrolmen can do what they gotta do,” Mattis responded. “Longer term, it’s somewhat to be determined.”
Even at a time when most American military engagements seem to be conducted with a “TBD” rationale, this feels especially egregious. Mattis did his best on Wednesday to make the effort seem like a meaningful attempt to secure the border, while simultaneously admitting that he does not expect the deployed troops to actually come into contact with any immigrant caravans. Lately he’s been talking about how the deployment is supposedly good training for unconventional circumstances.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Operation Faithful Patriot—a name so silly that the Pentagon has decided to stop using it—is nothing more than a very expensive, politically motivated P.R. campaign. Of the 39 units deployed, five of them are public affairs units. There seems to be no clear mission, no long-term objective, and no indication that the troops will add meaningful enforcement to existing border patrols.
As for all that wire? It doesn’t really seem to be working either.
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New Low-profile #go-fast_boats represent four of the 23 cases being turned over to federal agents during Thursday’s offload. Remaining cases also involved a fishing vessel and fast open-hulled panga boats with multiple outboard engines. This offload showcases the variety of tactics and methods of conveyance cartels use to evade military and law enforcement detection.
The Coast Guard will also help offload more than 3,300 pounds of cocaine seized by Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Nanaimo apprehended in international waters off the coast of Central America.
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Forget About Siri and Alexa — When It Comes to Voice Identification, the “NSA Reigns Supreme”
Americans most regularly encounter this technology, known as speaker recognition, or speaker identification, when they wake up Amazon’s Alexa or call their bank. But a decade before voice commands like “Hello Siri” and “OK Google” became common household phrases, the NSA was using speaker recognition to monitor terrorists, politicians, drug lords, spies, and even agency employees.
The technology works by analyzing the physical and behavioral features that make each person’s voice distinctive, such as the pitch, shape of the mouth, and length of the larynx. An algorithm then creates a dynamic computer model of the individual’s vocal characteristics. This is what’s popularly referred to as a “voiceprint.” The entire process — capturing a few spoken words, turning those words into a voiceprint, and comparing that representation to other “voiceprints” already stored in the database — can happen almost instantaneously. Although the NSA is known to rely on finger and face prints to identify targets, voiceprints, according to a 2008 agency document, are “where NSA reigns supreme.”
It’s not difficult to see why. By intercepting and recording millions of overseas telephone conversations, video teleconferences, and internet calls — in addition to capturing, with or without warrants, the domestic conversations of Americans — the NSA has built an unrivaled collection of distinct voices. Documents from the Snowden archive reveal that analysts fed some of these recordings to speaker recognition algorithms that could connect individuals to their past utterances, even when they had used unknown phone numbers, secret code words, or multiple languages.
Civil liberties experts are worried that these and other expanding uses of speaker recognition imperil the right to privacy. “This creates a new intelligence capability and a new capability for abuse,” explained Timothy Edgar, a former White House adviser to the Director of National Intelligence. “Our voice is traveling across all sorts of communication channels where we’re not there. In an age of mass surveillance, this kind of capability has profound implications for all of our privacy.”
Edgar and other experts pointed to the relatively stable nature of the human voice, which is far more difficult to change or disguise than a name, address, password, phone number, or PIN. This makes it “far easier” to track people, according to Jamie Williams, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “As soon as you can identify someone’s voice,” she said, “you can immediately find them whenever they’re having a conversation, assuming you are recording or listening to it.”
The voice is a unique and readily accessible biometric: Unlike DNA, it can be collected passively and from a great distance, without a subject’s knowledge or consent.
It is not publicly known how many domestic communication records the NSA has collected, sampled, or retained. But the EFF’s Jamie Williams pointed out that the NSA would not necessarily have to collect recordings of Americans to make American voiceprints, since private corporations constantly record us. Their sources of audio are only growing. Cars, thermostats, fridges, lightbulbs, and even trash cans have been turning into “intelligent” (that is, internet-equipped) listening devices. The consumer research group Gartner has predicted that a third of our interactions with technology this year will take place through conversations with voice-based systems. Both Google’s and Amazon’s “smart speakers” have recently introduced speaker recognition systems that distinguish between the voices of family members. “Once the companies have it,” Williams said, “law enforcement, in theory, will be able to get it, so long as they have a valid legal process.”
The former government official noted that raw voice data could be stored with private companies and accessed by the NSA through secret agreements, like the Fairview program, the agency’s partnership with AT&T.