Government / Politics

COMMENTARY: Middle East War Technology and Tactics Find a Home in Domestic Intelligence Gathering by Policing

Local politicians fail to understand the true meaning of the constitution and are passé

Governor Jerry Brown’s failure to curtail the misuse of police intelligence gathering technology was a lost opportunity to rein-in police surreptitious surveillance practices. In addition to drone technology, other questionable police practices include street camera surveillance – with voice listening, facial recognition, and eye retina reading recording capabilities. The eye retina capability serves as the new finger print technology. Another intrusive practice, which is used by police, is the scanning, retention and dissemination of license plate DMV data of unsuspecting innocent law-abiding citizens.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Bill (AB1327), which the governor vetoed, required a judge issued search warrant before permitting police to search and seize personal information/data. AB1327 protected the rights of citizens and placed police intelligence gathering activities – via the use of drone war technology within constitutional requirements. The bill from all accounts balanced public safety, invasion of privacy concerns, public notice, and record keeping requirements. It would have exempted from disclosure requirements if disclosure would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation, or endanger the successful completion of the investigation. Moreover, it mandated the permanent destruction of images, footage, or data and records obtained, after one year. It also prohibited police departments from disseminating the information, except as required by federal law. 

Brown’s veto statement reads in part: "There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the Fourth Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution." 

One of the bill’s authors, Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell said,“The era of government surveillance continues” after the governor’s veto. 

Unfortunately, his action allows the continued operation of high-tech drones, similar to those used in the war, by state law enforcement agencies. This prying into our personal lives is accomplished without a strong and credible constitutional review of current technology and existing law. Other than the state’s need to collect and know and document forever, where you go, at what time and date and with whom.

On this important issue, the governor displayed little-to-no leadership on the ongoing national debate over the government’s overreach in the areas of personal privacy, anonymity, civil liberties  (C-SPAN Washington Journal Citizen Constitutional Rights Protections) and the mass collection and retention of data we’re not privy too. Instead, he chose to veto what many in the California Legislature considered a fairly reasonable and balanced bill.

The excesses by the nation’s police departments (in Denver, Co., Ferguson, Mo., King City, Salinas, San Jose, Bell, Calif., Oakland, New York City, Los Angeles, etc, etc, etc…), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency (domestic call data dragnet), and the U.S. Department of Homeland InSecurity. Fear and Misinformation have raised serious concerns over East Germany Stasi-style spying on Americans. This has lead to the introduction of modest legislation in congress in an attempt to curb these excesses in the name of capturing “bad guys and terrorist” according to FBI Director, James B. Comey. With crime down nationally (1987 through 2011), why are you more likely to be killed by police than by terrorist? 

The inherent dangers to our personal liberties are real and are as a result of the cozy, distrustful and dangerous liaisons between national intelligence agencies and state and local police departments. This gathering of personal data or “spying” on law-abiding citizens erodes the trust necessary between government, police, and its citizen for effective law enforcement. “Be very careful who you sleep with because you’ll know what the child will look like” expresses the highly problematic relationship between federal intelligence and state and local law enforcement agencies and the poisonous results it has had on our relationship, and trust with our government.

Failure in leadership, undo pressure, a to friendly association with law enforcement, especially during election periods, undoubtedly leads to the appearance of a conflict of interest and/or fear of retribution.
All this even after the most recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 term ruling on the issue in Riley v. California in which Chief Justice Roberts delivered one of the few unanimous landmark decisions of his court (9-0), against the proposition that police warrant less search and seizure of “digital information” on a cell phone from an individual who has been arrested, was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts further declared in his opinion, that “Digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee’s escape."
This ruling provided more than ample and convincing legal basis to any astute “ordinary politician” to proceed with caution when proposing legislative measures that invade our privacy, right to anonymity, and that compromise our civil liberties. A clear signal by the highest court of the land, where decisions are usually 5-4 and along party lines, that where privacy, civil liberties, personal evasive technology, national security interests and law enforcement excesses intersect – important constitutional questions are yet to be decided.
Although disappointing and unfortunate, we should not be surprised by these local decisions made by mediocre politicians. The fault is ours for electing and re-electing these politicians – so-called forward-thinking leaders. They unashamedly argue for greater police state surveillance/spying spending, activities and practices on normal law-abiding citizens on the false belief that complete safety can only be achieved when our individual rights are incrementally compromised and trashed.
This is a question that needs to be seriously considered when so-called leaders asks for your vote while trashing our most precious of personal rights while at the same time delivering us a total surveillance state.
Therefore, in the upcoming Nov. 4 election, you can continue to suffer through the mediocre collection of politicians we have year–after-year – or like Gov.  Brown – you can exercise your veto and support forward-thinking leaders who understand and appreciate the value and worth of our constitution – if they exist. 

Other related reading:     

Police officer shared steamy photos of women arrested for drunk driving  

LA County to collect more personal data without public notice

California judge rules against privacy advocate and protects police secrecy



Luis Burguillo

As a student of the media and journalism, I am interested in utilizing the medium in order to assure that the residents of the City of Hollister and San Benito County are alerted, informed and educated on the official actions of their elected officials who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the US constitution and Bill of Rights. More importantly, their engagement in the political process will hold the leaders accountable for their actions/decisions and lead to an improved governance.