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He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good...

In twenty or thirty years, the U.S. government may know where you are most of the time, via its warrantless seizures of cell phone metadata and facial recognition via interconnected video feeds from cameras all across the country.

I. BOSS is Watching You

While this dystopian vision of the future is by no means set in stone; many of the pieces of it are or may be already in place.

Multiple sources, including former administrators claim the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is seizing cell phone location records for virtually all cell-phone using citizens (the NSA denies this).  The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and U.S. Military are pursuing fully autonomous robotic soldiers, capable of identifying and killing designated targets.  And President Obama has already admitted to approving the targeting killing of American citizens overseas with drone strikes.  But one key missing ingredient in creating a lethal legion for a future police state is facial recognition.
 
FBI tracking
The DHS and FBI want to be able to identify all Americans in public locations in real time to combat "terrorism" and other crimes. [Image Source: Hang the Bankers]
 
At present facial recognition has long been an imprecise science.  But with advanced computer power and new algorithms, the art of recognizing someone from stored images -- a function our brains perform automatically -- is nearing maturity.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released documents this week to The New York Times that reveal that after two years a facial recognition project dubbed Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS) is showing serious results.  Like most successful facial recognition systems it relies on stereoscopy (3D filming) to generate a 3D model of its targets.

The contract for the project (HSHQDC-12-I-00001) was awarded in 2012 under the name "Bio-threat Characterization Research". 

The contract was awarded to Electronic Warfare Associates Government Systems, Inc. (EWA GSI) a company that specializes in "electronic warfare" and whose motto is "enabling a more secure future".  Based in Herndon, Virginia and founded in 2002, EWA received $5.15M USD in funding for the project.

EWA GSI
EWA GSI's headquarters at the Hallmark Bldg in Herndon, Virg. [Image Source: Google]

(EWA also received a DHS contract of $69K to look into breaking into citizens' PIN-protected phones via using algorithms to obtain Personal Unlock Codes (PUC), also known as a PIN Unlocked Key (PUK) -- a code used by carriers to override PIN protections.)

The DHS describes BOSS in a contract document:

[We recognize] the need for commercially available 3D biometric facial imaging systems that effectively collect data samples from subjects under a variety of circumstances.  The DHS is responsible for the biometric identification of person to determine if person entering areas are currently on federal watch lists.

In other words, the DHS wants to be able to use special purpose-made sensors, along with public sector sensors, to "spot" people in databases.  Targets could then be targeted with "enforcement" efforts including questioning or arrest in theory.

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) privacy advocate Ginger McCall warned The NYT, "This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications.  We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate."

She points out that the government is already armed databases of photos of law-abiding citizens (drivers license DBs), but that it only lacks the algorithms to cross-reference that database with spotted faces in real-time.

II. BOSS Shows Modest Success, But is Imperfect

The BOSS system was developed at a Kentucky branch office last year, in conjunction with the laboratory of Aly Farag, a Univ. of Louisville computer vision specialist.  The completed device utilized "a smart optical sensor augmented with range measurement, infrared acquisition (IR), and mobility for image acquisition."

In late 2012 it was field tested at a Kennewick, Wash. stadium where the system identified 30 targets out a crowd of 1,000.  The testing was carried out with the assistance of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNL).  EWA VP Ed Tivol told The New York Times that when the system was first created it took six to eight minutes to process an image, but by the time of the final testing, it could process them in under 30 seconds.  

While the system fell short of its goal of 80 to 90 percent recognition at 100 m -- something Mr. Tivol says "has never been done" -- it did achieve 60 to 70 percent confidence, as algorithms to deal with shadows and variable lighting in public locations were tweaked.

Washington Toyota Center
The system was tested at the Kennewick, Wash. Toyota Center. [Image Source: WSU]

The result was close, but a bit to slow and a bit too inaccurate for mass deployment.  In the DHS's words -- "It was not ready for [our] customer [a government agency]."

EWA is not alone in its goal of allowing the government to "spot" you in the wild.  Carnegie Mellon University has developed advanced facial recognition software as part of a DARPA funded research project.  The FBI has called using facial recognition to track members of the public a "top goal" and has budgeted a $1B USD towards the effort.

The FBI used a crude early version of its technology to try to identify the Boston Bombing attack suspects, but the system came up short.

Boston bomber
The FBI tried to use facial recognition to ID the Boston bombing suspects, but the system failed. [Image Source: FBI/Salon]

A (literally) killer app for the FBI, DHS, and military would be to combined a network of civilian and government cameras to identify "terrorists" on the ground, while having lightweight versions of the same facial recognition algorithms loaded into low power drone processors so that responding drones could confirm the target identity, once deployed to the general location based on the ground camera network info.

Such a system could be supported by an automated backend that takes personal information (names, addresses, etc.) and tracks down pictures of a suspected "terrorist", etc. on the internet (e.g. Raytheon Comp.'s (RTN"RIOT" system) which would then be fed into a database to trigger the ground camera network to hunt for the suspect's face and then send an appropriate action to the drones' controlling database.

One dropdown might designate an individual for "capture" by a drone, while another might designated them for death.

III. EWA Paid of Politicians to Score Big Brother System Contract

EWA GSI has deep ties to many former or present members of Congress, which perhaps explains part of why Congress approved funding of its Orwellian project.  Campaign finance records reveal [source: 123] EWA vice presidents donated to the campaigns of former Rep. Alan Mollohan (D - West Virg.), Democrat-turned-Republican former Rep. Virgil Goode (D, then R - Virg.), former Rep. Tom Feeney (R- Flor.), and senate minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R - Kent.).  EWA's President donated generously to late former Rep. John Murtha (R-Penn.). 

Mitch McConnelll
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) funneled kickbacks to EWA. [Image Source: AP]

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D - Tex.) also received donations directly for EWA GSI via the BEST PAC.  EWA also directly funded funded current Rep. John Mica (R - Flor.), former Rep. Mollohan, and former Rep. Murtha, according to OpenSecrets

Both Rep. Feeney and Rep. Murtha share checkered records, with Mr. Feeney be accused of voter fraud in 2004 and more significantly Rep. Murtha who was under investigation by the FBI at the time of his death for earmarks in various bills for small defense contractors (like EWA).

These payments appeared to be paying off -- Rep. Mollogna was personally responsible for earmarks that funded EWA GSI's work.  According to information that Roll Call dug up:

Raytheon and Trex Enterprises — received $2 million in earmarks requested by Reyes in the Defense appropriations bill. In the same bill, Electronic Warfare Associates received a $5 million earmark from Mollohan, and Concurrent Technologies received $7 million in three separate earmarks requested by Murtha.
 
The earmark in question for a "BIGFOOT Tag Receiver" can be found here on Earmark Watch and was attached to the 2008 House Defense appropriations bill [PDF].  Bigfoot is a proprietary active RFID tag/beacon [PDF] that EWA markets.

Bribe
Both Congress and the President are happy to hand out spying contracts, for the right price.
[Image Source: Google Images]
 
Former Rep. Mollohan also received heavy donation from Azimuth, Inc., a defense contractor who EWA serves as a "mentor" firm to.  Azimuth scored a $20M USD DHS contract in 2005.  At the time Rep. Mollohan defended these earmarks, and is quoted by Free Republic as saying, "All I care about is supporting companies and [federal] programs that companies are doing in my Congressional district."

But the real punch line comes from the $6M USD earmark given to EWA and the Univ. of Louisville in 2010 as part of the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill.  In other words, EWA officials "sponsored" Senate minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and were then lavished with a $6M USD contract.

Sources: DHS via Document Cloud, The New York Times



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Laughed my arse off!!
By MechanicalTechie on 8/22/2013 8:15:14 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
While this dystopian vision of the future is by no means set in stone

You have to be on some serious drugs to not think this is going to happen in the US. If ever there was a country slowly going down the toilet of late then it has to be the good old US of A.

Gov is arse raping the constitution, wall street is destroying the middle class and politicians are beyond useless and only represent the lobbyist.




RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By M'n'M on 8/22/2013 11:03:15 PM , Rating: 4
I will differ that this is somehow all the result of lobbying the pols. Poll after poll has shown that the average Joe wants terrorists stopped. And then stops thinking (IMO) about how and the consequences. No pol wants to be in front of the TV cameras being asked why more wasn't done to stop some terror act. Why people are so concerned about terrorists and not as concerned about how poorly they drive (given what kills more people year in, year out) is a wonder to me but we live in a time when people care more about what Snooki does than what goes on in their local, state and federal govts.

People only react when something bad happens to them. By the time the surveillance state bites them in the ass, I fear it'll be to late to roll back. It'll take something like Bloomberg's sugar cops fining people for having that 17th oz of Pepsi, caught on camera, before people wake up.


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By woody1 on 8/23/2013 8:56:41 AM , Rating: 2
Scramble suits. We need scramble suits ASAP!


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By topkill on 8/23/2013 4:18:25 PM , Rating: 2
I'm so disgusted by BOTH sides of the aisle on this one.

As you say, we're getting arse raped and we just keep ignoring it.


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By Alexvrb on 8/24/2013 1:28:16 AM , Rating: 3
Some people are concerned by it. Of course, they're vastly outnumbered. Even more concerning is that a lot of people don't care what you do to this country as long as they get their handouts.

You shouldn't be allowed to vote in a federal election if you don't pay any federal income taxes (retirees who paid into the system for years would be exempted, of course). They could still vote at the local and state level, but not federal. A lot of people are effectively voting themselves money, and the whole thing is going to come apart at some point.


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By Rukkian on 8/26/2013 11:15:08 AM , Rating: 2
Except there is nothing in the constitution saying that paying taxes is a prerequisite to voting. What next after that, you have to make at 100k to vote, then 250k, then.... What happens if you have a bad year, get laid off, and cant find work, now you cant vote either?

I don't like the welfare state either, but this is not the answer imo. There are plenty of people supposedly paying taxes that make quite a bit of money that find enough loopholes to pay much less as well.

IMO, the whole system needs to be overhauled. Go to a flat tax with no deductions, no credits, and if you need it, a limited amount of some sort of assistance (limited in years, and being low enough that you have a pretty crappy time trying it make it by on it). After the time is up, no more assistance - go get a job, or live on the street if that is your thing.


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By sorry dog on 8/26/2013 3:59:49 PM , Rating: 2
Just like the pay taxes to vote idea, the flat tax idea is one of those things that sounds good at first until you start getting into the details...

Many of the current deductions like mortgage interest, child, medical, and work expense deductions greatly benefit the middle class. If you eliminate these things then some of the consequences might be a damaged housing industry or greater incentives for an underground labor market.
For me personally there have been a couple of years last decade that close to half my gross went to medical costs for a special needs child. I was just able to cover it with a little family help and payment plans. However, if the economics of that changed to the tune an extra few thousand to Uncle Sam those years, that would not be the case. It was already slightly advantageous as it was for me to quit my tax paying job to become eligible for government services, and work for cash on the side for spending money. I don't like the idea of doing that, but if it's a huge difference then you are going to do what's best for your family.
That is just one example of unintended consequences... if the flat tax was such a slam dunk idea, we'd be doing something like it, but there are just too many narrow and sometimes broad interests that will be negatively affected by it for it to ever happen.


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By inperfectdarkness on 8/24/2013 12:10:56 AM , Rating: 2
How ironic it is that at the same time US citizens are allowing the US government to destroy their constitutional freedoms...

...Chinese citizens are increasingly pressing for the Chinese government to recognize and uphold their own constitutional rights.


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By superstition on 8/26/2013 5:36:36 PM , Rating: 2
Our political system is designed to insulate the ruling class, with divide and conquer (a "two-party" system with winner-takes-all rather than proportional representation) and massive geographical isolation of the elite power center from the people (Washington DC).


RE: Laughed my arse off!!
By superstition on 8/26/2013 5:34:43 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget the mainstream media, the mouthpiece of elite power -- and academia, the handmaiden of elite power (hat tip to Noam Chomsky for that point).


Dissenter
By HostileEffect on 8/23/2013 8:59:25 PM , Rating: 2
Replace "terrorist" with "dissenter" or any other word and articles like this get a lot more interesting.




RE: Dissenter
By superstition on 8/26/2013 5:38:10 PM , Rating: 2
Terror is hyperbolic, but that's what the ruling class feels when it comes to citizen dissent.

It's a threat to their privilege.


Face masks!
By techxx on 8/23/2013 9:58:02 AM , Rating: 2
Wear a new mask every couple months. :D




start with Saudi Arabia
By SPOOOK on 8/24/2013 4:21:39 PM , Rating: 2
you better start with Saudi Arabia not the usa we know who the Terrorists are and all of Muslim countrys first




bonniemliub
By bonniemliub on 8/24/2013 3:58:32 PM , Rating: 1
my buddy's mom makes $84/hr on the computer. She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $15037 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web site www.wo­rk25.C­om




hi
By jeav on 8/25/2013 4:42:24 PM , Rating: 1
my friend's mother makes $85 hourly on the internet. She has been fired from work for 10 months but last month her check was $19276 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this web site ............ ttp://miniurl.com/9meJ




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