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DoJ Budget Request Details Advanced Surveillance, Biometrics 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a report about programs revealed in the Department of Justice's 2010 budget request, which includes $233.9 million in funding for an "Advanced Electronic Surveillance" project, and $97.6 million to establish the Biometric Technology Center. The surveillance project is designed to help the FBI "deal with changing technology and ways to intercept phone calls such as those used by VOIP phones or technology such as Skype. The program is also conducting research on ways to conduct automated analysis to look for links between subjects of surveillance and other investigative suspects." The Center for Democracy and Technology's Jim Dempsey warns, "It is appropriate for the FBI to develop more and more powerful interception tools, but the privacy laws that are supposed to guide and limit the use of those tools have not kept pace." The biometrics plan lays groundwork for a "vast database of personal data including fingerprints, iris scans and DNA which the FBI calls the Next Generation Identification," a system we have discussed in the past.
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DoJ Budget Request Details Advanced Surveillance, Biometrics

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  • Next up ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foobsr (693224) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:01AM (#27897179) Homepage Journal
    Quote (2007) [bbc.co.uk]:

    So far there is no gadget that can actually see inside our houses, but even that's about to change.

    Ian Kitajima flew to Washington from his laboratories in Hawaii to show me sense-through-the-wall technology.

    "Each individual has a characteristic profile," explained Ian, holding a green rectangular box that looked like a TV remote control.

    Using radio waves, you point it a wall and it tells you if anyone is on the other side. His company, Oceanit, is due to test it with the Hawaii National Guard in Iraq next year, and it turns out that the human body gives off such sensitive radio signals, that it can even pick up breathing and heart rates.

    CC.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:06AM (#27897217)

      And in an unrelated story, aluminum prices appear to be skyrocketing due to an unexpected surge in buyers.

      • stucco revival (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        stucco houses have chicken wire in their plaster matrix, and so act as a pretty good Faraday cage.

    • Re:Next up ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:24AM (#27897399)

      So far there is no gadget that can actually see inside our houses, but even that's about to change.

      First, IR cameras have existed for decades. They can see inside very well.

      Second, in the US, police need a warrant to use it -- that is, the evidence they need to use anything that sees "inside" your house is no less that what they need to kick the door down and look inside themselves. Since the US Courts are very strict on the "fruit of the forbidden tree" doctrine, anything the police learn subsequent to such a search is going to be very hard to admit in court.

      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyllo_v._United_States [wikipedia.org] and read the opinion for the difference between "through the wall" and "off the wall". Also of note, the two most "conservative" Justices (Scalia and Thomas) were in the majority along with three more "liberal" members. The 4 dissenters were all moderates on the Court.

      Finally, an OT note, I'm consistently surprised that various countries that are considerably more liberal with respect to criminal law nevertheless allow the introduction of evidence that was obtained in violation of the law. In the US, the police have a bit more latitude, for sure, but any evidence they gather in violation of the law is absolutely inadmissible. By contrast, in Canada, the police have much less latitude but the courts have discretion on whether to admit evidence gathered in violation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        In the US, the police have a bit more latitude, for sure, but any evidence they gather in violation of the law is absolutely inadmissible.

        Not anymore. [usatoday.com]

      • I am very doubtful of that. All material used for house construction are AFAIK not transparent to IR. So looking at a wall with a person inside, you would only see the temperature of the wall. I think also window are IR opaque.
      • by Xest (935314)

        "Second, in the US, police need a warrant to use it -- that is, the evidence they need to use anything that sees "inside" your house is no less that what they need to kick the door down and look inside themselves."

        Are you sure? I'm not saying you're wrong, but that sounds surprising to me coming from the UK. Here our police helicopters have this tech and use it to look for houses letting off unusual amounts of heat that could be cannabis factories, but also looking for fugitives and so on. It'd be hard to u

        • Do US police helicopters not use this technology, or is there some other fundamental difference I've missed?

          Oh, they use it all right. The point is that if they observe something ("accidentally" or otherwise), inside a private residence for which they do not have a warrant, that evidence is absolutely inadmissible in a court. Moreover, if an officer uses the IR and then, based on the IR, goes an applies for a warrant, that warrant is invalid and everything seized (including, for instance, dead bodies under the floorboards even if he was searched for dope) is not admissible in court.

          There are scattered accusations

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:18AM (#27897341)

    The biometrics plan lays groundwork for a "vast database of personal data including fingerprints, iris scans and DNA which the FBI calls the Next Generation Identification.

    ...GATTACA [wikipedia.org]. Can't wait to see who Feds declare "valid" and "in-valid".

  • conservatism when you need it?
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:21AM (#27897375)
    and civil liberties in this country, and if this plan makes you nervous, there is one ray of hope in all this. Federal law enforcement has a dismal record of implementing such sophisticated database systems. The FBI, for example, has spent billions and failed repeatedly. Not just law enforcement, either: the IRS and the FAA have both spent enormous sums on failed systems upgrades and botched implementations. I have the feeling this will be no different ... although that doesn't mean it won't be a real problem, privacy-wise, regardless of its (unfounded, unproven and probably worthless) utility as an antiterrorism tool. Furthermore, given law enforcement's proven inability to maintain accurate and auditable records, its unwillingness to correct any errors, and the effect such errors have on the populace (the TSA's no-fly list comes to mind) it's clear that the Feds should never be allowed to operate such a system.

    Terrorism is an evil enterprise, true enough. But this isn't all that far behind.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That's NOT a feature, it's definitely a BUG. The fact WILL be used to engage in illegal arrests [usatoday.com] for the purpose of fishing. "So sorry, our systems are having problems. But look at all the criminals we catch as a result! Obviously we need more wiretapping &c!"

      • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:12PM (#27898277)

        But look at all the criminals we catch as a result!

        Which is another good point. If they're going to run such a system, they'd better be prepared to provide accurate and public records on just how well it performs, and precisely what activities were embarked upon in response to collected data. The TSA's approach of doing whatever the hell they want, and then lying to Congress about it is completely unacceptable, but I think there's a good chance this effort will head down the same road.

        Sad fact is, law enforcement in any county, under any legal system, cannot and should not be given more power than they can be trusted to use wisely. In the United States today ... that's not very much power at all.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:33AM (#27897463)
    Face it. They just want to find out who's got a bigger schlong than they do.
  • Put together a slashdot team of contributors, and bid on an open source solution to this, and then, uh, spend the money.

  • How hard would it be to setup the equivalent of a phone to phone VPN connection, and then use a VoIP application similar to Skype across it? Of course you'd have to have a mobile data plan, or access to a WiFi connection, but would such a setup provide an eavesdropping resistant communications channel?
  • IANAL. And I don't recall if this was federal or Michigan. But...

    I understand that using a directional microphone for eavesdropping requires a warrant. The reason: When nobody is within view in a location were nobody would be able to hide within earshot, you have the expectation that your conversation is private. So it requires probable cause and a warrant, rather than just "happening to overhear" with a directional microphone, to satisfy the Fourth Amendment.

    Similarly if you throw out your documents in

  • The wild concept of Minority Report aside, I wouldn't terribly mind providing my retinal scan (or possibly iris scan) for identification, because I can know and control when my eye is examined. However, I also believe that people should not have to identify themselves for everything, either.

    Fingerprints and DNA are a whole different story. Those can be used to monitor and track people's ID without their knowledge or consent. I don't go around leaving my eyes, but we all leave fingerprints and DNA all ove

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.

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