DHS

The Government's Latest Attack on Civil Liberties

As if "VIPR" squads and "BOSS" surveillance weren't worrisome enough.

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Meet the new BOSS, short for Biometric Optical Surveillance System, a crowd-scanning technology under development for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Last week saw the release of documents describing DHS's latest efforts in "facial profiling." The agency has awarded a $5.2 million federal contract to the defense firm Electronic Warfare Associates to develop facial recognition technology allowing video cameras to pick "watch-listed" suspects out of crowds at distances of up to 100 meters.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on the expansion of a DHS initiative that's bringing roving squads of armed Transportation Security Administration agents to trains, buses, and stadiums near you.

Random stops, bag searches, and interrogations are among the services TSA provides with its "Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response" program. Clearly, somebody in the TSA brass thought it would be really cool to call these units "VIPR" squads.

Some might find it unsettling to learn that the federal agency in charge of crotch-groping aspires to strike with the speed and ruthlessness of a venomous snake—but I'm all for truth in advertising.

These militaristic monikers show us how the permanent security bureaucracy sees the relationship between the rulers and the ruled: They believe they are the BOSS of you.

At the top of the executive branch, President Obama and his team favor Orwellian euphemism, preferring wordblobs like "disposition matrix" to the harsh Anglo-Saxon of "kill list"—mumbling "kinetic military action" when what they really mean is "war."

But further down the administrative ladder, the language sometimes gets admirably blunt. The National Security Agency has programs with names like "TRAFFICTHIEF" and "PANOPTICON."

And DHS has even expressed interest in "Gorgon Stare," a drone-mounted camera array under development by the Air Force that can watch whole cities at a time (and turn the inhabitants to stone?)

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, James Madison warned that "the means of defense against foreign danger have always been the instruments of tyranny at home." That's worth remembering when you consider the origins of the BOSS program.

It began "as an effort to help the military detect potential suicide bombers and other terrorists overseas … but in 2010, the effort was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security to be developed for use instead by the police in the United States."

As Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar points out, "if the government's current path down license plate reader deployment is any indication, once this technology becomes good enough, there will likely be federal grants to encourage local law enforcement to use such capabilities"—raising the possibility that Americans' "day-to-day activities [could be] recorded, aggregated, analyzed and linked back to them by name by law enforcement officials."

The dangers of "mission creep" are apparent with the VIPR teams as well. VIPR got an unwelcome dose of public scrutiny back in 2011, when agents witlessly set up a checkpoint for Amtrak passengers disembarking a train in Savannah, Ga., and made female travelers lift their shirts, to be checked for brassiere bombs. That mini-scandal hasn't hurt the program's bottom line, though, as its budget is now around $100 million, funding 37 teams.

"TSA officials would not say if the VIPR teams had ever foiled a terrorist plot or thwarted any major threat to public safety," the Times reports, "the information is classified."

Still, it's generated some arrests for "minor drug possession" and outstanding warrants. "Did we need to have TSA in here for a couple of minor busts?" asked a Houston resident after a VIPR-squad search of city buses.

There's little to admire—and a lot to worry about—in intrusive homeland security programs like BOSS and VIPR–but at least they've got good, honest names.

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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  1. Madison was a privileged rich straight white male cisgendered slaveowner who died a hundred years ago so whatsoever he said is a sociological gendered rape question steeped in linguistical otherings and immanitized constructs of our ecologically corrupt decadent rape culture who should check his privilege.

    1. 8/10 – Since that sentence was structured so that I could actually follow it.

      1. Yeah, it needed some “humorous” asides mixed in.

    2. 10/10 from the Russian judge

      1. damn, those Russian judges never give out 10s.

    3. Trigger! Trigger! Trigger!

    4. Huh. I never heard of “cisgender” before today. But it sounds like a great addition to my heteronormative repertoire:

      Cisgender and cissexual (often abbreviated to simply cis) describe related types of gender identity where an individual’s self-perception of their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.[1] Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity,” complementing transgender.[2]M

      Kristem Schilt and Lauel Westbrook’s work has made us all richer and better people.

        1. Wow, the concepts of organic chemistry applied to…cross-dressing!

          What’s next – chaos theory applied to government-sponsored economic programs? Nah, been there done that.

    5. my friend’s step-mother makes $83/hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for eight months but last month her income was $20438 just working on the laptop for a few hours. read here —— Click Here for More Details

      Go to website and click Home tab for more details.
      ?????????????????????????

  2. I feel that Bernini’s Anima dannata most fully embodies the outrage the government generates in me.

    1. “Everybody check out the big brain on Brett!”

    2. How do you even get into that chair?

      1. My understanding is that the pope has to hover into it.

  3. BOSS? Wasn’t the security agency of Apartheid South Africa? Oh Irony!

    1. NKVD would be too obvious.

  4. OT: MSN goes full Tony, denies that inflation has been happening, but warns that it could be coming soon!

    http://money.msn.com/top-stock…..n-us_msnhp

    1. Probably the instant the GOP takes control over the Senate.

    2. “In the past few years, we’ve seen prices for food, fuel and health care go up, yet so far inflation has remained tame.”

      I don’t think that word…

      1. If you define “inflation” to mean, say, a hovercraft full of eels, then inflation has not increased.

    3. One of the commentors went on to lament inflation based notions of growth, calling it bad economics, he then goes on to declare a command economy as the solution. He must be the smartest person commenting on MSN articles.

      1. Our Top. Men. will command inflation back into its cavern, thus saving princess Economy.

  5. semi-OT: what should at worst, be a civil case can potentially escalate into felonies for everyone:
    Changing IP address to access public website ruled violation of US law

    Changing your IP address or using proxy servers to access public websites you’ve been forbidden to visit is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a judge ruled Friday in a case involving Craigslist and 3taps.

    [ . . . ]

    The CFAA itself could get an overhaul in Congress due to a bill introduced in response to the prosecution of Swartz, who committed suicide before his trial.

    The bill’s text “deletes the vague phrase ‘exceeds authorized access and clarifies the definition of ‘access without authorization,’ key fixes in a law that has for years been misinterpreted because of its vague definitions,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Without this change, the government could’ve prosecuted everyday Americans for violating low-level terms of service violations… In short, everyone would be a criminal, leaving it up to the government to decide when and where to bring down the hammer.”

    1. In short, everyone would be a criminal, leaving it up to the government to decide when and where to bring down the hammer.

      How is that new?

      1. Good point. On the other hand, this could mean prison for White Injun, American, and anonbot (Actually, maybe not for anonbot)

        1. I don’t like the new anonbot, he can go to jail, I want the old anonbot back.

    2. In short, everyone would be a criminal, leaving it up to the government to decide when and where to bring down the hammer.”

      Sounds like a feature to me. /statist shithead

  6. Gene, how are we going to face Case Nightmare Green without ubiquitous observation? “Gorgon Stare” is obviously US version the side-loaded, UK developed Scorpion Stare firmware for digital cameras as publicized by whistleblower Charlie Stross in his Laundry chronicles.

    1. Clearly, we need to bring in BASHFUL INCENDIARY. She’s our last hope. And a consultant.

      1. And a bigger training budget! Although there isn’t much more frightening to me than an angry red-head with a screechy viollin.

        1. Wait wait wait. Is BASHFUL INCENDIARY Bob’s girlfriend, or the new action chick from the last book?

          1. Persephone Hazard, the badass chick from The Fuller Memorandum, is BASHFUL INCENDIARY. Mo is Bob’s girlfriend, she’s the one with the lethal supernatural violin.

  7. You have a picture of Hillary, but no alt-text…

  8. We need some paid Sunstein sock-puppets to start defending these programs!

    1. I’m pretty sure Sunstein sock-puppets would claw their eyes out if they ever stumbled onto this website. Not that that’s a bad thing…

      1. They’d at least nudge their eyes out.

  9. agents witlessly set up a checkpoint for Amtrak passengers disembarking a train in Savannah, Ga

    Are TEH TERRISTS!!11!!!! really that keen on attacking Savannah, GA? WTF? And when discussing the TSA I think adjective witlessly pretty much fits everything they’ve ever done. Because that’s what they are: a bunch of witless dickbags who in a perfect world would either be flipping burgers at Mickey D’s or institutionalized.

    Still, it’s generated some arrests for “minor drug possession” and outstanding warrants. “Did we need to have TSA in here for a couple of minor busts?” asked a Houston resident after a VIPR-squad search of city buses.

    Ooh, the EVUL DRUGZ!!! That changes everything! /sarc

    1. The real question is who expanded their mandate.

      1. They did. Because FY, TW.

    2. Savannah is the heartland! Why Savannah has all sorts of… things that people can do! I don’t know any of them, but still. It won’t always be Gotham that gets attacked!

      1. The Pink House.

        1. Yeah, I wasn’t picking on them I’ve just never been. Hear its nice, but if I’m going to drive 5 hours to go somewhere with a beach and shopping, I’m usually visiting my family in Tampa. What’s the Pink House?

          1. http://www.plantersinnsavannah…..dining.htm

            It’s very good. I enjoy the river front area as well.

      2. River St; it’s the new ground zero. for everything.

    3. Disembarking from Government Transportation?

  10. “TSA officials would not say if the VIPR teams had ever foiled a terrorist plot or thwarted any major threat to public safety,” the Times reports, “the information is classified.”

    Did they say *why* this is classified? Surely it can’t be that the truth is “no”!

    It’s classified information all the way down.

    1. Classified = FYTW

    2. Any information that could be potentially embarrassing to the government is now classified.

      1. You lie! I just found open-source literature confirming that Maxine Waters is a congresscreature!

        1. Oddly enough having functional retards in Congress isn’t embarrassing to them. It should be embarrassing to all of us, but not to them.

        2. I used to think Maxine Waters was kinda kooky when she accused the CIA of drug-running to the LA street gangs. Later I found out that I was being naive and she was absolutely right. But the fucking hypocrite has changed her tune now that one of hers is “in charge”. No embarrassing the boss man now, honey, when the DEA is gun-running to the Mexican Mafia. SHUT UP TEA PARTY EXTREMISTS!

  11. Are TEH TERRISTS!!11!!!! really that keen on attacking Savannah, GA?

    It worked for Sherman.

    1. I’m not sure breaking the food transportation network of the South is the terrorists’ highest priority.

      1. You can’t be too careful.

        1. Now I need to figure out where the hell Savannah is so I don’t accidentally go there.

  12. “the information is classified.”

    That sounds much better than, “Sadly, no.”

    1. or, “Sadly, the information is classified.”

      1. If members of this administration look to be impeached, look for everything to be classified.

      2. We can’t even confirm that the TSA exists or has any operation or presence at any airport or train station. Where did you get such a silly notion.

      3. The NSA/FBI/CIA? The existence of any such agencies cannot be confirmed from any government source, so all information requests must be denied.

    2. if they had actually foiled a terrorist plot I’m sure we would have all heard about it by now and how glorious and thankful we should be that they are there to stop these things, etc.

  13. Last week saw the release of documents describing DHS’s latest
    efforts in “facial profiling.”

    It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.
    — George Orwell, 1984

  14. upto I saw the receipt which had said $9199, I didnt believe …that…my friend could actualey erning money in there spare time from there computar.. there aunt haz done this for only about 9 months and a short time ago repaid the debts on their home and got a brand new Mazda. you could check here —— Click Here for More Details
    Go to website and click Home tab for more details.
    ?????????????????????????

  15. -Clearly, somebody in the TSA brass thought it would be really cool to call these units “VIPR” squads.-

    Does that make OBAMA “COBRA COMMANDER!!!!!!!”

  16. “Random stops, bag searches, and interrogations are among the services TSA provides…”

    Um, services?

    1. All part of the inclusive package provided by Club Fed.

  17. I noticed I did feel much richer this morning. I must send them a thank you note.

  18. That is, a thank you note to Schilt and Westbrook.

  19. go grab your 3$ instantly by just using my account as a refrence,Thanks,,you have to work and use the computer and internet, and if you can do that and dedicate some time each day then you can do this with no problem. I have been working with this for a month and have made over $2,000 already. let me know if you need more here you go “~– http://5z8.info/facebook-of-sex_v5c8hk_hitler

  20. Sigh…I hate to sound like a broken record, but: 4th Amendment?

  21. agency has awarded a $5.2 million federal contract to the defense

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