U.N. human rights chief: Surveillance is now world’s “dangerous habit”

Washington Post

July 16, 2014

Press conference Navanethem Pillay“In a new hard-hitting draft report, Navi Pillay, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, has thrown the weight of the U.N. General Assembly behind the idea that digital privacy is a human right, and one under attack amid disclosures of surveillance by “signals intelligence agencies,” not only the United States’ National Security Agency but the United Kingdom’s General Communications Headquarters.

High Commissioner Pillay’s worry? That technology-enabled violations of personal privacy are no longer, if they ever were, rare events that affect already marginalized populations…” read more


SEE IT: Full-size helicopter, drone nearly collide in South Florida skies

New York Daily News

July 16, 2014

nearmiss17n-4-web“An unmanned drone flying above South Florida streets nearly slammed into a helicopter in May, a collision that could have crashed the chopper as it filmed an event.

The startling incident, which has become more common as amateurs take to the skies with drones, was caught on tape, sparking a new discussion about regulations for the popular aircraft.

“It came right at us and went right underneath us,” helicopter pilot Paul Barth told WTVJ-TV. “If that drone had hit my tail rotor…” read more


Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

The Intercept

July 9, 2014

Meet_the_Muslim-American_Leaders_the_FBI_and_NSA_Have_Been_Spying_On_-_The_InterceptThe_Intercept_-_2014-07-13_07.56.03“The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:…” read more


Drones still running into Privacy and Safety issues:

DOT Warns FAA Facing ‘Significant Barriers’ to Clearing Drones for Use


July 2, 2014

DOT-SEAL-BLUE-286“…’As far as small drones go, the ones most likely to be used by local TV stations, the report stated the FAA won’t meet its August deadline to issue its final ruling on their use. According to the audit, “FAA officials indicated that privacy concerns have been the primary contributor to this recent delay.’

The DOT audit also outlined two areas of concern for overall drone use.

First, because there are no pilots on board, a UAS cannot comply with the “see and avoid” requirements that underpin operational safety in the NAS. However, there is currently a lack of a mature UAS technology capable of automatically detecting other aircraft operating in nearby airspace and successfully maneuvering to avoid them. Experts we interviewed stated that “detect and avoid” is the most pressing technical challenge to integration.”  read more





Here’s an update on Wednesday’s Ways and Means Committee Hearing. It started with the announcement of a compromise–the mayor and comptroller were willing to allow the real time Intelligence center to be its own question. In exchange, Lewis Reed made some concessions. The list of projects would be less detailed and more flexible, and the $10 million for home repair was eliminated.

Lyda Krewson offered an amendment to fold the RTIC back into the overall proposal. It was defeated with a 5-4 vote. Here’s how it broke down: NO–Kennedy, French, Moore, Carter, Reed YES: Krewson, Florida, Baringer, Williamson

In the process, three committee members stated they could not support the bond issue at all if the RTIC did not remain a separate question. Hats off to Alders Kennedy and French and President Reed!

We need to maintain this victory when the bill comes to the floor of the full Board Friday. That meeting begins at 10 am, and a show of support would be great. Come down, if you can!

Our victory hangs in the balance. The compromise with the mayor and comptroller was breached when $ were restored to the home repair program. The mayor has promised to fight the bill in its current form.


People Speak Out Against RTIC

Local Gov CroppedHere’s an update on Thursday’s Bond Issue hearing before the Ways and Means Committee:
Drone Free St. Louis was excited to see St. Louis city residents speak out vigorously against the Police Department plan for a Real Time Intelligence Center. As most of you know, Chief Dotson has proposed that $6million from the upcoming city bond issue, and another $4 million dollars from the proposed transportation sales tax, be spent to create a hub for surveillance cameras. But approximately a dozen St. Louisans at an aldermanic Ways and Means Committee meeting wanted nothing to do with mass surveillance.
Civil libertarians reminded alderpersons about the American tradition that no one’s privacy should be invaded without specific evidence of wrongdoing. One witness stated it this way: “I don’t want to have to chose between giving up my civil liberties and deciding whether we need to buy more ambulances.” Others agreed that the decision to employ a network of cameras was a major policy change which needed to be discussed in depth before the city made such a choice. They advocated removing the RTIC from the bond issue so that discussion could take place. A member of CAPIC, the Coalition to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex, testified that we can no longer continue to throw people into our overcrowded prisons. She urged the alderpersons to search for alternative methods of crime prevention. Other speakers followed up on that theme, suggesting street lights, community centers and other economic development programs as better means of preventing crime. A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri stated that his organization was completing a study of cameras in St. Louis, finding that there are a woeful lack of privacy protections and that cameras are not even effective methods for preventing crime.
No one, including alderpersons more sympathetic to street cameras, spoke in favor of the RTIC. During the session, President Lewis Reed, the sponsor of the bond issue proposal, tweeted that his revised bill would carve out the RTIC as a separate issue when the bond reaches the November ballot. In that way citizens would have the opportunity to make their wishes known.
Drone Free St. Louis urges the alderpersons to listen to the voices they heard on Thursday. The same message has been consistent throughout the various forums for public input on bond issue projects. The RTIC is not the means to create safer neighborhoods. At the very least, the citizens of the city should have the chance to debate the issue and vote it up or down as a separate proposal in November.
The bond issue was not voted out of committee Thursday; Ways and Means will meet again this coming week for a vote before the bill moves to the floor for final passage.


News FlashAt the Citizens’ Input Meeting for the Bond Issue June 18, SLMPD Chief Dotson unveiled some startling news–his proposed Real Time Intelligence Center (RTIC) is much more costly than previously estimated. The overall cost, the Chief says, will be $10 Million! And we thought it was a waste of money, or worse, at $4 Million.

$6 Million would be included in the Bond Issue, unless St. Louis citizens successfully remove it. An additional $4 Million is part of the Transportation Sales Tax hike which we will be voting on in August. To make the project seem more appropriate on the transportation tax wish list, the police are, in that context, calling the intelligence hub a “transportation center.” That’s a disingenuous misnomer if ever there was one.

Chief Dotson made another surprising admission at the June 18 meeting. In touting the 50% reduction in crime since 2006, he gave little or no credit to the police. Instead, he cited economic development, rather than any law enforcement initiative, as the cause of the decline.

His claim begs the question: Why, if police programs are not a major contributor to crime reduction, would we want to spend $10 Million on a new police initiative–the RTIC?



For those who thought this was just a future capability:

African firm is selling pepper-spray bullet firing drones

June 8, 2014

Pepper Spray Drone“South Africa-based Desert Wolf told the BBC it had secured the sale of 25 units to a mining company after showing off the tech at a trade show.

It is marketing the device as a “riot control copter” that can tackle crowds “without endangering the lives of security staff”.

But the International Trade Union Confederation is horrified by the idea.

“This is a deeply disturbing and repugnant development and we are convinced that any reasonable government will move quickly to stop the deployment of advanced battlefield technology on workers or indeed the public involved in legitimate protests and demonstrations…”  read more