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ACLU Files Historic Lawsuit to Stop Surveillance Planes Above Baltimore

“If this wide-area aerial surveillance program is allowed to move forward, we can expect mass surveillance to spread in cities across the country.”

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Surveillance Planes
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(TMU) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the city of Baltimore from rolling out a disturbing aerial surveillance program.

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of a group of Baltimore community activists who have raised concerns about the introduction of a controversial technology known as wide-area aerial surveillance which involves stationing an aircraft equipped with ultra-high-resolution cameras over a city to track all visible pedestrians and vehicles within that city.

The ACLU writes:

“Imagine a day in the future when everyone, from the moment they step outside their home, has to live with the knowledge that their every movement is being recorded by powerful cameras circling in the skies above. Not just where they work, shop, eat and drink, and whose homes they visit, but details about their political, religious, sexual, and medical lives—all captured and stored in databases without a warrant and available to law enforcement upon request.

That day is here.”

The ACLU states in the lawsuit that the program would violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to freedom of association and privacy. The rights group argues that government tracking of everyone in a city would violate the Constitution’s ban on “general warrants,” which authorize searches under broad and vague criteria. The ACLU states that the systems violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and the First Amendment’s guarantees of the right to assemble. The ACLU also notes that the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the courts’ role when interpreting new technology is to protect the “degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.”

The wide-area aerial surveillance technology—originally used for monitoring citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan in a program called “Gorgon Stare”—is yet another example of tools from the U.S.-led Global War on Terror making their way to American cities. Coincidentally, the company behind the technology, Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), was founded by Ross McNutt, a former colonel in the U.S. Air Force who worked on similar programs in the military. McNutt and PSS are now preparing to roll out the same technology in the skies above Baltimore.

The company has been promoting the technology to local police for years. However, the Baltimore police department is the first to embrace the idea.

The ACLU warns that if McNutt and PSS succeed, the flood gates will be opened and additional companies would likely join the market. This would likely lead to a roll out of even more powerful technologies, including automated AI analysis, multi-spectral imaging, and night vision capabilities, not to mention much higher camera resolutions. The lawsuit also warns that the monitoring program would likely put activists, protesters, and dissidents of all kinds under surveillance.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots think-tank that advances the public policy interests of Black people in Baltimore, Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 project to end gun violence in the city, and Kevin James, a community organizer and hip-hop musician.

This is not the first time surveillance planes have caused controversy in Baltimore. In November 2015, internal documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed the agency flew surveillance planes over Baltimore and Ferguson, MO during highly-publicized protests. The planes also operated thermal imaging equipment. The documents, obtained by the ACLU via Freedom of Information Act requests, outline how the bureau is using planes equipped with infrared and night vision cameras.

The release of the documents came after FBI Director James Comey confirmed to Congress that the agency flew surveillance aircraft over Ferguson and Baltimore during the protests following the police killings of both Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.

According to the FBI’s own flight logs, the agency flew 10 surveillance flights over Baltimore from April 29 to May 3, 2015, comprising a total of 36.2 flight hours. The flights took place mostly at night and typically involved a Baltimore Police Department representative and an FBI agent. Evidence logs show that at least half the flights conducted video surveillance, and the FBI is apparently holding on to copies of these videos. Still other flights conducted “electronic surveillance,” but specific details were redacted.

Additionally, in September 2015, Anti Media reported on the existence of a fleet of surveillance aircraft operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that has been flying over various locations within the United States, as well as foreign destinations.

The ACLU’s lawsuit is an attempt to stop the expansion of these types of programs over American cities. If they fail and there is no public push back, Americans will soon have to contend with the reality that surveillance drones are watching their every move.

By Derrick Broze | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Adam Toledo: Chicago Police Video Shows 13-Year-Old’s Hands Were Up When Cops Shot Him

Elias Marat

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The Chicago Police Department has released gruesome footage depicting the moment that police officers fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo while his hands were up.

In new bodycam footage from the March 29 slaying, an officer pursuing Toledo can be heard shouting at the young boy to show his “f*cking hands” before shooting him a single time, leaving the boy covered in blood and gasping for air.

While the officer can be heard shouting “drop it,” the teenager appeared to have empty hands when he raised his arms in the moment before he was shot. Video also shows officers discovering a handgun near the scene.

Adam was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The video released Thursday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability the footage from the officer who shot Toledo, along with 16 other body-warn camera video clips, two recordings of 911 calls, an incident report, and a response report, along with other materials.

The mother of Adam, Elizabeth Toledo, reported the boy one week prior to the shooting, although he did return hom on March 27 before leaving that night, reports WBEZ.  Because Adam did not have any form of identification, the family wasn’t informed by police about his death until March 31. In a GoFundMe page set up by Elizabeth, it was noted that one of Adam’s “dreams was to become a police officer.”

“It weighs heavy on our hearts to be planning our last goodbyes instead of watching him grow up and live out those dreams,” the family noted on the page.

The child has been described as having a “big imagination” and was a fan of children’s shows and zombie movies.

“Adam was really into zombies. And the zombie apocalypse. He even had this zombie apocalypse bag packed and ready to go. Some of his favorite movies and TV shows were ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Cars,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’” Elizabeth told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appealed for calm over the release of the gruesome footage while businesses in the area have boarded up their windows in anticipation of large protests.

“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” the mayor told reporters. “So while we don’t have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it is certainly understandable why so many of our residents are feeling that all too familiar surge of outrage and pain.”

The release of the video comes amid continuing anger and grief over the April 11 shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in a Minneapolis suburb.

It also comes as authorities fear a new wave of protests as communities await the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May after kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

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Music

Lil Nas X Song Is #1 In Saudi Arabia, Where Homosexuality Is Illegal Under Sharia Law

Elias Marat

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Lil Nas X has been on top of the world for weeks now, whether it’s living rent-free in the heads of homophobes or topping the Billboard charts after his smash hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” dominated playlists.

And ironically, the anthem has become the most-played song in Saudi Arabia, the conservative kingdom where open expressions of same-sex love and even private acts of gay sex are punishable by death.

The song, whose video features the artist giving Satan himself a lap dance have dominated news conversations all over the globe, smashed through to the top of the Billboard Global 200, which ranks top tracks in over 200 territories, on Monday.

According to Apple Music, the song is also leading Saudi Arabia’s top 100 charts as the most-played song in the country.

Apparently overjoyed by the ranking, Lil Nas X tweeted: “WE NUMBER 1 IN SAUDI ARABIA WTF LETS GOOOO”

The autocratic kingdom, which has long been governed by a strict yet uncodified interpretation of Sharia law, has an atrocious record on LGBTQ rights and classifies homosexuality as a variety of extremism. N many circumstances, gay sex is punishable by death.

As the Human Dignity Trust explains, “The punishment varies depending on the circumstances: married men and interfaith sex are punished with the death penalty, while non-married men are punished with flogging. Sharia law principles underpinning the criminal law in Saudi Arabia also impose strict dress codes that impact on the gender expression of transgender people.”

However, this does not mean that Saudi citizens abstain from these “illicit” acts. As one fan wrote on Twitter: Period!!!! Let’s correct the narrative about the Middle East! Shoutout Saudi Arabia.”

However, another user responded: “I lived in Saudi Arabia my whole [life] and if I come out I will literally get stoned and people will be happy about it, saying it’s a ‘narrative’ doesn’t help anyone in the contrary, the middle IS homophobic and change NEEDS to happen.”

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Corruption

Cop Who ‘Accidentally’ Killed Daunte Wright Arrested on 2nd-Degree Manslaughter Charges

Elias Marat

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The former Minnesota cop who shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, during a traffic stop will now face charges of second-degree manslaughter, a prosecutor announced on Wednesday.

The brutal killing of Wright, which comes amid the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for last May’s killing of George Floyd, threatens to spark a new round of nationwide protests against police brutality and discriminatory policing.

On Wednesday, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput confirmed that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, would be charged.

On Wednesday morning, agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Potter, the bureau announced in a statement.

Potter was taken into custody in St. Paul and will be booked at Hennepin County jail.

On Tuesday, Potter resigned as demands for justice for Wright reverberated nationwide. Her resignation coincided with that of the city’s former police chief, who claims that Potter accidentally grabbed her Glock when she thought she was reaching for her Taser during the Sunday traffic stop.

Wright’s family and attorneys have rejected the claim that Wright’s death was merely the result of an “accident” and are demanding accountability and sweeping reforms of policing in Minnesota.

Potter could face up to 10 years in prison along with a $20,000 fine, per Minnesota law.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” said Wright family attorney Ben Crump in a statement.

“This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force,” the statement added.

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