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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

(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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Cop Gave Children Weapons During Exorcism and Told Them To Shoot Demons And Intruders

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A police officer from Florida was recently arrested after he was caught performing a strange exorcism on a child holding a taser, while another child was given a gun and instructed to shoot anyone who entered the home. 37-year-old Christopher Dougherty reportedly told the two children that there were demons in the house. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Dougherty was fired from the department on an unrelated matter on the same day of his arrest, but he had worked with the sheriff’s office since 2006.

Someone tripped an alarm at the house where the incident was occurring, which prompted police to arrive on the scene. Once they got there, they saw evidence of child abuse, and decided to enter the home. Upon entering they found a young girl wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet, lying on the ground with a rifle in a shooting position. There was also a young boy in the house who had a taser. The boy is believed to be the subject of an exorcism. Dougherty was armed with a handgun when police arrived.

The children said that Dougherty was performing an exorcism on the young boy, and told the girl that there were demons in the house, and instructed her to shoot anyone that entered.

Dougherty was detained and taken to a hospital where he was held under the Baker Act, and then arrested after he was released from the hospital a few days later. On the same day as his arrest, he was fired from the sheriff’s office, but the agency insists that his termination was related to “an unsatisfactory performance finding in a separate matter,” and had nothing to do with the exorcism. 

In a statement to Fox News, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said that he was concerned about the officer’s mental health. 

“While this deputy was terminated for a pattern of unsatisfactory performance, these are very serious criminal allegations. As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest standards of conduct whether on duty or off duty. But we are also concerned about the deputy’s mental health,” Mina said.

It is still not entirely clear what Dougherty’s relationship was with the two children that were in his care.

The 2014 horror film “Deliver Us From Evil” is based on the true-life story of New York City Police Sgt Ralph Sarchie, who was an exorcist in his spare time. Sarchie described himself as a “demonologist” and claimed to have taken part in at least 20 exorcisms, but says that he investigated over 50 paranormal cases. “I’m a demonologist, and I’m going head to head with the devil,” Sarchie once said in an interview.

In 2001, Sarchie co-wrote the book Beware the Night about his experiences as a part-time demon hunter in New York. His book would eventually inspire the horror movie that came later.

Of course, Sarchie’s “demon hunting” activities seem to be a bit more safe and legitimate than whatever was happening inside the home of Christopher Dougherty.

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4th-grader walks to school every day to do classwork because his family can’t afford internet

Elias Marat

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A fourth-grader in Roswell, New Mexico, has been spending his days outside of his closed elementary school to access the building’s WiFi and do his classwork due to his lack of internet access at home.

With the novel coronavirus continuing to interrupt lives everywhere, this kid is proving that the global pandemic isn’t strong enough to disrupt his studies. Like other school districts across the country, students at Roswell Independent School District have had to attend online classes due to the ongoing health emergency.

Jonathon Endecott, who turns 10 next month, has always been an independent kid who enjoys his studies, and especially science. He always used to walk to school and back home when school was in session, and this is one habit that hasn’t been broken even as teachers and students stay at home.

However, like too many homes across the United States, Jonathon’s home lacks internet service. Tragically, Jonathon’s mom, Angel Endecott, lost her two jobs once the pandemic struck. And while she’s been able to return to one of her jobs, she still can’t afford internet service.

So Jonathon has been going back to his closed elementary school for the building’s WiFi connection to continue doing his classwork. And he’s been happy to do it.

“He was like, ‘Yeah, I need to be back on the school property, and I could be like a normal kid again,'” Angel explained. “Him just being outside of the building gives him that, ‘Hey, I’m at school’ feeling even though he’s not around other classmates or teachers.”

With Jonathon’s home lying just across the school’s field, his parents are happy to let him study on campus grounds during the day. “The principal, the secretary and a few teachers, they do come outside to check up on him and see if he needs anything,” Angel said.

Jonathon has also found support from local teachers in the school district, who were deeply touched by the heartbreaking site of Jonathon working outside the school so that he could access an internet connection.

One teacher shared a photo of Jonathon on Facebook after getting permission from his mother. The image was shared widely online, and eventually reached a kind person who offered to pay for Jonathon’s internet service for the next year out of their own pocket.

The teacher who posted the photo to her Facebook has since created a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for other children who lack access to the internet, which is crucial to accessing their classes.

Jonathon remains optimistic despite the challenge of not having home internet access, and is happy that he can still remain connected with his friends and classmates online. He also likes the familiarity of being at his school building, which makes the virtual experience more like being back at school.

He’s also been approaching every day with vigor and excitement, relishing the ability to get a bit of alone time at school, his mom said. Jonathon also plans to continue going back to his school even when the family gets its internet back up and running again. However, the school district will require that he has a parent with him in the future.

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Study: 1,000 Potential Alien Star Systems Could Be Watching Us From Afar

Justin MacLachlan

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Motivated by the “Pale Blue Dot” NASA photo researchers are asking the question, could other planets be looking at us just like we’re looking at them? A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

The infamous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph was suggested by astronomer Carl Sagan who implored that the Voyager 1 space probe take a picture of Earth from nearly four billion miles away. The new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seeks to find out how many different exo-planet systems with alien life could be watching us. Ironically, the research comes from the Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

The studies co-author Lisa Kaltenegger stated their list focuses on main-sequence stars similar to our own sun. These solar systems may contain exoplanets, Earth-like worlds sitting in the habitable zone for life. All of the prospective systems are within 300 million light-years of Earth, close enough to see our world’s chemical traces according to the researchers.

“Let’s reverse the viewpoint to that of other stars and ask from which vantage point other observers could find Earth as a transiting planet,” Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute said in a press release.

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot… and we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

What makes this listing of 1,004 star systems novel and significant is they all sit in Earth’s elliptic orbit or the plane of the planets orbit around our Sun. Exoplanets traveling along this same path would be able to see the Earth according to the researchers.

To foreign observers, Earth would be a transiting planet that passes in front of its sun as the observer looks at distant stars. Theoretically, these exoplanets would be able to see Earth crossing the Sun, which sounds like a marvelous sight.

“Only a very small fraction of planets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” co-author Joshua Pepper of Lehigh University says. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighborhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

“If we’re looking for intelligent life in the universe, that could find us and might want to get in touch,” Kaltenegger adds. “We’ve just created the star map of where we should look first.”

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