Does Your Local Government Have a “Black Budget” Too?

Of course they do!  Matthew Cagle writes at the ACLU’s Free Future blog:

As we learn more about the US intelligence community’s top secret, multi-billion dollar “Black budget” and how the NSA pays technology companies to comply with the Prism spying program, another mostly unnoticed pipeline moves billions of federal surveillance dollars from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to local governments for dragnet surveillance systems that include video camera networks, automated license plate readers, facial recognition, and even drones and tanks. As the scope of federal surveillance becomes clearer, all of us should take a hard look at federal surveillance grants to local communities, consider how they distort local democracy, and demand more civil liberties safeguards, oversight, and accountability.

Federal grants to local and state governments for the purchase of new surveillance technology have risen dramatically over the last decade, all with little to no local oversight. Federal dollars—as much as $300 million from DHS just last year—find their way to local governments via opaque grant programs. Many times, grant applications go to D.C. straight from the desk of unelected local officials. Local representatives and community members may not learn about these applications or the planned use of the grant money until it arrives, at which point there is subtle pressure to accept the funds or lose future federal dollars. Any debate over local purse strings slips into the background as the primary question for local governments becomes “Why wouldn’t we take this cash?”

Here in California we’ve seen numerous examples of federal grant funds encouraging local law enforcement to seek out surveillance technology. A portion of an estimated $50 million in federal funding has allowed Northern California police departments to adoptautomated license plate readers that record data on innocent citizens from atop police cars and save it in federal databases. In San Diego, a $500,000 federal grant funds a facial recognition system capable of identifying and building profiles of people without criminal records—this is in addition to the many federally-funded local video surveillance systems in California and elsewhere. Last year, the ACLU of Northern California fought the Alameda County Sheriff’s plans to seek acceptance of federal funds for a drone, and the Berkeley police department even acquired funds to purchase a tank. Finally, in July 2013 Oakland accepted $2 million federal dollars to create a “domain awareness center” network of surveillance technology aimed at its own residents. These examples are striking, yet they are just a snapshot of a larger national trend towards federally funded local surveillance (not to mention the militarization of police).

Like the federal intelligence community’s black budget, which allows our federal government to allocate billions of taxpayer dollars for spying, all without public debate, these federal grants to local communities also distort the democratic process and prevent a meaningful discussion of the relative costs and benefits of surveillance technology. This cannot continue. Increased transparency about surveillance programs needs to be built in from the start and it should begin with robust public discussion well before applications are made for federal funds.

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.

4 Responses to “Does Your Local Government Have a “Black Budget” Too?”

  1. Lucas Moore says:

    Video camera networks is best for the security reason.

    Tahitian Noni Juice

  2. wasp says:

    Hi Tap, you missed the point of the comment I made w/r/t Fluoride, the other day, however, for the time being we will leave that.

    I think you will find this information relating to The Vatican’s Rent A Crowd ( The Muslim Brotherhood’s, Phalangist Movement, Al-Qaeda}, of far more interest.

    Syrian Rebels Used Sarin Gas Says United Nations Investigator

    Back in May, United Nations human rights investigator Carla de Ponte publicly indicated use of sarin gas by Syrian rebels. This declaration was completely ignored by both the Obama White House and most within the Mainstream Media. President Obama instead, repeated his concerns that it was the Assad regime that might use chemical weapons, even as Carla de Ponte was indicating the evidence pointed instead to the Syrian rebels already having done so – the same “rebels” the Obama administration is pushing to more fully fund and support via money, weapons, and American-led military strikes against the Assad regime.

    Similar in Telegraph:

    UN accuses Syrian rebels of chemical weapons use

    Syrian rebels have made use of the deadly nerve agent sarin in their war-torn country’s conflict, UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte has said.

    By Damien McElroy and agencies9:04AM BST 06 May 2013
    “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas,” del Ponte, a former war crimes prosecutor, said in an interview with Swiss radio late on Sunday.
    “We still have to deepen our investigation, verify and confirm (the findings) through new witness testimony, but according to what we have established so far, it is at the moment opponents of the regime who are using sarin gas,” she added.
    She stressed that the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, which she is a part of, had far from finished its investigation.


    REGARDS ……….. WASP

  3. Anonymous says:

    The british police have lost the good will of the public, much like in the USA, those who in many British cities phone in to reporta crime are treated like criminals and have their names and adresses checked and kept on file, people often just dont bother anymore.
    In Kings Lynn Norfolk 10 years ago the police ere found to be in the pay of the russian mafia guy who were running all the labour for farms and factories, it took 3 other police forces to sort them out
    Ian Borman norfolk

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was just grumbling about the nonsense from that wasp chappie in work, and i was accused of being anti semitic !
    what the f*ck has that to do with the tosh he writes ???

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