Sunday, December 31, 2017

Guest Post: 2017 Was a Year of Amazing Advances for Humanity

by Marian L. Tupy

The end of 2017 is barely a week away. So now is the perfect time to reflect on the positive difference humanity has made to the world over the past 12 months. How have we advanced as a species?

2018 Happy New YearWe often underestimate the progress we make because it is incremental: an algorithm here, a genetic tweak there… but all these things combine to improve our future.

As Kevin Kelly from Wired wrote, “Ever since the Enlightenment and the invention of Science, we’ve managed to create a tiny bit more than we’ve destroyed each year… That few percent positive difference is compounded over decades into what we might call civilization… [Progress] is a self-cloaking action seen only in retrospect.”

My website, Human Progress, tracks technological, medical and scientific improvements that make the lives of ordinary people better. Here are the ones that have caught our attention in 2017, doubtless only a tiny fraction of all the advances humanity has made this year.

  1. February 6: The age of the bionic body – from robot hands, controlled by your mind, to electronic eyeballs, experts reveal 6 medical marvels introduced by new technology.
  2. February 6: Biologists help deaf mice hear again by inserting healthy genes into their ears – the work shows an ‘unprecedented recovery of inner ear function’ and could be used in humans.
  3. February 10: Computers turn medical sleuths and identify skin cancer – algorithm works as reliably as board-certified dermatologists, study shows.
  4. February 15: For the blind, an actual-reality headset – not just Star Trek fiction, a new visor from eSight is a lightweight, high-contrast vision system for legally blind people.
  5. February 17: Wyoming man receives ‘miracle’ face transplant 10 years after suicide attempt.
  6. February 18: Smartphones to become pocket doctors after scientists discover camera flash and microphone can be used to diagnose illness.
  7. February 20: Hope for millions as scientists discover multiple sclerosis treatment that can slow its progression.
  8. February 22: Life expectancy to break 90 barrier by 2030.
  9. March 2: Teenager’s sickle cell reversed with world-first therapy.
  10. March 3: Terminal cancer patients go into complete remission after groundbreaking gene therapy.
  11. March 3: UTA professor invents breath monitor to detect flu.
  12. March 6: Google’s artificial intelligence can diagnose cancer faster than human doctors – the system is able to scan samples to determine whether or not tissues are cancerous.
  13. March 8: The robot will see you now! Chat-bots that monitor symptoms will become more accurate and quicker at spotting illness than doctors.
  14. March 8: Scientists discover new state of matter called ‘Time Crystals’ – time crystals seemingly break the rules of normal time-keeping and potentially pave the way for quantum computers and quantum sensors.
  15. March 10: Scientists make progress toward engineering synthetic yeast – the work brings to six the number of yeast chromosomes that now can be synthesized, according to new research.
  16. March 13: More people could benefit from BRCA breast cancer drugs.
  17. March 14: Swedish men on target to be first to completely stub out smoking.
  18. March 15: Startup serves up chicken produced from cells in lab – ‘clean meat’ developers say it avoids towering costs of feeding, caring for livestock.
  19. March 15: The next innovation in shipping – Wind Power; Maersk launches trial run of tanker using rotating cylinders that can function as high-tech sails.
  20. March 18: An insect’s eye inspires a new camera for smartphones – a series of eyelets can make cameras much smaller.
  21. March 23: New rotavirus vaccine could prevent thousands of childhood deaths.
  22. March 24: Machines which detect cancer symptoms could be out in a year.
  23. March 27: Can tech speed up emergency room care? A New York hospital system tests a new way to use telemedicine, where E.R. doctors examine patients without being in the same room.
  24. April 2: Plastic-eating fungus may solve garbage problem.
  25. April 6: To handle electronic waste, freeze it and pulverize it – scientists say a new technique can make it more profitable to harvest metals and other materials from circuit boards in old TVs, computers and more.
  26. April 26: Artificial ‘brain in a dish’ is created in a world first: Breakthrough could shed light on conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
  27. May 2: CRISPR eliminates HIV in live animals.
  28. May 4: Scientists engineer baker’s yeast to produce penicillin molecules.
  29. May 5: Iceland drills 4.7 km down into volcano to tap clean energy.
  30. May 11: Scientists have created an exoskeleton to stop elderly people from falling.
  31. May 11: HIV life expectancy ‘near normal’ thanks to new drugs.
  32. May 17: Lab-grown blood stem cells produced at last – two research teams cook up recipe to make long-sought cells in mice and people.
  33. May 18: Antibodies from a human survivor define sites of vulnerability for broad protection against ebola viruses.
  34. May 18: Scientists look to skies to improve tsunami detection.
  35. May 22: World’s largest aircraft completes successful test flight.
  36. May 23: MIT researchers develop a moisture-responsive workout suit with live cells.
  37. June 1: ‘Instantly rechargeable’ battery could change the future of electric and hybrid automobiles.
  38. June 1: Extinct species of Galapagos giant tortoise may be resurrected.
  39. June 3: SpaceX successfully launches reused Dragon spacecraft for ISS resupply.
  40. June 3: ‘Liquid Biopsy’ passes early test in quest to find cancer in blood .
  41. June 13: Live antibiotics use bacteria to kill bacteria.
  42. July 3: This Silicon Valley company wants to ‘make better humans’ through biohacking.
  43. July 6: DNA from sharks that can live up to 400 years could hold the secret to a longer life.
  44. July 6: Robot wars – knee surgery marks new battleground for companies.
  45. July 9: Banks deploy AI to cut off terrorists’ funding.
  46. July 11: Scientists design a solar cell that captures nearly all energy of solar spectrum.
  47. July 17: Bananas – scientists create vitamin A-rich fruit that could save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives.
  48. July 22: This new material could let phones and electric cars charge in seconds.
  49. July 26: New artificial spider silk: stronger than steel and 98 percent water.
  50. July 28: Melanoma: – new, more effective drug steps closer.
  51. July 28: Could stem cells reverse the aging process)?
  52. July 28: Juvenescence AI to develop first compounds generated by Insilico’s deep-learned drug discovery engines.
  53. August 4: IBM storage breakthrough paves way for 330TB tape cartridges.
  54. August 28: Anti-inflammatory drug ‘cuts heart attack risk’.
  55. August 30: Trial raises Parkinson’s therapy hope.
  56. August 30: FDA clears first gene-altering therapy — ‘a living drug’ — for childhood leukemia.
  57. September 7: Shropshire farm completes harvest with nothing but robots; a world-first in automation.
  58. September 12: U.S. middle-class incomes reached highest-ever level in 2016, Census Bureau says.
  59. September 23: Newly engineered antibody could kill off 99 per cent of HIV strains.
  60. September 28: DNA surgery on embryos removes disease.
  61. October 9: Google is going to use experimental high-altitude balloons to provide internet in Puerto Rico.
  62. October 18: Dyslexia link to eye spots confusing brain, say scientists.
  63. October 29: Saudi Arabia to allow women into sports stadiums.
  64. November 13: Brain implant boosts human memory by mimicking how we learn.
  65. November 14: ‘Better than Concorde’ supersonic 1,687mph airliner to ‘revolutionize’ air travel by 2025 (link).
  66. November 15: The firm that can 3D print human body parts.
  67. November 15: US scientists try 1st gene editing in the body.
  68. November 15: US biotech unicorn steps up competition for BioNTech’s mRNA personalized cancer vaccine.
  69. November 24: Cancer breakthrough: Potential cure could be ready as early as next year.
  70. November 26: Diabetes drug ‘could be used to end agony of transplant rejection’.
  71. November 29: Expanding DNA’s alphabet lets cells produce novel proteins.
  72. November 30: Designer proteins—the new generation of HIV vaccines being put to the test
  73. November 30: Trees are covering more of the land in rich countries – the spread of forests is not always popular. But it is sure to continue.
  74. December 1: HIV breakthrough as cancer drug could hold secret to curing the virus.
  75. December 1: In Rwanda, drones deliver medical supplies to remote areas – such services help people in isolated regions – and could yield lessons for making shipments elsewhere.
  76. December 4: China rules aquaculture as fish output triples in decade.
  77. December 7: Bumper crops boost global cereal supplies in 2017/18.
  78. December 10: Democracy is far from dead – in 12 years, the share of the world’s people who live in ‘free’ countries has risen.
  79. December 11: Huntington’s breakthrough may stop disease.
  80. December 11: Tasmanian tigers aren’t extinct (or at least they won’t be for long!) – Scientists unlock mysterious creature’s DNA – and plan to clone it bring the beast back to Australia.
  81. December 13: Streetlights could be replaced by glowing trees, after scientists make plants shine in the dark.
  82. December 14: Haemophilia A trial results ‘mind-blowing’.
Reprinted from CapX.

Marian L. Tupy Human Progress 2017

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

News Release: LPNOVA Resolution Supporting Concealed Carry Reciprocity

The following news release was received from the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia (LPNOVA). It was distributed by Reston resident Steve Resz.

The Board of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia has passed the following Resolution:  “The Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia (LPNOVA) supports passage of S. 446, H.R.38, and H.R. 2209, people with lawful concealed carry status from other states the same status as lawful in-state concealed carriers.”

S446 John Cornyn reciprocity concealed carry
On June 14, 2017, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three other people were wounded when a gunman opened fire on members of the Republican congressional baseball team as they were practicing on a field in Alexandria, Virginia.  In a life and death situation where seconds count, Alexandria police officers arrived “only” three minutes after the first 911 call was received and logged. [1.  NBC News]

Luckily for Scalise and the others, two Capitol Police from D.C. were present and quickly returned the gunman’s fire – one of whom was wounded in the firefight. [2.  New York Times]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told CNN shortly after the dramatic incident that, “Nobody [of the defenseless Congressman, Senators, and aides present] would have survived without the Capitol Hill police … it would have been a massacre without them." According to Senator Paul, “I probably heard 50 to 60 shots.  Then, finally, we heard the response from the Capitol Hill police."[3.  The Hill]

Many people have the impression that our Representatives and Senators are routinely protected by Capitol Police when they are away from the Capitol grounds. They are not. Only the Congressional “leadership” gets such personal, gun-carrying protection. If Majority Whip Scalise had not been a member of the baseball team, there would have been no Capitol Police present.

One might ask themselves: “Don’t important people like that – or their aides/bodyguards – routinely carry concealed weapons for their protection?” The answer is yes. Some do – but only in their home state. However, in this specific case they didn’t because that would have made them criminals. Why? Because the District of Columbia has some of the most restrictive “gun control” laws in the country – and has no reciprocity with any other jurisdiction anywhere in the nation.[4.  D.C. Gun Law]

Therefore, if any of the Congresspeople at the baseball practice did have a concealed carry permit from their home state, and brought a self-defense weapon with them to D.C. they would be violating the law - or any of the Democrat team who had practiced earlier in the morning.

As Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) noted, “We had nothing but bats to defend ourselves.”

Therefore, the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia (LPNOVA) supports passage of H.R. 2209 which would guarantee reciprocity for concealed carry permits specifically in the District of Columbia [3.  The Hill]

But why should only our elected representatives be able to protect themselves? What about the citizens who elect them? Don’t they also deserve the right to self-defense guaranteed by the second amendment when they travel to another state or the federal District of Columbia? Of course they do. That’s why LPNOVA also supports passage of S.446 and H.R.38 both of which would allow legal gun owners and concealed carry license holders nationwide to responsibly arm themselves no matter where they are. [3. The Hill] [4.  NRA-ILA]

Steve Resz, LPNOVA Chair, said, “Citizens shouldn’t lose their second amendment right to self-defense when they travel outside their home state.  The U.S. Constitution says, ‘Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.’ Your marriage license doesn’t become invalid when you travel outside your home state, and neither should your concealed carry license.”

Guest Post: The myth that the English have a common Anglo-Saxon origin

Duncan Sayer, University of Central Lancashire

The idea that there is a common Anglo-Saxon ancestry based on biology is gaining currency among some right-wing and religious groups in the UK and US.

In the UK, the new leader of the UK Independence Party, Henry Bolton, suggested in a radio interview in October that “in certain communities the indigenous Anglo-Saxon population is nowhere to be seen.”

Witan hexateuch via Wikimedia Commons

A diverse history.
Witan hexateuch via Wikimedia Commons

In August, a religious group called the Odinist Fellowship wrote to the Church of England demanding two churches as reparations for a “spiritual genocide” which it claims began in the seventh century AD.

The Odinists use old Icelandic texts to reconstruct the “indigenous” religion of the Anglo-Saxons which they claim was oppressed with the arrival of Christianity. The Anglo-Saxons are commonly believed to have migrated into Briton in the fifth and sixth century AD. Iceland by contrast was inhabited in the ninth century by Viking settlers. In the US, this mixed up medievalism is associated with the white supremacist alt-right who use Anglo-Saxon and Viking motifs.

But archaeological research, which examines ancient DNA and artefacts to explore who these “indigenous” Anglo-Saxons were, shows that the people of fifth and sixth century England had a mixed heritage and did not base their identity on a biological legacy. The very idea of the Anglo-Saxon ancestor is a more recent invention linked closely with the English establishment.

Listen: The Anthill podcast episode on myths includes a segment on myths about race

The Anthill 20: Myths.
CC BY-ND38,2 Mo (download)

What DNA evidence shows

For decades, archaeologists and geneticists have sought to identify Anglo-Saxons in England. An early attempt in 2002 relied on modern DNA with a study of the male Y chromosome suggesting there had been a 95% population replacement of Britons by the Anglo-Saxons, comprised of different people from Northern Europe. But another study, based on mitochondrial DNA which is inherited from the mother, found no evidence of significant post-Roman migration into England. A third paper suggested that the genetic contribution of the Anglo-Saxons in south-eastern England was under 50%.

The discrepancies between the findings are because these three papers used modern DNA and worked backwards. Work my colleagues and I have undertaken looked at the question from the other direction – by working with ancient DNA.

The results from our recent study were published in Nature Communications and included evidence from an Anglo-Saxon site I excavated in Oakington, Cambridgeshire. In total ten skeletons were investigated. These included seven early medieval graves dating to between the fifth and eighth century – four from Oakington and three from Hinxton – and three earlier Iron Age graves from Cambridgeshire, dating to between the second century BC and the first century AD, to provide the genome of the antecedent inhabitants of Briton.

We used a novel method called “rarecoal” to look at ancestry based on the sharing of rare alleles, which are the building blocks of genes. Our research concluded that migrants during what’s now thought of as the Anglo-Saxon period were most closely related to the modern Dutch and Danish – and that the modern East English population derived 38% of its ancestry from these incomers. The rest of Britain, including today’s Scottish and Welsh, share 30% of their DNA with these migrants.

Excavating at Oakington. Duncan Sayer

Excavating at Oakington.
Duncan Sayer, Author provided

The analysis of DNA of four individuals from the Oakington Anglo-Saxon cemetery identified that one of them was a match with the Iron Age genome, two were closest to modern Dutch genomes, and one was a hybrid of the two. Each of these burials was culturally Anglo-Saxon because they were buried in the same way, in the same cemetery. In fact, the richest assemblage of Anglo-Saxon artefacts came from the individual with the match for Iron Age genetic ancestry, and so was not a migrant at all.

It shows that these ancient people did not distinguish biological heritage from cultural association. In other words, someone who lived and died in the fifth or sixth century Anglo-Saxon village of Oakington could have been biologically related to an earlier inhabitant of England, a recent migrant from continental Europe or a descendent of either or both – they were all treated the same in death.

Writing Anglo-Saxons into history

Biologically then these people were a mixed group who shared what we consider Anglo-Saxon culture. But they did not think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons.

The idea of the Anglo-Saxon is a romanticised and heavily politicised notion. When Gildas, a sixth century Monk wrote De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) he referred only to Saxons. Writing 200 years later, the Venerable Bede used the word “Anglorum” in his ecclesiastical history to describe a people unified under the church. In the ninth century, Alfred the Great used the term Anglo-Saxon to describe the extent of his realm – but this description did not persist.

It was not until the 16th century that pre-Norman people were consistently described as Anglo-Saxons. Previously, stories like the 1485 Le Morte d'Arthur, by Thomas Malory, romanticised Arthurian antagonists who defended Britain from invading Saxons. This origin story was important enough to late medieval Englishness that Henry VIII installed a round table in Winchester castle.

 Victoria and Albert: Anglo-Saxon style.

Victoria and Albert: Anglo-Saxon style.
David Holt London/flickr, CC BY

It was not until the 19th century that Anglo-Saxon poems such as Beowulf, the Seafarer and the Wanderer were translated into English as interest in Anglo-Saxons grew. In London’s National Portrait Gallery, there is a statue of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha dressed as Anglo-Saxon monarchy – a commission that equated their Germanic descent with that of their subjects. This Anglo-Saxon origin story has its roots in politics, downplayed when anti-German sentiment during World War I prompted the royals to change their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor in 1917.

A convenient, but inaccurate label

The people of the fifth, sixth and seventh century certainly did not think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons and would not have understood the description. Migration into the UK took place in deep prehistory, throughout the Roman and post-Roman periods – a fact which the Classicist Mary Beard was lambasted for defending on Twitter in August.

Migration then continued with Viking settlement in the ninth and eleventh centuries. Dutch and European migration into England was present throughout the middle ages and particularly pronounced in the 16th and 17th century as Flemish weavers fled religious persecution.

Today, the term Anglo-Saxon is a convenient label for those opposed to future immigration. While it collectively describes some post-Roman and early medieval culture, it has never accurately described a biological ethnicity nor an indigenous people. The DNA evidence points to an integrated people of mixed ancestry who lived side by side.

Anglo-Saxon ancestry is a modern English myth – the English are not descended from one group of people, but from many and that persists in our culture and in our genes.

The ConversationTo hear more on myths about race, listen to the December episode of The Anthill podcast on myths, featuring an interview with Duncan Sayer.

Duncan Sayer, Reader in Archaeology, University of Central Lancashire

La version originale de cet article a été publiée sur The Conversation.

Friday, December 29, 2017

From the Archives: ‘Intellectual Activist’ Robert Tracinski traces origins of the Ninth Amendment

‘Intellectual Activist’ Robert Tracinski traces origins of the Ninth Amendment
January 2, 2011 12:58 AM MST

In an interview last month with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner coinciding with the Jefferson Area Libertarians’ celebration of Bill of Rights Day, Robert Tracinski expressed his view of the meaning and importance of the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Tracinski is editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist (, a position he has held since 1996 with the three-decade-old publication. He is also an active member of the Jefferson Area Tea Party.

Ratification debates
lost history of the ninth amendmentThe origin of the Ninth Amendment can be found in the debate over ratification of the Constitution and whether it should include a bill of rights.

“The argument in favor of a bill of rights was very strong,” Tracinski said, because “we need to have these protections to keep government in check.”

Yet, he added, there was “one really good argument against a bill of rights” made by James Madison and others, which can be summed up as “the minute you put this down on paper and say, ‘these are your rights,’ it invites [the government] to say, ‘OK, those are your only rights, that’s all we have to limit ourselves to, and anything else we can do.’”

There was a desire among the Founders, Tracinski noted, to “not create this assumption that these are the only rights people have.”

Specifically to address this argument, in drafting the Bill of Rights, Madison included the language of the Ninth Amendment, which was based on a suggestion made by the Virginia ratifying convention.

Virginia’s “suggested wording was then fine-tuned and honed and brought down to this,” what we now call the Ninth Amendment, in order to “head off that idea that these are the only rights you have because they’re the only ones that are written down,” Tracinski explained.

Revival of constitutionalism

Robert Tracinski The Intellectual Activist
Reflecting on current affairs, Tracinski said that “what excites me about today is we are seeing a revival of constitutionalism.”

The American constitutional creed, he reiterated, “isn’t just a series of legal statements in a document [but] it’s a whole way of thinking about the role of government, a whole way of thinking about the limitations on government and the rights of the people.”

The concept of a constitutional creed, Tracinski concluded, “is something I see people taking more seriously, studying in more depth, and – hopefully -- reviving the constitution not just as a document but as a way of thinking, as a philosophy of government.”

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on January 2, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Guest Post - John Whitehead on The Deep State’s Christmas Present to America: Surveillance That Never Ends

By John W. Whitehead
December 11, 2017

“He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”
—“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”

Just in time for Christmas, the Deep State wants to give America the gift that keeps on giving: never-ending mass surveillance.
I’m not referring to the kind of surveillance carried out by that all-knowing and all-seeing Jolly Old St. Nick and his informant the Elf on the Shelf (although, to be fair, they have helped to acclimate us to a world in which we’re always being watched and judged by higher authorities).
No, this particular bit of Yuletide gift-giving comes courtesy of the Deep State (a.k.a. the Surveillance State, Police State, Shadow Government and black-ops spy agencies).
John Whitehead Rick Sincere Rutherford Institute
John Whitehead
If this power-hungry cabal gets its way, the government’s power to spy on its citizens will soon be all-encompassing and permanent.
As it now stands, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—the legal basis for two of the National Security Agency’s largest mass surveillance programs, “PRISM” and “Upstream”—is set to expire at the end of 2017.
“PRISM” lets the NSA access emails, video chats, instant messages, and other content sent via Facebook, Google, Apple and others. “Upstream” lets the NSA worm its way into the internet backbone—the cables and switches owned by private corporations like AT&T that make the internet into a global network—and scan traffic for the communications of tens of thousands of individuals labeled “targets.”
Just as the USA Patriot Act was perverted from its original intent to fight terrorism abroad and was used instead to covertly crack down on the American people (allowing government agencies to secretly track Americans’ financial activities, monitor their communications, and carry out wide-ranging surveillance on them), Section 702 has been used as an end-run around the Constitution to allow the government to collect the actual content of Americans’ emails, phone calls, text messages and other electronic communication without a warrant.
Under Section 702, the government collects and analyzes over 250 million internet communications every year. There are estimates that at least half of these contain information about U.S. residents, many of whom have done nothing wrong. This information is then shared with law enforcement and “routinely used for purposes unrelated to national security.”
Mind you, this is about far more than the metadata collection that Edward Snowden warned us about, which was bad enough. Section 702 gives the government access to the very content of your conversations (phone calls, text messages, video chats), your photographs, your emails. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., warned, “This is not just who you send it to, but what’s in it.”
Unfortunately, Big Brother doesn’t relinquish power easily.
The Police State doesn’t like restrictions.
And the Surveillance State certainly doesn’t look favorably on anything that might weaken its control. Even after Congress limited the NSA’s ability to collect bulk phone records, the agency continued to do so, vacuuming up more than 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls last year alone.
A government that doesn’t heed its constituents, doesn’t abide by the law, and kowtows to its police and military forces? That’s a dictatorship anywhere else.
Here in America, you can call it “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.
Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.
For all intents and purposes, we now have a fourth branch of government.
This fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.
The government’s “technotyranny” surveillance apparatus has become so entrenched and entangled with its police state apparatus that it’s hard to know anymore where law enforcement ends and surveillance begins.
The short answer: they have become one and the same entity.
The police state has passed the baton to the surveillance state.
Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s soldier cops into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.
This is the new face of policing in America.
Enter big data policing which gives the nation’s 17,000 police agencies access to a growing “investigative” database that maps criminal associates and gangs, as well as their social and familial connections.
As Slate reports, “These social network systems, which target ‘chronic offenders,’ also include information about innocent associates, family members, and friends, creating extensive human maps of connections and patterns of contacts.” Those individuals then get assigned a threat score to determine their risk of being a perpetrator or victim of a future crime.
In Chicago, for example, “individuals with the highest scores on the Chicago Police Department ‘heat list’ get extra attention in the form of home visits or increased community surveillance.”
In Baltimore, police are using Cessna planes equipped with surveillance systems to film entire segments of the city, then combining that footage with police reports in order to “map the comings and goings of everyone—criminals and innocents alike.”
In this way, big data policing not only expands Big Brother’s reach down to the local level, but it also provides local police—most of whom know little about the Constitution and even less about the Fourth Amendment—with a new technological weapon to deploy against an unsuspecting public.
The end result is pre-crime, packaged in the guise of national security but no less sinister.
All of those individuals who claim to be unconcerned about government surveillance because they have nothing to hide, take note: pre-crime policing—given a futuristic treatment in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report—aims to treat you like a criminal before you’ve ever even committed a crime.
This hasn’t fazed President Trump who, much like his predecessors, has thus far marched in lockstep with the dictates of the police state.
If approved, this would be yet another secret government agency carrying out secret surveillance and counterintelligence, funded by a secret black ops budget that by its very nature does away with transparency, bypasses accountability and completely eludes any form of constitutionality.
According to The Washington Post, there are more than a dozen “black budget” national intelligence agencies already receiving more than $52.6 billion in secret government funding. Among the top five black ops agencies currently are the CIA, the NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Program, and the General Defense Intelligence Program.
A significant chunk of that black ops money has been flowing to Silicon Valley since before there was an internet, itself a creation of the military/security industrial complex.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it would be storing classified information for U.S. spy agencies in its digital cloud, part of a $600 million contract with the nation’s intelligence agencies.
Two decades earlier, America’s spy agencies tapped Silicon Valley to spearhead research into ways of tracking individuals and groups online. That research, as documented by Jeff Nesbit, the former director of legislative and public affairs at the National Science Foundation, culminated in the creation of a massive public-private surveillance state that hinged on a partnership between the NSA, the CIA and Google.
“The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called ‘birds of a feather,’” writes Nesbit. He continues:
Their research aim was to track digital fingerprints inside the rapidly expanding global information network, which was then known as the World Wide Web… By working with emerging commercial-data companies, their intent was to track like-minded groups of people across the internet and identify them from the digital fingerprints they left behind, much like forensic scientists use fingerprint smudges to identify criminals. Just as “birds of a feather flock together,” they predicted that potential terrorists would communicate with each other in this new global, connected world—and they could find them by identifying patterns in this massive amount of new information. Once these groups were identified, they could then follow their digital trails everywhere.
The problem, of course, is that the government always sets its sights higher.
It wasn’t long before the government’s search for criminal “birds of a feather”—made much easier with the passage of the USA Patriot Act—lumped everyone together and treated all of the birds (i.e., the public) as criminals to be identified, tracked, monitored and subjected to warrantless, suspicionless surveillance.
Fast forward to the present moment when, on any given day, the average American is now monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.
Every second of every day, the American people are being spied on by the U.S. government’s vast network of digital Peeping Toms, electronic eavesdroppers and robotic snoops.
Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency is listening in and tracking you. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. These corporate trackers monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere and share the data with the government.
Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to collect data and spy on the American people. Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power.
These government snoops are constantly combing through and harvesting vast quantities of our communications, then storing it in massive databases for years. Once this information—collected illegally and without any probable cause—is ingested into NSA servers, other government agencies can often search through the databases to make criminal cases against Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism or anything national security-related. One Justice Department lawyer called the database the “FBI’s ‘Google.’”
In other words, the NSA, an unaccountable institution filled with unelected bureaucrats, operates a massive database that contains the intimate and personal communications of countless Americans and makes it available to other unelected bureaucrats.
Talk about a system rife for abuse.
Ask the government why it’s carrying out this warrantless surveillance on American citizens, and you’ll get the same Orwellian answer the government has been trotting out since 9/11 to justify its assaults on our civil liberties: to keep America safe.
Yet warrantless mass surveillance by the government and its corporate cohorts hasn’t made America any safer. And it certainly isn’t helping to preserve our freedoms. Frankly, America will never be safe as long as the U.S. government is allowed to shred the Constitution.
Now the government wants us to believe that we have nothing to fear from its mass spying program because they’re only looking to get the “bad” guys who are overseas.
Don’t believe it.
The government’s definition of a “bad” guy is extraordinarily broad, and it results in the warrantless surveillance of innocent, law-abiding Americans on a staggering scale. They are conducting this mass surveillance without a warrant, thus violating the core principles of the Fourth Amendment which protects the privacy of all Americans.
Warrantless mass surveillance of American citizens is wrong, un-American, and unconstitutional.
Clearly, the outlook for reforming the government’s unconstitutional surveillance programs does not look good.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, whenever the rights of the American people are pitted against the interests of the military/corporate/security complex, “we the people” lose. Unless Congress develops a conscience—or suddenly remembers that they owe their allegiance to the citizenry and not the corporate state—we’re about to lose big.
It’s time to let Section 702 expire or reform the law to ensure that millions and millions of Americans are not being victimized by a government that no longer respects its constitutional limits.
Mark my words: if Congress votes to make the NSA’s vast spying powers permanent, it will be yet another brick in the wall imprisoning us within an electronic concentration camp from which there is no escape.
WC: 2229
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at Whitehead can be contacted at

Reprinted by permission of The Rutherford Institute.