Against DHS funding for SPD facial recognition software, fusion centers

By Jan Bultmann, David Robinson, Phil Mocek, and Garrett Cobarr

2/18/2014 Post-Meeting update:

  • Four Seattle Privacy members spoke to the Public Safety Committee (PSC) today.
  • We submitted this document to the committee for inclusion in the public record.
  • PSC did NOT vote on the bill today, but it will be re-introduced to full council on Monday 2/24.
  • Full council will vote on it 3/10.
  • In the meantime, we are marking up a copy of the policy document submitted by Seattle Police Department to Council, to give councilmembers an example of what a through independent technical review with an eye toward privacy and security would look like, and how useful it would be.

Here are background information and talking points for the 2/18/2014 2 pm meeting of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee (PSC).

In this post:

What is the legislation?
C.B. 117996 accepts an Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant in the amount of $1,645,955 under Federal Fiscal Year 2012 funding. The bill would approve acquisition of an arrest booking photo comparison database, and add a section to the Seattle Police Manual describing its proper use.

What is Seattle Privacy’s position?
We call on the PSC to do the following:

  1. Hold the legislation for further discussion, including a minimum of three public hearings in the evening when the public can attend.
  2. Make any amendments necessary to the operating surveillance ordinance (Ordinance 124142) that is already in effect BEFORE purchasing any more equipment.
  3. Explain what items SPD needs that the city is not able or willing to provide, and why we have not seen these items in budget proposals.

Talking points

Need for Meaningful Council Oversight

  • This is a police department that has been found to engage in *unconstitutional* behavior fully 20% of the time they use force.
  • Council’s discussions with SPD at the table and dais appear sometimes to be with some other police force, not the one that we read about in DOJ and monitor reports.
  • We get the impression that the the PSC is reluctant to question the assertions of SPD.
  • In the past, SPD has used DHS grant money to purchase drones and surveillance cameras which public outcry has later forced them to shut down. Past behavior is predictor of future behavior.
  • During all that time that unconstitutional force was being used, the Office of Police Accountability very rarely found wrongdoing. Investigations of allegations appear to be ineffective. We have reason to believe that if there are episodes of misconduct, little will be done and the public will be kept in the dark.
  • SPD has earned distrust and strict oversight, and that is the job of the City Council and an informed public.
  • SPD and City Council justify the acceptability of these systems by saying that “the ACLU and the Human Rights Commission were involved in review.” We hold that this level of review is utterly insufficient for funding of programs whose value has been thrown into grave doubt. It does not meet any objective measure of public input. We insist that council hold a minimum of three public hearings before accepting DHS money for SPD use.

Problem with the Booking Comparison System

  • This system enables SPD to search records of many people who were never charged, much less convicted, of crime.
  • As currently written, the policy could be changed at any time without notice to Council or the public. This PSC has talked about Ordinance 124142 as a safeguard, but that ordinance is weak, containing no language about compliance or penalties for noncompliance. We also know that the police introduced language that weakened it further at 5 pm the Friday before Council voted it through as amended Monday morning.
  • We know that Councilmember Harrell plans to introduce an amendment to address the weakness of the operating surveillance ordinance (Ordinance 124142) in March, but we want to see that ordinance amended BEFORE any new equipment is purchased.
  • Ordinance 124142 is now one year old and we have yet to see any record that any department has submitted privacy policies in compliance with it. The city has failed to follow its own law.
  • The Booking Photo Comparison System policy defines a suspect as “a person whom an officer reasonably suspects may be involved in criminal activity.” That includes people who are never even arrested.
  • “The database will contain only booking photos of individuals who have been arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and booked into an adult correctional facility in King, Pierce or Snohomish counties.” That includes people who are never charged with a crime.
  • The Booking Photo Comparison System usage log will be audited annually by SPD’s Audit, Policy and Research. How will auditors verify that there was probable cause? Where will that information be logged for audits? What’s the enforcement mechanism?
  • What’s to limit what photos will be dumped into the database? (For example, mention has been made of a WA Department of Licensing facial recognition database  based on driver’s licenses.)
  • What is the limit on where future additions to the database will come from?
  • Allowing automation of policy activities takes it from somewhat acceptable to invasive and unacceptable. A human officer can fly a camera around, investigate license plates, and look at photographs. But we don’t want an army of police robots in the sky, on poles, in cameras in cars, following us all around and mining any photographs they can get for data, dumping it into a database that they may share with any number of county, state, and federal agencies.
  • Example: May Day 2012 incident action plan where Sanford called for photos of all known “anarchists/criminals” and people who’d been arrested in Occupy protests
  • Just as the NSA manipulated and misled Congress, SPD are likely to manipulate and mislead City Council. They will allow Council and the public to assume the best, while the police push to the limit of what they can get away with. They are rules-enforcers, not rights-protectors.
  • We call on Council to think about potential purchases with consideration for just how bad it could be, not just concoct a rosy vision of how well it could go.
  • Example: In documents released under public disclosure earlier this week we learned that city of Seattle built a radio receiver system so they can watch the (sometimes unencrypted) communications from the WSP’s flying infrared cameras, which we know to be used to monitor, for example, political demonstrations. Were Council aware of this system? (FLIR 380)
  • Example: In August 2012 The Guardian reported that DHS paid $832,000 for a trial deployment of the Trapwire surveillance system in Seattle. Was Council aware of this system?

Timeline of events behind Council Bill 117996

December 2003 Initial version of this legislation is passed: Ordinance 121283, passed by the City Council on September 22, 2003, authorized the Seattle Police Department to apply for funding under FFY03 UASI Grant Award Programs I and II, authorized the Seattle Police Department to execute an agreement to partner with the State of Washington, King County, and other local jurisdictions to participate in UASI Grant Award Program II, and appropriated an initial allocation of funding under both grant programs for immediate needs of conducting vulnerability assessments and providing urgently needed equipment to City departments.

2004-2012 Variations on same legislation passed every single year without significant public debate for 10 years.

June 2013 Edward Snowden reveals NSA domestic spying programs.

December 2013 Public Safety Committee (PSC) held the 11th iteration of the legislation due to a potentially controversial program, Booking Comparison Software. PSC asked SPD to provide documentation of public outreach in privacy policy development and asked for ACLU and Human Rights Commission input into the system.

January 2014 New executive, changes to SPD command staff. SPD received input from ACLU and Human Rights Commission, provided draft privacy policy.

February 5, 2014 SPD presented legislation to PSC, discussion.

February 19, 2014 PSC discussion.

February 24, 2014 Bill to be re-introduced.

March 10, 2014 Full council vote.

9 Replies to “Against DHS funding for SPD facial recognition software, fusion centers”

  1. I have been practically lynched by the DHS. There were drones right in front of my balcony to intimidate me starting in late 2011 in Kent Wa. They have fusion centers and hundreds of cars.

    I am a Softwar Engineer US citizen but from Pakistan. I was reported to the DHS by people who hate me from India.

    Even though I have done nothing wrong they made me a target.

    I called the FAA ACLU and civil right lawyers but no one helped me.

  2. I’ve been contacted by a woman in the 509 area code who told me she has a class action lawsuit in the works and has video evidence of criminal activities in that area. If anyone wants to listen to her voicemail and get her phone number I will pass on the information to them.

  3. I am not only asking for defunding Homeland Security Agencies Programs but I am asking for a Congressional Investigation of Homeland Security Personnel involved in targeting citizens for crimes.

    Inexcusable corruption and abuse of power within the Department of Homeland Security, through the use of SURVEILLANCE, DATA COLLECTION AND MONITORING has led to Political Repression Crimes against “Watch List” activists and other politically outspoken individuals.

    I’ve been a long time activist for the 9-11 investigation movement, as well as other political issues. I’ve been under surveillance, searches, stalking and harassment for years, beginning after the passage of the Patriot Act.

    I have been denied repeated FOIA requests from numerous Federal agencies in the FBI anti-terrorism task force.

    Since 2011 I’ve also been targeted for burglaries with numerous illegal surveillance monitoring entries, including times when I was known to be asleep when a computer was altered, and money and keys were stolen out of my wallet and fanny pack. One of my girlfriends was also targeted. I’ve lost over $20,000 in property to these Homeland Security criminals who operate above the law.

    This is is happening to others also. I was told about one old man (I believe was targeted as well) who thought people were still in his home and began shooting inside his home in Ferry County. There has been at least one out of court settlement in Washington State, as one person in Seattle has informed me.

    Gag orders and FOIA denials are being used to keep everything covered up in conspiracy to obstruct justice; aid, abet and perpetuate the criminal acts which are being committed by government agents, as well as deny myself and others a right to information, restitution and damages.

    When I complained to Sheriff Pete Warner of the Ferry County Sheriffs Office he told me that he couldn’t control what another agencys’ personnel did — he could only ask his men to stay away from them.

    I’ve been targeted for police harassment, in Ferry County, and a retaliation arrest for reporting the continuing criminal activities of government agents and Deputy Patrick Rainers’ harassment connected to Homeland Security task force agencies and law enforcement. Nothing the Department of Homeland Security can be believed due to the criminal acts being committed by their agents now and the denial of the release of FOIAs and gag orders on personnel.

    In May 2013, my car alarm siren wire was cut in my engine compartment, which required them to deactivate my car alarm, unlock my drivers’ side door, pull the hood release and unlock the hood lock I had paid to have installed on the hood of my van. Computer security measures have been compromised at 3 previous storage facilities, and there has been at least one illegal entry into my new storage unit at the new facility which I moved my belongings to, after being repeatedly burglarized in three previous storage facilities as well as my former residence. One of the padlocks I had was tapered with, obviously picked, damaged, and had to be returned to the locksmith for repair, twice, another padlock had a letter scratched between the shaft entry points on the lock.

    There is no way to stop the criminal activities of Homeland Security agents without legal and legislative actions. Anyone who speaks out against the government could be targeted. I want the information requested in my FOIAs and public disclosure requests released and to know what agencies’ personnel and contractors are responsible for my repeated ongoing burglaries. I want restitution and damages for the incredible civil and criminal crimes which have been committed. There is no excuse for these criminal “Watch List” targeted activities. The Patriot Act needs to be repealed. Funding for black-ops, and the agencies and contractors involved needs to be eliminated.
    I am homeless as a result of the repeated, ongoing illegal entries and burglaries, as well as the harassment from one law enforcement agency that I reported burglaries to.

    There needs to be a congressional investigation into these criminal acts that Homeland Security agency personnel, agents, and contractors are engaging in. Please call your congress-members and request a congressional inquiry into the criminal activities of agents and operatives in Homeland Security Task Force Agencies and contractors. Also please ask for the investigation of all individuals and agency contacts of :

    Also, if you know someone that can help as an attorney, please let me know as I have not been able to find an attorney to help me yet. Requests for help from the ACLU have been turned down.

    More information and photos are posted at:
    (& & ) and my facebook page.
    Thanks for your consideration. If there is no justice in your home country there is not chance for justice outside this country. Please contact congress-members to request an investigation and defunding of the agencies involved. Restitution and damages should be given to targeted individuals. If you know an attorney that will help me please contact me.


    Crystal R. Starheart (206) 371-9430

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