Aletho News


American cities installing ominous surveillance tech despite NSA scandal

RT | November 11, 2013

Mass surveillance isn’t something only being conducted by the likes of the National Security Agency anymore. Despite growing concerns brought on by the Summer of Snowden, cities around America are adopting high tech spy tools.

Never mind the negative press the NSA has received in recent weeks after Edward Snowden began leaking top-secret documents to the media pertaining to the United States’ spy group’s broadly scoped surveillance programs. Law enforcement agencies and local leaders in major American cities are nevertheless signing on to install new systems that are affording officials the power to snoop on just about anyone within range.

Seattle, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada are among the latest locales in the US to acquire surveillance tools, the likes of which were both discussed in regional media reports over the weekend that are making their rounds across the Web and causing privacy advocates around the world to raise their voice.

Neither West Coast city has announced plans to acquire telephone metadata or eavesdrop on email traffic, and combined their operations likely pale in comparison to what the NSA has accomplished. Civil liberties activists are sounding the alarm regardless, however, after new reports revealed what kind of information city officials could collect using newly installed equipment.

In Seattle, a city of around 635,000, the police department recently used a Department of Homeland Security grant for $2.6 million to purchase and put up a number of wireless access devices that together create “mesh networks” which law enforcement officials can connect to and in turn more quickly share large chunks of data, such as surveillance camera recordings and other high-res information.

Those access points, or APs, do more than just transfer data from one node to another, though, and actually spend large amounts of time scouring for every Internet-capable device in the area that may be searching for a Wi-Fi signal — such as any smart phone that can connected to the Web. Although the mesh network is being made for emergency responders to be able to interact with ease and provide them with a widespread wireless system to share information, the APs acquire basic information about every electronic device that even momentarily makes a connection, in theory allowing officials to see much more than the average Washingtonian might want to willfully hand over.

The Stranger, a Seattle alternative-weekly, spoke to the city’s police department about the recently installed mesh network but wasn’t given many answers. Law enforcement officials insisted that the system isn’t fully functioning yet — and little more — but the Stranger learned that authorities can log the MAC (media access control) address of any iPhone, Android, laptop or Internet-able device that’s within reach of its signal, which could then provide authorities with information that even a seasoned investigator might have a hard time obtaining otherwise. Just as how telecommunication companies ping devices almost constantly from nearby towers to test signals, learning the specific location of a MAC address at any given date and time can then be coupled with other location data in order to triangulate a subject’s movements up to even just a few inches away.

Speaking to the Stranger, the Seattle Police Department admitted it does not yet have a policy to govern the use of the multi-million dollar system, but said it is “actively collaborating” with the American Civil Liberties Union, contrary to claims made by the ACLU that the SPD has been anything but speedy when responding to its questions and concerns.

“We definitely feel like the public doesn’t have a handle on what the capabilities are,” Jamela Debelak of Seattle’s ACLU office said to The Stranger. “We’re not even sure the police department does.”

Should a policy not be put in place quickly enough, many fear the results could be ravaging for the privacy of the city’s half-a-million-plus residents, many of whom surely wouldn’t suspect that the phone in their pocket it silently sending personalized information to the Seattle Police Department anytime they walk within reach of an AP’s signal.

In Las Vegas, the latest tool there might be even more Orwellian.

Sin City is one of the latest locales to purchase a line of highly-functional lampposts sold by Michigan’s Illuminating Concepts under the branding of “IntelliStreets.” As RT has reported in the past, however, the devices do much more than light up sidewalks. These lampposts are also Wi-Fi-ready to stream passers-by localized information and even audio and graphics, but it’s what Intellistreets collect that’s really shocking. In addition to broadcasting information, the lampposts are equipped with microphones and cameras that can record anything within an earshot and send it to a server to be analyzed.

On the IntelliStreets website, the company says, “Intellistreets provides a platform and many developed applications to assist DHS in protecting its citizens and natural resources.”

“We want to develop more than just the street lighting component,” Neil Rohleder of the city’s Public Works Department told KSNV News. “We want to develop an experience for the people who come downtown.”

As the technology spreads in cities unopposed, however, it could lead the other towns to journey down a slippery slope that ends with relinquishing even more personal information down the road.

“This technology, you know is taking us to a place where, you know, you’ll essentially be monitored from the moment you leave your home till the moment you get home,” local civil rights activist Daphne Lee told the network.

“At what point do we say this is the land of the free,” Lee said. “People have a right to a reasonable amount of privacy.”

As the NSA scandal has shown the world, however, one person’s idea of privacy might vastly differ from another’s. Revelations made possible through Mr. Snowden’s leaks have shown that the US government routinely collects information about the dialer and recipient of nearly every phone call made in the country, and even America’s allies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are subject to NSA-issued surveillance.

Meanwhile, other cities along the West Coast are seeing a surge in surveillance tools that started before the first Snowden leak but are still being set in place. Federal grants totaling around $7 million to Oakland, California are being used to ensure that the city has an eye on seemingly everything by next summer, and requests by a growing number of law enforcement agencies for spy drones is expected to involve eventually equipping bureaus across the country with unmanned aerial vehicles by the dawn of the next  decade.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hospital Drugs Patients & Dumps Them Onto Buses, Suit Claims

By MEGAN GALLEGOS | Courthouse News | June 13, 2013

LAS VEGAS – Calling it “Greyhound therapy,” a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital drugs patients and sends them on buses out of state to cities where they know no one, without medical instructions or anyone to care for them, one such patient claims in a federal class action.

Lead plaintiff James Flavy Coy Brown claims the hospital’s illegal policies are “sometimes referred to as ‘Greyhound therapy.'”

He sued Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, the Nevada Bureau of Health Care and Quality and Compliance, Dr. Anurag Gupta, his psychiatrist at Rawson-Neal, and others.

The complaint states: “Plaintiffs are former psychiatric patients at defendant Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital (hereinafter ‘Rawson-Neal’) who, while still in need of psychiatric care, were involuntarily discharged from the facility by defendants and their agents and employees, and sent to out-of-state destinations where defendants knew said patients would be unable to obtain proper treatment, care and housing. Plaintiffs were medicated before their discharge and required to leave the facility under the influence of powerful anti-psychotic/tranquilizing medication. While plaintiffs were in a drugged state, and incompetent to give informed consent, the standard procedure was for institution staff to physically escort plaintiffs from the facility and place them in taxis bound for the Greyhound Bus Station in Las Vegas, Nevada. They were directed and required to travel on pre-paid tickets which had been previously ordered and paid for by Defendants Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services (hereinafter ‘SNAMHS’) and Rawson-Neal.”

Brown, 48, says he was admitted to Rawson-Neal on Feb. 9. The hospital is run by Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services. He was given “a diagnosis of psychosis, hearing voices, and thinking of suicide,” he says in the complaint.

He was discharged on Feb. 11.

“Defendants knew he was penniless and homeless and defendant Rawson-Neal knew or acted in reckless disregard of the fact that he would be unable to care for himself during the journey or upon his arrival,” the complaint states. “Before he was discharged, he was started on Thorazine, Cymbalta and Klonopin, all psychotropic medications which affect thinking and judgment. While Defendant Rawson-Neal had developed a written treatment plan which included assisting him to locate a group home placement and locating a case worker for him, this treatment plan was intentionally disregarded and violated by his involuntary discharge contrary to the plan.

“On February 13, defendant psychiatrist Dr. Anurag Gupta (hereinafter ‘Gupta’) ordered Brown discharged, physically escorted from the facility, and placed in a taxi which had been ordered by the defendants. Plaintiff Brown was then transported to the Greyhound Bus Station, where a pre-paid ticket had been purchased by the defendants to take Brown to Sacramento, California, a city which he had no prior contact, and where he knew no one. There was no follow-up plan and no prior contact had been made with any institutions in Sacramento from which Brown could obtain medical and psychiatric care. He was given three days of powerful anti-psychotic medications and bottle of Ensure for the 15 hour bus ride.

“Plaintiff Brown arrived in Sacramento, homeless, confused and anxious. He was taken by police to a local homeless service center, Loaves and Fishes, which could provide no housing, medical care or transportation. After his arrival at that location, he was directed to the U.C. Davis Medical Center’s emergency department which, after three days, arranged for Brown to be treated by Heritage Oaks psychiatric facility. From there he was discharged to a group home in Sacramento.”

Brown claims he’s one of more than 1,500 patients the defendants have treated this way, sent dazed and confused to nearly every state in the union.

“After learning of the ‘dumping’ of Brown in Sacramento by defendants, the Sacramento Bee newspaper began to investigate the circumstances which led to Brown’s arrival in Sacramento and discovered that since the year 2008 approximately 1,500 patients of the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, have been transported by Greyhound Bus to almost every state in the country, all with minimum provisions to sustain them during protracted bus rides.

“A random survey by Nevada’s Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance of 30 discharges of psychiatric patients from Rawson-Neal revealed discharges in violation of policy and procedures of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the facility’s own policies occur frequently. Patients, such as Brown, were involuntarily placed on Greyhound buses and sent out of state without prior arrangements having been made for follow-up care. These patients were not informed where they should go to receive continuing care upon arrival at their destinations. Discharge orders did not specify the amount of nutritional supplements to be provided to the patients for their extended bus trips; and appropriate and necessary prescription medications were not provided. Furthermore, necessary information was not provided on discharge documentation.”

Brown seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, constitutional violations including cruel and unusual punishment, medical malpractice, negligence, gross negligence and breach of fiduciary duties.

He is represented by Allen Lichtenstein with the ACLU of Nevada.

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Hospital Drugs Patients & Dumps Them Onto Buses, Suit Claims