Conventional Tyranny

The IRS isn't the only government agency that has a problem with the American tradition of anonymous political speech, prior to last week's RNC convention the Cleveland Police Chief issued a "warning" to protesters not to cover their faces!

The reason?

So that police could use facial recognition technology to identify protesters and see if there were any "persons of interest."

Peter Van Buren, writing at RPI has more details:

Law enforcement aggressively employs facial recognition technology at events such as the Republican National Convention to identify “persons of interest” and to catalog new persons of interest. Masked faces don’t play as well with the technology (though newer tech can get around some limitations, and iris scan tech needs only to see your, well, eyes. More below.)

With facial recognition, a computer digitizes an image of someone’s face in a way that makes fooling the system difficult, stuff like measuring the distance between eyes, the angle of one’s nose, ear lobe shape and other tough to alter things.


Reports suggest in addition to public gatherings where people are enjoying their First Amendment rights to assemble and speak, airports scan passengers, hotels scan lobbies, stores scan aisles, casinos scan their gambling floors and many police street cameras are tied into the systems.

A publicly-known example occurred after the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013. The subsequent Boston Calling music fest was subject to heavy use facial recognition surveillance, one guesses in case there were more Tsarnaev brothers out there. Law enforcement in the UK used facial recognition technology to scan the faces of thousands of attendees at the Download music festival without their knowledge.

And, oh, yeah, those iris scanners.

Iris scanners have quickly moved from the realm of science fiction into everyday public use by governments and private businesses.

Iris recognition is rarely impeded by contact lenses or eyeglasses, and can work with blind individuals as well. The scanners can catalog up to 50 people a minute without requiring the individuals to stop and stand in front of the scanners.

Information gathered from iris scanners or facial recognition in multiple locations can be sent to a central database that can be used to track an individual’s movement throughout the city, or to determine which individuals in the database associate together.

Read the whole thing here.

The first and fourth amendments are not the only parts of the Bill of Rights that Cleveland Police Department has a problem with (hat/tip Reason):

In the shadow of the Republican National Convention, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association signaled in no uncertain terms that he, and presumably the union of which he the head, was contemptuous of not merely one or two enumerated rights of the American people but of the very foundation of American government itself.

Responding to the perceived threat of "open-carry" gun owners at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Stephen Loomis demanded earlier this week that Gov. John Kasich subvert the Constitution by way of executive order.

"We are constitutional law enforcement," he added, "we love the Constitution, support it and defend it, but you can't go into a crowded theater and scream fire. And that's exactly what they're doing by bringing those guns down there."

This is an intellectually and politically indefensible travesty. Leaving aside the tiresome and inept "fire in a crowded theater" analogy, consider what Loomis proposed: that American citizens exercising their constitutional rights by way of a perfectly legal activity are somehow analogous to criminals. This would be a bad-enough comparison, but Loomis managed to top himself by demanding that Kasich deliberately undermine the Constitution and the constitutional order he swore to uphold.

Governor Kasich, to his credit, refused to do so, correctly noting that he is unable to do so: the code of Ohio thankfully does not permit sedition against the United States government. Nevertheless, the whole episode serves to highlight the troubling authoritarian impulses of a great many police departments across the United States. In many localities, for all intents and purposes, the police no longer work for you.

In Cleveland, the police have apparently abdicated even the mere appearance of subordination to civil authority: It is hard to think of a more perfect example of embryonic American despotism than "I don't care if it's constitutional or not."

Read the whole thing here.

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