Posts Tagged ‘DNA database’

When you upload your DNA, you’re potentially becoming a genetic informant on the rest of your family.”— Law professor Elizabeth Joh

“Guilt by association” has taken on new connotations in the technological age.

All of those fascinating, genealogical searches that allow you to trace your family tree by way of a DNA sample can now be used against you and those you love.

As of 2019, more than 26 million people had added their DNA to ancestry databases. It’s estimated those databases could top 100 million profiles within the year, thanks to the aggressive marketing of companies such as Ancestry and 23andMe.

It’s a tempting proposition: provide some mega-corporation with a spit sample or a cheek swab, and in return, you get to learn everything about who you are, where you came from, and who is part of your extended your family.

The possibilities are endless.

You could be the fourth cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II of England. Or the illegitimate grandchild of an oil tycoon. Or the sibling of a serial killer.

Without even realizing it, by submitting your DNA to an ancestry database, you’re giving the police access to the genetic makeup, relationships and health profiles of every relative—past, present and future—in your family, whether or not they ever agreed to be part of such a database.

After all, a DNA print reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.”

It’s what police like to refer to a “modern fingerprint.”

Whereas fingerprint technology created a watershed moment for police in their ability to “crack” a case, DNA technology is now being hailed by law enforcement agencies as the magic bullet in crime solving.

Indeed, police have begun using ancestry databases to solve cold cases that have remained unsolved for decades.

For instance, in 2018, former police officer Joseph DeAngelo was flagged as the notorious “Golden State Killer” through the use of genetic genealogy, which allows police to match up an unknown suspect’s crime scene DNA with that of any family members in a genealogy database. Police were able to identify DeAngelo using the DNA of a distant cousin found in a public DNA database. Once police narrowed the suspect list to DeAngelo, they tracked him—snatched up a tissue he had tossed in a trash can—and used his DNA on the tissue to connect him to a rash of rapes and murders from the 1970s and ‘80s.

Although DeAngelo was the first public arrest made using forensic genealogy, police have identified more than 150 suspects since then. Most recently, police relied on genetic genealogy to nab the killer of a 15-year-old girl who was stabbed to death nearly 50 years ago.

Who wouldn’t want to get psychopaths and serial rapists off the streets and safely behind bars, right? At least, that’s the argument being used by law enforcement to support their unrestricted access to these genealogy databases.

“In the interest of public safety, don’t you want to make it easy for people to be caught? Police really want to do their job. They’re not after you. They just want to make you safe,” insists Colleen Fitzpatrick, a co-founder of the DNA Doe Project, which identifies unknown bodies and helps find suspects in old crimes.

Except it’s not just psychopaths and serial rapists who get caught up in the investigative dragnet.

Anyone who comes up as a possible DNA match—including distant family members—suddenly becomes part of a circle of suspects that must be tracked, investigated and ruled out.

Although a number of states had forbidden police from using government databases to track family members of suspects, the genealogy websites provided a loophole that proved irresistible to law enforcement.

Hoping to close that loophole, a few states have started introducing legislation to restrict when and how police use these genealogical databases, with Maryland requiring that they can only be used for serious violent crimes such as murder and rape, only after they exhaust other investigatory methods, and only under the supervision of a judge.

Yet the debate over genetic privacy—and when one’s DNA becomes a public commodity outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches and seizures—is really only beginning.

Certainly, it’s just a matter of time before the government gets hold of our DNA, either through mandatory programs carried out in connection with law enforcement and corporate America, by warrantlessly accessing our familial DNA shared with genealogical services such as Ancestry and 23andMe, or through the collection of our “shed” or “touch” DNA.

According to research published in the journal Science, more than 60 percent of Americans who have some European ancestry can be identified using DNA databases, even if they have not submitted their own DNA. According to law professor Natalie Ram, one genealogy profile can lead to as many as 300 other people.

That’s just on the commercial side.

All 50 states now maintain their own DNA databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. Increasingly, many of the data from local databanks are being uploaded to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the FBI’s massive DNA database, which has become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

Even hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s part of the government’s mandatory genetic screening of newborns. In many states, the DNA is stored indefinitely.

What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future, including their inclinations to be followers, leaders or troublemakers.

Get ready, folks, because the government— helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), President Trump (who signed the Rapid DNA Act into law), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget)—has embarked on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

Referred to as “magic boxes,” Rapid DNA machines—portable, about the size of a desktop printer, highly unregulated, far from fool-proof, and so fast that they can produce DNA profiles in less than two hours—allow police to go on fishing expeditions for any hint of possible misconduct using DNA samples.

Journalist Heather Murphy explains: “As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.”

The ramifications of these DNA databases are far-reaching.

At a minimum, they will do away with any semblance of privacy or anonymity. The lucrative possibilities for hackers and commercial entities looking to profit off one’s biological record are endless.

Moreover, while much of the public debate, legislative efforts and legal challenges in recent years have focused on the protocols surrounding when police can legally collect a suspect’s DNA (with or without a search warrant and whether upon arrest or conviction), the question of how to handle “shed” or “touch” DNA has largely slipped through without much debate or opposition.

As scientist Leslie A. Pray notes:

We all shed DNA, leaving traces of our identity practically everywhere we go. Forensic scientists use DNA left behind on cigarette butts, phones, handles, keyboards, cups, and numerous other objects, not to mention the genetic content found in drops of bodily fluid, like blood and semen. In fact, the garbage you leave for curbside pickup is a potential gold mine of this sort of material. All of this shed or so-called abandoned DNA is free for the taking by local police investigators hoping to crack unsolvable cases. Or, if the future scenario depicted at the beginning of this article is any indication, shed DNA is also free for inclusion in a secret universal DNA databank.

What this means is that if you have the misfortune to leave your DNA traces anywhere a crime has been committed, you’ve already got a file somewhere in some state or federal database—albeit it may be a file without a name. As Heather Murphy warns in the New York Times: “The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived…  Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.

Even old samples taken from crime scenes and “cold” cases are being unearthed and mined for their DNA profiles.

Today, helped along by robotics and automation, DNA processing, analysis and reporting takes far less time and can bring forth all manner of information, right down to a person’s eye color and relatives. Incredibly, one company specializes in creating “mug shots” for police based on DNA samples from unknown “suspects” which are then compared to individuals with similar genetic profiles.

If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way.

Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty.

Now we are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.

Suspect Society, meet the American police state.

Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.

By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go.

By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do. By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember.

And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof.

Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias.

Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

What this amounts to is a scenario in which we have little to no defense of against charges of wrongdoing, especially when “convicted” by technology, and even less protection against the government sweeping up our DNA in much the same way it sweeps up our phone calls, emails and text messages.

With the entire governmental system shifting into a pre-crime mode aimed at detecting and pursuing those who “might” commit a crime before they have an inkling, let alone an opportunity, to do so, it’s not so far-fetched to imagine a scenario in which government agents (FBI, local police, etc.) target potential criminals based on their genetic disposition to be a “troublemaker” or their relationship to past dissenters.

Equally disconcerting: if scientists can, using DNA, track salmon across hundreds of square miles of streams and rivers, how easy will it be for government agents to not only know everywhere we’ve been and how long we were at each place but collect our easily shed DNA and add it to the government’s already burgeoning database?

Not to be overlooked, DNA evidence is not infallible: it can be wrong, either through human error, tampering, or even outright fabrication, and it happens more often than we are told. The danger, warns scientist Dan Frumkin, is that crime scenes can be engineered with fabricated DNA.

Now if you happen to be the kind of person who trusts the government implicitly and refuses to believe it would ever do anything illegal or immoral, then the prospect of government officials—police, especially—using fake DNA samples to influence the outcome of a case might seem outlandish.

Yet as history shows, the probability of our government acting in a way that is not only illegal but immoral becomes less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.”

With technology, the courts, the corporations and Congress conspiring to invade our privacy on a cellular level, suddenly the landscape becomes that much more dystopian.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the slippery slope toward a dystopian world in which there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Source: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/guilt_by_association_dna_databases_forensic_genealogy_and_genetic_privacy

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

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The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation

Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—are being choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases—these are just a few ways in which Americans are being forced to accept that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials.

Worse, on a daily basis, Americans are being made to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States: we are all guilty until proven innocent.

Thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights, let alone what shreds of bodily integrity remain to us.

For example, David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” No drugs were found. During a routine traffic stop, Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic, during which a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. Nothing illegal was found. Nevertheless, such searches have been sanctioned by the courts, especially if accompanied by a search warrant (which is easily procured), as justified in the government’s pursuit of drugs and weapons.

Close to 600 motorists leaving Penn State University one Friday night were stopped by police and, without their knowledge or consent, subjected to a breathalyzer test using flashlights that can detect the presence of alcohol on a person’s breath. These passive alcohol sensors are being hailed as a new weapon in the fight against DUIs. However, because they cannot be used as the basis for arrest, breathalyzer tests are still required. And for those who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer, there are forced blood draws. One such person is Michael Chorosky, who was surrounded by police, strapped to a gurney and then had his blood forcibly drawn after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. “What country is this? What country is this?” cried Chorosky during the forced blood draw. Thirty states presently allow police to do forced blood draws on drivers as part of a nationwide “No Refusal” initiative funded by the federal government.

Not even court rulings declaring such practices to be unconstitutional in the absence of a warrant have slowed down the process. Now the police simply keep a magistrate on call to rubber stamp the procedure over the phone. That’s what is called an end-run around the law, and we’re seeing more and more of these take place under the rubric of “safety.”

The National Highway Safety Administration, the same government agency that funds the “No Refusal” DUI checkpoints and forcible blood draws, is also funding nationwide roadblocks aimed at getting drivers to “voluntarily” provide police with DNA derived from saliva and blood samples, reportedly to study inebriation patterns. When faced with a request for a DNA sample by police during a mandatory roadblock, most participants understandably fail to appreciate the “voluntary” nature of such a request. Unfortunately, in at least 28 states, there’s nothing voluntary about having one’s DNA collected by police in instances where you’ve been arrested, whether or not you’re actually convicted of a crime. The remaining states collect DNA on conviction. All of this DNA data is being fed to the federal government. Indeed, the United States has the largest DNA database in the world, CODIS, which is managed by the FBI and is growing at an alarming rate.

Airline passengers, already subjected to virtual strip searches, are now being scrutinized even more closely, with the Customs and Border Protection agency tasking airport officials with monitoring the bowel movements of passengers suspected of ingesting drugs. They even have a special hi-tech toilet designed to filter through a person’s fecal waste.

Iris scans, an essential part of the U.S. military’s boots-on-the-ground approach to keeping track of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, are becoming a de facto method of building the government’s already mammoth biometrics database. Funded by the Dept. of Justice, along with other federal agencies, the iris scan technology is being incorporated into police precincts, jails, immigration checkpoints, airports and even schools. School officials—from elementary to college—have begun using iris scans in place of traditional ID cards. As for parents wanting to pick their kids up from school, they have to first submit to an iris scan.

As for those endless pictures everyone so cheerfully uploads to Facebook (which has the largest facial recognition database in the world) or anywhere else on the internet, they’re all being accessed by the police, filtered with facial recognition software, uploaded into the government’s mammoth biometrics database and cross-checked against its criminal files. With good reason, civil libertarians fear these databases could “someday be used for monitoring political rallies, sporting events or even busy downtown areas.”

As these police practices and data collections become more widespread and routine, there will be no one who is spared from the indignity of DNA sampling, blood draws, and roadside strip and/or rectal or vaginal searches, whether or not they’ve done anything wrong. We’re little more than economic units, branded like cattle, marked for easy identification, and then assured that it’s all for our “benefit,” to weed us out from the “real” criminals, and help the police keep our communities “safe” and secure.

A Government of Wolves book coverWhat a bunch of hokum. As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, these databases, forced extractions and searches are not for our benefit. They will not keep us safe. What they will do is keep us mapped, trapped, targeted and controlled.

Moreover, what if you don’t want to be forced to trust the government with your most intimate information? What if you don’t trust the government to look out for your best interests in the first place? How do you protect yourself against having your blood forcibly drawn, your DNA extracted, your biometrics scanned and the most intimate details of who you are—your biological footprint—uploaded into a government database?

What recourse do you have when that information, taken against your will, is shared, stolen, sold or compromised, as it inevitably will be in this age of hackers? We know that databases can be compromised. We’ve seen it happen to databases kept by health care companies, motor vehicle agencies, financial institutions, retailers and intelligence agencies such as the NSA. In fact, 2014 was dubbed the Year of the Hack in light of the fact that over a billion personal data records were breached, leaving those unlucky enough to have their data stolen vulnerable to identity theft, credit card fraud and all manner of criminal activities carried out in their names.

Banks now offer services —for a fee—to help you in the event that your credit card information is compromised and stolen. You can also pay for services to protect against identity theft in the likely event that your social security information is compromised and misused. But what happens when your DNA profile is compromised? And how do you defend yourself against charges of criminal wrongdoing in the face of erroneous technological evidence—DNA, biometrics, etc., are not infallible—that place you at the scene of a crime you didn’t commit?

“Identity theft could lead to the opening of new fraudulent credit accounts, creating false identities for criminal enterprises, or a host of other serious crimes,” said Jason Hart, vice president of cloud services, identity and data protection at the digital security company Gemalto. “As data breaches become more personal, we’re starting to see that the universe of risk exposure for the average person is expanding.”

It’s not just yourself you have to worry about, either. It’s also anyone related to you—who can be connected by DNA. These genetic fingerprints, as they’re called, do more than just single out a person. They also show who you’re related to and how. As the Associated Press reports, “DNA samples that can help solve robberies and murders could also, in theory, be used to track down our relatives, scan us for susceptibility to disease, or monitor our movements.”

Capitalizing on this, police in California, Colorado, Virginia and Texas use DNA found at crime scenes to identify and target family members for possible clues to a suspect’s whereabouts. Who will protect your family from being singled out for “special treatment” simply because they’re related to you? As biomedical researcher Yaniv Erlich warns, “If it’s not regulated and the police can do whatever they want … they can use your DNA to infer things about your health, your ancestry, whether your kids are your kids.”

These are just a few of the questions we should be asking before these technologies and programs become too entrenched and irreversible.

While the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent government officials from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause—evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot—the founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we needed protection against widespread government breaches of our privacy on a cellular level. Yet that’s exactly what we are lacking.

Once again, technology has outdistanced both our understanding of it and our ability to adequately manage the consequences of unleashing it on an unsuspecting populace. As for all of those databases being sold to you for your safety and benefit, whether or not they’re actually effective in catching criminals, you can be assured that they will definitely be snatching up innocent citizens, as well.

In the end, what all of this amounts to is a carefully crafted campaign designed to give the government access to and control over what it really wants: you.

Fully masked and suited up in personal protective clothing and equipment, special agents on the Jacksonville FBI SWAT team pack into a deployment vehicle.

We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.[1]—President Harry S. Truman

Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Intimidation tactics. Harassment. Torture. Brutality. Widespread corruption. Entrapment schemes.

These are the hallmarks of every authoritarian regime from the Roman Empire to modern-day America, yet it’s the secret police—tasked with silencing dissidents, ensuring compliance, and maintaining a climate of fear—who sound the death knell for freedom in every age.

Every regime has its own name for its secret police: Mussolini’s OVRA carried out phone surveillance on government officials.[2] Stalin’s NKVD carried out large-scale purges, terror and depopulation.[3] Hitler’s Gestapo went door to door ferreting out dissidents and other political “enemies” of the state.[4] And in the U.S., it’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation that does the dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government,[5] or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them,[6] the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work.

Indeed, a far cry from the glamorized G-men depicted in Hollywood film noirs and spy thrillers, the government’s henchmen have become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be so easily corrupted and abused.

Case in point: the FBI is being sued after its agents, lacking sufficient evidence to acquire a search warrant, disabled a hotel’s internet and then impersonated Internet repair technicians in order to gain access to a hotel suite and record the activities of the room’s occupants. Justifying the warrantless search as part of a sting on internet gambling, FBI officials insisted that citizens should not expect the same right to privacy in the common room of a hotel suite as they would at home in their bedroom.[7]

Far from being tough on crime, FBI agents are also among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers. In fact, in addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts.[8] USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day.[9] Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.[10]

In a stunning development reported by The Washington Post, a probe into misconduct by an FBI agent has resulted in the release of at least a dozen convicted drug dealers from prison. Several suspects awaiting trial have also been freed, and more could be released as the unnamed agent’s caseload comes under scrutiny. As the Post reports: “The scope and type of alleged misconduct by the agent have not been revealed, but defense lawyers involved in the cases described the mass freeing of felons as virtually unprecedented—and an indication that convictions could be in jeopardy. Prosecutors are periodically faced with having to drop cases over police misconduct, but it is unusual to free those who have been found guilty.”[11]

In addition to procedural misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, the FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, and harassment.

For example, the Associated Press recently lodged a complaint with the Dept. of Justice after learning that FBI agents created a fake AP news story and emailed it, along with a clickable link, to a bomb threat suspect in order to implant tracking technology onto his computer and identify his location.[12] Lambasting the agency, AP attorney Karen Kaiser railed, “The FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation.”[13]

Then again, to those familiar with COINTELPRO, an FBI program created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government considers politically objectionable,[14] it should come as no surprise that the agency has mastered the art of government disinformation.

The FBI has been particularly criticized in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for targeting vulnerable individuals and not only luring them into fake terror plots but actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.”[15]

Another fallout from 9/11, National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose the demands.[16] An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread violations.[17]

The FBI’s surveillance capabilities, on a par with the National Security Agency, boast a nasty collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls.[18]  In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.”[19]

Now the FBI is seeking to expand its already invasive hacking powers to allow agents to hack into any computer, anywhere in the world.[20] As journalist Brett Wilkins warns:

If the proposed rule change is approved, the FBI would have the power to unleash “network investigative techniques” against computers anywhere in the world, allowing the agency to secretly install malware and spyware on any computer, effectively allowing it to control that computer and all its stored information. The FBI could download all the computer’s digital contents, switch its camera or microphone on or off and even control other computers in its network.[21]

And then there’s James Comey, current director of the FBI, who knows enough to say all the right things about the need to abide by the Constitution, all the while his agency routinely discards it. Comey has this idea that the government’s powers shouldn’t be limited, especially when it comes to carrying out surveillance on American citizens.[22] Responding to reports that Apple and Google are creating smart phones that will be more difficult to hack into, Comey has been lobbying Congress and the White House to force technology companies to keep providing the government with backdoor access to Americans’ cell phones.[23]

It’s not all Comey’s fault, though. This transformation of the FBI into a secret police force can be traced back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover. As author Anthony S. Summers points out, it was Hoover who “built the first federal fingerprint bank, and his Identification Division would eventually offer instant access to the prints of 159 million people. His Crime Laboratory became the most advanced in the world.”[24]

Eighty years after Hoover instituted the FBI’s first fingerprint “database”—catalogued on index cards, no less—the agency’s biometric database has grown to massive proportions, the largest in the world, encompassing everything from fingerprints, palm, face and iris scans[25] to DNA,[26] and is being increasingly shared between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to target potential criminals long before they ever commit a crime. This is what’s known as pre-crime.

If it were just about fighting the “bad guys,” that would be one thing. But as countless documents make clear, the FBI has a long track record of abusing its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities[27] and high-ranking government officials,[28] and intimidate dissidents of all stripes.[29] It’s an old tactic, used effectively by former authoritarian regimes.

In fact, as historian Robert Gellately documents, the Nazi police state was repeatedly touted as a model for other nations to follow, so much so that Hoover actually sent one of his right-hand men, Edmund Patrick Coffey, to Berlin in January 1938 at the invitation of Germany’s secret police. As Gellately noted, “[A]fter five years of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Nazi police had won the FBI’s seal of approval.”[30]

Indeed, so impressed was the FBI with the Nazi order that, as the New York Times recently revealed, in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen, brought them to America, hired them on as spies and informants, and then carried out a massive cover-up campaign to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. Moreover, anyone who dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.[31]

So not only have American taxpayers have been paying to keep ex-Nazis on the government payroll for decades but we’ve been subjected to the very same tactics used by the Third Reich: surveillance, militarized police, overcriminalization, and a government mindset that views itself as operating outside the bounds of the law.

A Government of Wolves book coverYet as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,[32] it’s no coincidence that the similarities between the American police state and past totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany grow more pronounced with each passing day. This is how freedom falls, and tyrants come to power.

Suffice it to say that when and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America: how a nation that once abided by the rule of law and held the government accountable for its actions has steadily devolved into a police state where justice is one-sided, a corporate elite runs the show, representative government is a mockery, police are extensions of the military, surveillance is rampant, privacy is extinct, and the law is little more than a tool for the government to browbeat the people into compliance.

[1] Anthony S. Summers, “The secret life of J Edgar Hoover,” The Guardian (Dec. 31, 2011), http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jan/01/j-edgar-hoover-secret-fbi.

[2] Peter Neville, Mussolini (Routledge, 2014), http://books.google.com/books?id=GCyDBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT90&lpg=PT90&dq=mussolini+ovra&source=bl&ots=VevTl8pne8&sig=UZFsLzO2zGc4a-QQdvg_YQ71fFA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sL5YVNmPLYfasASStYDACw&ved=0CFAQ6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q=mussolini%20ovra&f=false.

[3] “Revelations from the Russian Archives: Secret Police,” Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/secr.html.

[4] “SS Police,” U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007675.

[5] Earl Ofari Hutchinson, “The FBI Walks a Perilous Line Between Surveillance and Outright Spying,” The Huffington Post (Aug. 18, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/earl-ofari-hutchinson/the-fbi-walks-a-perilous-_b_3447225.html.

[6] William Norman Grigg, “The FBI: An American Cheka,” Lew Rockwell (June 4, 2013), http://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/06/william-norman-grigg/the-american-secret-police/.

[7] Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, “Undercover sting: FBI agents posed as Internet repairmen,” CNN (Oct. 30, 2014), http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/30/us/fbi-sting-internet/.

[8] Brad Heath, “Exclusive: FBI allowed informants to commit 5,600 crimes,” USA Today (Aug. 4, 2013), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/04/fbi-informant-crimes-report/2613305/.

[9] Brad Heath, “Exclusive: FBI allowed informants to commit 5,600 crimes,” USA Today (Aug. 4, 2013), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/04/fbi-informant-crimes-report/2613305/.

[10] Paul Harris, “Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned,” The Guardian (Nov. 16, 2011), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/16/fbi-entrapment-fake-terror-plots.

[11] Peter Hermann, “Probe of FBI agent leads to release of convicted drug dealers from prison,” The Washington Post (Oct. 31, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/probe-of-fbi-agent-leads-to-convicted-drug-dealers-released-from-prison/2014/10/31/48e7b1e6-6064-11e4-9f3a-7e28799e0549_story.html.

[12] Karen Kaiser, “Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder,” Associated Press (Oct. 30, 2014), https://corpcommap.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/letter_103014.pdf.

[13] Karen Kaiser, “Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder,” Associated Press (Oct. 30, 2014), https://corpcommap.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/letter_103014.pdf.

[14] Earl Ofari Hutchinson, “The FBI Walks a Perilous Line Between Surveillance and Outright Spying,” The Huffington Post (Aug. 18, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/earl-ofari-hutchinson/the-fbi-walks-a-perilous-_b_3447225.html.

[15] Paul Harris, “Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned,” The Guardian (Nov. 16, 2011), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/16/fbi-entrapment-fake-terror-plots.

[16] “FBI ‘secretly spying’ on Google users, company reveals,” FOX News (March 6, 2013), http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/03/06/fbi-ecretly-spying-on-google-users-company-reveals/.

[17] “Judge rules secret FBI national security letters unconstitutional,” FOX News (March 16, 2013), http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/16/judge-rules-secret-fbi-letters-unconstitutional/.

[18] Ryan Gallagher, “FBI Files Reveal New Info on Clandestine Phone Surveillance Unit,” Slate (Oct. 8, 2013), http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/10/08/fbi_wireless_intercept_and_tracking_team_files_reveal_new_information_on.html.

[19] Kim Zetter, “Secrets of FBI Smartphone Surveillance Tool Revealed in Court Fight,” Wired (April 9, 2013), http://www.wired.com/2013/04/verizon-rigmaiden-aircard/all/.

[20] Brett Wilkins, “FBI Seeking New Invasive Global Hacking Powers,” Ethics in Tech (Nov. 1, 2014), https://www.ethicsintech.com/fbi-seeking-invasive-global-hacking-powers/.

[21] Brett Wilkins, “FBI Seeking New Invasive Global Hacking Powers,” Ethics in Tech (Nov. 1, 2014), https://www.ethicsintech.com/fbi-seeking-invasive-global-hacking-powers/.

[22] Ravi Mandalia, “FBI chief lashes out at Apple, Google over default cell-phone encryption,” TechieNews (Sept. 28, 2014), http://www.techienews.co.uk/9718566/fbi-chief-lashes-apple-google-default-cell-phone-encryption/.

[23] Ravi Mandalia, “FBI chief lashes out at Apple, Google over default cell-phone encryption,” TechieNews (Sept. 28, 2014), http://www.techienews.co.uk/9718566/fbi-chief-lashes-apple-google-default-cell-phone-encryption/.

[24] Anthony S. Summers, “The secret life of J Edgar Hoover,” The Guardian (Dec. 31, 2011), http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jan/01/j-edgar-hoover-secret-fbi.

[25] Robert L. Mitchell, “Gotcha! FBI launches new biometric systems to nail criminals,” Computerworld (Dec. 19, 2013), http://www.computerworld.com/article/2486963/security0/gotcha-fbi-launches-new-biometric-systems-to-nail-criminals.html.

[26] Paul Rincon, “FBI’s DNA database upgrade plans come under fire,” BBC News (Oct. 17, 2011), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15311718.

[27] Amanda Carey, “FBI opens ‘The Vault,’ UFOs, Jimi Hendrix and Malcolm X fly out,” Daily Caller (April 8, 2011), http://dailycaller.com/2011/04/08/fbi-opens-the-vault-ufos-jimi-hendrix-and-malcolm-x-fly-out/.

[28] Anthony S. Summers, “The secret life of J Edgar Hoover,” The Guardian (Dec. 31, 2011), http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jan/01/j-edgar-hoover-secret-fbi.

[29] Adam Cohen, “While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon,” New York Times (Sept. 21, 2006), http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/opinion/21thu4.html?_r=0.

[30] Robert Gellately, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany (Oxford University Press, 2001), http://books.google.com/books?id=jCiGWtxyQv0C&pg=PT95&lpg=PT95&dq=gellately+edmund+coffey&source=bl&ots=G4JHwvD5AU&sig=WkXKIkL5Ip-oJ05H_15XA3CIWww&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NOlYVJT-H8GRsQSjk4HYDQ&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=gellately%20edmund%20coffey&f=false.

[31] Eric Lichtblau, “In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis,” New York Times (Oct. 26, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/us/in-cold-war-us-spy-agencies-used-1000-nazis.html.

[32] John W. Whitehead, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (SelectBooks, 2013), http://www.amazon.com/Government-Wolves-Emerging-American-Police/dp/1590799755/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top.