Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Your Papers, Please" -- Simplified

(A quick note: There is a brief update on the Derek Hale case at the end of this essay.)

Deltha O'Neal, the Pro Bowl cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals, was arrested at a DUI checkpoint last December. When O'Neal showed up at he municipal courthouse in Batavia, Ohio a few weeks later to attend a pre-trial hearing, he was asked for his Social Security number by a deputy sheriff; the information was entered into a hand-held Mobilisa m2500 Sentry scanner.

The check mark that flashed onto the device's 3.8-inch color screen indicated O'Neal had no outstanding local warrants, wasn't among the FBI's most wanted, and also wasn't on Interpol's terrorist watch list,” reported the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Data from more than 140 sources – including the US Drug Enforcement Agency and Customs Enforcement – were cross-checked by the device to determine whether deputies should detain the pro football player.”

O'Neal was permitted to pass through the metal detector and enter the courthouse without further complications. That wasn't the case for many other courthouse visitors, dozens of whom were cited or taken into custody as a result of random ID checks.

The Sentry device is a black hand-held multi-function computer that looks a bit like an over-sized hand phaser from Star Trek.

It is equipped with a scanner that can read the magnetic strip or barcode that is a standard feature in state-issued licenses and ID cards, as well as passports and military IDs. The unit can be customized for license plate recognition or crime scene documentation as well.

Database updates are downloaded by the Sentry when it is docked with its charging bay, and the unit can send and receive data through a wireless network when used in the field. The device is – to use the grotesque military neologism -- “ruggedized,” meaning that it can be used in the rain and won't be broken if it is dropped.

The Sentry scanner is, quite literally, a garrison state technology. Originally developed as a security measure for military bases, the Sentry began law enforcement field tests last September when Mobilisa donated three units to the Clermont (Ohio) County Sheriff's Department: Mobilisa chairman John W. Paxton, Sr., a former New Hampshire state trooper, lives in the county and is a personal friend of the sheriff.

Micheline Mendelsohn, Communications Director for Mobilisa, explained to me that the while the Sentry system is being used at 23 military bases (including Andrews Air Force Base), the Clermont County Sheriff's Department is the only civilian law enforcement agency to use the scanners so far. But this is likely to change soon.

The Ohio example really excited people and started a snowball effect,” Mendelsohn told me. “And this really began with the military trials. Somebody looked at the device and said, `Hey – this would be great for law enforcement,' so we went in that direction. And it really is ideally suited for police when they're conducting traffic stops, for example, since the officer doesn't have to turn his back when he's trying to access the information.”

Mobilisa is working to make the Sentry even more user-friendly, according to Mendelsohn: “We have in development an even smaller hand-held device that would be about the size of a cell phone, and could be clipped to a belt.”

According to promotional literature from the company, in 2003 Mobilisa “requested funding for a project to secure our nation's military bases....” When asked about additional federal funding to develop and distribute the Sentry system, Mendelssohn replied, “We're just starting on that road. We've gotten great response from the military, which was the original intention behind developing the technology.”

She did agree that local police departments would find the Sentry technology a very attractive choice when looking to spend federal homeland security grants. (It's interesting that the first use of the Sentry system came during a federally subsidized DUI checkpoint in Ohio last fall.) As with other technologies, we can expect to see the Sentry become commonplace very quickly, and for police departments to resort to its use quite promiscuously.

From the perspective of those concerned with civil liberties, the real mischief inherent in this system is not found in the technology itself, but rather in the data streams it can channel to police officers considering whether or not to “detain” an individual.

There are 29 entries on Mobilisa's list of “Persons-Of-Interest Databases,” many of them drawn (predictably, given Sentry's origins) from various military investigative agencies. The FBI, ATF, DEA, ICE, and other alphabet agencies are well-represented, as are the State Department, Secret Service, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, two state Corrections Departments, and the Postal Service. The information available through Sentry, boasts the company, is "virtually limitless."

The twenty-ninth data source is the provocative catch-all category, “Various Other Local Law Enforcement Inputs.” This would include information on criminal records and driving histories, as well as other unspecified details fed into various databases by police agencies. Information of this kind has a very long half-life, and can make an individual radioactive where freedom of movement is concerned.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius recounts the experiences of several US citizens who found it difficult or impossible to visit Canada because of ancient misdeeds unearthed by the new Smart Border Action Plan, which “combines Canadian intelligence with extensive US Homeland Security information. The partnership began in 2002, but it wasn't until recently that the system was refined.”

Canadian customs officials “can call up anything that your state trooper in Iowa can,” observes Canadian attorney David Lesperance.

This is why some Americans wanting to travel to Canada on business or for recreation have been turned away, or forced to undergo lengthy and detailed additional scrutiny, because of long-forgotten drug or drunk driving convictions, or other misdemeanors. One of Lesperance's clients was turned away at the border for a 20-year-old shoplifting conviction that resulted from a fraternity prank. Another case involves an American deemed inadmissible to Canada because he was convicted of possessing marijuana more than thirty years ago.

Lesperance points out that the data-sharing agreement between Washington and Ottawa “is just the edge of the wedge,” since similar agreements are being negotiated with countries across Europe and Asia that are familiar destinations to business travelers.

Through the dubious miracle of the Sentry scanner, state troopers in Iowa and security police abroad will enjoy instant access to a data pool containing ancient transgressions of the sort described above, thereby creating all kinds of potential pretexts for harassing and detaining decent and otherwise law-abiding US citizens.

After describing the case of a friend who was denied access to Canada after the new system went into effect last January, libertarian commentator Wendy McElroy points out that data-sharing protocols of this sort mean that some “travelers may well be denied entry [to their chosen destinations] on a global level because of a youthful indiscretion or an arrest for unlawful assembly (e.g. an anti-war rally).”

Taking names? A police cruiser from Department of Homeland Security kept watch at a recent anti-war demonstration outside Speaker Pelosi's office in San Francisco. (Courtesy AntiWar.com)

McElroy's chosen example is a particularly timely one, given the recent experience of Walter F. Murphy, a retired Marine Colonel (who was decorated for valor during the Korean War) and professor emeritus of Princeton University.

As recounted in a letter posted on Mark Graber's blog, Balkinization, when Murphy attempted to check in for a March 1 American Airlines flight to Newark, he discovered that his name had been placed on a “terrorist watch list.”

I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines,” recalled Professor Murphy. “One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: `Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that.' I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. `That'll do it,' the man said.”

Consider, briefly, what this incident says about the reasons for which a person can be detained (as Murphy was, briefly, for additional security screening) – and, therefore, the potential applications of the Sentry scanning technology:

Murphy wasn't prevented from boarding because of a crime he had committed, even a long-buried youthful indiscretion. His presence on a “watch list” didn't come about because he had been arrested for “unlawful assembly,” or even for peaceful participation in a legal protest march. His name was enrolled on that infamous list because of a speech he had given criticizing the Dear Leader.

It's likely that the identities of peace protesters – who are, remember, frequently banned fliers, according to the official with whom Murphy spoke – were almost certainly compiled by local police, including undercover operatives. Who took down Murphy's name and fed it into the database? Some low-level Republican Party functionary who read a news account of the speech, perhaps? Could it have been an overzealous campus security drone, or an offended audience member who called a hot line? We'll never know.

What we do know is that Mobilisa's uber-slick new gadget will certainly simplify things for State agents (whether here or, eventually, abroad) who trying to “find a reason” to lock up troublesome citizens – and complicate life tremendously for those of us on the receiving end of this system of human inventory control.

Derek Hale Update

The attorneys who have filed suit on behalf of Derek Hale's widow, orphaned stepchildren, and parents are working pro bono. However, there are many other expenses involved in a civil suit, particularly one filed against intransigent government agencies that can fob those costs off on local taxpayers.

Accordingly, a legal defense fund has been established on behalf of Derek Hale's survivors:

The Derek Hale Defense Fund
c/o Dr. David Crowe
1736 Broadway
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701

Stephen J. Neuberger, a Wilmington, Delaware civil rights attorney involved in the lawsuit, explained to me that Dr. Crowe "has known Derek since he was a little kid," and wants to do what he can to help his family see that justice is done. Neuberger also promised me that "Any donations to the fund will go to pay out-of-pocket costs, and not attorneys' fees."

Please visit The Right Source for the latest news from the freedom battlefront.


Captain Kirk said...

Ah yes...once and again the spectre of the "anonymous report" raises its ugly head again. Whatever happened to the right to face one's accuser. It seems now that when the State receives an "anonymous report", the State, de facto, becomes the accuser. Has anyone ever successfully challenged this insidious practice in Federal Court?

dixiedog said...

I hear ya, Will. This is why folk have to guard their mouth AND their keystrokes and only reveal publicly what they are prepared to be intimidated, harassed, and injured for - the State's only forte.

Of course, as you pointed out here, when it gets to the point that every citizen can and does suffer the above mentioned State proclivities from mere criticism of Der Führer and his policies publicly, then anybody and everybody is game, as was Professor Murphy.

Not surprising, really. Again, signs of the times. The era of big government is upon us indefinitely; in fact, we ain't seen nothing yet. Commoner folk (the masses, if you will) are hopelessly ignorant about "connecting the dots" to understand how and why the State flourishes and grows to these levels we are witnessing today. Much of it boils down to "safety and security."

Let's connect those dots:

Inability to distinguish right from wrong => become reprobate-minded => become irresponsible (didn't KNOW any better) => can no longer self-govern => become naturally insecure => dire need of an external entity (or person) to TELL them what's "right," what's "wrong," thereby governing them on how to live and freeing them, in their now reprobate mind's eye, from responsibility. The external entity also, naturally, becomes their guarantor of their security, and so on. What does all this lead to?


Edward Gibbon: In the end more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.

The masses often see "security" in a given government action where the few discerning souls see "liberty constriction." The masses often see "safety net" where the few see subsidize and support using other people's money (ties into freedom from responsibility). The masses often see the ability to exhibit unrestrained or only mildly-restrained hedonism of every sort while, simultaneously, religion, speech, and association are heavily constrained and/or regulated, as "f-r-e-e-d-o-m!" whereas the discerning few see nothing of the sort.

But, I digress...it's easy to go off on a tangent about these matters.

Anyhow, this skeptic and cynical mindset of government in general is also why the last census I participated in was in 1990. The 2000 census questionnaire consisted of much more than simply a body count of the household, race, and gender for the purpose of basic anonymous statistical data. It instead contained all kinds of questions about just about every facet of one's life. It was too much for me so I never sent the 2000 census in and don't plan on doing so for 2010 either.

Anonymous said...

Good for you DD! The census has taken on such an onerous air, on gone far beyond what it ever was meant to do. Not even the Romans asked as much, and that was bad enough. Thats why when I hear people bleat about how much "freedom" we have... oh, yeah!.

My wish is to find someplace so quiet and out of the way in the country, far from prying eyes and nosy, ignorant neighbors. I love people, don't get me wrong, but so many of the TeeVee indoctrinated clowns out there, I fear, would turn you in with the snap of a finger, or a squeeze of their bank accounts.

Perchance its best to find some out of the way country thats too small, and too much bother, to settle in. Out of sight and out of mind.

Anonymous said...


Are you aware of this story?


William N. Grigg said...

Anon -- There's a lot about Prof. Murphy's incident that strikes me as odd, and I'd like to get the details from the "other side" -- but they ain't talking.

Murphy himself called the TSA to find out if he's on a "list" and, "per policy," he was told that the information he sought couldn't be made available.

We do know that Air Marshals regularly put people on a surveillance list merely to fill a monthly quota -- see:


Prof. Murphy also gave a long and fairly detailed account of his experience in a radio interview:


As for Mr. Taranto, well....

He's a reliable bulimic when it comes to regurgitating the Bush Regime's pre-digested sound-bites, and so it's not surprising that he would accept with utter docility what he was fed by the TSA. He did the same, of course, in retailing the lies told to manipulate our nation into the Iraq war.

Someone who can do so without triggering a gag reflex doesn't have the moral standing to accuse others of excessive credulity.

nhforester said...

It comes as no surprise that the CEO of this Orwellian company is a former NH State Trooper. As someone who has lived in this state my entire life I can testify to the bellicose, arrogant and domineering attitude that tends to permeate both the NH State Police and Fish and Game. An "us vs them" attitude is the spirit of these people. During my first two years of college I studied Law Enforcement hoping to one day become a Fish and Game officer however after my second year of schooling it was apparent that a lifetime of working within this culture was extremely unappealing. It didn't used to be this way. I remember my father once saying that the attitude within the NH state police didn't occur "until the Feds got involved". My father made this statement back in the early 90's, long before such influence was apparent. Needless to say at the "young" age of 32 I have no memories of my home state ever living up to its motto of "live free or die". Sad but true.

zach said...

I have read several of your blogs since learning of the Derek Hale case on lewrockwell.com. Since one day the state will become unbearably despotic, how would you, a self-described devout Christian reconcile what the Bible says about obeying the civil authorities, with your well being? The Bible says obey unless it's against God's law. Do you believe that a Christian could participate in a rebellion "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [protecting life,liberty,property]." Do you think it's ever right to revolt privatly? I've carried a weapon in high crime areas to protect myself where I would have been arrested if found out. Do you think that's wrong? I'm curious since you strike me as a man who has thought alot about such things, considering your beliefs and interests.

A Radical Whig in Chattanooga said...

I would suggest that we still have lawful means of resisting the growth of Big Brother which does not involve the destruction of lives or property. We should continue to use those means as long as they exist.

As Christians, do we have to remain subservient to an out-of-control expansion of Federal Powers?

Would we have been obligated to remain subservient to Ahab & Jezebel?

The Great Scottish Reformer, John Knox, had the following exchange with Queen Mary (Stuart)of Scots:

Queen Mary of Scots: "Think ye that subjects may resist their princes?"

John Knox: "If the princes exceed their bounds, Madam, and act against that for which they should be obeyed, it is no doubt but that they may be resisted, even by power [force]."

John Knox and his compatriots assembled in Geneva with John Calvin due to the persecution from Queen "Bloody Mary" [Tudor] of England. One of their greatest accomplishments was the Geneva Bible (translating the Bible into English back then tended to get one burned at the stake). The 1599 Geneva Bible (Tolle Lege Press)includes the following remark in the commentary regarding obedience to civil authority in Romans 13:5 -
2). So far as lawfully we may: for if unlawful things be commanded us, we must answer as Peter teacheth us, It is better to obey God than men.

One of the Great Reformers who contributed to the Geneva Bible and it's commentary was Christopher Goodman. He wrote a rather detailed monologue on when Civil Authority should and should not be obeyed:


"How Superior Powers Ought To Be Obeyed By Their Subjects: And Wherein They May Lawfully By God's Word Be Disobeyed And Resisted.

Wherein also is declared the cause of all this present misery in England, and the only way to remedy the same.

By Christopher Goodman, Geneva, 1558"

It is best to read the Bible (I prefer The Reformation Study Bible (ESV) and the 1599 Geneva Bible) from start to finish in order to avoid the pitfalls of passages taken out of context. The Bible does not teach blind obedience to Civil Authority. We have no obligation to allow bad rulers to destroy our freedoms.

Anonymous said...

> Anyhow, this skeptic and cynical mindset of government in general is also why the last census I participated in was in 1990. The 2000 census questionnaire consisted of much more than simply a body count of the household, race, and gender for the purpose of basic anonymous statistical data. It instead contained all kinds of questions about just about every facet of one's life. It was too much for me so I never sent the 2000 census in and don't plan on doing so for 2010 either.

DD, I'm surprised you didn't simply do the lawful thing.

Mark Odell

dixiedog said...

DD, I'm surprised you didn't simply do the lawful thing.

I agree Mark. Admittedly, I failed to follow through with the constitutionally-sound requirement of mere enumeration via the census questionaire.

That said, I was only "harassed" lightly about not turning it in with a few cold calls from, I assume, the Census Bureau. But that dissipated after a short time and nothing came of it.

Nevertheless, I'll be sure to follow the constitution next time, Mark ;). Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

> Nevertheless, I'll be sure to follow the constitution next time, Mark ;).

At present, it appears that that's more than the Census Bureau will be able to say.

Mark Odell