Tenth Amendment Center: Gov’t Worried that Mask Use Thwarts Gov’t Facial Recognition

From the Tenth Amendment Center, DHS Worried Widespread Mask Use Will Thwart Government Facial Recognition.

There has been a lot of controversy over masks, but no matter what you think about the efficacy of face coverings in preventing the spread of COVID-19, there is one advantage to masking up. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed concern that widespread use of masks will thwart facial recognition.

A DHS “intelligence note” dated May 22 came to light in the BlueLeaks trove of law enforcement documents. The DHS Intelligence Enterprise Counterterrorism Mission Center in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement drafted the note. It “examines the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems — such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms — to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides.”

According to The Intercept, the Minnesota Fusion Center distributed the notice on May 26, as protests over the killing of George Floyd were ramping up. “Email logs included in the BlueLeaks archive show that the note was also sent to city and state government officials and private security officers in Colorado and, inexplicably, to a hospital and a community college.”

The note warned, “We assess violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition are likely to opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners.”

The note also expresses more general concern about mask-wearing. One header reads, “Face Recognition Systems Likely to be Less Effective as Widespread Wear of Face Coverings for Public Safety Purposes Continue,”

“We assess face recognition systems used to support security operations in public spaces will be less effective while widespread public use of facemasks, including partial and full face covering, is practiced by the public to limit the spread of Covid-19.”

The debate on masking aside, thwarting facial recognition is a good thing because the federal government is aggressively pushing the expansion of its vast and increasingly intrusive facial recognition network.

THE GROWING FEDERAL PROGRAM

recent report revealed that the federal government has turned state drivers’ license photos into a giant facial recognition database, putting virtually every driver in America in a perpetual electronic police lineup. The revelations generated widespread outrage, but this story isn’t new. The federal government has been developing a massive, nationwide facial recognition system for years.

The FBI rolled out a nationwide facial-recognition program in the fall of 2014, with the goal of building a giant biometric database with pictures provided by the states and corporate friends.

In 2016, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law released “The Perpetual Lineup,” a massive report on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology in the U.S. You can read the complete report at perpetuallineup.org. The organization conducted a year-long investigation and collected more than 15,000 pages of documents through more than 100 public records requests. The report paints a disturbing picture of intense cooperation between the federal government, and state and local law enforcement to develop a massive facial recognition database.

“Face recognition is a powerful technology that requires strict oversight. But those controls, by and large, don’t exist today,” report co-author Clare Garvie said. “With only a few exceptions, there are no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy, and no systems checking for bias. It’s a wild west.”

There are many technical and legal problems with facial recognition, including significant concerns about the accuracy of the technology, particularly when reading the facial features of minority populations. During a test run by the ACLU of Northern California, facial recognition misidentified 26 members of the California legislature as people in a database of arrest photos.

With facial recognition technology, police and other government officials have the capability to track individuals in real-time. These systems allow law enforcement agents to use video cameras and continually scan everybody who walks by. According to the report, several major police departments have expressed an interest in this type of real-time tracking. Documents revealed agencies in at least five major cities, including Los Angeles, either claimed to run real-time face recognition off of street cameras, bought technology with the capability, or expressed written interest in buying it.

In all likelihood, the federal government heavily involves itself in helping state and local agencies obtain this technology. The feds provide grant money to local law enforcement agencies for a vast array of surveillance gear, including ALPRs, stingray devices and drones. The federal government essentially encourages and funds a giant nationwide surveillance net and then taps into the information via fusion centers and the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).

Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”

Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.

Reports that the Berkeley Police Department in cooperation with a federal fusion center deployed cameras equipped to surveil a “free speech” rally and Antifa counterprotests provided the first solid link between the federal government and local authorities in facial recognition surveillance.

See also EFF’s San Francisco Police Accessed Business District Camera Network to Spy on Protestors

 

Face Masks

There are have been a lot of untruths about face masks circulating in the US during this pandemic from both the government and the public. One of the earliest lies came from the Surgeon General in an attempt to save the limited face mask supply for the sole use of health care providers:

Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!

Two months later, an article in The New England Journal of Medicine would repeat this falsehood:

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection…the potential benefits of universal masking need to be balanced against the future risk of running out of masks and thereby exposing clinicians to the much greater risk of caring for symptomatic patients without a mask…

Both of these statements were obviously meant to cover for a lack of preparedness by both government and private healthcare for a large scale pandemic and resulting lacking of masks for everyone. They sought to soothe the uneducated public with the idea that they had nothing to fear while preserving scarce mask resources for front line health providers, knowing that masks would protect them. These ill-advised statements have come back to bite those who would try to limit the pandemic spread as many point back to these statements among others to counter government calls and mandates for universal mask wearing (whether such mandates are legal or not is beside the point). Of course, face masks are not 100% effective! No one is saying that they are. Can they install a false sense of security? Yes, they can. Properly worn masks should be coupled with other effective measures as a defense in depth against infection.

Masks become less effective when they are worn or handled improperly – of course. And the issue is further complicated by the type of mask worn. N95 or N99 masks are much more effective at protecting the wearer of the mask than a simple surgical mask which is designed more to protect other people from you — though the surgical mask will still offer a little protection to the wearer. These complications are what lead voices in the government and the media to recommend not wearing masks. “It’s too complicated for the average citizen,” is what they think. You can prove them wrong with a little effort.

How to properly put on and take off a face mask:

The US tends to ignore research done in foreign languages, but research about mask wearing and its effectiveness have been performed, and the positive results known, for years. The Lancet recently published an article that surveyed some of these studies, showing the effectiveness of wearing face masks – Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis

The use of face masks was protective for both health-care workers and people in the community exposed to infection…Our unadjusted analyses might, at first impression, suggest use of face masks in the community setting to be less effective than in the health-care setting, but …we did not detect any striking differences in effectiveness of face mask use between settings…

The chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital says that these studies show “wearing masks decreases the risk by 65 percent.”

The above sums up some of the science of mask wearing in order to prevent the spread of contagious disease. Given the contradictory, illogical, and often untrue statements previously made by officials, it is understandable that people are distrustful of recent mandatory mask statements. On top of that, there is the genuine question of government authority to make such mandates. For a very vocal portion of the liberty movement, they have decided not to even try to sort out the science of mask wearing, and instead stake their lives on their believed right to infect whomever they please. However, just because a government official may not have any authority to tell you to do or not do something, that doesn’t mean that whatever they are telling you is a bad idea. So, in case science does not sway you, here are some voices from within the prepper/liberty/tactical communities, talking about mask wearing.

John Mosby/Mountain Guerrilla:

…What is interesting to me is how viciously partisan a medical issue has become. Of course, like I said last week, it’s not surprising. We live in a time in the imperial cycle when you can’t have a conversation about the weather without it turning into a political hot potato. That is what it is.

Our state recently finally got a masks in public mandate. Now, I get it, when the government tells people to do something, they don’t want to do it. I GET it. F… the government. I agree with that. I’m still wearing a mask, because I’ve been wearing a mask since before the government suggested it. I was wearing a mask in public when the government was still telling you that masks were pointless.

I had to go to the feed store the other day. As I was walking in, I stopped outside the front door to pull my mask on. An older farmer was walking out. He saw me adjusting the mask, and snarled, “You don’t have to wear that damned thing!”

“Mister, I don’t have to do a goddamned thing.” I replied. Admittedly, I was already kind of pissy, and his attitude didn’t help mine, at all.

“Well, why are you wearing it then!?”

“I’ve been wearing a mask since January—before you’d even heard of COVID-19, because I’m not a f’ing douchebag. I’ll keep wearing my mask.”

That old man stopped and looked me up and down, TWICE. I swear, you could see the gears turning, as he debated taking a swing at me!

Now, my response probably could have been less aggressive, but…

“I’m not wearing a mask, and I don’t care if the governor and the police tell me I have to!”

“F- those BLM and Antifa protesters. If they’d just do what the police tell them, they wouldn’t get shot!”

Breaking the law—and to be clear, I don’t actually have a problem with people breaking the law. For the most part, I encourage it, in many cases—is always a matter of scale and moral values. YOU may see violating the law—a city ordinance or a state ordinance—about wearing a mask as a statement about your individual rights, just like another person sees his ability to protest against what he perceives, rightly or wrongly, to be injustice, as his individual rights. You’re made because you’re being told to wear a mask. He’s mad because he’s being told WHERE he can protest (and, under the Obama administration, remember, there was a LOT of bitching about “1st Amendment Zones” from The Right).

(And before anybody gets all — about it, obviously I recognize the difference between an act of civil disobedience and a malum in se criminal violation that is violent…although I’d also point out that not following medical advice regarding the containment of a pathogen, during a pandemic COULD be interpreted, pretty easily, as a violent act…)

If you don’t want to wear a mask? I don’t give a s#@!. Don’t wear a mask. I’m not going to call the police on you, and I’m not going to get in your face, and go all Karen on you, telling you how you should be wearing a mask. I really don’t give a s#@!. MY family is wearing n95 masks, instead of just cotton masks, because we recognize that, while a cotton mask WILL help slow the spread of pathogen, if some huge f’ing percentage of people are unwilling to participate, then we need to focus on our welfare, so we can further decrease the chances of US catching the disease, by wearing a mask with better protective value.

Am I going to judge you for not wearing a mask in public? Of course I am. I believe that self-sacrifice for the good of the community is the foundation of civic virtue, and—like the Founding Fathers—I believe without civic virtue, there are no rights. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote a letter to a congregation of Baptists at Danbury, CT once. It’s often quoted, in part, but people overlook one part of the letter:

Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced HE HAS NO NATURAL RIGHTS IN OPPOSITION TO HIS SOCIAL DUTIES.” (emphasis added).

This is the part that everybody likes to ignore, as they complain about infringements on their “rights.” People—on both sides of the supposed aisle—want to claim that the Founders were all about liberty, which is not untrue. What they overlook however—or intentionally ignore—is the fact that every single one of them, not just Mr. Jefferson, believed, as Mr. Jefferson stated above, if you don’t fulfill your social/civic obligations, you don’t HAVE any claim to “rights.” That’s because, while they did believe in “natural” rights, they also believed that man is “naturally” a social creature, and those rights evolve from his position within a society.

So, yeah, I’m going to judge the f!@# out of you. You know what? Who cares? You don’t know me. Most of you wouldn’t know me from Adam, if you saw me on the street. Why do you care if I judge you? Maybe, when people are getting angry about being “judged” for moral transgressions (and failures in civic obligation ARE a moral transgression, however you define civic obligations), it’s not because strangers are judging them, but because they are judging themselves, and realize they are falling short. I know I’m always my own harshest critic, even if others don’t always recognize that fact.

What I’m not going to do? I’m not going to tell you you’re a piece of s#@! for not wearing a mask. I don’t need to…

Aesop of Raconteur Report (also a healthcare provider, treating COVID patients in CA):

CA gov. Gabbin’ Nuisance re-closed 30+ counties yesterday, all because of the morons that think wearing a mask is the Mark Of The Beast, and washing your hands is communism.

He was writing about wearing PPE (masks and gloves) back in April:

…people should be required to wear and use properly appropriate PPE, like masks and gloves, and given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own protection, and get out and about. I’ve taken care of 1-2 dozen Kung Flu patients already, at close range, using nothing more complicated than that. It works, and if I can do it, you darned sure can, if you have access to enough of the PPE to do it…

Aesop also commented himself on the NEJM article linked above back in May:

As a couple of posters have already referenced it, we’ll fisk this metric f**kton of bullsh…, er, rose fertilizer, originally posted in the NEJM a couple of months back, and unaccountably burped back up (or more likely, shat out) again this week.

1) That’s not a “study”. As it’s conspicuously labeled “Perspectives”, it’s sheer OPINION.
And we all know what opinions are like (and in this instance, for exactly the same reasons).
In this case, by an over-educated and under-bright pack of bumbling baboons.

2) The authors are clearly axe-grinding jackholes, their entire thesis is unsupported patent horseshit, and the purpose of wearing cloth/surgical masks (which is what 99.999% of people have on) is always to protect others from you, not to protect you from others, and anyone who doesn’t know that is not only a jackhole, they’re too stupid to be writing papers anywhere.

At their intended purpose, such masks excel, as they have for 150 years or so since they were pioneered for maintaining asepsis in surgery.

3) For bonus points, the Five Blind Mice who authored that codswallop have about 45 years of post-secondary education between them, and yet none of them noticed they contradicted themselves a couple of paragraphs after that corker:

…fundamental infection-control measures.

Such measures include vigorous screening of all patients coming to a facility for symptoms of Covid-19 and immediately getting them masked and into a room;”

IOW, fundamental infection control is masking people to curb the spread of cough and sneeze droplets, the exact method of transmitting Kung Flu against which face masks excel.

Some people tell me I can’t fix stupid; I say I can, if you’ll let me use a big enough hammer.
Those five degreed jackasses should be horsewhipped until the whites of their bones show, and then be dipped to the neck into a vat of rubbing alcohol. Daily. For a month.

4) Don’t get fooled by something just because it’s posted by NEJM…

Chris Martensen of Peak Prosperity has been talking about the effectiveness of mask wearing since March:

COVID-19 is still a new disease. Currently, doctors and scientists are still figuring out how it works in the body and how to treat it. It will be a part of our lives in the future just like any other disease.  Some people ask “Are you going to wear a mask for the rest of your life?” No. I won’t. But I will wear it until the disease is better understood, and there is a best practice for treating it other than putting the patient on a ventilator and waiting for them to die or there is some prophylaxis against it.

Even if you for some reason believe that COVID is no worse than the flu, as a prepper I hope that you have used this time to practice wearing a mask and for figuring out how many masks and other PPE you will need when a serious outbreak does hit. For example, I’ve learned around the head elastic banded masks don’t work well for me because of my huge melon head; the bands tend to break easily while donning the mask. I’ve found velcro masks work much better and are more easily donned and removed with less risk of touching contaminated surface. I’ve learned that you need a great deal more numbers of disposable PPE than I had expected previously. But if you’re not taking this disease seriously, then you probably won’t take the next seriously, either, so maybe it’s something that you don’t need to worry about in your preps.