ADMIN WARNS CHINA ABOUT COVERT AGENTS OPERATING IN U.S.
The Obama administration has delivered a warning to Beijing about the presence of Chinese government agents operating secretly in the United States to pressure prominent expatriates — some wanted in China on charges of corruption — to return home immediately, according to American officials.
The American officials said that Chinese law enforcement agents covertly in this country are part of Beijing’s global campaign to hunt down and repatriate Chinese fugitives and, in some cases, recover allegedly ill-gotten gains.
The Chinese government has officially named the effort Operation Fox Hunt.
The American warning, which was delivered to Chinese officials in recent weeks and demanded a halt to the activities, reflects escalating anger in Washington about intimidation tactics used by the agents. And it comes at a time of growing tension between Washington and Beijing on a number of issues: from the computer theft of millions of government personnel files that American officials suspect was directed by China, to China’s crackdown on civil liberties, to the devaluation of its currency.
Those tensions are expected to complicate the state visit to Washington next month by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.
The work of the agents is a departure from the routine practice of secret government intelligence gathering that the United States and China have carried out on each other’s soil for decades. The Central Intelligence Agency has a cadre of spies in China, just as China has long deployed its own intelligence operatives into the United States to steal political, economic, military and industrial secrets.
In this case, said American officials, who discussed details of the operation only on the condition of anonymity because of the tense diplomacy surrounding the issue, the Chinese agents are undercover operatives with the Ministry of Public Security, China’s law enforcement branch charged with carrying out Operation Fox Hunt.
The campaign, a central element of Mr. Xi’s wider battle against corruption, has proved popular with the Chinese public. Since 2014, according to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 930 suspects have been repatriated, including more than 70 who have returned this year voluntarily, the ministry’s website reported in June. According to Chinese media accounts, teams of agents have been dispatched around the globe.
American officials said they had solid evidence that the Chinese agents — who are not in the United States on acknowledged government business, and most likely are entering on tourist or trade visas — use various strong-arm tactics to get fugitives to return. The harassment, which has included threats against family members in China, has intensified recently, officials said.
The officials declined to provide specific evidence of the activities of the agents.
The United States has its own history of sending operatives undercover to other nations — sometimes under orders to kidnap or kill. In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the C.I.A. dispatched teams abroad to snatch Qaeda suspects and spirit them either to secret C.I.A prisons or hand them over to other governments for interrogation.
Neither China’s Ministry of Public Security nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to faxes requesting comment. But Chinese officials have often boasted about their global efforts to hunt economic fugitives, and the state news media has featured reports detailing the aims and successes of Operation Fox Hunt.
According to the Chinese news media, Beijing has sent scores of security agents abroad to “persuade” their targets to return home. Just how they accomplish their aims is unclear, and questions have been raised about why a number of suspects, presumably sitting on significant wealth abroad, have willingly returned to China.
Liu Dong, a director of Operation Fox Hunt, has said Chinese agents must comply with local laws abroad and that they depend on cooperation with the police in other countries, according to a news report last year. But in a telling admission, he added, “Our principle is thus: Whether or not there is an agreement in place, as long as there is information that there is a criminal suspect, we will chase them over there, we will take our work to them, anywhere.”
It is unclear whether the F.B.I. or the Department of Homeland Security has advocated within the Obama administration to have the Chinese agents expelled from the country, but the White House decision to have the State Department issue a warning to the Chinese government about the activities could be one initial step in the process.
The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are in charge of tracking the activities of foreign government agents inside the United States, and American officials said that both agencies had amassed evidence about the Chinese law enforcement agents by speaking to Chinese expatriates and by monitoring the agents themselves.
One American official acknowledged that Chinese agents had been trying to track down Ling Wancheng, a wealthy and politically connected businessman who fled to the United States last year and had been living in a lavish home he owns outside Sacramento. Should he seek political asylum, he could become one of the most damaging defectors in the history of the People’s Republic.
Chinese state news media published Interpol alerts in April for 100 people that Beijing described as its most-wanted fugitives worldwide. But experts who have studied the names raised doubts whether the listed men and women are truly the government’s top priority. Among the alleged fugitives, they said, are a former deputy mayor, employees of state-owned enterprises and a history professor, but few if any at the highest echelons of power.
American officials did not disclose the identities or numbers of those being sought by the Chinese in the United States. They are believed to be prominent expatriates, some sought for economic corruption and some for what the Chinese consider political crimes.
That reluctance reflects divisions with the Obama administration over how aggressive to publicly confront China on a number of security issues.
For instance, the White House has gone out of its way to avoid making any public accusations that the Chinese government ordered the computer attack on the Office of Personnel Management, which led to the theft of millions of classified personnel files of government workers and contractors. While James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, initially said that “you have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did,” he avoided repeating that accusation when pressed again in public on the matter.
China and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, and State Department officials would not say whether the warning carried any threats of penalties. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, declined to comment about the diplomatic warning but said that “generally speaking, foreign law enforcement agents are not permitted to operate within the United States without prior notification to the attorney general.”
It is a criminal offense, he said, “for an individual, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign power without prior notification to the attorney general.”
Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that “the United States is not a safe haven for fugitives from any nation.” But he added that if the United States was going to help China hunt down fugitives, Beijing must provide evidence to the Department of Justice.
Too often, he said, “China has not provided the evidence we have requested.”
Steve Tsang, a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, said the clandestine deployment of security agents in pursuit of Chinese abroad has a long pedigree under the Communist Party, which sees itself as wielding dominion over all Chinese people regardless of what passport they may hold. “The party believes if you’re of Chinese ancestry then you’re Chinese anyway, and if you don’t behave like one you’re a traitor,” he said.
Mr. Tsang said the agents’ methods of persuasion often relate to the person’s family back in China, ranging from subtle insinuations to explicit threats, including against children or grandchildren. “They can be very imaginative,” he said.
The agents are described as mostly young, highly skilled officers who have repeatedly undergone “rapid-fire deployment” since the campaign began last year.
“Within 49 hours, they can make their arrest anywhere in the world,” said a report published last year on Chinese Police Net, a website run by the Ministry of Public Security.
Such official statements, while directed toward a domestic audience, have stirred concern overseas. That is because Chinese agents are barred from making arrests on foreign soil, including the top destinations for alleged fugitives: the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These and a number of other countries do not have extradition treaties with China.
China says it follows local laws overseas. But in December, two Chinese police officers were caught operating in Australia without the permission of local authorities, according to local news media reports that were confirmed by Australian officials. The officers had traveled to Melbourne from the northeast province of Shandong to pursue a Chinese citizen accused of bribery, the reports said.
Australian officials promptly summoned diplomats from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, as well as in Beijing, to express their displeasure, according to a spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The government registered with China its deep concerns about this, making clear it was unacceptable,” said the spokesman, who added “the government has been assured by Chinese authorities that there would be no repeat of these actions.”
Li Gongjing, a captain in the economic crime division of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, explained the agents’ approach in an interview with Xinmin Weekly magazine last November.
“A fugitive is like a flying kite,” he said. “Even though he is abroad, the string is held in China. He can always be found through his family.” Contributor: By Mark Mazetti and Dan Levin for The New York Times)
For prayer: For intercessors, this article is a pointer to pray for both America and China in this ongoing political drama and the actions of Chinese agents in America. Tension is growing between China and the U.S. on several fronts. Pray for divine restraint on both governments as the U.S. prepares to receive China’s president next month. Our Bible references reflect God’s ultimate victory over the nations of the earth. Give thanks for the assurance believers have of divine supremacy!
“[God] shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth…. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.” (Ps 72:8, 11)
“For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Ps 22:28)
PLANNED PARENTHOOD SOLD BABY PARTS WITHOUT PATIENT CONSENT
The second episode in a new documentary web series highlights a young woman’s eyewitness narrative of the daily practice of fetal body parts harvesting in Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, describing tissue procurement workers’ coordination with abortion providers, the pressure placed on patients, and disregard for patient consent.
This weekend! Nationwide protest PP's harvesting and selling of aborted baby parts - or details, <click here>!
The “Human Capital” documentary web series, produced by The Center for Medical Progress, integrates expert interviews, eyewitness accounts, and real-life undercover interactions to explore various themes connected to Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted fetal tissue. Episode 1, “Planned Parenthood’s Black Market in Baby Parts,” premiered last month. Episode 2, “Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site,” launches today at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABzFZM73o8M
The series follows the personal narrative of Holly O’Donnell, a former Blood and TIssue Procurement Technician for StemExpress, a start-up biotech company from northern California that partners with Planned Parenthood clinics to purchase their aborted fetus parts and resell them for scientific experimentation. As a procurement tech, O’Donnell’s job was to identify pregnant patients matching the specifications of StemExpress customers and to harvest the fetal body parts from their abortions.
“It’s not an option, it’s a demand,” StemExpress supervisors instructed O’Donnell about approaching pregnant women at Planned Parenthood for fetal tissue “donations.” O’Donnell says the StemExpress techs working in Planned Parenthood clinics sometimes harvested fetal parts without obtaining consent from the patients: “If there was a higher gestation, and the technicians needed it, there were times when they would just take what they wanted. And these mothers don’t know. And there’s no way they would know.”
Federal laws on the procurement and use of human fetal tissue require that patients consent to the tissue donation subsequent to consenting to the abortion procedure (42 U.S.C. 289g-1).
According to O’Donnell, Planned Parenthood gave StemExpress workers access to patient records and schedules so that the harvesting company could plan for the days when patient “supply” would be greatest. “They give you a sheet, and it’s everybody for that day, who’s coming in for an ultrasound, who’s coming in for an abortion, medical or a late-term abortion,” O’Donnell explains. Even patients just seeking a pregnancy test at Planned Parenthood were considered part of the supply: “Pregnancy tests are potential pregnancies, therefore potential specimens. So it’s just taking advantage of the opportunities.”
Project Lead David Daleiden notes, “Experiences like Holly O’Donnell’s show that Planned Parenthood’s abortion and baby parts business is not a safe place where vulnerable women can be cared for, but a harvesting ground for saleable human ‘product.’ Taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood’s barbaric abortion business should be revoked immediately, and law enforcement and other elected officials must act decisively to determine the full extent of Planned Parenthood’s offensive practices and hold them accountable to the law.” (Contributor: Center for Medical Progress)
For Prayer: We agree with David Daleiden (see article) and many concerned national leaders, both religious and non-religious, that this repulsive practice must be stopped. As a non-political prayer ministry, we know that our chief “weapon” is strong intercessory petition before God, who loves both the babies and the misguided, exploited mothers. We urge continued prayers that, despite Planned Parenthood’s strong pushback, such despicable black-marketing will be closed down.
“My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood…. but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.” (Prov 1:15-16, 18-19)
U.S. WARNS STATES AGAINST DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD
The U.S. government has warned states moving to defund women's health group Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law, officials said on Wednesday.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, was in contact with officials in Louisiana and Alabama this month, said a spokesperson for the agency's parent, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The agency warned those two states that their plans to terminate Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood may illegally restrict beneficiary access to services, the spokesperson said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood has been at the center of a national debate since the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress last month began releasing undercover videos showing doctors discussing the sale of fetal body parts.
Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to cover family-planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age. Ending the agreements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries' access to care and services from qualified providers of their choice, according to HHS.
Medicaid is a U.S. government healthcare program for the poor; Medicare is for the aged and disabled.
Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement on Wednesday that moves to eliminate its funding were "political grandstanding."
"It's good to hear that HHS has clarified what we already know: blocking women’s access to care at Planned Parenthood is against the law," she said.
Anti-abortion activists said that a sixth video, released on Wednesday, shows Planned Parenthood doctors sell aborted fetal tissue to researchers without the mother's permission.
As it has for weeks, Planned Parenthood said it has done nothing wrong.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of 17 contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, earlier this month was the first to lead his state to cut funding of Planned Parenthood, following a failed effort to do that in the U.S. Congress.
On Wednesday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said in a radio interview that if he became president, he would use the Justice Department to "criminally prosecute" the group.
Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican race, said on CBS the group should be "defunded immediately."
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, another Republican candidate, said on Tuesday abortions should not be federally funded, but he "would look at the good aspects of" Planned Parenthood.
"I'm sure they do some things properly," he told CNN. "We have to take care of women." (Contributor: By Megan Cassella for Reuters - Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by David Gregorio)
For Prayer: The administration’s (read: White House) obvious “love affair” with Planned Parenthood is exerting political and economic pressure on these courageous governors who dare to say “No” to Planned Parenthood’s voracious appetite for taxpayer dollars. IFA is unapologetically urging all intercessors to pray fervently and diligently that God will close down PP’s “kingdom of death.” Will this solve our country’s spiritual problems? No, but the Church’s unity will be a step toward revival.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa 5:20-21)
ISIS: CHILLING WARNING TO U.S. MILITARY
A representative for a pro-Islamic State hacking group issued a chilling warning to members of the U.S. military and government Wednesday, promising that “very soon” followers of the organization would retaliate for overseas bombing targeting the terror organization.
Speaking to TheBlaze using smartphone messenger application Kik, a representative for the Islamic State Hacking Division said the group is constantly spying on U.S. servicemen. The organization on Tuesday published personal information purporting to belong to U.S. military and government online.
“Just like they spy on muslims, we are spying on them, watching their employees, watching their soldiers, recording their movements and taking their location information and passing it on to the soldiers of the islamic state,” the anonymous male member told TheBlaze.
“they have no security just like their employees and military personnel have no OpSec,” he continued, “they are people who like to brag and boast and this is to our advantage.”
“The brothers don’t need to attack them in military bases or secured buildings,” the hacking group member added. “they can now turn up in their houses. in their homes. this is war, what did you expect? u think u can bomb the islamic state and we don’t do nothing back? soon, very soon you will see.”
When asked exactly what could be expected to be seen “soon,” the member replied, “you will see when US military and government personnel start getting beheaded in their homes.”
The individual said that his group targets government employees as well as military members because “their kufr (disbelief) makes their blood halal.”
The individual would not provide specifics on the Islamic State Hacking Division, declining to say where the group is based or how many members are in its ranks. He did, however, go after Anonymous, the hacking group which recently targeted the Islamic State.
“Anonymous, GhostSec, CtrlSec who are apparently ‘hackers’ against IS, till date they have hacked nothing, they are all talk,” the Islamic State Hacking Division member said. “the only thing they can do is report twitter accounts and ddos websites for 5mins.”
Boasting of the group’s own skill set, the individual claimed his group “probably” could have breached security guarding the private email server of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He, however, declined to get into the group’s specific methodology, saying, “Let the US gov figure that out.”
Two cyber-security experts who spoke to TheBlaze offered differing perspectives on the group’s capabilities.
Department of Defense cyber-mobile and cyber-warefare expert Robert Twitchell said he thought the group could indeed have the capabilities to launch various hacking attacks that could result in information being compromised.
Former intelligence analyst Jason Polancich, however, said his view was that the pro-Islamic State group was mostly bluffing and that often information hactivist groups use is already available online.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said Wednesday afternoon that officials are still investigating the purported hack, but noted that “it appears all of the email addresses for the Army soldiers are old and haven’t been operational for months, if not years.”
Before Tuesday’s alleged hack, the group in March claimed to have posted the information of 100 U.S. military personnel with a call to “kill them in their own lands.”
The representative for the Islamic State Hacking Division group was reached using contact information posted on the same website it used to publish the purported information of U.S. military and government personnel. (Contributor: By Oliver Darcy for The Blaze)
For prayer: The question is not whether these Islamic State threats are real. Instead, we must pray that our government recovers the early American “spirit and soul” to defend its citizens at home and abroad. Our anthem says, “Then conquer we must, if our cause it is just. And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’ ” Pray for a nationwide spiritual restoration that will turn America back to God, to a place where we can invoke divine protection.
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps 20:7)
ISRAEL SAYS IT IS AWARE OF NEW HAMAS TERROR TUNNELS
Military sources confirmed for the first time that the defense establishment has information that Hamas has been digging new terrorist tunnels to replace the ones destroyed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge last summer.
Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that Hamas terrorists have in recent months completed the digging of the tunnels that reach into Israeli territory, and may use them in a future military confrontation with Israel.
According to the report, the IDF holding off on destroying the new tunnels due to the feeling that Hamas is not interested in another round of fighting with Israel.
The report came hours after it was cleared for publication that a Hamas terrorist responsible for terror tunnel digging was arrested via a joint operation of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Israel Police in early July.
During interrogation, 21 year-old Rafah native Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer revealed a considerable amount of information to the ISA about Hamas's activities in Rafah, particularly about its terror tunnel network. Among the exposés: that Hamas is digging a tunnel from Rafah toward the Kerem Shalom crossing into Israel.
He also revealed the location of the excavation centers, tunnels, and shafts, and gave information about the people digging them. He also said that the new road that was paved by Hamas near Gaza border is to be used in order to stage a surprise attack against Israel, in which vehicles will race toward the border with Israel.
As part of his activities in Hamas, Shaer personally underwent a variety of training programs for combat, command, using advanced weapons and explosives.
The IDF a few months ago promised to investigate Hamas reconstruction of attack tunnels, after months of reports showing how the terrorist organization has been siphoning from the massive influx of construction materials to rebuild the tunnels leading in to Israel.
Reportedly over 1,000 diggers as well as heavy machinery are being employed by Hamas to construct the tunnels; the Israeli security estimation is that the tunnels lead up to Israeli territory, and Hamas will extend them beyond when it feels the time is right to strike. (Contributor: Arutz Sheva International News)
For prayer: We hold tenaciously to the premise that Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas or other would-be destroyers, from within and without. These tunnels serve no useful purpose and, if a threat to Israel’s security and even its survival, they should be destroyed. Please pray for Israel.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.” (Ps 122:6-9)
FACIAL RECOGNITION SOFTWARE MOVES TO LOCAL POLICE
Facial recognition software, which American military and intelligence agencies used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify potential terrorists, is being eagerly adopted by dozens of police departments around the country to pursue drug dealers, prostitutes and other conventional criminal suspects. But because it is being used with few guidelines and with little oversight or public disclosure, it is raising questions of privacy and concerns about potential misuse.
Law enforcement officers say the technology is much faster than fingerprinting at identifying suspects, although it is unclear how much it is helping the police make arrests.
When Aaron Harvey was stopped by the police here in 2013 while driving near his grandmother’s house, an officer not only searched his car, he said, but also took his photograph and ran it through the software to try to confirm his identity and determine whether he had a criminal record.
Eric Hanson, a retired firefighter, had a similar experience last summer. Stopped by the police after a dispute with a man he said was a prowler, he was ordered to sit on a curb, he said, while officers took his photo with an iPad and ran it through the same facial recognition software. The officers also used a cotton swab to collect a DNA sample from the inside of his cheek.
Neither man was arrested. Neither had consented to being photographed. Both said officers had told them that they were using facial recognition technology.
“I was thinking, ‘Why are you taking pictures of me, doing this to me?’ ” said Mr. Hanson, 58, who has no criminal record. “I felt like my identity was being stolen. I’m a straight-up, no lie, cheat or steal guy, and I get treated like a criminal.”
Lt. Scott Wahl, a spokesman for the 1,900-member San Diego Police Department, said the department does not require police officers to file a report when they use the facial recognition technology but do not make an arrest. The department has no record of the stops involving Mr. Hanson and Mr. Harvey, and Lieutenant Wahl said that he did not know about the incidents but that they could have happened.
“It is a test product for the region that we’ve allowed officers to use,” he said of facial recognition software and the hand-held devices the police use to take pictures. “We don’t even know how many are out there” in the region.
He said that until June 19, his department did not have a written policy regulating facial recognition software and only recently began training officers on its lawful use. Before then, he said, there were interim regional guidelines and training available.
County documents show that over 33 days in January and February, 26 San Diego law enforcement agencies used the software to try to identify people on more than 20,600 occasions — although officers found a match to criminal records only about 25 percent of the time.
Lieutenant Wahl said the department was not aware of any complaints about the software or about the policy of collecting DNA samples that Mr. Hanson and others have described.
The department uses the technology judiciously, Lieutenant Wahl said. “We don’t just drive around taking people’s picture and start swabbing them,” he said.
Others say misuse is common.
“I get a call about facial recognition maybe twice a month,” said Victor Manuel Torres, a San Diego civil rights lawyer. “The complaint is always that they did it and didn’t get permission. ‘The police put me in cuffs and I’m on the curb, and they pull out an iPad and are taking pictures.’ ”
The Police Department, which the Justice Department recently determined to have a history of serious misconduct, has also been found to disproportionately stop and search African-Americans. But there is no similar racial breakdown for facial recognition checks, in part because the department does not keep the data.
“It is not as if there is the identification of a specific crime problem; they are simply collecting a lot of information that could impact a lot of completely innocent people,” said Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former F.B.I. agent. “There is very little oversight on the local level, and little concern from the federal agencies providing the grants.”
Facial recognition technology was first developed in the 1960s, but only recently became accurate enough for widespread use. It is among an array of technologies, including StingRay tracking devices and surveillance aircraft with specialized cameras, that were used in overseas wars but have found their way into local law enforcement.
The software can identify 16,000 points on a person’s face — to determine the distance between the eyes or the shape of the lips, for instance — and compare them with thousands of similar points in police booking or other photos at a rate of more than one million faces a second.
The technology is so new that experts say they are unaware of major legal challenges. In some cities, though, a backlash is stirring.
In Northern California, the Oakland City Council, under pressure from residents and civil liberties advocates, scaled back plans this year for a federally financed center that would have linked surveillance equipment around the city, including closed-circuit cameras, gunshot microphones and license plate readers. It also formed a committee to limit the use of this equipment and to develop privacy standards, like how long data may be kept and who will have access to it.
The authorities in Boston tested facial recognition technology but decided in 2013 not to adopt it, saying it crossed an ethical line. The software had been linked to surveillance cameras to secretly scan the faces of thousands of people at outdoor concerts in the city center. The images had then been fed into software capable of analyzing them.
“I don’t want people to think we’re always spying on them,” said William B. Evans, Boston’s police commissioner.
Yet the F.B.I. is pushing ahead with its $1 billion Next Generation Identification program, in which the agency will gather data like fingerprints, iris scans and photographs, as well as information collected through facial recognition software. That software is capable of analyzing driver’s license photos and images from the tens of thousands of surveillance cameras around the country. The F.B.I. system will eventually be made accessible to more than 18,000 local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies.
But people who are not criminal suspects are included in the database, and the error rate for the software is as high as 20 percent — meaning the authorities could misidentify millions of people.
Among the cities that use facial recognition technology are New York and Chicago, which has linked it to 25,000 surveillance cameras in an effort to fight street crime.
In many ways, though, San Diego County is at the forefront.
Here, beat cops, detectives and even school police officers have been using hand-held devices to create a vast database of tens of thousands of photos of people like Mr. Harvey and Mr. Hanson — some suspected of committing crimes, others not — usually without the person’s consent.
Not everyone is opposed to such programs. Last year, Tom Northcutt, a San Diego property manager, took an iPhone photo of a man moments before the man struck him in the arm with a two-by-four and fled. Mr. Northcutt, who did not know the aggressor, immediately sent the image to the police by email.
Less than 10 minutes later, a detective matched the man to a booking photograph of a suspect, who was arrested and later convicted of assault.
“It felt good knowing that they could do that,” Mr. Northcutt said.
Mr. Harvey, 27, remains upset about what happened to him. He said that when he refused to consent to having his picture taken, the officer boasted that he could do so anyway.
“He said, ‘We’re going to do this either legally or illegally,’ and pulled me out of the car,” Mr. Harvey said.
Mr. Harvey, who is African-American, said the San Diego Police had stopped him as a suspected gang member more than 50 times because his neighborhood, Lincoln Park, is among the city’s most violent.
He said he had been told he was in a gang database, even though he has never been a gang member. He recently spent nearly a year in jail on gang conspiracy charges that were dismissed in March. “I don’t know how good a gang member I could have been, not having a criminal record,” he said.
Mr. Hanson, who is white and lives in the city’s upscale Ocean Beach neighborhood, said his treatment by officers had been as intrusive as it was frightening.
“I’m not a lawyer,” he said, “but they didn’t appear to be following the law.” (Contributor: By Timothy Williams for The New York Times)
For prayer: Here is another case of an electronic tool that, like any other, can be used for people’s benefit or can be misused (or used prematurely) to bring confusion through false identification. Pray that human wisdom and knowledge will be applied with restraint, compassion, and proper motives. We come back again to our country’s need for sweeping revival and recognition of how deeply we, as a nation, need a return to God’s wisdom and His ways.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:6-9)
WHERE IS GOD IN EUROPEAN LIFE?
Viewers of the Republican presidential debate on Thursday August 6 might have been surprised by the question put to the candidates about whether God has spoken to them. This would be especially true of Europeans, who must have been asking themselves whether all Americans are nuts.
I lived in Europe for 11 years. I know how curious the American obsession with religion appears to a continent where God is largely dead.
Yet, American religion is central to American exceptionalism and presents an interesting contrast to Europe.
Days before the Millennium I became the first rabbi to win the London Times Preacher of the Year competition. (The Jerusalem Post reported at the time that I had received more points that anyone in the competition’s history.) While I was grateful to win in some sense it was a hollow victory. The competition, mostly from Church of England pastors, was not vigorous. Their academic, methodical and largely passionless delivery was not one to win over judges or the assembled audience.
Passion is the ultimate human magnet.
While people are reconciled to a life lived largely in the valleys, they thrill to those who can take them to the mountaintop, which explains why religion, with its lofty vision of a world of infinite possibility, has always excited the deepest artistic impulses of man.
This has been especially true in America, a country that believes in a “manifest destiny” and a nation which continues to invoke God’s blessing at every turn.
But this is not necessarily true of Britain and Europe, which have become increasingly godless. As rabbi in residence at Oxford for 11 years, I decided, in the early 1990s, to revive the celebrated Wilberforce-Huxley science- religion debate of 1860. Richard Dawkins was a star, as was Peter Atkins. Neither of these men had yet to become the militant atheists they would later be famous as. The engaging debates, which became an annual event drawing hundreds of Oxford students, even saw the religious side prevail at times, something largely unthinkable in today’s Britain where faith has become an empty ceremony of dead ritual.
Religion in Europe has only itself to blame for its decline, with a highly centralized religious structure crushing the creativity of individual pastors and the high formality of official European churches coming across as bland and humorless.
Europeans are in the habit of making fun of American evangelicals as backward religious knuckle-draggers who believe that Adam and Eve literally hung out with a talking snake.
But for all the condescension, evangelical Christianity in the US still represents the single largest voting bloc in the world’s sole superpower and one out of five Americans describes themselves as a born-again Christian, something inconceivable in Britain where weekly Church of England attendance hovers somewhere about two percent. Evangelicals build mega-churches that draw thousands of worshipers weekly and top evangelical pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen enjoy vast cultural influence.
There is good reason. In the United States there is no official state church. There is no Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no Chief Rabbi. There is no queen as the official Defender of the Faith. Religion lives and dies like a commercial enterprise and is highly entrepreneurial. It pastors either excite their congregants with a message that is inspiring and relevant that will fill the pews or they will be passed over in favor of a different church. And if they send their congregants into a coma with stultifying boredom, their congregation will be lost because they will never awake.
Some might argue that the demise of religion in Europe is a good thing. It proves British sophistication, in sharp contrast to the religious hobos of American who talk in tongues. I beg to differ. In his magisterial work, A History of the American People, British historian Paul Johnson makes the case that the remarkable growth of the American people from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth was largely fueled by America’s religious fervor. From the piety of the pilgrims to the faith-based values of the Founding Fathers to the American belief in a divine destiny to even the marketing of Coca-Cola as “the real thing,” Americans tamed the wilderness in the belief that their nation comprised a new promised land, destined to illuminate the earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.
Europeans can claim that these are hollow statements of an arrogant superpower which thinks it can impose its will in Afghanistan and Iraq. But none can argue that this faith-fueled belief in itself has propelled America to its place as the most influential nation on earth.
European influence, in sharp contrast, has seriously declined. And while there are many factors involved, I would argue that the loss of national purpose bespeaks a dispiriting cynicism. It is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accident. While it has some brief, flashy moments, life does not necessarily have a grand design or purpose. There is no soul to illuminate, enrich and enliven. Existence slowly succumbs to the laws of entropy, decrepitude and death the only reality. This is especially true of the militant atheism stemming these days from Britain. Human love is a trick played on us by our genes ensuring the propagation of the species, and poetry and faith are shallow distractions masking the inevitability of our demise.
Men are insemination machines incapable of ever being truly faithful or loyal, and women are genetically programmed to seek out men with fancy cars and money, so much the better to support their offspring.
This inescapable pessimism of the decline of faith may account for why Britain, once the most intellectually advanced nation on earth, that gave the world parliamentary democracy and its most celebrated centers of learning, is today declining as a world leader of ideas.
Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and outlawed it completely three decades before the United States, doing so without half a million of its citizens dying in a civil war, and it was largely Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce who were responsible for ending the abomination. But what is it that Britain exports today? America has many of social ills and serious partisan challenges. America also suffers from a religious obsession with issues like abortion and gay marriage even as the divorce rate hits 50% percent and out-of-control materialism suffocates the souls of its citizenry. But for all that, the spiritual underpinnings of the American republic ensure that values are constantly debated in the public arena and soul-searching is a never-ending element of the American public discourse.
It was in Britain that six of my nine children were born and, having arrived at the tender age of 22 it was in Britain where I learned to be a man. I owe the country much and serving as rabbi to the inquisitive minds of Oxford students was one of the greatest honors of my life, capped off just as I returned to the United States with the Preacher of the Year title. And it is for this reason that I hunger for a return to the robust British spiritual life that once served as the very foundation of British idealism and influence. (Contributor: By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for The Jerusalem Post - The author, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network.
Prayer focus: Occasionally in this midweek prayer Alert, we run an “FYI” article that readers across the U.S. may not see via their local news outlets but which might show trends to assist with overall intercession for our own country. Here is an analysis by a Jewish rabbi who has spent many years in England and is now watching the Republican presidential nomination debates in the U.S. His conclusions are his own, though they may reflect to intercessors some of our country’s needs.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” (Ps 33:12)
AIRBORNE DROPS TO NORTH KOREA WORTH THE RISK
The sky continues to be the limit for a Christian missionary organization that is committed to delivering gospel tracts and scriptures to restricted countries such as North Korea.
For years now, The Voice of the Martyrs has been using balloon drops to get the good news to people in North Korea. Political groups also use aerial drops to distribute anti-North Korea literature. Spokesman Todd Nettleton tells OneNewsNow that communist leaders object to the drops, but Voice of the Martrys is committed to the airborne delivery system.
"All of the balloon drops that are used make the North Korean government very upset,” he explains. “So anytime they have contact with the South Korean government, that's one of the issues they immediately want to put on the table, [arguing] Hey, you've got to put a stop to all these people launching balloons.
"But thankfully our Christian brothers and sisters in South Korea are very bold and they continue to do that even though there are some risks.”
More recently, they have been able to use a computer app to track where the balloons land.
North-South Korea border area"It's pretty exciting work, its kind of high tech, and sort of a secret agency - I guess that would be a word you could use,” he says. “But we know these balloons are reaching North Koreans, we know they are reaching them with the gospel message, and so that's a very exciting thing."
Nettleton acknowledges that North Korea presents challenges in spreading the gospel, but he adds that the Voice of the Martyrs continues to find creative ways to deliver the message. (Contributor: By Bill Bumpass for One News Now)
For Prayer: This is an important article for intercessors, illuminating what few in the West know about evangelizing North Korea, which has been dubbed the most closed and secretive nation on the Earth. Please pray for the careful and mostly hidden work of Voice of the Martyrs and the brave South Koreans who work diligently and in many ways to send the Gospel to this tightly closed country. Pray for the power of God’s Word to open many hearts to God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ.
“[And] to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Cor 9:22-23)
ADULT STEM CELLS VS. ABORTED BABY PARTS
petri dish stem cell research"Organs like the liver and the heart are being grown using adult stem cells, which are ethical," Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, tells OneNewsNow.
But other experiments are being done with rats by transplanting aborted baby organs in them to grow new organs, with the intention of one day growing organs for human transplant.
The adult stem cells, meanwhile, can easily be obtained from living people from skin, fat or other tissue.
"They can be donated by the living person for research," Tobias points out. "So the same results can be obtained and you do not have to kill an unborn child or use the remains of that unborn child in their research."
She points out that the money for the research comes from tax dollars earmarked by the federal government. (Contributor: Charlie Butts for One News Now)
For Prayer: Give thanks for Carol Tobias and the National Right to Life Committee, who do careful research and follow-up in honorable efforts to stem the abortion “industry” in which Planned Parenthood specializes. She points out in the article that the clandestine and often illegal black-market selling of aborted baby organs and tissue is unnecessary, contrary to Planned Parenthood’s assertions that such fetal tissue is “essential” to research. PP’s claims are spurious.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34)