By Dan Gifford
It's a scenario the late Rod Serling could have written.
Imagine, if you will, a world so thick with laws that ordinary
people routinely break statutes they do not know exist as the book
"Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent" attests.
Imagine further, a world in which your every utterance is recorded sans
a warrant, analyzed for indications you have either broken or plan to
break some law and that that information is then used to arrest or
coerce you into becoming an informer against your closest friends in
exchange for prosecution immunity.
Imagine still further, a world in which ideologically driven police
officials, district attorneys and attorney generals eschew their
respective powers of enforcement and prosecutorial discretion for the
sake of their political fetishes. In that world, "good cop" officers are
turned into tools of the state against honest citizens when sent to
serve warrants that are too often obtained by partial truths or outright
lies to a judge.
Kahn and Wiener
That world was conjecture when I interviewed Hudson Institute futurists
Herman Kahn and Anthony Wiener and (the main model for the fictional Dr.
Strangelove) in 1968. They imagined and predicted the electronic
surveillance world just described in their 400 page book, "The Year
2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty Years," as a good
thing that would allow authorities to discover the malcontents who were
"putting sand in the gears of society."
Well, imagination is no longer necessary. That world is here in the form
of TVs, cell phones, appliances and locations with eyes and ears like
bus stops, lamp posts, parking lots or one's own car. That's not
paranoia. "The walls have ears" is no longer simply an idiom, notes
Applied Materials marketing chief Mike Rosa, it is often literally true.
* The FBI has trolled public and private spaces with planted listening bugs for years sans a judge's approval in hopes of overhearing something illegal. Agents did, however, get a thumbs up from the San Mateo, California
sheriff in one exposed case.
* Reuters found the National Security Administration (NSA) and a secret
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration branch have been collecting
information outside of their jurisdictions from “intelligence
intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone
records” and then illegally handing that data to local police to "help
them launch criminal investigations of Americans." Those local
authorities must then lie to judges about the true source of their
illegally gotten probable cause information to obtain search warrants.
* Shopping Centers in California owned by the Irvine Company, among
others, are spying on customers for an Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) contractor. The company uses automated license plate
readers (ALPRs) from Vigilant Solutions. The information, including the
plate number, time and GPS location, is sent in real time to ICE where
computers cross reference it in police data bases. When a plate of
interest is spotted, ICE either acts on the information or shares
it with other federal and local police who must then lie to a judge
about the true source of their probable cause information for arrests
* "Are smart phones listening and targeting us with ads?" asks a CBS
story. The answer is yes. Way too many people report receiving online
ads for things they mentioned in private conversation but never searched
for online. "They [search engines and sites] know a tremendous amount
about you and that enables them to make guesses about what to advertise
to you that can be uncannily accurate," says former Facebook operations
manager Sandy Parakilas.
The "guess" part of what Parakilas said is thin baloney. They're listening. And "they" can even include sex toys as the maker of the internet connected We-Vibe 4 Plus admitted.
It sends intimate information back to designers for “market research.”
But the problem isn't that what one says or where one travels or who one
associates with or what TV shows are watched, etc is used to make
logical deductions to target advertising. It is that one's words and
activity can be used to make deductions about possible law breakage. And
there's where the Big Brother horror really gets dicey. That sort of
information is known to have been given to police agencies with flags
about possible crimes that people have committed or are planning to
commit inferred from what one said or did or implied from their profile.
As I write this, the Boston Globe reports it has found Transportation
Safety Administration (TSA) Air Marshals have been ordered to profile
and monitor all passengers for signs they may be terrorists. What signs
those are isn't known but they could conceivably apply to most anyone.
That has shocked those same people at the Globe and places like the
Southern Poverty Law Center who cheered the 1990s FBI profiling of
"militia members" that could have applied to most anyone.
"The militia" was the national narrative bogeyman then and the FBI said
its typical member drove a certain type of vehicle, dressed in certain
ways and was a middle aged white male. Today, the FBI has profiles for
others in sovereign citizen groups and anti abortion groups in play with
the suffix "extremist" often added to spike complaints about civil
rights violations. After all, can extremism in the pursuit of extremists
It's a Kafkaesque convolution of justice that can snare anyone. But no
one is more at risk today of being trapped in California than the
firearm owner who is faced with a bureaucratic jungle of laws that are
all but impossible to understand let alone comply with. Worse, some of
those who have tried to comply have been raided by rank and file
officers who probably know it's a misuse of their time.
Those raids are made on the order of upper echelon police officials and
district attorneys who are more than willing to ruin the life of good
citizens with perp walks, as columnist David Codrea noted, for their own
political gain and ideology furtherance by enforcing the literal letter
of specious political agenda laws against a constitutional Right.
That's what happened to prominent Bakersfield farm owner Jeffrey Scott
Kirschenmann, according to the Bakersfield Californian and KGET-TV News.
He found himself raided and arrested by Kern County sheriff deputies
after trying to register a gun, as the law required, on the egregiously
malfunctioning California Department of Justice web site. According to
court documents, the weapon was “illegally modified,” and served as
grounds for the Department of Justice to raid Kirschenmann’s home and
charge him with 12 felonies. It's not immediately clear what the illegal
modification was, but the rifle Kirschenmann tried to register and
others he owned were presumably not in compliance with the recent bans.
Retired Kern County Sheriff Commander Joe Pilkington, the department's
court recognized firearms expert, could not speak directly to
Kirschenmann's case but he does understand the problem Sacramento
lawmakers have heinously created: "The laws are changing so frequently,
it's often hard to keep up with the latest regulations"
Pilkington is a master of understatement.
In the meantime, both the California Department of Justice and Kern
County District Attorney Lisa Green have assured Bakersfied residents
they are now able to sleep as peacefully with Kirschenmann and his
rifles off the farm and in jail as they did during the 1980s when
Green's predecessor, Edward R. Jagels, seemed to be insanely prosecuting
half of Bakersfield for consorting with the devil in satanic child abuse
rings. All Jagel's convictions were overturned.
Pilkington did express sympathy for Kirschenmann's plight: "Making an effort, a good faith effort to comply with these really complicated laws, should count for something."
Not in Kalifornia.
That's because one of the goals of those and other picayune firearm
laws, as I have heard numerous times from fellow ACLU board members,
political activists and police officials at meetings and over adult
beverages is to decrease gun ownership by increasing the number of
felons who then cannot legally own a gun or vote. It is part of the
political Left's vaunted "long march through the institutions" that is
disguised as an earnest public safety measure.
Knowing that, the Ventura County Crime Stopper program titled “Break the
Silence! Stop Gun Violence!” looks a bit different. It's a tip reward
program that asks people to anonymously report the felonious possession
of firearms. Signs like this one offer $1,000 for useful anonymous
information in a state where "felonious possession" can mean almost
anything or anyone.
Ventura snitch encouragement sign
Who among your friends or acquaintances may need $1,000 and knows or
thinks he knows, based on what you have said, what is stashed in your
closet or safe? Who do you know who may want revenge for some imagined
slight or because he thinks you're eyeing his wife? Who among those you
associate with at ranges or NRA meetings or gun shows is a snitch or
undercover police officer? The ranges, gun stores, gun shows and Second
Amendment organization meetings are infiltrated as I can personally
attest from the "honey trap" tried on me after my attendance at NRA
meetings in Sacramento and Culver City during the early 1990s.
The infiltrator was a good looking, non practicing Los Angeles attorney
with an office in a law firm I found acted as a federal police front. In
the course of much flattery and offers of sex, she insisted I should
have my home office swept for listening devices because of my
investigative reporting activity and introduced me to Los Angeles Police
Department Lieutenant Gary Rogers, a man with dual local and federal
authority who would make certain my office was "clean."
Almost thirty years later, "clean" or "bug free" is almost impossible to
achieve, or so it appears. We’re now in a world where everything
with a plug or battery can listen or watch and report what we say or do.
In a room with an iPhone, an Apple Watch and a smart assistant like
Amazon Echo or Google Home, tech reviewer CNET notes we are surrounded
by a dozen microphones. If smart wireless headphones or talking
microwave ovens or TVs are present, they can also be listening and
Are you comfortable with that?
Dan Gifford is a national Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated film producer
and former reporter for CNN, The MacNeil Lehrer News Hour and ABC News.