Police Are Calculating Your ‘Threat Score’ To Decide How To Treat You

I watched a documentary about North Korea which explained how the government there assigns a score to each citizen, based on how large a threat to the regime s/he is perceived to be. When I lived in Taiwan under a military government years ago, such a number was encoded into every national ID card. Those citizens every interaction with the government and police force was shadowed by those scores.

Same as in 21st century post-Constitutional America.

Even as our nation learned more about how our daily lives are cataloged by the National Security Agency, a new generation of technology is being used by local law enforcement that offers them unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. Ominously, software that is part of such systems, assigns each citizen monitored a Threat Score, allegedly to alert cops enroute to a crime scene of what to expect of the once-innocent-until-proven-guilty citizen they will encounter.

One such product is a software suite called Beware. On their website, the maker claims:

There are no such things as routine calls… Accessed through any browser (fixed or mobile) on any Internet-enabled device including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, Beware® from Intrado searches, sorts and scores billions of publically-available commercial records in a matter of seconds – alerting responders to potentially dangerous situations while en route to, or at the location of, a 911 request for assistance.

Intrado Beware® is a tool to help first responders understand the nature of the environment they may encounter during the window of a 911 event.

Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, though no such uncovering has ever happened.

Programs such as Beware scour billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and social media postings. One example is how authorities in Oregon are facing a civil rights investigation after using social media-monitoring software to keep tabs on persons using #BlackLivesMatter hashtags.

Does anyone expect that a police response to a citizen labeled at a “low threat” level will be as preloaded for disaster as one for a “high threat” person? What if that police response is based primarily on the free speech protected use of a hash tag?

I wonder if my score will change after this article. Or yours, for reading it.

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent.

Record High in U.S. Say Big Government Greatest Threat

Now 72% say it is greater threat than big business or big labor

PRINCETON, NJ — Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question. The prior high for big government was 65% in 1999 and 2000. Big government has always topped big business and big labor, including in the initial asking in 1965, but just 35% named it at that time.

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The latest update comes from a Dec. 5-8 poll. Gallup has documented a steady increase in concern about big government since 2009, rising from 55% in March 2009 to 64% in November 2011 and 72% today. This suggests that government policies specific to the period, such as the Affordable Care Act — perhaps coupled with recent revelations of government spying tactics by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — may be factors.

Currently, 21% name big business as the greatest threat, while 5%, a record low, say big labor. The high point for big labor was 29% in 1965. No more than 11% of Americans have chosen big labor since 1995, clearly reflecting the decline of the labor movement in the United States in recent decades.

The historical high choosing big business, 38%, came in 2002, after a series of corporate scandals rocked major corporations including Enron and Tyco. Also at that time, Americans may have been less willing to choose government given the rally in support for government institutions and officials after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Americans were also more likely to view big business as a big threat during the recent recession, with more than three in 10 choosing it in 2008 and 2009, a time when many large corporations, including financial and automotive companies, failed or were in danger of failing without government intervention. But fewer Americans now view big business as a threat — the current 21% is the lowest Gallup has measured since 1983.

Republicans Especially Likely to See Big Government as Threat

Even though Americans have always viewed big government as the greatest threat, the degree to which they do so has varied. In recent decades, since the start of the Clinton administration, perceptions of big government as a threat have varied depending on the party of the president. Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, an average of 64% of Americans have named big government as the greatest threat. That is up from an average 56% during George W. Bush’s administration from 2001-2008, but similar to the 65% average from 1993-2000 during the Clinton administration.

This pattern is largely driven by Republicans, who generally are more likely to be concerned about the size and power of government, and this concern is amplified when a Democrat is president. Democrats are more likely to see government as a threat when a Republican is in office; however, they tend to see government as less threatening than Republicans do, and their concern about big government topped out at 62% in 2005 under Bush.

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During the Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan administrations, party differences were much more modest than they are today.

Each party group currently rates big government as the greatest threat to the country, including a record-high 92% of Republicans and 71% of independents, as well as 56% of Democrats. Democrats are most likely of the partisan groups to name big business as the biggest threat, at 36%; relatively few Republicans, 4%, view big business as the most threatening.

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Implications

Americans have consistently viewed big government as a greater threat to the United States than either big business or big labor, but never more than they do now. That may be partly a reaction to an administration that favors the use of government to solve problems. Also, the revelation of widespread government monitoring of U.S. Internet activity may be a factor in raising Americans’ concern about the government. The threat of big business may seem diminished now, during a relatively calm period for big business, with rising stock values and relatively few major corporate scandals such as occurred in the early 2000s. Also, the labor movement is far less influential in U.S. policy today than in the past, including in 1965, when Gallup first asked the question.

In the future, Americans likely will continue to view big government as the greatest threat of the three, partly because of Republicans’ reluctance to rely on government to solve problems, and because Democrats and independents are also inclined to view big government as a greater threat than big business or big labor. But the percentage of Americans viewing big government as the greatest threat will also likely to continue to vary, in response to current conditions in the political and business environments.

by Jeffrey M. Jones

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