Department of Justice files lawsuits in NJ, Washington over sanctuary laws: “Time to support law enforcement.”


WASHINGTON D.C.- Attorney General William Barr has launched a war of sorts… in a battle for America.

The first two of hopefully many more to come, these suits fire back at state and local government entities harboring undocumented immigrants and putting the original habitants of the communities in danger.

According to Steve Warren with CBN News, the US Justice Department turned up the legal pressure Monday on two local governments over “sanctuary” policies that interfere with federal immigration officers performing their duties.

The department announced it is suing the state of New Jersey and King County, Washington, over their policies of protecting people living in the US illegally.

The New Jersey lawsuit claims the policies break federal laws by keeping state and local officers from sharing information about inmates that may be in the US illegally.

King County, WA, is being sued for not allowing the Department of Homeland Security to use the King County International Airport-Boeing Field for deportation flights.

“Today is a significant escalation in the federal government’s effort to confront the resistance of sanctuary cities,” Attorney General William Barr told an audience of officers at the National Sheriffs’ Association to roaring applause.

Other cities like New York, have passed ordinances which ban sharing of information with immigration officials. Last month, immigration officials sent subpoenas to Denver and New York City in order to get information on immigrants who are about to be released from jail.

The attorney general said the Justice Department would be “robustly supporting” Homeland Security to use “all lawful means,” including federal subpoenas, to obtain information about suspects they are seeking to deport.

“These policies are textbook examples of misguided ideology triumphing over commonsense law enforcement, and it is the public and the police who pay the price,” Barr said.

The battle between sanctuary cities and the federal government has escalated in the last couple of years. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions notified 29 cities, metro areas, counties and states that their “sanctuary policies” might be in violation of federal law and threatened to withhold law enforcement grants. 

Thirteen states have passed legislation which allows immigrants to get driver’s licenses without proving their legal status. Some even limit sharing immigrants’ information with government officials.

Speaking to the nation’s governors on Monday, President Trump said it was essential for all municipalities and state governments to comply with immigration enforcement requests.

“Jurisdictions that adopt sanctuary policies and instead release these criminals put all of Americans in harm’s way,” Trump said.

“I know we have different policies, different feelings, different everything. But sanctuary cities are causing us a tremendous problem in this country. We have stone-cold killers that they don’t want to hand over to us and then they escape into communities and they cause, in some cases, tremendous havoc.”

Gurbir Grewal, the state attorney general for New Jersey, said the Trump administration “is sacrificing public safety for political expedience” and that it is sad the Justice Department had “agreed to go along with this election-year stunt.”

Ironic statement, considering the proven fact that groups of undocumented immigrants are often infiltrated by terrorists and criminals.

Meanwhile, Joe Kelly, the US Attorney for the district of Nebraska, held a news conference to highlight the benefits of local and state law enforcement agencies cooperating with the federal government to enforce immigration laws. Kelly said public safety can be jeopardized if local officials refuse to cooperate.

“Each year, many Americans fall victim to crimes committed by illegal aliens because certain officials choose to prioritize their own ideologies over their sworn obligation to uphold the law,” Kelly said. “We don’t have any of those problems here in the state of Nebraska.”

In the meantime, at the end of January, the New Jersey Attorney General blocked police from using facial recognition technology to stop crime.

On the same date that U.S. Attorney General William Barr filed a brief that supported two New Jersey counties in their lawsuit against him over the state’s Immigrant Trust Directive, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal may have further tied the hands of law enforcement officers.

Late last month, he ordered all New Jersey police agencies to cease using facial recognition technology that pulls photos from social media. The order was issued to all county prosecutors concerning the technology from a company called Clearview AI.

“Like many people, I was troubled,” Grewal said about the company’s technology, first reported in the New York Times.

The Times also notes that the company’s database contains more than three billion images that the company has “scraped” from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and a number of other websites. According to law enforcement officials, the technology has been used to solve shoplifting, identify theft, credit card fraud, and murder.

Clearview says that its technology is an effective way to take down dangerous people. The company receives partial credit for a recent takedown of 19 men in New Jersey who officials said tried to lure children for sex.

The company’s main promotional video in fact features the attorney general and two New Jersey state troopers at an October press conference about that operation.

Grewal’s office sent Clearview a cease and desist letter to stop using that footage in its video, after Grewal said it was “irresponsible” for the company to reveal investigative techniques.

An attorney for Clearview responded and said in an email that the company had removed the video from its website and within a day it had been removed from Clearview’s website.

The use of facial recognition technology in New Jersey is nothing new. The Motor Vehicle Commission started using a version of the technology nearly ten years ago to hunt for fraud. A state report credited the technology with hundreds of arrests.

The difference between the technology used by the Motor Vehicle Commission is that particular program involved the use of a government database, while Clearview uses the so-called “open web” according to the company.

In other words, they use photos pulled from social media accounts. According to internal documents from Clearview, that amounts to millions of faces every day.

It is not known how many police officers in the state have utilized the database. According to Clifton Lt. Robert Bracken, that department has used the free trial version of the technology but had not purchased it.

“It’s like any tool, it’s used to develop leads,” he said. “But those leads have to be vetted.”

New Jersey state police use a different version of the technology, while the Newark PD has never used any type of facial recognition technology, according to a spokesperson.

Clearview did not respond when asked how many other agencies have tried the technology or how they secure the data they retrieve.

Grewal has asked county prosecutors to determine what agencies have used Clearview.

The use of facial recognition technology, especially from open sources such as Facebook, Twitter and so on raise the question about right to privacy. Since these platforms are public access forums, one would think that by posting private information, including pictures on them people would lose any claims of “right to privacy.”

As Lt. Bracken said, use of facial recognition is a tool that police can use in conducting investigations. It is one of many tools in the toolbox for officers to use. As he said, the information gathered needs to be vetted through additional investigatory practices.

In the investigation resulting in 19 arrests for the child sex ring, Grewal said that prosecutors in Bergen County used a subscription to the service during that particular investigation. Suspects would send pictures to undercover officers posing as children online.

The photos were then run through Clearview’s database, where the men were identified, and records were checked to see if the men had criminal records or owned guns.

While Grewal said he is not “categorically opposed” to the technology in general, he wants more information as to how Clearview obtains and protects its data.

One social media company in particular is not happy with Clearview. Twitter sent them a cease-and-desist order, demanding that Clearview “delete all data” and “return or destroy and Twitter material” shared with outsiders, according to a spokesperson.

Facebook and LinkedIn also prohibit “scraping” of information from their platforms. Spokespeople for both companies say that they are reviewing Clearview’s actions for possible violations.

Other tech companies have long resisted releasing such technology. Going back to 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.”

The New York Times in analyzing the computer code used by Clearview includes programming language that could pair with augmented reality glasses, which would allow users to potentially be able to identify every person they saw.

The issue comes in because while the technology could be used for good purposes, it has the ability to be abused. For example, the augmented reality capability in the programming would allow identification of people, including not just their names but where they live, what they did and whom they knew.

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“The weaponization possibilities of this are endless,” Eric Goldman, co-director of the High-Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University told the Times.

“Imagine a rogue law enforcement officer who wants to stalk potential romantic partners, or a foreign government using this to dig up secrets about people to blackmail them or throw them in jail.”

Paranoid? Perhaps. But still, one can imagine that such a powerful tool is rife for abuse without some types of control.

As for people who find their photos on the site, people can ask Clearview to remove their photo(s) from the platform, however the company says that people requesting this must hold the copyright to the photo. In general the only person who holds a copyright to a photo is the one who actually takes it.

Of course, the ACLU has a problem with this whole thing. Sarah Fajardo, policy director for the group in New Jersey said that the tool can lead to “constant, warrantless searches,” specifically due to the lack of regulation of the technology.

This seems like a great tool for law enforcement agencies as long as controls are put in place to protect Fourth Amendment concerns. Along with other investigative tools, this can be used to put the bad guys where they belong, in jail.

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