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Northwest Suburban Police Chiefs: Happy Anniversary, Secrecy Is Repugnant

Fri June 06 2014 7:14 am
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Yesterday, Tuesday June 5, 2014, was the anniversary of the day that police departments in the northwest suburbs turned on their secret switch. Police radios were activated with military grade encrypted radios designed to make it impossible for ordinary citizens and the media to monitor police radio communications and to understand the state of their communities.

June 5, 2013 was the day that police chiefs in the northwest suburbs acted like harmful infectious viruses that injected code to destroy the free and open society of the super-organism that we call a community or village or city. It’s not that they intended to be harmful. The police chiefs anticipate that open communication of their radio system might be misused — not only by the media — but by any number of Internet users using smartphone scanner apps or police scanners and Facebook and Twitter to disseminate information that could harm security. They might remember the words of John F. Kennedy, and are likely skeptical that every citizen, blogger, or newspaper can be counted on to act according to Kennedy’s suggestion in his speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961 …

“Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: “Is it news?” All I suggest is that you add the question: “Is it in the interest of the national security?” And I hope that every group in America — unions and businessmen and public officials at every level — will ask the same question of their endeavors, and subject their actions to the same exacting tests.”

— John F. Kennedy

However President John F. Kennedy mentioned that it is “the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation — an obligation which I share. And that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people — to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well — the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program and the choices that we face.”

Police chiefs in the northwest suburbs have not met this second obligation, and have found themselves in this uncharted territory that fails to inform and alert the People adequately. Only feeble attempts have been directed at public information, and since June 5, 2013 no success stories have been revealed by police regarding the activation of secret military-grade police radios.*

Some police officers, even some public information officers, have decided that they know what the People want to know, and need to know. However, especially in some of the most serious cases, it is often regular informed citizens that have found what police are looking for in manhunts — from a terrorist hiding in a boat near Boston, to a carjacking resulting in the discovery of an abducted/abandoned child on a side street in Skokie, Illinois.

The police chiefs in the northwest suburbs have failed to fine tune the two obligations presented in a democracy by President John F. Kennedy over 50 years ago. Many police agencies nationwide operate with open radio systems, and are sophisticated enough to use alternative forms of communication when the security obligation needs to be met. Our police chiefs have hit one dumb switch to encrypt everything, rendering our living communities like a body without a fully complemented immune system. The encryption code that police chiefs have injected into the radio system is similar to the HIV protein that infects and inhibits helper T cells. Eventually the count of helper T cells falls to a certain level in the body, and the victim reaches the stage of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) — complete with symptoms and death.

With the disengagement of the open police radio system and the reality distortion field established by some police departments, we can all expect community-sick symptoms to arise in our communities over the years:

1. Corruption. Des Plaines police — where radios have been encrypted a few years before the other northwest suburban police departments — has produced Police Commander Timothy Veit, who is accused by the federal government of padding DUI arrest reports to get grant money.

2. Info Filtering and Lack of Situational Awareness. Police Twitter accounts and Facebook pages don’t reveal the real situation in your communities. For example, you don’t learn where used hypodermic needles are repeatedly found in parks. You don’t learn about all of the DUI arrests in a community. You don’t have an effective understanding of traffic congestion and temporary road closures. You are blacked out to the observations of severe weather that police may be reporting (flooding, power lines down, traffic signals out, high winds, trees down, tornados). You don’t learn when solicitors are causing a problem in a neighborhood. You don’t learn about many suspicious incidents that don’t result in arrests. You don’t learn about many arrests at all. You don’t learn about where vagrants are frequently involved in fights or where they are frequently found passed out. You may not even know if a neighbor two houses away has shown threatening behavior with a weapon, if the threat doesn’t meet a certain threshold. If there is some information released, it will most likely not be enough, and it will most likely put a neighborhood in a state of being over-afraid or underprepared. When reports are released, they are often delayed enough that the recall of a witness is useless, and the criminal trail is cold.

3. Catastrophic Information Defense Failure. In the case of a child abduction with the offender intending to kill the victim, there is NO substitute for real time public awareness and media awareness via police radio monitoring with instant broadcast of victim description, offender description, vehicle description, and direction of travel. This is when a community’s “Helper T Cells” really matter. AMBER Alerts don’t happen fast enough, and sometimes circumstances don’t qualify for an AMBER Alert.

So remember this anniversary as we enter Year Two of encrypted military-grade police radios. The anniversary marks the day that police chiefs chose to conceal rather than reveal without any serious commitment or obligation to their citizens, and without any robust public information systems.

June 5, 2013 was the day police chiefs chose the unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts and emphasized fear to justify this repugnant secrecy.

June 5, 2013 was the day police chiefs opened the door for action of those within their organization who would become obsessed with increased security to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

June 5, 2013 was the day the playing field shifted in favor of the police state instead of the People by making it harder for the People and media to find leads; so that effectively no expenditure can be questioned, no rumor can be investigated, no suspicious activity can be discovered, and no secret can be revealed.

June 5, 2013 was the day the police chiefs opened the door for the minds of police officers to fear interaction with the media for fear of retribution from superiors.

June 5, 2013 was the day the police chiefs opened the door for those in their organization inclined to despise the media to build their program of maximum concealment and official censorship, and to teach new police officers to despise the media.

June 5, 2013 was the day that police chiefs disregarded the media’s tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people, and secured their police system of choosing what information will be revealed to the public — tipping the playing field to the advantage of a state-run or government-run media, including Twitter and Facebook pages that mix carefully chosen news releases with pictures of cops on the roofs of donut shops for charity.

June 5, 2013 was the day that police chiefs knocked the teeth out of the media to prevent the digestion of raw facts and leads, and to inhibit the expression of knowledge to the People — shifting the emphasis to news reports devoid of important and complete facts, or shifting the emphasis of news reports that are trivial and sentimental with a new business model designed to entertain the People and to amuse the People.

June 5, 2013 was the day that police — with their knowledge power shift — made it easier to silence dissenters, distort reality, protect their friends, be influenced silently by politicians, be rewarded silently by influential business leaders, and cooperate with criminals or influential parents of criminals.

John F. Kennedy’s complete address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961.

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country’s peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of “clear and present danger,” the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public’s need for national security.

Today no war has been declared–and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.

It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions–by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.

Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security — and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.

For the facts of the matter are that this nation’s foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery or espionage; that details of this nation’s covert preparations to counter the enemy’s covert operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the location and the nature of our forces and weapons, and our plans and strategy for their use, have all been pinpointed in the press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any foreign power; and that, in at least in one case, the publication of details concerning a secret mechanism whereby satellites were followed required its alteration at the expense of considerable time and money.

The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.

The question is for you alone to answer. No public official should answer it for you. No governmental plan should impose its restraints against your will. But I would be failing in my duty to the nation, in considering all of the responsibilities that we now bear and all of the means at hand to meet those responsibilities, if I did not commend this problem to your attention, and urge its thoughtful consideration.

On many earlier occasions, I have said–and your newspapers have constantly said — that these are times that appeal to every citizen’s sense of sacrifice and self-discipline. They call out to every citizen to weigh his rights and comforts against his obligations to the common good. I cannot now believe that those citizens who serve in the newspaper business consider themselves exempt from that appeal.

I have no intention of establishing a new Office of War Information to govern the flow of news. I am not suggesting any new forms of censorship or any new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma that I have posed, and would not seek to impose it if I had one. But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.
Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: “Is it news?” All I suggest is that you add the question: “Is it in the interest of the national security?” And I hope that every group in America — unions and businessmen and public officials at every level — will ask the same question of their endeavors, and subject their actions to the same exacting tests.

And should the press of America consider and recommend the voluntary assumption of specific new steps or machinery, I can assure you that we will cooperate whole-heartedly with those recommendations.

Perhaps there will be no recommendations. Perhaps there is no answer to the dilemma faced by a free and open society in a cold and secret war. In times of peace, any discussion of this subject, and any action that results, are both painful and without precedent. But this is a time of peace and peril which knows no precedent in history.

It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation — an obligation which I share. And that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people–to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well–the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program and the choices that we face.

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers–I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

This means greater coverage and analysis of international news–for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security — and we intend to do it.

It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world’s efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.

And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

President John F. Kennedy

An age-old dilemma spans global to local.

* At an additional cost of at least $388 extra per $2500 to $3500 radio for thousands of radios in northwest suburban police departments. The radios are complex, and have highly digitized voices which are sometimes hard to comprehend, and which make it difficult for police officers to recognize fellow officers’ voices — a very serious tactical problem in situations where police could be advancing with weapons drawn or trying to avoid getting caught in crossfire or other dangerous situations.

See also …
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and MuseumThe President and the Press: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961

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