Following The Murder Of George Floyd, The Minneapolis PD Built A Large-Scale Surveillance Program

from the surveillance-today,-surveillance-tomorrow,-surveillance-forever dept

There’s no business like cop business. When business is bad — like it can be following a high-profile murder by one of your officers — cops double down. They complain there’s too much scrutiny. They attack and punish people for engaging in First Amendment-protected activities. They engage in the very violence being protested against.

And while it’s somewhat amusing to watch The Man complaining the oppressed are actually the oppressors, the reality isn’t nearly as comical. Using outlier activity as justification for increased surveillance, the Minneapolis PD decided the trial of George Floyd’s murderer — Officer Derek Chauvin — was the only excuse it needed to place plenty of people suspected of no criminal activity under surveillance.

Thousands of documents obtained by MIT Technology Review have exposed the secret program whipped up by Minnesota law enforcement agencies following a murder committed by one of their own.

Law enforcement agencies in Minnesota have been carrying out a secretive, long-running surveillance program targeting civil rights activists and journalists in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Run under a consortium known as Operation Safety Net, the program was set up a year ago, ostensibly to maintain public order as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin went on trial for Floyd’s murder. But an investigation by MIT Technology Review reveals that the initiative expanded far beyond its publicly announced scope to include expansive use of tools to scour social media, track cell phones, and amass detailed images of people’s faces.

Documents obtained via public records requests show that the operation persisted long after Chauvin’s trial concluded. What’s more, they show that police used the extensive investigative powers they’d been afforded under the operation to monitor individuals who weren’t suspected of any crime.

A month before Chauvin’s murder trial, a conglomerate of Minnesota law enforcement agencies decided it was time to get a surveillance boost. As is the style of those charged with naming new government overreach projects, the new program was given an extremely innocuous name: Operation Safety Net.

But the trial of Chauvin seemed to indicate the people needed more protection from the supposed protectors. State law enforcement say it the other way: it was time for cops to be protected from the people. According to law enforcement officials, the program ran from February 2021 and (allegedly) ended January 2022. Now that there are more officers on trial for their actions during that murder, it would seem this project is due for a resurrection.

But there’s no need for a resurrection, as MIT Technology Review points out. The operation’s public website may have gone dormant and an official announcement of OSN’s alleged defunctness delivered by law enforcement officials, but the program is alive and well.

However, according to emails obtained and reviewed as part of our investigation, the operation does appear to be actively ongoing, with regular planning meetings of the executive and intelligence teams—where it has been referred to as “OSN 2.0”—and sharing of intelligence documents. No information about the goals or extent of the new engagement has been publicly disclosed and officials contacted about the program denied it had been formally renewed.

Despite OSN’s stated promise to “preserve and protect lawful First Amendment nonviolent protests and demonstrations,” state law enforcement went the other way. The Minneapolis Police secured the use of CBP (Customs and Border Protection) helicopters to engage in high-altitude surveillance. OSN participants (which included the Minnesota State Patrol) compiled a watchlist of people engaging in protected First Amendment activity, including journalists covering the protests.

This watchlist was shared. Rapidly. A real-time, data-sharing tool (the article refers to it as “Slack for SWAT”) called Intrepid Response ensured officers involved in this so-called “safety” program had a wealth of information about journalists and peaceful protesters officers might encounter while policing protests.

This wasn’t some ad hoc operation limited to officers from precincts near protests. It was a massive effort that involved at least one military agency.

In total, OSN would require officers from nine agencies in Minnesota, 120 out-of-state supporting officers, and at least 3,000 National Guard soldiers. The surveillance tools were managed by several different intelligence groups that collaborated throughout the operation. 

Helicopters, drones, a fast moving data-sharing network, the National Guard, and, of course, the Department of Homeland Security. The intel teams utilized a DHS information network to disseminate data, which would seemingly include the “watchlist” targeting journalists and peaceful protesters. The originally Minneapolis-centric “safety net” also managed to ensnare the assistance of six FBI agents, four of which were on the OSN’s “executive operation team.”

On top of all of this, some Minnesota law enforcement officers have been given seemingly permanent pay bumps and powers. This reaction to presumed reactions to cop trials/convictions have resulted in a handful of lateral promotions that are going to look pretty impressive on some officers’ resumes.

Entirely new titles and positions were created within the Minneapolis Police Department and the aviation section of the Minnesota State Patrol that leverage new surveillance technologies and methods…

This report suggests there are more unsavory details are on the way, but this is already pretty damn concerning. This was — and apparently still is — a surveillance program specifically created to monitor the public’s reactions to severe police misconduct. This isn’t the sort of thing that repairs the damage done by years of law enforcement agencies refusing to root out bad officers or treat officer misconduct seriously. This only serves two purposes: deepens the mistrust the public has for law enforcement and reminds the policed one side still has a firm grip on most of the power.

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Comments on “Following The Murder Of George Floyd, The Minneapolis PD Built A Large-Scale Surveillance Program”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Got caught? Time to chill some speech

Cop murders a man over the course of almost ten minutes while several other cops stand by and watch and the people the police are most concerned about watching are the public who were rightly rather put off by such an event.

If they wanted to make clear that any and all protestations that the police were totally taking the murder seriously and were taking steps to ensure something like that would never happen again that is most certainly not how you go about it. If on the other hand the goal was to make crystal clear that the objection by police was that several of theirs got caught and punished, their response certainly does an amazing job of that.

Monty says:

...standard Tyranny; yawn

…this revelation will really really upset all local, state, federal elected officials + all the major media journalists and pundits!
The American Bar Association will be mass marching in the streets today in outraged protest of this police corruption.

No, of course not.
Police corruption and intense government surveillance of the American populace is now so commonplace that very few people notice or care.

“… one side still has a firm grip on most of the power ” — yeah, that side is the ‘government’ side, against the people.
That’s what big government always evolves to.

sumgai (profile) says:

It never hurts to be reminded....

The attributions for the following are countless, but it would appear that Thomas Jefferson garners the most votes for having said this:

When a government fears the people, that’s freedom.
When the people fear their government, that’s tyranny.

What we’re seeing today, and particularly in instances as shown in TFS, is a mixture of both statements. The police forces are gathering their strength precisely because they fear “the people”. Here, cause-and-effect simply doesn’t impinge upon their collective reality, it’s like they must have checked their cognitive capability at the door, when they signed on the dotted line to become an officer.

But the people are equally afraid of this aspect of their government, again precisely because of the martial power wielded by the police. (And that’s not even thinking of addressing legislative bodies at all levels that are demonstrating no fear of instituting policies inimical to the public interest – that’s a story for another day.)

All in all, I’d say we’re more than halfway to the second statement, at least in a political sense. Day-to-day, at the local level, there are probably more “good apples” in the barrel than otherwise, but as we all say, “no news is good news”, and thus the bad apples remain at the top of our collective conscienceness. Bad juju, that.

ECA says:

Over mnay years

It started int he past, when Politicians understood, they could CREATE a word to mean anything they wanted people NOT to understand.
There used to be Many different groups in the USA, but most broke up during McCarthy.
You could go around to these groups and LEARN something about them, and not really get harassed. But after WWII, we made a bad word, that many didnt understand very well.(and there is a history of its creation) Communism and Socialism, were changed to mean bad things. Throw Any meaning at it, and persecute those that Practice it, and everyone on the Outside of these groups will Condemn them, without knowing a good reason.
Its for the Children
Wheres the Beef(gov. backed adverts because the Beef market wanted more money)
Drink more milk(same as the beef market)
Cold Cereal/Hot Cereal in the morning will help cut the sex drive.
Listening the TV, Listening to News, Listening to Science(??) all come to the magic conclusion of QUACKS trying to sell you something you dont know you need.
For all the Laws they TRIED to pass on truth in adverts, to Politicians NOT lying(they only make things worse or Glorified, to hide things they are part of).

We have Laws in this land that tell us what we can and cant do, most are Fairly basic. But when you HIDE behind them because you made a mistake? WOW< lets change course and make things look worse then they are.
Anyone thats Worked for a Major company, Knows the rules of Employment. #1, if you mess up Bad, you get Punished. If you REALLY do a bad thing like kill a Customer, you ARE FIRED.

Cop standing there with the persons Licence after he Sped away, while getting a ticket.
#1 you have his Lecence
#2 you have his plate number you wrote down, and ON CAMERA
#3 you have your personal camera, to SHOW the the person you talked to is THAT person.

Why chase them? The odds say the address is in your hands, and you can get a few officers to come with you. Knock on the door, and TALK/Arrest them.
Why in hell do you need a DOG, and 3-4 other cop cars to Stop a car? SEARCH a car, find nothing.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: If used wisely

I still don’t understand why so many are so hard set on privacy.
More cameras is a good thing.
It’s more evidence of what happens.

ECA’s traffic stop comment is perfect. A cop has every piece of info. Track the suspect from a distance! Less people get caught up in the situation.

The fastest way to reduce all crime is to create more ability to record it. Not less.
Always-on body cameras.
High altitude drones.
Pod cameras.

The more your on video the less likely a crime will be committed. The more likely the guilty will be caught.

And when faced with violent thugs of any group, they’re on camera. Walk away. Pick them up later.

nasch (profile) says:


That may not be as absolute as you think. There have been some court cases finding that while there is no general expectation of privacy in public, that does not give the government the right to use surveillance devices to track a person’s public movements continuously and for an extended period of time without a warrant or at least a good reason to suspect a crime. My understanding is this issue is nowhere near being settled yet.

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