In Chicago, cameras are always watching… Another step closer to the Surveillance State… In the mailbag: “One avoids politics at their own risk”…


That’s how many CCTV cameras Chicago police were able to use to track down two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case.

The story was all over cable news last week.

Except most of TV’s talking heads glossed over its most shocking revelation – just how far Chicago has gone in terms of mass digital surveillance system.

When we tell folks we’re worried about living in a Surveillance State… we often get looked at like we’re conspiracy nuts.

But what’s happening in Chicago is yet more proof that the rise of the Surveillance State is very real – even in the so-called Land of the Free.

In case you weren’t following the Smollett case, here’s what you need to know…

Smollett was a gay black actor on the hit Fox TV show Empire.

Last month, he told Chicago police that two men had attacked him… shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him… put a rope around his neck… poured bleach on him… and then ran off.

The only thing is… it’s now looking like it was all staged.

After police identified them, the attackers said Smollett had paid them to stage the attack to boost his media profile. (He was apparently unhappy with his salary and thought the attack would help.)

We’re not concerned about Smollett or his career…

What made us prick up our ears was how the police got a hold of Smollett’s accomplices…

They put out a digital dragnet across the city.

As we’ll explain in a moment, this went further than Chicago’s vast CCTV camera network.

And the footage cops collected linked up to a central command center. It was even available on tablet computers in officers’ cars.

Chicago has become a “digital panopticon”…

As regular readers will recall, the term panopticon (from the many-eyed Greek giant Panoptes) was first used in the 18th century to describe a radical new prison design.

The guards in the central tower of the panopticon could see inside every cell 24 hours a day. But the inmates could never see inside the tower.

They were never sure if they were being watched or not. So they had to be on their best behavior at all times.

Today’s panopticon doesn’t have walls and cells…

It’s digital. And it’s reached a shocking level of efficiency.

As Smollett found out the hard way, cameras are always watching you wherever you are in the Windy City.

And it’s not just official police cameras.

When you take a taxi, a driver-facing camera is watching and recording you. Meanwhile, your fellow Chicagoans are catching you on their doorbell cameras and sharing that footage with the police.

That’s all well and good, you may say. The police should have all means necessary to track down wrongdoers. As long as I’m not breaking the law, everything will be all right for me.

But constant surveillance comes with a price – your freedom…

As we’ve been warning here at the Cut… you can’t be free if you’re always watched, monitored, and recorded.

China – with its Orwellian Social Credit System – is a case in point.

The Chinese feds use a similar surveillance system to the one the Chicago police have put in place. Except in China’s case, it’s all linked to something called a “social credit” score.

Every time the system catches you doing something the feds don’t like – say, jaywalking or smoking where it’s banned – it automatically docks your score. Then the government makes a blacklist of “untrustworthy” citizens who have too low of a score.

And that’s a growing list.

According to the latest report from the Chinese government on its surveillance and control system… 17.5 million blacklisted Chinese have been barred from getting on planes. And 5.5 million others have been banned from getting on high-speed trains.

That’s similar to the population of Florida – which has 21 million people – no longer being able to travel like normal people because their social credit score is too low.

Those are extreme measures. But credit scores are commonplace in America. People are used to not getting access to credit because of having too low of a FICO score.

It’s not a big leap to imagine that same concept expanding to also include non-financial areas of your life.

We don’t expect folks to wake up to the danger of mass surveillance anytime soon…

Instead, they’ll sleepwalk into it… and only realize what a mistake they’ve made when it’s already too late.

As we’ve written about before here at the Cut, millions of Americans voluntarily submit to round-the-clock surveillance from Big Tech data harvesters such as Google and Facebook every day of their lives.

In return for “free” services such as email and photo sharing, these platforms are monitoring and watching everything you do…

…from what websites you search for… to whom you’re friends with online… whom you’re messaging… even your exact location (thanks to geolocation tracking in your smartphone).

So it’s not hard to imagine folks not caring that they’re also being watched when they’re walking down the street or inside the back of a taxi.

But the more we learn about the Surveillance State in America, the more we hope you consider colleague Dan Denning’s advice to “go dark.”

Dan’s been tracking America’s move toward a Surveillance Society for paid-up Bill Bonner Letter readers.

And, although you can’t control what CCTV cameras capture, you can take Dan’s four steps to start taking back your privacy…

  1. Delete your Facebook account – We think we have to be connected all the time. But by staying on the platform, you’re sharing massive amounts of personal data about yourself with the world. You can’t be a private citizen and be on Facebook. Find out how to permanently pull the plug here.

  1. De-Google your life – The way to stop Google – and the NSA (National Security Agency) – tracking every web search you type and every web page you visit is to ditch Google Search and the Google Chrome web browser. DuckDuckGo won’t track you like Google does. And it offers a decent search service.

    There’s also the Epic Privacy Browser. It works just like Chrome, except it doesn’t store data on you. You can also try Startpage for a search engine that doesn’t track and store your search queries. Firefox is the least intrusive of your browser options (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer).

  1. Buy a “dumb” phone – This is the only way to stop broadcasting your exact location 24 hours a day. An unlocked phone with 16MB of memory and a 2-megapixel camera will set you back about $25. You won’t be able to play Candy Crush while you’re standing in line waiting for your caramel latte at Starbucks. But a dumb phone will relieve you of the urge to constantly fiddle with your “smartphone.” Result: more free time and a less cluttered brain.

  1. Download an encrypted messenger app – Conversations on WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) are encrypted for the moment. But the feds recently requested that Facebook allow them to spy on peer-to-peer conversations on its messaging app.

    WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users (mostly foreign), making it a prime target for wiretapping by U.S. security services. Skype (owned by Microsoft) isn’t much better. Wickr, Telegram, and Signal are all much more secure alternatives.

Finally, in the mailbag: “One avoids politics at their own risk”…

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been warning about some of the ways the folks in Washington want to “soak the rich.”

And after one reader told us to butt out of politics, there’s a lot of support for our position in today’s mailbag.

Our only rule at the Cut when it comes to politics is that we steer clear of partisan food fights. We’ll leave that to the folks in the mainstream press…

Please stay in! I really appreciate all of your opinions, including politics. You put things into perspective and anyone can make up their own mind if they disagree. I happen to agree and very much appreciate them. So, thank you!

– Dana M.

In today’s world, most industrious and thoughtful people would love avoiding politics completely. Political exclusion would make the days more productive, rewarding, and enjoyable. Unfortunately, politics affects investment, savings, and a multitude of other daily activities; making political avoidance impossible. Thus, one avoids politics at their own risk.

– Sid B.

Call it like you see it. I am interested, and either learning or being confirmed in my own fears and concerns about the state of our economy, politics and corruption, including the Deep State.

– Duane L.

Politics and money go hand in hand, if some people don’t like or understand that, that is their cross to bear. But understanding what and why is part of learning what, when, and how to do something and manage risk! My opinion only.

– Barry C.

How can you have a cogent discussion regarding the economy and investments, and simply ignore the political realities of the time and place? If you do that, it makes the sound of one hand clapping.

– Ray H.

Your observations about politics add logical reasoning that supports your investment outlook. They also bring out some interesting perspective from your readers.

More people need to be better educated about the threats of socialism to our great nation. A whole new generation is growing up that is being led to believe that government can be relied upon to solve our problems. Hard to believe that the American people may give up their freedom without a fight, after so many have fought, bled, and died for it.

– Ed W.

Can you understand money without first understanding politics? Join the conversation with your fellow Daily Cut readers. Write us at [email protected].



Chris Lowe
February 25, 2019
Lisbon, Portugal