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December 2007

Next job for contractors in Iraq: 'Deprogramming' detainees
"The Pentagon is looking for experts in psychology, religion and education to aid its efforts on 'the battlefield of the mind,' as the military struggles to reform roughly 25,000 Iraqi prisoners in custody across the country the US invaded nearly five years ago.

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports on a proposal from the Joint Contracting Command for a team of private contractors including 'teachers, religious and behavioral science counselors' who will be charged with running a program that 'effectively reintegrates detainees, particularly those disposed to violent, radical ideology.'"

All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows
"Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some 'shared beliefs' that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war."

Pakistani insurgents join forces on Afghan border
"Militant groups in Pakistan's wild northwest region have come together in a single organization for the first time, threatening to step up operations against the Pakistan army and NATO forces in Afghanistan."

Money Market Rates Tumble; Central Banks Inject Funds
"The cost to borrow in euros plunged after the European Central Bank added an unprecedented $500 billion to the banking system as part of a global effort to ease credit-market gridlock through year-end."

Fed: Another $20B Auctioned to Banks
"It was the second of four scheduled auctions. The first auction, on Monday, of $20 billion resulted in loans being awarded at an interest rate of 4.65 percent. There were 93 bidders seeking $63.6 billion at the first auction and 73 at the second.

Two more auctions will occur in early January. In a statement Friday, the central bank said it would continue with further auctions 'for as long as necessary to address elevated pressures in short-term funding markets.'"

Congress Passes Bill to Stop Mentally Ill From Getting Guns
"The bill more clearly defines which mental health records must be reported by states and federal agencies to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS is used by gun dealers to determine whether potential firearms buyers are legally qualified to buy a gun.

States and state courts would receive as much as $375 million each year for five years to streamline and improve the processing of mental health information used to flag people ineligible to own a gun. States that fail to comply with the requirements could lose federal crime-fighting funds, while states with good reporting records could qualify for financial incentives.

The bill would also require states to share disqualifying mental health information with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to make its records available to the NICS."
"Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it."

Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11
"Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality, Justice Department statistics show. The heightened prosecutions come as the nation's largest police union fears that agencies are dropping standards to fill thousands of vacancies and 'scrimping' on training."

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics
"The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Advocates say bringing together information from a wide variety of sources and making it available to multiple agencies increases the chances to catch criminals. The Pentagon has already matched several Iraqi suspects against the FBI's criminal fingerprint database. The FBI intends to make both criminal and civilian data available to authorized users, officials said. There are 900,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers who can query the fingerprint database today, they said.

The FBI's biometric database, which includes criminal history records, communicates with the Terrorist Screening Center's database of suspects and the National Crime Information Center database, which is the FBI's master criminal database of felons, fugitives and terrorism suspects.

The FBI is building its system according to standards shared by Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand."

Wider spying fuels aid plan for telecom industry
"For months, the Bush administration has waged a high-profile campaign, including personal lobbying by President George W. Bush and closed-door briefings by top officials, to persuade Congress to pass legislation protecting companies from lawsuits for aiding the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program.

But the battle is really about something much bigger. At stake is the U.S. government's extensive but uneasy partnership with industry to conduct a wide range of secret surveillance operations in fighting terrorism and crime. The NSA's reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure."

FBI E-Mail Shows Rift Over Warrantless Phone Record Grabs
"The documents are the second batch released by the EFF after winning a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit last May. The first set of documents shed light on the breadth and sophistication of the FBI's national wiretapping system, which is wired into telecom switches around the United States under the terms of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act - a law that was extended to broadband internet switches in May of this year.

The new documents detail how a little-known FBI telephone intercept unit has developed a powerful cellphone tracking technology that agents use to monitor the physical movements of surveillance targets, even on phones that are not GPS equipped."

Phone and Email Data-Mining Used in War on Drugs, Too

Satellite-Surveillance Plan Aims to Mollify Critics
"After delaying a domestic satellite-surveillance program for more than two months, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff expects to finalize a new charter for it this week, a move that attempts to quell civil-liberties concerns and get the program back on track.

Mr. Chertoff also plans soon to unveil a cyber-security strategy, part of an estimated $15 billion, multiyear program designed to protect the nation's Internet infrastructure. The program has been shrouded in secrecy for months and has also prompted privacy concerns on Capitol Hill because it involves government protection of domestic computer networks.
The satellite program, which would be run by a new department branch called the National Applications Office, would expand the domestic use of satellite imagery by federal and local authorities."

Police agencies look to Raytheon weapon
"An official at the Pima County Sheriff's Department sees the benefit of such futuristic weapons, particularly for crowd control or other Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, responses.

'Directed-energy systems could be used for crowd-control purposes,' said Lt. Don Kester, a sheriff's tactical-response commander and a chairman in the National Tactical Officers Association.

'It's not so futuristic anymore,' he said."

Tasers: the next generation
"Until now, the electric-shock gun consisted of two barbed darts attached to wires that shoot out and strike the victim, immobilizing the person with 50,000 volts of electricity, causing severe pain and intense muscle contraction.

But the wires could only extend a few metres. With the new 'extended range electronic projectile,' or XREP, the Taser has been turned into a kind of self-contained shotgun shell and can be fired, wire-free, from a standard shotgun, which police typically have in their arsenal already.

The first electrode hooks on to the target, the second electrode falls and makes contact elsewhere on the body, completing the circuit and activating the shock. It can blast someone as far as 30 metres away, and, unlike the current stun guns, whose shock lasts five seconds, the XREP lasts 20 seconds, enough time to 'take the offender into custody without risking injury to officers.'"

U.K. government loses data on driving-test candidates
"Britain's Driving Standards Agency, which administers exams for drivers and driving instructors, has admitted losing details relevant to more than 3 million candidates for driver's-license testing."

Australia's controversial national ID program hits the dumpster
"Opponents of Australia's controversial Access Card received an early Christmas present earlier this month when the incoming Rudd Labor Government finally axed the controversial ID program. Had it been implemented, the Access Card program would have required Australians to present the smart card anytime they dealt with certain federal departments, including Medicare, Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, or Veterans' Affairs."

Conroy announces mandatory internet filters to protect children     (AU)
"Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy says new measures are being put in place to provide greater protection to children from online pornography and violent websites.

Senator Conroy says it will be mandatory for all internet service providers to provide clean feeds, or ISP filtering, to houses and schools that are free of pornography and inappropriate material.
Senator Conroy says anyone wanting uncensored access to the internet will have to opt out of the service."

House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites
"The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including 'obscene' cartoons and drawings--or face fines of up to $300,000.

That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user's account be retained for subsequent police inspection."

Next time, evacuees subject to criminal checks
"Texans seeking to escape the next hurricane or state emergency by evacuation bus will first be submitted to criminal background checks, the state's emergency management director says.

The idea, according to Jack Colley, is to keep sex offenders and others who may be wanted by police off the same buses used by the most vulnerable during an evacuation: the elderly, disabled residents and children."

Airport profilers: They're watching your expressions
"Travelers at Sea-Tac and dozens of other major airports across America are being scrutinized by teams of TSA behavior-detection officers specially trained to discern the subtlest suspicious behaviors.

TSA officials will not reveal specific behaviors identified by the program -- called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) -- that are considered indicators of possible terrorist intent.

But a central task is to recognize microfacial expressions -- a flash of feelings that in a fraction of a second reflects emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt, said Carl Maccario, who helped start the program for TSA."

Army knew of cheating on tests for eight years
"For eight years, the Army has known that its largest online testing program - which verifies that soldiers have learned certain military skills and helps them amass promotion points - has been the subject of widespread cheating."

Sears Tower terror trial collapses
"The trial of a group of alleged plotters who prosecutors said wanted to blow up Chicago's 110-storey Sears Tower collapsed yesterday after a jury found one defendant not guilty and failed to reach verdicts on the remaining six.

The mistrial represents a setback for the Bush administration in its self-proclaimed war on terror, particularly its intention to crack down on homegrown terrorist suspects."
More on the matter here.

License Plate Scaners To Protect Holiday Shoppers
"The cameras were paid for by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant to help keep a close watch on all the comings and goings at the busy shopping hub.

'We're going to be the eyes and ears of law enforcement when they can't be here,' Arden Fair Mall Security Manager Steve Reed said. 'We'll be able to scan plates as we go down each aisle and find stolen cars or vehicles with a felony warrant.'
Reed said an instantaneous link between the mall and Sacramento police was expected to be fully in place by late January."

Drivers who use mobile phones face jail     (UK)
"Using a hand-held mobile while driving was outlawed in 2003, but it is estimated that half a million motorists flout the ban each day.

Existing guidelines restricted prosecutors to pursuing only a charge of careless driving, for which the maximum fine is £5,000 along with up to nine points on a motorist's licence.

But under the new rules, drivers could be charged with dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail."

US state's police academy class slogan: 'Go out and cause' post-traumatic stress disorder
"A police academy leader in the state of Idaho has disavowed the slogan of the most recent graduating class urging one another to 'go out and cause' post-traumatic stress disorder.

Each class at the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training Academy is allowed to choose a slogan that is printed on its graduation programs, and the class of 43 graduates came up with 'Don't suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it.'"

The 'tut-tut' police keep us on the street and narrow
"Sesame Street is now brought to you by the letter P and the letter C - for political correctness, that is.

The fun police have slapped an 'adults only' warning on a new DVD of classic episodes, which featured a world in which children played in the street, a monster gorged on cookies and a bad-tempered puppet lived in a bin.

The episodes, made between 1969 and 1974, have been released in the US with the caution: 'These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child.'"

November 30, 2007

Iraq Agrees To Long-Term U.S. Presence
"President Bush on Monday signed a deal setting the foundation for a potential long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq, with details to be negotiated over matters that have defined the war debate at home - how many U.S. forces will stay in the country, and for how long.

The agreement between Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirms that the United States and Iraq will hash out an 'enduring' relationship in military, economic and political terms.

CBS News' Pete Gow in Baghdad reports the proposals are to offer the U.S. a continued military presence in Iraq, as well as favorable business interests (such as investment opportunities for American companies), in return for guarantees to Iraq's future security."

US troops will be in the Middle East for next 50 years, says Abazaid
"General John Abazaid, who retired in May, said the 'strategic situation' in the region - the rise of extremism and the global dependence on oil - would necessitate a long-term presence.

'Over time, we will have to shift the burden of the military fight from our forces directly to regional forces, and we will have to play an indirect role. But we shouldn't assume for even a minute that in the next 25 to 50 years the American military might be able to come home, relax and take it easy.'"

Iraq nullifies Kurdish oil deals

Pakistan says 1000s of detained activists released
"Pakistan's military regime has started to release thousands of people who have been detained under the state of emergency.

According to figures released by the Interior Ministry, 3,400 people have already been set free and a further 2,000 will be released soon."

Thousands flee Pakistan fighting
"Thousands of people have fled fighting between government troops and pro-Taleban militants in Pakistan's northern Swat district.

A senior army commander said on Saturday that the army was launching a full scale offensive in the area."

Zimbabwe inflation 'incalculable'
"Zimbabwe's chief statistician has said it is impossible to work out the country's latest inflation rate because of the lack of goods in shops.
Many staple goods are often absent from shop shelves after the government ordered prices to be halved or frozen in a bid to stem galloping inflation.
Most basics are intermittently available on the black market at well over the official prices."

China Struggles With Fuel Crunch

EU plans to collect personal data on air passengers
"The European Union will seek to collect personal data on air passengers travelling to or from the 27-nation bloc and store them for 13 years, under draft anti-terrorism proposals to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The bloc's executive Commission will tell EU states they need to collect 19 pieces of personal data on international air travellers including phone number, e-mail address, payment details and travel agent, a draft seen by Reuters shows."

UK's families put on fraud alert
"Two computer discs holding the personal details of all families in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing.

The Child Benefit data on them includes name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details of 25 million people."
Related: Revenue routinely sent secret data with no security

ECB to pump €30bn into money markets
"The European Central Bank has promised to supply the money markets with an extra €30bn (£22bn) in one-week funds, in another indication that the credit crisis is far from over. The ECB sold €178bn of these funds to eurozone financial institutions, compared with the €148bn it had previously said the banks would need for routine business."

Fed Pumps $41B Into US Financial System

Fed pumps $8bn into market to head off new crunch
"Central bankers are becoming nervous that a renewed credit crunch could destabilise financial markets around the end of next month, and the US Federal Reserve has pumped an initial $8bn (£3.9bn) into the market to help ease the mounting pressure.

Wall Street banks have been hoarding cash rather than lending it out, fearful that losses on US mortgages and related products are undermining the strength of their balance sheets."

Government seeks to redefine privacy
"Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information."
Related: US intelligence official: You get privacy when your definition matches ours

NSA Sought Data Before 9/11
"Beginning in February 2001, almost seven months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the government's top electronic eavesdropping organization, the National Security Agency, asked a major U.S. telecommunications carrier for information about its customers and the flow of electronic traffic across its network, according to sources familiar with the request."

Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
"Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives."

Encrypted E-Mail Company Hushmail Spills to Feds
"Hushmail, a longtime provider of encrypted web-based email, markets itself by saying that 'not even a Hushmail employee with access to our servers can read your encrypted e-mail, since each message is uniquely encoded before it leaves your computer.'

But it turns out that statement seems not to apply to individuals targeted by government agencies that are able to convince a Canadian court to serve a court order on the company."

Judge in Aborted Mob Trial Strongly Criticizes FBI
"The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office today withdrew its murder case against former FBI agent Lynn DeVecchio when it was learned that the mob moll, who was a key witness to the agent's alleged role in four hits, had told reporters on tape 10 years ago that the agent had not been involved in at least three of those hits.

But the judge who presided over the case harshly criticized the FBI in his decision for having worse ethics than the mob in using murderous mobster Gregory Scarpa as an informant even as he killed, lied to the government and continued a reign of terror and organized crime."

Firefighter help on terrorism
"Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don't need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.
When going to private residences, for example, they are told to be alert for a person who is hostile, uncooperative or expressing hate or discontent with the United States; unusual chemicals or other materials that seem out of place; ammunition, firearms or weapons boxes; surveillance equipment; still and video cameras; night-vision goggles; maps, photos, blueprints; police manuals, training manuals, flight manuals; and little or no furniture other than a bed or mattress."

High-Tech Drones Joining Miami Police Force
"The Miami-Dade police department will begin experimenting with high-tech drones as law enforcement tools beginning next year.

Although the military has been using unmanned aircraft systems for years, this will be the first time they are used in law enforcement."

Houston selected to help test-drive unmanned aircraft
"Houston is one of two cities chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to test whether unmanned aircraft can be used safely in an urban environment, authorities said.

During the testing period, expected to run at least until next June, HPD and the Miami-Dade Police Department will help the FAA establish national flight guidelines, such as how the small aircraft can be deployed and what training is needed to operate them."

Local 2 Investigates Police Secrecy Behind Unmanned Aircraft Test
"Houston police started testing unmanned aircraft and the event was shrouded in secrecy, but it was captured on tape by Local 2 Investigates."

Parents Ordered to Court for Kids' Shots
"Scores of grumbling parents facing a threat of jail lined up at a courthouse Saturday to either prove that their school-age kids already had their required vaccinations or see that the youngsters submitted to the needle.

The get-tough policy in the Washington suburbs of Prince George's County was one of the strongest efforts made by any U.S. school system to ensure its youngsters receive their required immunizations.

Two months into the school year, school officials realized that more than 2,000 students in the county still didn't have the vaccinations they were supposed to have before attending class.

So Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols ordered parents in a letter to appear at the courthouse Saturday and either get their children vaccinated on the spot or risk up to 10 days in jail. They could also provide proof of vaccination or an explanation why their kids didn't have them."

Parents of unvaccinated kids face fines
"Prince Georgeís County officials are still holding out the threat of jail and fines for parents of more than 900 public school children who are still arenít up to date on county-mandated vaccinations - but so far authorities havenít filed any criminal charges.

County authorities had originally set Saturday as the deadline for parents of unvaccinated children to comply or be subject to arrest.

But now officials are saying that it will be at least after the long Thanksgiving weekend - and maybe weeks more - before their crackdown begins.

'Our goal is to get all of these kids in classes safely without putting their parents in jail,' stateís attorney spokesman Ramon Korionoff said Monday."

Boston cops seek invites to search teensí rooms
"Boston police will ask parents in high-crime areas to let detectives search their children's bedrooms for guns without warrants in a new anti-crime program.

Police believe parents are so worried their teenagers will be caught up in gun violence that they'll be willing to allow police into their homes. If the parents say no, the police will leave."

Plan for crackdown on firms hiring illegals to be modified
"In papers filed in San Francisco late Friday afternoon, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bucholtz told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer that the Homeland Security Department is making unspecified changes to its plan to pressure employers to fire as many as 8.7 million workers with suspect Social Security numbers.
On Oct. 10, Breyer barred the government from mailing Social Security 'no-match' letters to 140,000 U.S. employers, citing serious legal questions about requiring companies to resolve questions about their employees' identities, fire them within 90 days, or else face potential fines and criminal prosecution.

President Bush made the initiative a priority in August after the Senate killed his proposed overhaul of immigration laws. In issuing a preliminary injunction, however, the judge cited plaintiffs' arguments that the Social Security Administration database includes so many errors that using it to enforce immigration laws would cause 'staggering' disruptions at workplaces and discriminate against tens of thousands of legal workers. The judge also said the government failed to weigh the cost of the new regulation on small businesses as required."

Liberty Dollar office raided
Related: Your Liberty Dollar Raid Update

Marine recruiters busted in exam fraud
"Nine Marine Corps recruiters who worked in the Houston area were punished for using fraudulent stand-ins to take military-entrance exams for prospective recruits who might not otherwise measure up, the military confirmed Wednesday."

Military's Oil Needs Not Deterred by Price Spike
"All the U.S. tanks, planes and ships guzzle 340,000 barrels of oil a day, making the American military the single-largest purchaser and consumer of oil in the world.

If the Defense Department were a country, it would rank about 38th in the world for oil consumption, right behind the Philippines."

FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here
"Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents. A similar project was aimed at Sunni Arabs in the Washington, D.C., area.

The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didnít last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBIís criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous - and possibly illegal."

October 31, 2007

Thousands flee tense northwest Pakistani town
"Thousands of Pakistanis are fleeing a northwestern town and outlying villages because they fear a showdown between the security forces and an Islamist militant Taliban-style movement, residents said.

The Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province has been the scene of fierce fighting between security forces and followers of a radical Muslim cleric on Friday after authorities sent more than 2,000 soldiers to counter growing militancy."

Pakistan plans all-out war on militants
"According to a top Pakistani security official who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, the goal this time is to pacify the Waziristans once and for all. All previous military operations - usually spurred by intelligence provided by the Western coalition - have had limited objectives, aimed at specific bases or sanctuaries or blocking the cross-border movement of guerrillas. Now the military is going for broke to break the back of the Taliban and a-Qaeda in Pakistan and reclaim the entire area.

The fighting that erupted two weeks ago, and that has continued with bombing raids against guerrilla bases in North Waziristan - turning thousands of families into refugees and killing more people than any India-Pakistan war in the past 60 years - is but a precursor of the bloodiest battle that is coming."

UK can now demand data decryption on penalty of jail time
"New laws going into effect today in the United Kingdom make it a crime to refuse to decrypt almost any encrypted data requested by authorities as part of a criminal or terror investigation. Individuals who are believed to have the cryptographic keys necessary for such decryption will face up to 5 years in prison for failing to comply with police or military orders to hand over either the cryptographic keys, or the data in a decrypted form."

Police could not find any fingerprints on Dr Kelly's 'suicide' knife
"Fresh doubts were raised over the suicide of Dr David Kelly after it emerged that no fingerprints were found on the knife he supposedly used to kill himself."

Italian Judge Suspends CIA Trial
"An Italian judge on Wednesday extended the suspension of the abduction trial of 26 Americans charged in an alleged CIA operation until the country's highest court rules on a government challenge that could scuttle the case.

The Constitutional Court's ruling, expected early next year, also will indicate whether the kidnapping trial will be permitted to publicly air details of the U.S. extraordinary rendition program - moving terrorism suspects from country to country without public legal proceedings.

The suspects - all but one identified by prosecutors as CIA agents - are accused of kidnapping an Egyptian terror suspect from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003 in an operation coordinated by the CIA and Italian intelligence."

CIA chief backs rendition flights
"The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael Hayden, has defended the methods it uses to interrogate terror suspects.

Gen Hayden said programmes such as extraordinary rendition produced what he said was irreplaceable intelligence.

Under the programme, terror suspects are transported to secret prisons in countries with less stringent interrogation rules."

DoD sought citizensí bank records
"The ACLU said an analysis of 455 so-called national security letters issued after Sept. 11, 2001 shows that the Pentagon collaborated with the FBI to circumvent the law and may have overstepped its legal authority to obtain financial and credit records."

Qwest CEO Not Alone in Alleging NSA Started Domestic Phone Record Program 7 Months Before 9/11

860,000 Name Long Terror Watch List Scrutinizes Americans Most
"The nation's centralized watch list has grown to include 755,000 names suspected of having terrorist ties, resulting in nearly 20,000 positive matches of persons against the list in 2006, according to a new report from Congress's investigative reporting arm. Since the list is now used in nearly all routine police stops and for domestic airline travel, Americans made up the bulk of those matches."

FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA

Glass Monument to Che in Venezuela Shot
"A glass monument to revolutionary icon Ernesto 'Che' Guevara was shot up and destroyed less than two weeks after it was unveiled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government."

Ecuador wants military base in Miami
"Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.

'We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami - an Ecuadorean base,' Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy."

October 13, 2007

US detains nearly 25,000 in Iraq
"The US military is holding nearly 25,000 people in its prisons in Iraq, 860 of whom are under the age of 16, the general in charge of their detention said on Wednesday."
Detention with nearly non-existant Due Process of Law and minimal oversight - this is Military Detention with little regard for civil standards and cultural norms.

Pakistani border death toll rises
"Forty-five Pakistani soldiers and 130 pro-Taleban militants have died in two days of fierce fighting in North Waziristan, the Pakistani army says."

EU mulls Internet clampdown to combat 'terrorism'
"EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini told reporters that he had urged the ministers, during informal talks in Lisbon, Portugal, 'to make punishable activities of misuse of the Internet.'

'My intention of course is not to limit freedom of expression,' he said."

Your phone calls are no longer private   (UK)
"The time and length of the call and the name and address of the phone's owner will be recorded under the legislation, brought in as part of the Government's anti-terrorism measures.

Phone masts will be used to pinpoint the location of the mobile caller and this will also remain on record. However, content will not be recorded.
A Home Office spokesman said the law followed a directive from the EU.

'Imposing requirements on phone service providers to retain data is part of the difficult balance between protecting people from terrorism and serious crime, and respecting people's human rights,' he added."

Subprime crisis far from over: S&P
"The U.S. subprime housing crisis will not peak until 2009, rating agency Standard and Poor's said on Tuesday, adding it had underestimated the extent of fraud in the industry."
Fraud - like exaggerating the ratings on bonds and instruments based on 'assets' within this same industry?

Banks And U.S. Treasury Discuss $100 Billion Support Fund
"Leading U.S. banks have reportedly been meeting with U.S. Treasury officials about creating an up-to-$100-billion fund to stave off the danger that there could be a fire sale of shaky mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and other distressed assets following the recent global credit crunch."

US demands air passengers ask its permission to fly
"Under new rules proposed by the Transport Security Administration (TSA), all airline passengers would need advance permission before flying into, through, or over the United States regardless of citizenship or the airline's national origin.

Currently, the Advanced Passenger Information System, operated by the Customs and Border Patrol, requires airlines to forward a list of passenger information no later than 15 minutes before flights from the US take off (international flights bound for the US have until 15 minutes after take-off). Planes are diverted if a passenger on board is on the no-fly list.

The new rules mean this information must be submitted 72 hours before departure. Only those given clearance will get a boarding pass. The TSA estimates that 90 to 93 per cent of all travel reservations are final by then."

Red Hot Chilli Sauce Sparks Chemical Alert
"Firefighters dressed in special suits smashed down the doors to discover the source of the smell - chef Chalemchai Tangjariyapoon's fiery signature nam prik pao chilli sauce."

September 30, 2007

ECB steps up liquidity push with cash injection
"The European Central Bank (ECB) has made a new €75 billion (£51 billion) cash injection into the Eurozone banking system after its president, Jean-Claude Trichet, criticised institutions for not acting rationally in dealing with the present credit crisis."

Australia's central bank adds A$900 mil.
"The Reserve Bank of Australia added A$900 million (US$750 million) to the banking system to calm a spike in money market rates caused by the global credit squeeze, which has led the country's banks nearly to halt lending while borrowers scrounge for sources of funding of a month or longer."

Fed injects 31.25 billion dollars into markets   (9/6/07)
"The Fed has injected some 200 billion dollars into the financial system since August 9 in a bid to boost credit flows which have seized up due to problems linked to the distressed US mortgage market."

Fed adds $29 bln in temporary reserves   (9/20/07)
"The U.S. Federal Reserve injected the largest amount of funds into the banking system in two weeks on Thursday, as it attempted to maintain the federal funds rate target which it cut earlier in the week."

US Federal Reserve injects $38 billion into markets   (9/27/07)
"The New York Fed, which conducts the operations, has injected hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system since early August, when credit flows seized up due to problems linked to the distressed US mortgage market."

U.S. Congress agrees to raise U.S. credit limit
"With the U.S. government fast approaching its current $8.965 trillion credit limit, the Senate on Thursday gave final congressional approval of an $850 billion increase in U.S. borrowing authority.

The Senate voted 53-42 to raise the debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion, the fifth increase in the U.S. credit limit since President George W. Bush took office in January 2001. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the higher debt limit earlier this year as part of the overall budget resolution and the legislation now goes to Bush for his signature."

F.B.I. Data Mining Reached Beyond Initial Targets
"The F.B.I. cast a much wider net in its terrorism investigations than it has previously acknowledged by relying on telecommunications companies to analyze phone-call patterns of the associates of Americans who had come under suspicion, according to newly obtained bureau records.

The documents indicate that the Federal Bureau of Investigation used secret demands for records to obtain data not only on individuals it saw as targets but also details on their 'community of interest' - the network of people that the target was in contact with."

U.S. may invoke 'state secrets' to squelch suit against Swift
"The Bush administration is signaling that it plans to turn once again to a favorite legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege to try to shut down a lawsuit brought against a Belgium banking cooperative that secretly supplied millions of private financial records to the U.S. government, court documents show.
Swift is considered the nerve center of the global banking industry, routing trillions of dollars each day between banks, brokerages and other financial institutions. The group's partnership with the U.S. government, first revealed in media reports in June 2006, gave officials at the CIA access to millions of records on international banking transactions in an effort to trace money that investigators believed might be linked to terrorist financing. Swift agreed to turn over large chunks of its database in response to a series of unusually broad subpoenas issued by the Treasury Department beginning months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

Intel czar admits new surveillance law did not foil terror plot
"According to Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, McConnell testified to Sen. Joe Lieberman on Monday that the new law 'helped 'facilitate' the arrest of three suspects believed to be planning massive car bombings against American targets in Germany.' Intelligence officials quickly raised questions about McConnell's testimony, indicating that the US military had provided the information to the Germans 10 months ago, long before the new law was passed."

Phone Companies Aided Terror Surveillance, U.S. Spy Chief Says
"'The private sector had assisted us because, if you're going to get access, you've got to have a partner,' McConnell said in an interview with the El Paso Times in Texas. 'My position was we have to provide liability protection to these private sector entities. If you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies.'"

U.S. Airport Screeners Are Watching What You Read
"Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore's choice of reading material, and worry over the number of small flashlights he'd packed for the trip.

The breadth of the information obtained by the Gilmore-funded Identity Project (using a Privacy Act request) shows the government's screening program at the border is actually a 'surveillance dragnet,' according to the group's spokesman Bill Scannell."

Edwards backs mandatory preventive care
"Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

'It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,' he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. 'If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.'
'The whole idea is a continuum of care, basically from birth to death,' he said."

Feds to restrict volunteers at disasters
"In an effort to provide better control and coordination, the federal government is launching an ambitious ID program for rescue workers to keep everyday people from swarming to a disaster scene. A prototype of the new first responder identification card is already being issued to fire and police personnel in the Washington, D.C., area."

Bullet-proof helicopters play key U.S. border role
"The Predator B Unmanned Aerial System, or drone, has been at work in Arizona since 2005, scouring the borderlands for drug traffickers and illegal immigrants from Mexico using high-powered cameras tucked on to its belly.

Silent and cloaked in darkness as it wheels miles above the desert, the spotting system cues elite tactical teams in Black Hawk helicopters to race in and carry out arrests, often many miles from the nearest highway.
'We can go instantly from a rescue, to bad guys that are running away, to helping an officer who is pinned down by gunfire,' said back seater Todd Sager, a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division.

'You have to be able to scale it up or scale it down in an instant,' added Sager, who parachuted into Panama in the 1989 U.S. invasion, and served in the first Gulf war."

Marshal: 4 associates of tax-evading couple arrested
"Four men accused of helping obstruct justice in the case of convicted tax evaders Ed and Elaine Brown have been arrested, U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said Wednesday.
'In this case, these men are alleged to have helped the Browns in their ongoing refusal to surrender to authorities,' Monier said. 'The Browns have engaged in a course of conduct that has led to further criminal investigations into their activity. Anyone who aids the Browns is subject to investigation, arrest and prosecution for serious felonies, which carry very heavy prison sentences.'"

TD Ameritrade says contact info stolen
"Online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. said Friday one of its databases was hacked and contact information for its more than 6.3 million customers was stolen. A spokeswoman for the Omaha-based company said more sensitive information in the same database, including Social Security numbers and account numbers, does not appear to have been taken."

Winners security breach could have been avoided, report says
"The breach is believed to have occurred when fraudsters gained entry to the parent company's database through wireless access into two Marshalls stores in the Miami area, said Elizabeth Denham, director of research at the privacy commission.

A total of about 45 million credit cards, driver's license numbers and payment cards belonging to individuals in the U.S. Canada, Europe and Asia were involved, she said."

Gap: Stolen laptop has data of job applicants
"Gap Inc. announced Friday that a laptop containing the personal information of about 800,000 job applicants was stolen from the offices of one of its vendors that manages data for the company."

Mistake costs dishwasher $59,000
"For 11 years, Pedro Zapeta, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, lived his version of the American dream in Stuart, Florida: washing dishes and living frugally to bring money back to his home country.

Two years ago, Zapeta was ready to return to Guatemala, so he carried a duffel bag filled with $59,000 -- all the cash he had scrimped and saved over the years - to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
After customs officials seized the money, they turned Zapeta over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS released him but began deportation proceedings. For two years, Zapeta has had two attorneys working pro bono: one on his immigration case, the other trying to get his money back.

Venezuela's Chavez Warns Private Schools
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to close or take over any private school that refuses to submit to the oversight of his socialist government as it develops a new curriculum and textbooks."

Skip work, make babies, says Russian governor
Strange days,  indeed...!

FCC proposes 'fake news' fine
"The fine is known as a 'notice of apparent liability for forfeiture' and is likely to be appealed by Comcast.

The Center for Media and Democracy said it hopes the FCC 'will soon address the nearly 140 other undisclosed VNR broadcasts' that the group documented in two reports it has released on the subject."
A 'notice of apparent liability for forfeiture' - the mind boggles...

Saudi Religious Police Attacked by Girls
"According to Dr. Al-Marshood, the two commission members approached the girls in order to 'politely' advise and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing.

Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them."

August 30, 2007

US surge sees 600,000 more Iraqis abandon home
"The scale of the human disaster in the Iraq war has become clearer from statistics collected by two humanitarian groups that reveal the number of Iraqis who have fled the fighting has more than doubled since the US military build-up began in February.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation said the total number of internally displaced has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since extra US forces arrived with the aim of making the country more secure. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration says the numbers fleeing fighting in Baghdad grew by a factor of 20 in the same period."

Safety fears over new register of all children   (UK)
"The database, which goes live next year, is to contain details of every one of the 11 million children in the country, listing their name, address and gender, as well as contact details for their GP, school and parents and other carers. The record will also include contacts with hospital consultants and other professionals, and could show whether the child has been the subject of a formal assessment on whether he or she needs extra help."

Outrage at 500,000 DNA database mistakes   (UK)
"Suspects arrested over any imprisonable offence, including rape and murder, can have their DNA held even if they are not charged or are acquitted.

The database, the biggest in the world, contains about four million names.

But it has been dogged by problems. Statistics released by the Home Office show it contains around 550,000 files with wrong or misspelt names."

Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest
Quebec provincial police admitted Thursday that three of their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators during the protest at the North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que.

However, the police force denied allegations its undercover officers were there on Monday to provoke the crowd and instigate violence."
Here's another account of the exposure of the masked, rock-toting provocateurs, or see the pictures - here and here.

Quebec police defend officers' actions at summit
"Quebec provincial police on Friday defended the actions of three officers who posed as protesters during the North American Leaders' summit earlier this week in Montebello, but added there will be an internal investigation into their conduct.

Authorities initially denied claims from protesters that officers had infiltrated their ranks but later acknowledged the three men were police officers."

Point, Click ... Eavesdrop: How the FBI Wiretap Net Operates
"The FBI has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device, according to nearly a thousand pages of restricted documents newly released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network, connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is far more intricately woven into the nation's telecom infrastructure than observers suspected."

Terror Suspect List Yields Few Arrests
"The government's terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year. But only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list's effectiveness.
Jayson P. Ahern, deputy commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said focusing on arrests misses 'a much larger universe' of suspicious U.S. citizens.

'There are many potentially dangerous individuals who fly beneath the radar of enforceable actions and who are every bit as sinister as those we intercept,' he said."

Federal ID plan raises privacy concerns
"Americans may need passports to board domestic flights or to picnic in a national park next year if they live in one of the states defying the federal Real ID Act.
The cards would be mandatory for all 'federal purposes,' which include boarding an airplane or walking into a federal building, nuclear facility or national park, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week. Citizens in states that don't comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes."

Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen
"The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance."

Bush Administration Says Warrantless Eavesdropping Cannot Be Questioned
"The Bush administration said Monday the constitutionality of its warrantless electronic eavesdropping program cannot be challenged. The government is taking that position in seeking the dismissal of federal court lawsuits against the government and AT&T over its alleged involvement in the once-secret surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks."

Homeland Security Enlists Clergy to Quell Public Unrest if Martial Law Ever Declared
"Could martial law ever become a reality in America? Some fear any nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil might trigger just that. KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us."
Here are a few Google searches that may add substance to this story:
"pastoral crisis intervention"
"faith based first responders"
"clergy response team"

Feds' Porn Ultimatum
"The Department of Justice wants to come up with an official list of every porn star in America - and slap stiff penalties on producers who don't cooperate.

The new rules, proposed under the Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act, would require blue-movie makers to keep photos, stage names, professional names, maiden names, aliases, nicknames and ages on file for the inspection of the department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section."
Nothing actually all that new here - see US Code title 18, section 2257

Guard Uses Taser on Man Holding Newborn
"Lewis, 30, said the April 13 episode began after he and his wife felt mistreated by staff at the Woman's Hospital of Texas and they decided to leave. Hospital employees told him doctors would not allow it, but Lewis picked up the baby and strode to a bank of elevators.

The elevators would not move because wristband sensors on each baby shut them off if anyone takes an infant without permission."

U.S. most armed country with 90 guns per 100 people

Feds pay $80,000 over anti-Bush T-shirts
"The ACLU said in a statement that a presidential advance manual makes it clear that the government tries to exclude dissenters from the president's appearances. 'As a last resort,' the manual says, 'security should remove the demonstrators from the event.'"

Beijing police launch Web patrols
"Police in China's capital said Tuesday they will start patrolling the Web using animated beat officers that pop up on a user's browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content.
The male and female cartoon officers, designed for the ministry by Sohu, will offer a text warning to surfers to abide by the law and tips on Internet security as they move across the screen in a virtual car, motorcycle or on foot, it said."

August 10, 2007

Central banks intervene to ease fears of credit crunch
"The Bank of Canada and other central banks around the world pumped billions of dollars into the financial system Thursday in a bid to calm jittery investors and ease concerns about a looming credit crunch that battered North American stock markets."

Fed Acts to Stem Credit Turmoil
"The Federal Reserve, trying to calm turmoil on Wall Street, announced Friday that it will pump as much money as needed into the U.S. financial system to help overcome the ill effects of a spreading credit crunch."

ECB injects €95bn to help markets
"The European Central Bank scrambled to head off a potential financial crisis on Thursday by pumping an emergency €94.8bn ($131bn) into the regionís banking system after liquidity in the interbank market started to dry up, threatening banksí access to short-term funds."

Japan, Australia central banks inject liquidity
"The central banks in Japan and Australia Friday reportedly injected liquidity into their respective local markets to soothe nerves in the financial markets, following similar moves overnight by the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve."

Iraqi power grid nearing collapse

Baghdad, Iraq: 6 million people, 117 degrees and no water

Weapons Given to Iraq Are Missing
"The GAO reached the estimate of 190,000 missing arms - 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols - by comparing the property records of the Multi-National Security Transition Command for Iraq against records Petraeus maintained of the arms and equipment he had ordered. Petraeus's figures were compared with classified data and other records to ensure that they were accurate enough to compare against the property books.

In all cases, the gaps between the two records were enormous. Petraeus reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 pieces of body armor and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces from June 2004 through September 2005. But the property books contained records for 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 pieces of body armor and 25,000 helmets."

At U.S. base, Iraqis must use separate latrine

ĎRival to Natoí begins first military exercise
"Russian and Chinese troops are joining forces this week in the first military exercises by an international organisation that is regarded in some quarters as a potential rival to Nato.

Thousands of soldiers and 500 combat vehicles will take part in 'Peace Mission 2007', organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia."

Sydney installs terrorism-alert speakers   (AU)

Police can take DNA from every offender   (AU)
"Under the legislation police will have the discretion to demand a hair sample or mouth swab after any arrest, no matter how minor. Police only have to believe that taking the sample will produce evidence linking the offender to a crime. At present samples can only be taken for serious offences such as murder, robbery and sexual assault."

Police want DNA from speeding drivers and litterbugs on database
"There is growing concern among MPs and civil liberties groups about the number of children under 10 and young black men on the database - the biggest in the world. But a number of police forces in England and Wales are backing proposals that would add millions more samples to it.

The Association of Chief Police Officers gave a warning, however, that allowing police to take samples for non-recordable offences - crimes for which offenders cannot be imprisoned - might be perceived as indicative of 'the increasing criminalisation of the generally law-abiding public'."

Scan This Guy's E-Passport and Watch Your System Crash
"A German security researcher who demonstrated last year that he could clone the computer chip in an electronic passport has revealed additional vulnerabilities in the design of the new documents and the inspection systems used to read them.

Lukas Grunwald, an RFID expert who has served as an e-passport consultant to the German parliament, says the security flaws allow someone to seize and clone the fingerprint image stored on the biometric e-passport, and to create a specially coded chip that attacks e-passport readers that attempt to scan it.

Grunwald says he's succeeded in sabotaging two passport readers made by different vendors by cloning a passport chip, then modifying the JPEG2000 image file containing the passport photo. Reading the modified image crashed the readers, which suggests they could be vulnerable to a code-injection exploit that might, for example, reprogram a reader to approve expired or forged passports."
It'd sure be a real shame if something like this could foul or disable an intrusive database...

Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping
"Today, most international telephone conversations to and from the United States are conducted over fiber-optic cables, and the most efficient way for the government to eavesdrop on them is to latch on to giant telecommunications switches located in the United States.

By changing the legal definition of what is considered 'electronic surveillance,' the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants - latching on to those giant switches - as long as the target of the government's surveillance is 'reasonably believed' to be overseas."
Related: FAQ: How far does the new wiretap law go?

U.S. Seeks to Curb Illegal Immigration
"The Homeland Security Department will ask states to voluntarily share their driver's license photos and records with the agency for use in an employment verification system. The sharing is meant to help employers detect fraudulent licenses, according to the summary, which was provided by a congressional aide."
Sensing the overwhelming rejection of the Real ID mandate - DHS tries an end-run...

TSA checks IndyGo bus passengers
"Screeners from the Transportation Security Administration checked passengers at two Downtown city bus stops this morning, looking for weapons and suspicious behavior.

David Kane, federal security director for TSA in Indianapolis, called it a 'VIPR' operation.

'It's called Visual Intermodal Prevention Response. We have plainclothes inspectors, blue-gloved uniformed security officers who are checking baggage, the behavior detection officers, and federal air marshals, which are the law enforcement arm of TSA.'"

July 31, 2007

Bomb-laden 'Reaper' drones bound for Iraq
"The airplane is the size of a jet fighter, powered by a turboprop engine, able to fly at 300 mph and reach 50,000 feet. It is outfitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, and with a ton and a half of guided bombs and missiles.

The Reaper is loaded, but there is no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada."
It wasn't so long ago the current US administration and the popular media were parroting that Saddam had UAVs and might attack the US with them.

Islamic hardliners retake Pakistan's Red Mosque

Revealed: MI5's role in torture flight hell
"An Iraqi who was a key source of intelligence for MI5 has given the first ever full insider's account of being seized by the CIA and bundled on to an illegal 'torture flight' under the programme known as extraordinary rendition."
Note - just because you're a snitch doesn't mean they won't sell you down the river in a heartbeat.

CNN: TSA knew 'dry run' terror alerts were bogus
"The Transportation Security Agency's national security bulletin issued was based on bogus examples that were combined to give the impression of ominous terrorist plotting, CNN reports.

'That bulletin for law enforcement eyes only told of suspicious items recently found in passenger's bags at airport checkpoints, warned that they may signify dry runs for terrorist attacks,' CNN's Brian Todd reported Friday afternoon. 'Well it turns out none of that is true.'"

July 26, 2007

U.S. is building database on Iraqis
"The U.S. military is taking fingerprints and eye scans from thousands of Iraqi men and building an unprecedented database that helps track suspected militants.
'It helps enormously,' Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in an interview. 'It enables us to identify individuals connected with various activities.'"

Sydney urged to pack for attack
"Residents of Australia's biggest city, Sydney, have been urged to pack a survival kit to prepare for a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

The local authority wants people to put together an emergency 'Go-Bag', including maps, food and a radio.

Officials have denied the campaign is a government attempt to create fear and enhance national security credentials ahead of elections due later this year."

Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

Cunningham report portrays entangled panel
"An internal investigation that the House Intelligence Committee has refused to make public portrays the panel as embarrassingly entangled in the Randy 'Duke' Cunningham bribery scandal.

The report, a declassified version of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, describes the committee as a dysfunctional entity that served as a crossroads for almost every major figure in the ongoing criminal probe by the Justice Department."

Imprisoned 'Duke' tells of scope of corruption
"In two days of prison interviews with federal agents this year, former Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham described a level of corruption on his part more extensive than previously known and dealt a potentially devastating blow to the defense being waged by one of the contractors alleged to have bribed him.
Cunningham's admissions are very much at odds with the image that he tried to create after his downfall. In a letter made public and in private statements to friends, he portrayed himself as someone unable to withstand the blandishments of corrupt contractors and someone who merely accepted 'gifts' but never sold his office."
It's really kinda' sad... (sad that the thieving son-of-a-bitch will probably get out in 6 years or less)

Report of terrorist 'dry run' at Lindbergh a false alarm
"The San Diego director of the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that a recent report of a possible terrorist 'dry run' at Lindbergh Field stemmed from what turned out to be a false alarm.
But local TSA Security Director Michael J. Aguilar - and the chief of the police agency that patrols the airport - said Wednesday that while screeners initially thought the packs held a clay-like substance, it was quickly determined they contained the usual blue gel.

Aguilar said he didn't know why the TSA memo, issued in Washington, reported the substance as clay."

Feds use key logger to thwart PGP, Hushmail
"An agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration persuaded a federal judge to authorize him to sneak into an Escondido, Calif., office believed to be a front for manufacturing the drug MDMA, or Ecstasy. The DEA received permission to copy the hard drives' contents and inject a keystroke logger into the computers.

That was necessary, according to DEA Agent Greg Coffey, because the suspects were using PGP and the encrypted Web e-mail service Coffey asserted that the DEA needed 'real-time and meaningful access' to 'monitor the keystrokes' for PGP and Hushmail passphrases.
The 9th Circuit agreed, ruling on Friday that 'e-mail and Internet users have no expectation of privacy in the To/From addresses of their messages or the IP addresses of the websites they visit because they should know that these messages are sent and these IP addresses are accessed through the equipment of their Internet service provider and other third parties.' This follows the lead of a Massachusetts judge who said much the same thing in November 2005."

Equipment worth $22M missing from CDC
"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will investigate the disappearance of $22 million worth of equipment, computers and other items from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
And warning lights are flashing down at Quality Control!

Congress: P2P networks harm national security
"Politicians charged on Tuesday that peer-to-peer networks can pose a 'national security threat' because they enable federal employees to share sensitive or classified documents accidentally from their computers.
The politicians present Tuesday generally said they believe that there are benefits to peer-to-peer technology but that it will imperil national security, intrude on personal privacy and violate copyright law, if not properly restricted. Both Waxman and Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) dubbed P2P networks ongoing national security threats."

Man shot at Colorado Capitol is identified
"Aaron Snyder had been escorted out of Gov. Bill Ritter's office Monday when he pulled back his coat to reveal the handgun and moved toward a state trooper, Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said. Snyder did not draw the weapon but ignored two warnings that the trooper would fire if he did not stop.

Trooper Jay Hemphill, a 12-year member of the state patrol, shot Snyder twice in the chest and once in the head, officials said."

New police policy on gun purchases worth a try
"After this spring's carnage at Virginia Tech University, carried out by a student who was able to buy guns in spite of a history of mental illness, many states began looking at their regulations governing handgun purchases.

With little fanfare, the newly appointed Maryland State Police superintendent, Col. Terrence Sheridan, last month sent a letter to state gun dealers requiring that anyone who applies to purchase a handgun after July 31 sign a release allowing police access to the applicant's mental health records."

Inmate sues county over jail birth

Vermont town considers banning nudity
"On July 6, a 68-year-old man showed up naked downtown, walking the streets during Gallery Walk, a monthly social event in which people roam downtown, stopping in art galleries and shops. Gallery owner Suzanne Corsano was locking up for the night when she encountered him on a sidewalk.

'Naked people don't impress me,' said Corsano, 60. 'But to be walking down the street like that. I just looked straight at him, and he looked down. He was trying to get me to look down there, but I wouldn't.'"
Don't Look, Ethel!!

US Senators call for universal Internet filtering
More efforts to conflate 'child pornography' with 'sexually explicit material'.

Drug czar gives warning
"The nation's top anti-drug official said people need to overcome their 'reefer blindness' and see that illicit marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public's health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. Walters made the comments at a Thursday press conference that provided an update on the 'Operation Alesia' marijuana-eradication effort."

July 8, 2007

U.S. eager and it shows in Iraq
"The U.S. command in Baghdad this week ballyhooed the killing of a key al Qaeda leader but later admitted that the military had declared him dead a year ago.

A military spokesman acknowledged the mistake after it was called to his attention by The Examiner. He said public affairs officers will be more careful in announcing significant kills."

Chertoff Scolds Senate on Immigration
"Chertoff said Senate opponents deprived his department of the ability to ensure stricter enforcement by requiring companies to enter in a system to check their employees' work status."

Governor OKs toughest migrant-hire law in U.S.
"Beginning Jan. 1, all Arizona employers will be required to check the legal status of their employees through a federal database known as the Basic Pilot Program. The accuracy of that database and its ability to handle 130,000 to 150,000 Arizona businesses that will now use it has been questioned. Napolitano sent a letter Monday to congressional leaders asking for improvements and federal investment to ensure Basic Pilot is up to the task."

Proposed OSHA Regulation Threatens Firearm and Ammunition Industry
Smokin' deals to be had on machetes though! (see next article link)

Price of machetes drops after elections
"The price of machetes has halved in parts of Nigeria since the end of general elections in April because demand from thugs sponsored by politicians has subsided, the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria reported."

June 30, 2007

Sentient world: war games on the grandest scale
"The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual 'nodes' to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR.

Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a 'synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information', according to a concept paper for the project.

'SWS provides an environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP),' the paper reads, so that military leaders can 'develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviors of adversaries, neutrals, and partners'.
Chaturvedi is now pitching SWS to DARPA and discussing it with officials at the US Department of Homeland Security, where he said the idea has been well received, despite the thorny privacy issues for US citizens.

In fact, Homeland Security and the Defense Department are already using SEAS to simulate crises on the US mainland."

Justice Stevens Calls On History He Lived
"On Monday, Stevens dissented in the case of the Alaska teenager who was suspended for displaying a 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' banner at a school event. While a majority of the court said the Constitution does not protect pro-drug student speech, Stevens took the historic view.

Harking back to Prohibition, which began three months before Stevens's birth and ended a month before he turned 13 in 1933, Stevens compared the current marijuana ban to the abandoned alcohol ban and urged a respectful hearing for those who suggest 'however inarticulately' that the ban is 'futile' and that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated instead of prohibited:

'[T]he current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our anti-marijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs.'"

June 26, 2007

Australia, US launch massive war game
"Vice Admiral Doug Crowder, commander of the US Navy's 7th Fleet, said uncertainty and unpredictability remained a threat to economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

'Therefore it is very important that our militaries train together to carry out the types of missions our governments may call upon us to execute to ensure regional security and stability.'
Australia's Major General Richard Wilson said the operation was the country's largest military training exercise.

'Talisman Sabre is based on a fictional scenario that combines most of the difficult aspects of modern warfare operations,' he told reporters."
And there'll be no fighting in the War Room!!

Afghan opium production 'soars'
"The World Drug Report says more than 90% of illegal opium, which is used to make heroin, comes from Afghanistan. It says cultivation of opium poppies increased dramatically in the country, despite the presence of more than 30,000 international troops there."
Of course the War on (Some) Drugs works - it works like this.

Special Operations Prepared for Domestic Missions
"Employing special operations for domestic missions sounds very ominous, and NORTHCOM's request earlier this year should receive the closest possible Pentagon and congressional scrutiny. There's only one problem: NORTHCOM is already doing what it has requested permission to do.

When NORTHCOM was established after 9/11 to be the military counterpart to the Department of Homeland Security, within its headquarters staff it established a Compartmented Planning and Operations Cell (CPOC) responsible for planning and directing a set of 'compartmented' and 'sensitive' operations on U.S., Canadian and Mexican soil. In other words, these are the very special operations that NORTHCOM is now formally asking the Pentagon to beef up into a public and acknowledged sub-command."

Army Officer Says Gitmo Panels Flawed

The Vice President asserts that his office is not an 'entity within the executive branch.'

DHS acknowledges own computer break-ins
"The Homeland Security Department, the lead U.S. agency for fighting cyber threats, suffered more than 800 hacker break-ins, virus outbreaks and other computer security problems over two years, senior officials acknowledged to Congress."

Money transfers by text message: A new service begins

Budget would expand DNA testing of felons to certain arrests
"Arizona's current program of requiring DNA testing for people convicted of felonies would be expanded under lawmakers' proposed budget to include testing of people merely accused of certain crimes.

Under a criminal justice bill that makes up part of the budget package, DNA testing would be required for individuals arrested, charged or convicted of homicide, burglary, certain sex-related offenses and serious offenses involving the use of a dangerous weapon."

The Controversy Over Stop and Frisk
"One police department in Delaware County is now implementing a controversial police procedure called Stop and Frisk. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it legal nearly 40 years ago, and the Upper Darby Police department, after seeing a tremendous increase in drug trafficking, has decided to give it a try.
Unlike a full search, in a frisk the officer pats down the suspect's outer clothing. If he feels what seems to be drugs or a weapon, he may then reach inside. If nothing is felt, the person is released."

June 15, 2007

Controversial security law advances in Zimbabwe
"The lower house of Zimbabwe's parliament passed a bill on Wednesday allowing the government to monitor phones, mail and the Internet to protect national security."

FBI Finds It Frequently Overstepped in Collecting Data
"An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism."

FBI Terror Watch List 'Out of Control'
"A terrorist watch list compiled by the FBI has apparently swelled to include more than half a million names."

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