The Golden Platform

A FOCUS ON THE FORCES CHANGING OUR WORLD

Posts tagged DHS

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Child Porn, Coke Smuggling: Hundreds of DHS Employees Arrested Last Year

Side note: Well, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. They are just carrying on the “tradition” I suppose - just like the Pentagon.

SOURCE

Border Patrol agents smuggling weed and coke. Immigration agents forging documents and robbing drug dealers. TSA employees caught with child porn. Those are just a few of the crimes perpetrated by Department of Homeland Security employees in just the past year.

Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security nearly a decade ago, the agency’s inspector general has been tasked with uncovering corruption, waste and criminality within its own ranks. The IG has had his hands full.

According to a newly released DHS inspector general’s summary of its significant investigations, 318 DHS employees and contractors were arrested in 2011 (.pdf). That’s about one arrest per weekday of the men and women who are supposed to be keeping the country safe. The report lets us not only see how corrupt some agents tasked with protecting the homeland can be, it also gives us a scale of the problem. In short: There are a lot of dirty immigration and border officers.

That might send the wrong impression. DHS is a massive agency of more than 225,000 employees. Within DHS, sub-agency Customs and Border Protection has more than doubled in recent years to nearly 59,000 employees. Maybe it’s not so surprising an organization of that size has a few bad apples. There’s also some good news. The number of arrests is going down: there were 519 arrests in 2010, compared to the 318 last year. Still, within that number includes some serious crimes.

“Border corruption may take the form of cash bribes, sexual favors, and other gratuities in return for allowing contraband or undocumented aliens through primary inspection lanes or even protecting and escorting border crossings; leaking sensitive law enforcement information to persons under investigation and selling law enforcement intelligence to smugglers; and providing needed documents such as immigration papers,” Charles Edwards, the acting inspector general for DHS, told Congress earlier this month (.pdf).

According to the report, a Border Patrol agent from Tucson named Yamilkar Fierros was given 20 months in prison for providing “sensor location maps, trail maps, and communications technology” to cartel members in exchange for more than $5,000 in bribes. Another incident involved an 8-year veteran CBP agent who conspired with cocaine traffickers to let drugs past his border inspection post. The agent, whose name and former location are undisclosed in the report, was sentenced to 110 months in federal prison.

Other corruption cases read like a list of bad career decisions, some appalling; others involve petty greed. The appalling includes at least two employees — one from CBP and another from the TSA — who were caught in possession of child pornography. A Border Patrol agent in Arizona “punched a fellow agent and threatened him with his service-issued weapon after the fellow agent joked about the excessive amount of tactical gear the [Border Patrol] routinely wore,” according to the report.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent named Valentino Johnson was sentenced to 120 months in prison for working an off-duty job robbing drug dealers, according to the report. Johnson, who was busted after attempting to steal a load of fake cocaine, worked with a stick-up crew who saw him as a means to portray a sense of legitimacy to their robberies.

A Border Patrol agent in Arizona named Michael Atondo was convicted for attempting to distribute marijuana. The agent, according to the report, using his patrol vehicle to bypass checkpoints and smuggle more than 100 kilos of marijuana. Among ICE agents, many cases involve forging fake immigration documents for bribes. A CBP agent posted to Logan International Airport in Boston even reportedly stole astronaut Neil Armstrong’s customs declaration form and attempted to sell it on the internet.

The corruption investigations have also netted contractors. At least one contractor with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was convicted of defrauding the agency of more than one million dollars. A company employee for security contractor MVM was discovered to have falsified training documents to the Federal Protective Service, which oversees security at government buildings.

There’s also a caveat. While the numbers of arrests have fallen this year, the long-term trend of cases against CBP agents, at least, has been on a rise since 2004, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of cases doubled. Former Border Patrol agent Lee Morgan told theDaily Star the increase was due to the agency expanding its ranks so quickly. “This is just such a tarnish on the badge of the U.S. Border Patrol,” he told the paper.

Homeland Security’s inspectors are also overloaded, and are now framing out more criminal cases to sub-agencies. The CBP, meanwhile, is boosting its own internal affairs staff, and is implementing lie-detector tests starting in January.

“While the number of corrupt individuals within our ranks who have betrayed the trust of the American public and their peers is a fraction of one percent of our workforce, we continue to focus our efforts on rooting out this unacceptable and deplorable behavior,” CBP acting commissioner David Aguilar told Congress (.pdf).

The director’s testimony came at a bad time. On Friday, in one of the most high-profile cases of agency corruption in recent years, two former Border Patrol agents were found guilty of smuggling hundreds of people in their vehicles in exchange for cash. They could face up to 50 years in prison. Perhaps they’ll meet up with some old colleagues, if they’re put behind bars.

Filed under News DHS Child Porn TSA

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War Inc. Shifts Homeward

by Kelley B. Vlahos

It’s been said many times that the war is a self-sustaining industry that requires a constant threat overseas to keep the machine thriving at home. Looking at the millions if not billions of dollars spent on securing “national special security events” against its own citizens, it’s clear that protesters have become the threat that has allowed, in part, the warfare state to flourish on American soil.

Sound dramatic? One need only to look at the lockdown of our cities during these “events” — whether it be the NATO Summit in Chicago today, or preparations to militarize the cities of Tampa and Charlotte for the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer — to see that the constitutionally protected, American tradition of protest has become a reason for law enforcement to spend their quickly evaporating budgets each year on new toys and overtime — including the latest in surveillance, crowd control gear and communications equipment, not to mention the helicopters overhead and armed vehicles on the ground.

Just as important, this threat allows the federal government to extend its own powers under the Patriot Act onto Main Street, all in the order of counterterrorism and national security.

No one would dispute that the gathering of representatives from 50 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including 28 members of the military alliance in Afghanistan, warrants extra security. Indeed, we live in a world today where gunmen walk right up to U.S. members of Congress and shoot them in the head, or pack cars full of explosives on the city street. But it becomes increasingly clear, after 10 years of conventions and “special events” with little or no incident, that the specter of terrorism is being used to generate intimidating and repressive conditions, particularly against peaceful protesters, and proliferating an industry that thrives on domestic conflict and chaos.

What is this industry? Look no further than the advertisements for this year’s GovSec 2012, the annual security exposition held in Washington, D.C. In April, it promised to help “arm homeland security professionals and law enforcement professionals alike with the training and tools they need to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks — from large-scale international threats to the dangers posed by homegrown extremists and lone wolves.”

According to this report, funding for the U.S. homeland security and homeland defense sector (including federal, state and local governments, and the private sector) will grow from $184 billion in 2011 to $205 billion by 2014. The market will grow from $73 billion in 2011 to $86 billion by 2014.

“The face of terrorism is constantly changing,” insisted GovSec Director Don Berey in a GovSec press release. “As a result, it is critical that those on the front lines of homeland security understand where new threats may arise and how their strategies must be adjusted to remain ever vigilant.” Adjusted, and paid for.

Thus, the endless war over there, becomes the endless war at home. Chicago is just the latest example of putting these new “strategies” to use. Talking about Chicago last week on Democracy Now!, Bill Ayers, University of Illinois professor and right-wing nemesis, explained:

There’s a mass campaign. They’re shutting Lakeshore Drive. They’re shutting the trains. They’re closing exits off the freeways. And they’re creating a kind of culture of fear. We have police officers we—who are friends of ours, we run into in coffee shops. They’ve told us that the training is focused a lot on the danger of the protesters and how you should be careful when you grab one of them, because they might have some kind of poison spike in their sleeve or something. I mean, it really is quite nuts.

At the same time, they’ve denied permits, taken permits away, given them back, been very vague about making any agreement with the protesters…we insist that this is a family-friendly, nonviolent, permitted march. And all the kind of hysteria about what’s about to happen is really brought on by the police. I don’t think anything is going to happen, except that they are creating the conditions for a police riot, once again.

Reports on Monday morning indicated that 45 people were arrested and four officers injured, including a police officer who was reportedly stabbed during a dramatic clash with protesters on Sunday night. In his remarks to reporters Sunday, Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy blamed the “black bloc” for rushing the police and precipitating the violence.

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Filed under News Commentary Antiwar War DHS Police Police state

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Oops! Air Force Drones Can Now (Accidentally) Spy on You

Side Note: It won’t be long before the DHS and Pentagon use this “oops! I didn’t mean to” excuse when they start killing Americans using these same drones they are accidentally spying on Americans with.
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By Spencer Ackerman

As long as the Air Force pinky-swears it didn’t mean to, its drone fleet can keep tabs on the movements of Americans, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen. And it can hold data on them for 90 days — studying it to see if the people it accidentally spied upon are actually legitimate targets of domestic surveillance.

The Air Force, like the rest of the military and the CIA, isn’t supposed to conduct “nonconsensual surveillance” on Americans domestically, according to an Apr. 23 instruction from the flying service. But should the drones taking off over American soil accidentally keep their cameras rolling and their sensors engaged, well … that’s a different story.

Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent,” reads the instruction (.pdf), unearthed by the secrecy scholar Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. That kind of “incidental” spying won’t be immediately purged, however. The Air Force has “a period not to exceed 90 days” to get rid of it — while it determines “whether that information may be collected under the provisions” of a Pentagon directive that authorizes limited domestic spying.

In other words, if an Air Force drone accidentally spies on an American citizen, the Air Force will have three months to figure out if it was legally allowed to put that person under surveillance in the first place.

Not all domestic drone surveillance is that ominous. “Air Force components may, at times, require newly collected or archived domestic imagery to perform certain missions,” the Air Force concluded. Acceptable surveillance includes flying drones over natural disasters; studying environmental changes; or keeping tabs above a domestic military base. Even those missions, however, raise “policy and legal concerns that require careful consideration, analysis and coordination with legal counsel.”

The potential trouble with those local intelligence missions is once the drones’ powerful sensors and cameras sweep up imagery and other data from Americans nearby, the Air Force won’t simply erase the tapes. It’ll start analyzing whether the people it’s recorded are, among other things, “persons or organizations reasonably believed to be engaged or about to engage, in international terrorist or international narcotics activities.” Suddenly, accidental spying provides an entrance point into deliberate investigations, all done without a warrant.

And it doesn’t stop with the Air Force. “U.S. person information in the possession of an Air Force intelligence component may be disseminated pursuant to law, a court order,” or the Pentagon directive that governs acceptable domestic surveillance. So what begins as a drone flight over, say, a national park to spot forest fires could end up with a dossier on campers getting passed on to law enforcement.

All this is sure to spark a greater debate about the use of drones and other military surveillance migrating from the warzones of Iraq and Afghanistan back home. The Department of Homeland Security — which is lukewarm on its fleet of spy drones — is expanding its use of powerful, military-grade camera systems. And police departments across the country are beginning to buy and fly drones from the military. Now the Air Force’s powerful spy tools could creep into your backyard in a different way.

There’s an irony here. The directive is actually designed to make sure that Air Force personnel involved in surveillance don’t start spying on their fellow citizens. It instructs that “Questionable Intelligence Activities … that may violate the law, any executive order or Presidential directive” have to be reported immediately up the chain of command. But what’s most questionable might be the kind of local spying the Air Force considers legit.

Filed under News Surveillance Surveillance state Minority Report Big Brother drones Air Force DHS

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Mobile Scanner to be Added to Biometric Data Arsenal

SOURCE

As part of the coordinated biometric border control program, including Secure Communities, a new mobile device called SEEK II has been ordered by Customs and Border Protection.

The Federal Biometric ID program which was announced by ICE back in February of 2011 was introduced under the guise of tracking immigrants who have been booked for crimes by local police.

However, it was quickly revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests by several justice organizations that the program was secretly intended for American citizens as well. 

The Secure Communities program itself has expanded well beyond its California testing grounds, and can now be found in 27 states.  It has been mandated by the Federal government that all states need to comply by 2013. (Source)

ICE has been under investigation for misrepresenting its intentions regarding Secure Communities, while the role of the FBI and its push to make mandatory what could have been voluntary, only furthers the suspicion that forcing states to obey a Federal dictate has intentions that far surpass documenting and deporting illegal and dangerous individuals.

Secure Communities is part of the Next Generation Identification program that has been rolled out to supplant the current fingerprint database known as IAFIS. Full biometrics are added to fingerprint information, including: palm scans, voice imprints, iris scans, facial recognition, and other body signatures that form an identity dossier of every individual. Once established, the dossier can be analyzed and communicated in real time between local law enforcement and federal agencies to theoretically deport “illegal and dangerous immigrants.”

The new hand-held device from Cross Match Technologies aggregates facial, fingerprint and iris scan information, as well as the capability to integrate a watchlist database that currently numbers around 120,000, according to a report by Government Security News.
'The compact, portable solution is designed for rugged field use, making it quick and easy for military, border control and U.S. government agencies to identify subjects and verify their identities in the field,' explains Cross Match on its Website.
The potential abuse of biometric database systems has led the Center for Constitutional Rights to issue a four-page fact sheet; part of which states a scope of concern that extends even beyond law enforcement abuse:
The accumulation of information in such large databases creates targets for hackers, disgruntled insiders, and national enemies. Information collection projects like NGI greatly endanger national security and leave us vulnerable to identity theft. Using biometric link identifiers introduces the risk that information gathered for one purpose will be used for completely unrelated purposes, without our knowledge or consent, and in blatant violation of our privacy rights. (Source, PDF)
Nearly all of the technology of tyranny has been introduced through supposed border control measures, while the border actually stays perfectly wide open. We have seen drones move from border control to inland functions over America with 63 bases now revealed

This new mobile device is all but guaranteed to be seen as a useful tool for day-to-day Americans under  a creeping Martial Law structure that sees warrantless invasions as routine.  As the TSA moves out of airports and onto the streets of America to conduct random searches, bullet-proof “Pillbox” checkpoints are established, and internment camps are openly planned for dissidents, we must raise awareness about the hidden intentions of the latest technological developments and their threat to our true safety and security.

Filed under News Biometrics ICE DHS surveillance surveillance state police state USA SEEK II

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Surveillance State democracy

As the FBI seeks full access to all forms of Internet communication, it is not voters who need to be convinced

Glenn Greenwald

CNET‘s excellent technology reporter, Declan McCullagh, reports on ongoing efforts by the Obama administration to force the Internet industry to provide the U.S. Government with “backdoor” access to all forms of Internet communication:

The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance… . That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers… .

The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET.

As for the substance of this policy, I wrote about this back in September, 2010, when it first revealed that the Obama administration was preparing legislation to mandate that “all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype” — be designed to ensure government surveillance access. This isn’t about expanding the scope of the government’s legal surveillance powers — numerous legislative changes since 2001 have already accomplished that quite nicely — but is about ensuring the government’s physical ability to intrude into all forms of Internet communication.

What was most amazing to me back when I first wrote about these Obama administration efforts was that a mere six weeks earlier, a major controversy had erupted when Saudi Arabia and the UAE bothannounced a ban on BlackBerries on the ground that they were physically unable to monitor the communications conducted on those devices. Since Blackberry communication data are sent directly to servers in Canada and the company which operates Blackberry — Research in Motion — refused to turn the data over to those governments, “authorities [in those two tyrannies] decided to ban Blackberry services rather than continue to allow an uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information within their borders.” As I wrote at the time: “that’s the core mindset of the Omnipotent Surveillance State: above all else, what is strictly prohibited is the ability of citizens to communicate in private; we can’t have any ‘uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information’.”

In response to that controversy, the Obama administration actuallycondemned the Saudi and UAE ban, calling it “a dangerous precedent” and a threat to “democracy, human rights and freedom of information.” Yet six weeks later, the very same Obama administration embraced exactly the same rationale — that it is intolerable for any human interaction to take place beyond the prying eyes and ears of the government — when it proposed its mandatory “backdoor access” for all forms of Internet communication. Indeed, the UAE pointed out that the U.S. — as usual — was condemning exactly that which it itself was doing:

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the United States, said [the Obama administration’s] comments were disappointing and contradict the U.S. government’s own approach to telecommunication regulation.

“In fact, the UAE is exercising its sovereign right and is asking for exactly the same regulatory compliance — and with the same principles of judicial and regulatory oversight — that Blackberry grants the U.S. and other governments and nothing more,” Otaiba said.

“Importantly, the UAE requires the same compliance as the U.S. for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement.”

A week after the announced ban by the Saudis and UAE, The New York Times published an Op-Ed by Richard Falkenrath — a top-level Homeland Security official in the Bush administration and current principal in the private firm of former Bush DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff — expressing support for the UAE’s Blackberry ban. Falkenrath explained that “[a]mong law enforcement investigators and intelligence officers [in the U.S.], the Emirates’ decision met with approval, admiration and perhaps even a touch of envy.” The Obama administration — by essentially seeking to ban any Internet technology that allows communication to take place beyond its reach — is working hard to ensure that its own Surveillance State apparatus keeps up with those of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The FBI claims this requirement is merely an extension of current law that mandates that all telecommunications carriers provide government surveillance access to telephone conversations when a search warrant is obtained, and that failure to extend this requirement to Interent communications will risk “Going Dark” with important investigations. There are many reasons why this claim is false.

For one, as surveillance expert Julian Sanchez explained to me in October, the U.S. Government does not need “backdoor” access to all Interent communications in order to surveil even individuals using encrypted communications; instead they can simply obtain end-user surveillance to do so: “if the FBI has an individual target and fear he’ll use encryption, they can do a covert entry under a traditional search warrant and install a keylogger on his computer.” Moreover, the problem cited by the FBI to justify this new power is a total pretext: “investigators encountered encrypted communications only one time during 2009′s wiretaps” and, even then, “the state investigators told the court that the encryption did not prevent them from getting the plain text of the messages.” As usual, fear-mongering over national security and other threats is the instrument to justify massive new surveillance powers that will extend far beyond their claimed function.

Sanchez explains that the true value of requiring back-door access for all Internet communications is full-scale access to all communications: “If you want to sift through communications in bulk, it’s only going to be feasible with a systemic backdoor.” McCullagh notes that Joe Biden has been unsuccessfully attempting to ban encrypted communications, or at least require full-scale government access, since well before 9/11. As for why this proposed bill is far more intrusive and dangerous than current law requiring all telephone communications to be subject to government surveillance, see Sanchez’s analysis here. The ACLU makes similar points here about why this proposal is so dangerous, and describes the numerous ways it extends far beyond current authorities concerning government access to telephone communications.

Moreover, for anyone who defends the Obama administration here and insists that the U.S. Government simply must have access to all forms of human communication: does that also apply to in-person communication? Should home and apartment builders be required to install monitors in every room they build to ensure that the Government can surveil all human communications in order to prevent threats to national security and public safety? I believe someone oncewrote a book about where this mindset inevitably leads. The very idea that no human communication should ever be allowed to take place beyond the reach of the Government is definitive authoritarianism, which is why Saudi Arabia and the UAE — and their American patron-ally — have so vigorously embraced it.

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Filed under News Commentary Surveillance Surveillance State Internet Spying US Government FBI DHS

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US fears militants will turn to bombs implanted in body cavities

Stars and Stripes

U.S. and allied officials are increasingly concerned that doctors working with al-Qaida’s Yemen-based affiliate will implant bombs inside living militants in order to try to circumvent airport security measures and bring down aircraft, Reuters reported.

A CIA drone attack earlier this year killed a Yemeni doctor who had devised medical procedures to surgically plant explosive devices in humans, Reuters said, but the expert bomb-maker who invented the tactic is still at large.

Two attacks in 2009 — including a failed plot to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day — involved explosives sewn into the bomber’s underwear. Authorities subsequently became concerned that militants would begin concealing explosives inside their body cavities, which would be harder to detect by airport X-ray machines.

Many Western airports installed unpopular body scanners in response to the threat.

Filed under News WTF Yemen Terrorism Fear US Government DHS US Military

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Drones patrolling Washington state border

Side Note: These drones and this entire stupid surveillance state is for one purpose, and one purpose only: TO INTIMIDATE YOU. Everything else they say it’s for IS A LIE. Clear? Good.
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Unmanned craft help with natural disasters and drug interdiction

SOURCE

SEATTLE – The federal government’s unmanned drones patrolling the U.S.-Canadian border are venturing into Washington’s airspace.

In testimony before a U.S. Senate panel last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said northern border surveillance using unmanned aerial aircraft now expands from North Dakota to Eastern Washington.

The two 10,000-pound Predator-B unmanned aircraft based in Grand Forks, N.D., have a 950-mile coverage range and “do enter Washington airspace, in the vicinity of Spokane,” Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Gina Gray said Thursday.

The unmanned aircraft “can stay in the air for up to 20 hours at a time, something no other aircraft in the federal inventory can do,” Gray said. “In this manner it is a force multiplier, providing aerial surveillance support for border agents by investigating sensor activity in remote areas to distinguish between real or perceived threats, allowing the boots on the ground force to best allocate their resources and efforts.”

Since 2005, the Department of Homeland Security has deployed a handful of drones around the country, with some based in Arizona, Florida, North Dakota and Texas – with more planned for the future. Operations out of North Dakota first began in 2011.

The drones help both patrol and aid during natural disasters. For example, Gray said, the Predators have mapped the flooded Red River Valley in the areas of North Dakota and Minnesota. The drones are equipped with cameras that can provide aerial pictures of disaster areas.

The drones also can be loaned to local agencies in cases of emergencies. In fiscal year 2011, CBP’s drones contributed to the seizure of 7,600 pounds of narcotics and 75 arrests, Gray added.

The use of drones has proliferated among federal and local law enforcement agencies nationwide along with civilian hobbyists in recent years.

In December, Congress gave the Federal Aviation Administration six months to pick half a dozen sites around the country where the military and others can fly unmanned aircraft in the vicinity of regular air traffic, with the aim of demonstrating they’re safe.

But concerns remain, including privacy, and the government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground – concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology.

A recent American Civil Liberties Union report said allowing drones greater access takes the country “a large step closer to a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities.”

Kendle Allen, sheriff of remote Stevens County, said his agency has not asked for drone assistance.

“There is always mixed feelings about something flying above you,” Allen said.

But he said in Stevens County’s rugged mountainous terrain, aerial patrol can be useful in case of emergencies. His office has used U.S. Border Patrol helicopters in the past to search for people missing in the woods.

Filed under News DHS Drones Washington USA Canada Surveillance Surveillance State

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Bringing the ‘War on Terrorism’ Home

Cleveland May Day terrorist plot – another frame-up by the Feds

by Justin Raimondo

The Obama cult is revving up its motors for the reelection campaign, with Joe Bidendeclaiming “General Motors is alive and bin Laden is dead”: that’s the signature slogan MSNBC apparently intends to repeat endlessly until we get some relief on election day. It must be the concatenation of the stars in alignment with Mars, but it looks like I actually agree with something Arianna Huffington said: that this campaign slogan is “despicable,” which it surely is. Naturally, Ms. Huffington doesn’t acknowledge the lie at the heart of the first part of that slogan: GM still hasn’t paid back the bailout money shelled out by taxpayers. If they’re making money, why not reimburse the tax slaves? But never mind: what concerns us here is that the Obama administration is taking credit for a long process – finding OBL – that began in the Bush administration and only culminated under this President’s watch.

But never mind that, too, because one has to wonder: who cares that bin Laden is dead when our endless “war on terrorism” continues? As Glenn Greenwald points out, that war hasn’t slowed down a bit, indeed it is escalating – not only abroad, where our“regime change” machine is homing in on Syria and Iran after having devastated Libya and destabilized Pakistan, but also here in this country. Is it just a coincidence that on May Day, the very day the “Occupy” movement chose for nationwide protests against corporate dominance of American politics, the FBI announced the arrest of five “anarchists” who were supposedly plotting to blow up a bridge in Cleveland?

Not that there was ever any danger of the bridge actually being blown up: like all the high-profile “domestic terrorism” cases touted by the feds these days, this was yet another case of the FBI infiltrating a fringy group and instigating its members into participating in a bogus “plot,” which the feds could then hold up as another “success story” in their ongoing domestic “war on terrorism.” It’s a veritable growth industry, one the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have a vested interest in propagating and encouraging: the more “plots” they can uncover, the more tax dollars are poured into their coffers.

That the timing of this announcement is politically motivated is obvious even to the most naïve observer: this administration is directly threatened by the Occupy movement, in spite of their strenuous attempts to co-opt it. The President’s war chest this time around is going to dwarf that of the Republicans, supposedly the party ofCorporate Greed, and the bucks aren’t coming from little old ladies on Social Security and college students dipping into their piggy banks. Last election season, Obama’s bundlers outpaced the Republicans by more than two-to-one, unleashing a veritable cornucopia of corporate donations, earning him the soubriquet “the candidate from Goldman Sachs.” Rather than put up with dissent from his left flank, Obama and his minions in law enforcement are seemingly determined to frame up the Occupy movement just like they tried to do the same with the ultra-right-wing “Hutaree” militia – and let’s hope they have as much success with the former as they did with the latter. Because the judge in the Hutaree case threw the government’s case out, acquitted the defendants, and rebuked prosecutors for bringing the case to court in the first place.

The Hutaree were engaged in a lot of talk, some of it ill-considered, but that is not a crime. The only crime involved the instigations of a paid government informer who insisted that the Hutaree carry out a “war” against the federal government and concocted a plan to kill some police officers. One of the defendants came out of the trial advising people to “watch what you say” – because “even the most innocent statements can be used against you.” In post-9/11 America, that’s sage advice.

The Hutaree militia members were charged with “seditious conspiracy” to overthrow the government, based on over 100 hours of clandestinely recorded audio and the testimony of their paid informant. No doubt prosecutors knew they were treading on shaky legal grounds, but obtaining a conviction is not necessarily the government’s first concern in cases of this kind, because the effect of such prosecutions is to publicize the difficulties “anti-government” individuals and organizations will run into if they persist in their activities. These cases have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech, and that is a key aspect of these trumped-up cases. Are you going to oppose the will of the federal government and get yourself into all sorts of trouble – or are you going to keep a low profile, keep your mouth shut, and avoid all sort of unpleasant legal problems? That’s the question “anti-government” activists have to ask themselves, these days, and there’s no doubt many potential dissidents are choosing the second alternative.

In the Cleveland case, we are assured that the elements of the “bomb” wereinoperable, and the FBI was in on the details of the “conspiracy” from day one: in other words, this was another Hutaree-type “plot,” a pretext for the government to entrap and prosecute “dangerous radicals” whose only crime is operating outside an acceptable ideological context. In short, it is a propaganda exercise designed to show that the feds need all the “legal tools” given to them by the “Patriot” Act – and that these incursions on our constitutional rights need to be preserved and extended. It’s propaganda aimed at keeping Americans fearful, so that they’ll surrender what is left of their rights to a government ready, willing, and eager to extend its authority into every aspect of our lives – in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Our phony “war on terrorism” on the international front has given the government ablank check to descend on Americans and root out “subversion” while trampling on free speech and narrowing the range of permissible dissent. One by one, the liberties guaranteed to us in the Constitution are being chipped away by government prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and politicians on the make. Last time this happened – around 1776 – the American people had to take matters into their own hands in order to teach them a lesson – a lesson it appears they have forgotten. And if this be “seditious conspiracy,” then let the feds make the most of it!

Filed under News Commentary War on terror DHS FBI Dissent antiwar False flag Cleveland Ohio

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Not Explaining the Why of Terrorism

by Ray McGovern

John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on counterterrorism, has again put on public display two unfortunate facts: (1) that the White House has no clue as to how to counter terrorism; and (2) (in Brennan’s words) “the unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives.”

In a speech on April 30, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.” Does he really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles on the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?

Beneath Brennan’s Orwellian rhetoric lies the reality that he remains unable (or unwilling) to deal with, the $64 question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas asked him repeatedly on Jan. 7, 2010, about why terrorists do the things they do.

Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Is it possible he still has no clue? To demonstrate how little progress Brennan has made in the way of understanding the challenge of “terrorism,” let’s look back at my commentary in early 2010 about Brennan’s vacuous non-answers to Helen Thomas. At the time, I wrote:

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (now 91) to break through the vapid remarks about rechanneling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did. Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. 

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Obama’s Non-Answer

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the president uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

It is clear that al-Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al-Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al-Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room: “America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

Former senior CIA officer Paul R. Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.

But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thus: “How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”

Better communication. That’s the ticket.

Hypocrisy and Double Talk

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Filed under News Commentary War War crimes Terrorism Imperialism Totalitarianism Washington DC USA DHS

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Homeland Security To Test Biological Sensors In MBTA Tunnels

BOSTON (CBS) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be releasing bacteria into the MBTA tunnels to test the safety of the subway.

The DHS has installed sensors in the MBTA system to detect biological agents and they’ve been testing to see how the air moves.

Now they want to release particles in the tunnels to see how well the sensors work.

The tests will be held at stations in Cambridge and Somerville.

Federal officials say they test the subway sensors by releasing dead bacteria called B-subtilis. They say it is used in food supplements, has been rigorously tested and has no adverse health effects for low exposure in healthy people.

The tests will be held during the off hours this summer, likely overnight. As part of the legal process, a hearing will be held May 16, from 5:30-7:30pm at the Cambridge YMCA in Central Square. The public will be able to voice concerns and comments.

READ: DHS Test Summary

While the systems are being evaluated, Massachusetts public health officials will be working closely with DHS and the MBTA to monitor the results. The MBTA and DHS are coordinating these efforts with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Cambridge Public Health Department, and the Somerville Health Department, with support from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

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Life Under Constant Watch

by Firmin DeBrabander

he surveillance state expands. Since 9-11, our phones are subject to warrantless wiretaps. Our email and internet transactions leave a trail for some to follow. The police can access our GPS location data through our smart phones, also without a warrant. Retailers record our purchasing habits with painstaking detail. Apparently, Target studies those purchases to determine when customers are pregnant—in the second trimester no less—for specialized marketing purposes.

And now, there will be surveillance drones. Congress recently passed a bill that opens the gates to widespread use of surveillance drones on US soil. There has been relatively little coverage of this alarming development: drones, so far associated with our illegal war in Pakistan and Yemen, are soon to become a domestic mainstay. On our shores, they will be used for law enforcement and border protection, but also commercially, for real estate, entertainment and journalistic purposes, for example. One prominent drone showcased on the internet is a hummingbird drone. As the name suggests, it’s tiny, quick and highly mobile. A popular video shows the hummingbird drone entering a building and flying down a corridor, transmitting everything it sees. Imagine the possibilities.

What is the effect of all this lost privacy? How does it change our behavior? Because surely it does; we are apt to behave differently when we feel we are alone or watched. What will our personal lives be like as so much more of them is made public?

The French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that constant surveillance has a devastating effect. It’s a subtle form of oppression. When we feel we are being watched, we are more self-conscious of our behavior, more likely to watch what we do and conform to what we think the surveyors want or expect. The hawks among us say this is a good thing: if you’re doing nothing wrong, what do you have to fear from a hummingbird drone? But it’s not as simple as that.

Constant surveillance, Foucault maintained, can be a kind of torture—a revelation implemented by 19th century prison architects. It’s also ideal for authoritarian government in that it’s a highly efficient form of power: authority doesn’t need to coerce individuals physically to behave a certain way; surveillance inserts authority’s eye inside the individual, and he monitors himself. Surveillance enables power to be anonymous, Foucault says, which is especially devastating. You don’t know exactly why you are being watched, or exactly what’s expected of you, and ultimately cultivates a kind of inbred paranoia where you are unsure and timid about everything you do.

Further, Foucault suggests, surveillance that is widely established in society softens the ground for overt political oppression, because it makes us less resistant to breaches of our rights.

This thought occurred to me following the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision to uphold the right of prison officials to strip-search anyone entering a prison facility, no matter how minor the offense. In the case in question, a man was strip-searched after being arrested for an unpaid fine; his arrest was mistaken—he had already paid the fine. The Supreme Court defended the right to strip-search him anyway. Clearly this would seem to undermine our cherished notion of presumed innocence, and it grievously offends our personal dignity. But such galling invasions of privacy, and disregard for personal dignity, become increasingly acceptable when we are already accustomed to them more broadly—all the time, in subtle ways.

The political problem with all this surveillance is obvious, if we’d care to admit it. The political authorities have so much more access to the details of our lives, and in the wrong hands, could do real harm. The only thing protecting us is the character of those in power who collect all this information—and swear they will do nothing objectionable with it. Regarding the new National Defense Authorization Act, which sanctions the president’s power to detain indefinitely or even assassinate US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist organizations, Obama tried to allay fears by arguing that his administration will use discretion and judgment in exercising this power. What about subsequent administrations? Our founding fathers were highly concerned to design a government that was impervious to corruption by the character flaws of individual office holders. The War on Terror has steadily rendered us vulnerable to just that.

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Filed under News Commentary Surveillance Surveillance State US Citizens ACLU US Military Pentagon DHS

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The Empire Strikes Back: Attack of the Drones

by John W. Whitehead

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
– James Madison

Drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to massive “hunter/killer” Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high. Once used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks on enemy insurgents abroad, these remotely piloted, semi-autonomous robots have now been authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace. The military empire is coming home to roost.

While there are at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S., the Obama administration is calling for drone technology to be integrated into the national airspace by 2015. By 2020, just eight short years from now, it is estimated that at least 30,000 of these drones will be crisscrossing the nation’s skies, serving a wide range of functions, both public and private, governmental and corporate. The end result, however, will be the same: we will find ourselves operating under a new paradigm marked by round-the-clock surveillance and with little hope of real privacy, a paradigm foisted upon us and from which there will be no escape, short of living in a cave, far removed from the reach of modern technology. Caves, by the way, are rather scarce.

While the legislative vehicle for this rapid transition into a surveillance state came in the guise of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in February 2012, it was steamrollered into place after intense corporate lobbying by drone makers and potential customers hoping to capitalize on the $12 billion–$30 billion per year industry.

As with every egregious government policy, there are politicians who stand to make money off the implementation of drones in America. Fifty-five members of the House of Representatives are part of the drone caucus, which works to expand the use of drones domestically. So far this election season, 15 members of the caucus have received a total of $68,500 from General Atomics PAC, the political action committee of the drone manufacturer General Atomics. There is also a lobbying group with 507 corporate members spread across 55 countries, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, which is responsible for the language in the FAA bill that mandates the accelerated implementation of drone technology. Thus, our so-called representatives and the corporations which support them will make a great deal of money off the decimation of Americans’ privacy rights.

While the threat these drones pose to privacy is unprecedented, they are being unleashed on the American populace before any real protocols to protect our privacy rights have been put in place and in such a way as to completely alter the landscape of our lives and our freedoms. We are truly entering a new era. Once the realm of science fiction and dystopian literature, the all-seeing surveillance state, powered by the latest and greatest in robot technology, is the reality with which we must now contend.

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Filed under News Commentary Drones War RFID Police Police State Surveillance Surveillance State US Government US Military DHS

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The Normalization of Dystopia

by Kevin Carson

Lily Tomlin used to say “I try to be cynical, but I can’t keep up.” Writers of dystopian sci-fi have the same trouble keeping ahead of actual reality.

Forty years ago, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, in the Illuminatus! trilogy, portrayed a near future in which the ruling elite used a wave of assassinations a la JFK, RFK and MLK to terrorize the American public into accepting a full-scale police state. “The assassinations, you see, establish the need for such laws in the public mind.” A few years of such orchestrated terror, and the state would have Americans “under tighter surveillance than Hitler had the Germans.”

As it happens the real-world impetus to such creeping totalitarianism was not assassinations. It was the Drug War and 9/11. But the overall effect has been very much the same.

Wilson’s and Shea’s elite spokesman enumerated a long list of police state measures — most of them utterly fantastic to American readers in the early ’70s — that Americans would be driven to accept. Today, in the non-fictional America of 2012, most of them are considered entirely normal procedures “the authorities” use to “keep us safe.”

Let’s take a look at that fictional list:

“Universal electronic surveillance.” NSA? Warrantless wiretaps? National security letters?

“No-knock laws.” We didn’t even need a law to make no-knock warrants standard paramilitarized police procedure.

“Stop-and-frisk laws.” Again, who needed a law? Ever hear of Rudy Giuliani?

“Automatic fingerprinting, photographing, blood tests, and urinalysis of any person arrested before he is charged with a crime.” Standard procedure in most jurisdictions.

“A law making it illegal to resist even unlawful arrest.” Google that one and you’ll find the principle stated in so many words in actual case law. The old common law principle that the constabulary’s authorty derived entirely from judicial warrants is as dead as Sir Edward Coke.

“Gun control laws.” No comment.

Some haven’t yet materialized.

“Government inspection of first-class mail.” Although there’s recurring talk of “smart stamps” that make anonymity impossible, and the government keeps tightening the screws on anonymous remailers and upping the identification requirements to rent a P.O. box.

“Laws establishing detention camps for potential subversives.” I’m not aware that camps have been specifically allocated for detention of subversives in a national emergency. But power to detain “terror suspects” — right now — without criminal charges is established in law under NDAA, and was already claimed by the executive. Whether or not there’s dedicated housing already in place for such detainees, the government’s quite capable (as shown by the use of Ft. Chaffee to house Katrina refugees) of improvising.

Others have been implemented on steroids. The obvious example is “restrictions on travel.” The TSA’s passenger processing regime is for all intents and purposes an internal passport system for air travel. And the internal passport system is rapidly spreading to other transportation sectors. TSA VIPR (Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams have appeared in bus and train stations all over the country. Even driving isn’t safe. A VIPR team recently set up a checkpoint in the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel on Hwy 64.

So we’ve got an internal passport system fully in place for civil aviation, rapidly getting there for trains and buses, and maybe coming for highways. Remember when internal passports, checkpoints, and uniformed goons saying “papers, please” was one of those exotic things that happened in faraway totalitarian states like Soviet Russia?

Just like torture. That’s another one of those things that only the bad guys used to do. Now that America’s Finest do it too, it’s been renamed “harsh interrogation techniques.”

Not that American soldiers and intelligence operatives never used torture in the past. I mean, we’ve all heard stories about waterboarding Moros in the Philippines, and “Charlie” being thrown out of choppers in Nam. But back then it was done quasi-officially, with plausible deniability for the folks back home in their nice clean offices in Langley and the Pentagon.

Now, however, torture’s been proclaimed official policy in memos from John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and Donald Rumsfeld. Waterboarding of terror suspects — you know, like Japanese soldiers were executed for after WWII — was explicitly authorized by the highest circles of the U.S. government. “Oh, but Saint Obama did away with all that!” Really? You don’t think anything nasty still goes on at Baghram? You think all those former Soviet bloc prisons leased with U.S. black ops money were really just shut down?

Let’s face it, dystopian sci-fi simply can’t keep up with reality.

Filed under Commentary Anarchy Anarchism Surveillance State TSA DHS Surveillance

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Drone Use Takes Off on the Home Front

Side Note: Well, isn’t this just YAWN-TASTIC! I love how the main-stream media is always way behind on this sort of thing… That “advocacy group” that the WSJ conveniently forgets to mention in the first paragraph [but quickly mentioned in paragraph three] would be the EFF or the Electronic Frontier Foundation - you can read that original story here or my reprint here on the Golden Platform. The issue that I have with this article (and mainstream media in general) is that drones have been flying over the United States for numerous years now (and not simply due to this latest bill that’s been signed) - but they only feel compelled to report on it now that the so-called “cat is out of the bag” thanks to those FOIA requests from the EFF. This article really is just another FAIL on behalf of mainstream media as far as I’m concerned. 
_____________________________________________________________________ 

Wall Street Journal

With little public attention, dozens of universities and law-enforcement agencies have been given approval by federal aviation regulators to use unmanned aircraft known as drones, according to documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests by an advocacy group.

The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

The information, released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, came to light as the Federal Aviation Administration gears up to advance the widespread use of the drones. By the fall of 2015, Congress wants the agency to integrate remotely piloted aircraft throughout U.S. airspace.

Although the documents don’t indicate how the aircraft will be used, the disclosures likely will fuel privacy concerns involving drones.

On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas asked the acting administrator of the FAA to answer questions about the privacy implications of increased drone use.

"Many drones are designed to carry surveillance equipment, including video cameras, infrared thermal imagers, radar and wireless network ‘sniffers,’ " the representatives wrote in their letter to Michael Huerta. Now that the FAA, under pressure from lawmakers and businesses, is pushing to increase the use of drones, it has “the responsibility to ensure that the privacy of individuals is protected and that the public is fully informed about who is using drones in public airspace and why,” they wrote.

The FAA declined to comment.

As part of the push to increase uses of civilian drones, nearly 50 companies are developing some 150 different systems, ranging from miniature models to those with wingspans comparable to airliners.

The FAA previously said it has approved dozens of nonmilitary uses of unmanned aircraft, ranging from law enforcement to firefighting to wildlife monitoring. Drones also have been used for news coverage, mapping and agricultural applications.

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Filed under News Drones USA DHS UAV FAA

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The TSA’s mission creep is making the US a police state

The out-of-control Transportation Security Administration is past patdowns at airports – now it’s checkpoints and roadblocks

Jennifer Abel

Ever since 2010, when the Transportation Security Administration started requiring that travelers in American airports submit to sexually intrusive gropings based on the apparent anti-terrorism principle that “If we can’t feel your nipples, they must be a bomb”, the agency’s craven apologists have shouted down all constitutional or human rights objections with the mantra “If you don’t like it, don’t fly!”

This callous disregard for travelers’ rights merely paraphrases the words of Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano, who shares, with the president, ultimate responsibility for all TSA travesties since 2009. In November 2010, with the groping policy only a few weeks old, Napolitano dismissed complaints by saying “people [who] want to travel by some other means” have that right. (In other words: if you don’t like it, don’t fly.)

But now TSA is invading travel by other means, too. No surprise, really: as soon as she established groping in airports, Napolitano expressed her desire to expand TSA jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit. In the past year, TSA’s snakelike VIPR (Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams have been slithering into more and more bus and train stations – and even running checkpoints on highways – never in response to actual threats, but apparently more in an attempt to live up to the inspirational motto displayed at the TSA’s air marshal training center since the agency’s inception: “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.”

Anyone who rode the bus in Houston, Texas during the 2-10pm shift last Friday faced random bag checks and sweeps by both drug-sniffing dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs (the latter being only canines necessary if “preventing terrorism” were the actual intent of these raids), all courtesy of a joint effort between TSA VIPR nests and three different local and county-level police departments. The new Napolitano doctrine, then: “Show us your papers, show us everything you’ve got, justify yourself or you’re not allowed to go about your everyday business.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee praised these violations of her constituents’ rights with an explanation asinine even by congressional standards:

"We’re looking to make sure that the lady I saw walking with a cane … knows that Metro cares as much about her as we do about building the light rail."

See, if you don’t support the random harassment of ordinary people riding the bus to work, you’re a callous bastard who doesn’t care about little old ladies.

No specific threats or reasons were cited for the raids, as the government no longer even pretends to need any. Vipers bite you just because they can. TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos confirmed this a few days before the Houston raids, when VIPR teams and local police did the same thing to travelers catching trains out of the Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois. Fotenos confirmed that “It was not in response to a specific threat,” and bragged that VIPR teams conduct “thousands” of these operations each year.

Still, apologists can pretend that’s all good, pretend constitutional and human rights somehow don’t apply to mass transit, and twist their minds into the Mobius pretzel shapes necessary to find random searches of everyday travelers compatible with any notion that America is a free country. “Don’t like the new rules for mass transit? Then drive.”

Except even that doesn’t work anymore. Earlier this month, the VIPRs came out again in Virginia and infested the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, also known as the stretch of Interstate 64 connecting the cities of Hampton and Norfolk. Spokesmen admitted again that the exercise was a “routine sweep”, not a response to any specific threat. Official news outlets admitted the checkpoint caused a delay (further exacerbated by a couple of accidents), but didn’t say for how long. Local commenters at the Travel Underground forums reported delays of 90 minutes.

I grew up in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. When I was a kid, my dad crossed the bridge-tunnel every day while commuting to work. When I was in university, I did the same thing. The old conventional wisdom said “Get to the airport at least two hours early, so TSA has time to violate your constitutional rights before boarding.” What’s the new conventional wisdom – “Leave for any destination at least 90 minutes early, so TSA can violate your rights en route”?

Airports, bus terminals, train stations, highways – what’s left? If you don’t like it, walk. And remember to be respectfully submissive to any TSA agents or police you encounter in your travels, especially now that theUS supreme court has ruled mass strip-searches are acceptable for anyone arrested for even the most minor offence in America. If you’re rude to any TSA agent or cops, you risk being arrested on some vague catch-all charge like “disorderly conduct”. Even if the charges are later dropped, you’ll still undergo the ritual humiliation of having to strip, squat, spread ‘em and show your various orifices to be empty.

Can I call America a police state now, without being accused of hyperbole?

Filed under News TSA Police State DHS Surveillance State USA America

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