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Monday, March 19, 2012

First Amendment Be Damned: Out of control TSA threatens bloggers

Called 'useless' by a former FBI terrorism expert, the TSA is out of control and has once again threatened, or 'cautioned against' journalists covering the TSA's bogus and costly security theater.

By Ms. Smith
Network World

According to TSA Out of Our Pants, $1B of TSA nude body scanners were made worthless by the blogger's video showing how to "get anything through" the TSA body scanners. This was immediately followed by the TSA threatening mainstream media not to cover the viral YouTube video.

In response to an emailed interview request, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz "strongly cautioned" a SmarterTravel journalist from covering Jon Corbett's video story. The email said Corbett "clearly has an agenda" which "should not be aided by the mainstream media." To which Corbett wrote on TSA Out of Our Pants, "The TSA is clearly no fan of the 4th Amendment, nor of 5th Amendment due process rights, and now this blatant attempt to manipulate the free press with 'strong caution' hits at Amendment the First."

TSA's blogger Bob wrote about the viral video, calling it "a crude attempt to allegedly show how to circumvent TSA screening procedures."

It's one of the best tools available to detect metallic and non-metallic items, such as... you know... things that go BOOM. With all that said, it is one layer of our 20 layers of security (Behavior Detection, Explosives Detection Canines, Federal Air Marshals, , etc.) and is not a machine that has all the tools we need in one handy device. We've never claimed it's the end all be all. ... However, our nation's aviation system is much safer now with the deployment of 600 imaging technology units at 140 airports.

Safer? Is that because TSA officers spend their time breaking a laptop and then threatening the owner with arrest, hassling breast-feeding mothers over ice packs, or like last week by adding TSA miscellaneous prohibited items like "a fantasy knife that slays mythical creatures that don't exist." The TSA Blog likes to brag about what "dangerous items" are confiscated by the TSA at security checkpoints and reported:

 Sure, it's great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested.... Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide.

Techdirt advised "slow down TSA lynch mob" as what was revealed in the video is old news and the upgraded scanners no longer show "nude" images against a black background, but show a generic image against a white background. Regardless, "simply traveling or having private parts is not probable cause" for the TSA to think travelers have committed an offense worthy of being groped or being "ogled" in virtual strip-searches via naked body scanners.

Whether it's an old body scanner or a new one, this certainly is not the first time that the TSA has basically said the First Amendment be damned and threatened bloggers. The TSA has also threatened airlines if they tell passengers if they are on a watchlist. When Texas was planning to ban groping by TSA agents and make it illegal to touch anyone's junk, it fell through when the feds threatened to shut down Texas airports. And why? Because nine other states were seeking similar legislation to defend our Constitution.

In fact even complaining about the TSA and exercising that First Amendment right might get you flagged. At that time, Mike German, a former FBI agent turned ACLU attorney, said, "Expressing your contempt about airport procedures -- that's a First Amendment-protected right. We all have the right to express our views, and particularly in a situation where the government is demanding the ability to search you." German added, "It's circular reasoning where, you know, I'm going to ask someone to surrender their rights; if they refuse, that's evidence that I need to take their rights away from them. And it's simply inappropriate."

Sadly enough even complaining about government at all has landed some people on watchlists, such as when Mark Faulk, an Oklahoma City writer and filmmaker active in Occupy OKC was placed on the federal No Fly List.

According to another former FBI Special Agent Steve Moore, the TSA is totally useless. As previous head of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force Al Qaeda squad, and an FBI agent for 25 years, Moore knows a thing or two about catching terrorists. Moore said the TSA is out of control. "Civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle should be appalled at an unauthorized use to which TSA is putting their screening: Identifying petty criminals--using one search method to achieve a secret goal. This is strictly forbidden in other government branches."

Additionally Moore wrote on G-man Case File:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed to ensure America's freedom to travel. Instead, they have made air travel the most difficult means of mass transit in the United States, at the same time failing to make air travel any more secure.
TSA has never, (and I invite them to prove me wrong), foiled a terrorist plot or stopped an attack on an airliner. Ever. They crow about weapons found and insinuate that this means they stopped terrorism.  They claim that they can't comment due to "national security" implications. In fact, if they had foiled a plot, criminal charges would have to be filed. Ever hear of terrorism charges being filed because of something found during a TSA screening? No, because it's never happened. Trust me, if TSA had ever foiled a terrorist plot, they would buy full-page ads in every newspaper in the United States to prove their importance and increase their budget.

TSA surveillance is a peep show, a police state and privacy invasion. It blows my mind that in America, any agency can claim show us your body or we'll feel you and then get by with groping people. The intimidation tactics to stifle dissent and the First Amendment also makes me wonder, did I wake up in another country or is that KGB-like in the USA? This is Sunshine Week, so please do shine rays of light on the TSA to disinfect the worthless security theater which is costing We the People a fortune. And just think, in the future, the TSA plans to track all of your daily travels to work, to the grocery store, to social events and everywhere else you go.

Article Source:

The infographic was created by: Online Criminal Justice Degree. You can see it full-sized here.
TSA Waste
Created by: Online Criminal Justice Degree

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DOJ Asks Court To Keep Secret Any Partnership Between Google, NSA

Blog of Legal Times
March 9, 2012

The Justice Department is defending the government's refusal to discuss—or even acknowledge the existence of—any cooperative research and development agreement between Google and the National Security Agency.

The Washington based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued in federal district court here to obtain documents about any such agreement between the Internet search giant and the security agency.

The NSA responded to the suit with a so-called “Glomar” response in which the agency said it could neither confirm nor deny whether any responsive records exist. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington sided with the government last July.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear the dispute March 20.

EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request in early 2010, noting media reports at the time that the NSA and Google had agreed to a partnership following the cyber attacks in China that year against Google.

EPIC asked for, among other things, communication between the NSA and Google about Gmail and Google’s “decision to fail to routinely encrypt” messages before Jan. 13, 2010.

The NSA’s response to the request for records noted that the agency “works with a broad range of commercial partners and research associations” to ensure the availability of secure information systems. The agency, however, refused to confirm or deny any partnership with Google.

The security agency said it routinely monitors vulnerabilities in commercial technology and cryptographic products because the government relies heavily on private companies for word processing systems and e-mail software.

If NSA determines that certain security vulnerabilities or malicious attacks pose a threat to U.S. government information systems, NSA may take action,” DOJ Civil Division lawyers Catherine Hancock and Douglas Letter said in a brief in the D.C. Circuit in January.

DOJ’s legal team said that acknowledging whether NSA and Google formed a partnership from a cyber attack would illuminate whether the government “considered the alleged attack to be of consequence for critical U.S. government information systems.”

NSA said it cannot provide documents—or confirm their existence—because the information would alert adversaries about the security agency’s priorities, threat assessments and countermeasures.

DOJ said media reports about the alleged Google partnership with NSA do not constitute official acknowledgement.

The Washington Post and The New York Times both reported that Google contacted the NSA after the Jan. 2010 cyber attack, which the company said was rooted in China and targeted access to accounts of Chinese human rights activists. The Wall Street Journal said NSA’s general counsel worked out a cooperative research and development agreement with Google.

EPIC’s attorneys, including Marc Rotenberg, the group’s president, said in court papers that the document request includes records that are not relevant to the NSA’s information assurance mission.

The NSA mischaracterizes EPIC’s FOIA Request by stating that responsive documents would reveal ‘information about a potential Google-NSA relationship,’” Rotenberg said.

The crux of the records request, Rotenberg said, is Google’s switch to application encryption by default for Gmail accounts soon after the cyber attack. Google in 2008 began allowing users to encrypt mail passing through the company servers, EPIC said in its brief, but encryption was not provided by default.

EPIC’s brief said the failure of the NSA to conduct a search for records “deprives the court of the ability to meaningfully assess the propriety” of the agency’s response that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of responsive records.

Without first conducting the search, not even the agency can know whether there is a factual basis for its legal position,” Rotenberg said.

EPIC said its records request does not seek documents about NSA’s role to secure government computer networks. “Google provides cloud-based services to consumers, not critical infrastructure services to the government,” Rotenberg said.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Challenging the Self-Made Myth

by Katrina vanden Heuvel
The Nation
March 2, 201

Over the last thirty years, anti-government arguments by conservative pundits and politicians have gained prominence, and the rhetoric this 2012 campaign season seems more toxic than ever. Republicans are relentlessly pushing the notion that lower taxes, less regulation and small government (except for defense) will magically end the recession and create a better country, and “job creators” will lift all boats.
It’s BS. As Congressman Barney Frank recently said, “I’ve never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I’ve never seen a tax cut build a bridge.”
Americans benefit every day from government—from consumer protection to roads and bridges to food and safety regulation—even people who claim to hate an “activist government” are some of the prime beneficiaries of the safety net at a moment when there are still over four unemployed workers for every available job and nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty.
But the GOP has wagered its future on ruthlessly and relentlessly attacking government—it isn’t about to let reality get in the way of its crusade.
Republican presidential candidates are tripping all over one another trying to prove who will take the biggest axe to government the quickest. So Mitt Romney labels regulations “the invisible boot of government to bring us all down” and argues that “we need to get the federal government out of education.” Rick Santorumfearmongers about “the narcotic of government dependency,” and Gingrich plays to old myths and racial stereotypes as he spreads lies about food stamps—one of the bright spots of the safety net in terms of responding to the needs of the Great Recession.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy is spot on in writing of Republican presidential plans to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and FEMA, “So what happens when disaster strikes? Who comes to the rescue—the local church, the Rotary Club? Who ensures that our food is safe, the air and water clean?”
Understanding that government has always been fundamental to the success of individuals, businesses, communities and this nation is becoming a key issue in the 2012 election. Even if it must also be reclaimed from Super PACs, lobbyists, and Washington insiders, the problem isn’t “Big Government,” it’s Big Money capturing government.
No one has homed in on the need to reset the narrative on government more effectively than Elizabeth Warren who laid out her cogent argument simply and powerfully in a gritty video clip that went viral: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. You built a factory? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
President Obama, too, picked up on this theme in his State of the Union address when he said, “No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”
These ideas are reflected in a new book—The Self-Made Myth, by United for a Fair Economy’s Brian Miller and Mike Lapham. Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says, “This book challenges a central myth that underlies today’s anti-government rhetoric: that an individual’s success is the result of gumption and hard work alone. Miller and Lapham clearly show that personal success is closely tied to the supports society provides. Must reading for all who want to get our nation back on track.”
A central thesis of the book is that the greater an individual’s success, the greater his or her dependence on public infrastructure, public investment in research and innovation, and regulations and fair rules—all of which business leaders in the book cite as essential to their own accomplishments.
Indeed, the profiles of business people who recognize the important role government plays in their success are one of the great contributions of The Self-Made Myth. Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium Brewing, talks about the roads carrying Fat Tire beer around the nation. Glenn Lloyd of City Fresh Foods and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream discuss the confidence provided by food safety regulations. Thelma Kid, co-founder of David-Kidd Booksellers in Tennessee, cites the importance of a Small Business Administration loan she received in helping her to break through the glass ceiling. The book also debunks the tiresome claims by the likes of Donald Trump, Ross Perot and the Koch Brothers that “self-made” means supporting a “you’re on your own” kind of politics and economy.
The 1 percenters profiled in this book are ready to stand with the 99 percent, and they aren’t alone. Co-author Lapham is founder of Responsible Wealth, a network of over 700 business leaders and wealthy individuals that advocate for more progressive taxation. There are also thousands of “high-road” businesses represented by the American Sustainable Business Council, devoted to a vibrant, just and sustainable economy. More than fifty local chambers of commerce have denounced or canceled memberships in the US Chamber because its hyper-corporatized ways fail to represent the values of small businesses and entrepreneurs who are connected and committed to their communities. What all of this means is there’s now a real and growing potential for new alliances between progressives and businesspeople who recognize that we are all in this together.