Local opposition to Arizona law sought

At Tuesday’s Beaumont Unified School District board meeting, trustee Mark Orozco called on his fellow board members to consider a resolution opposing Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law, which he pointed out gives police in that state the right to detain anyone who is suspected of being in this country illegally, or for failing to provide proper documentation of citizenship.

“Under the new law, Arizona police now are required to stop and question anyone they reasonably suspect of being undocumented,” said Orozco, who is a history teacher at Marshall School in Pomona. “I am deeply troubled, and as an educator, I am disturbed by the lessons this law teaches our children about democracy, inclusion and nondiscrimination.”

Orozco called Arizona’s law an attack on civil rights of Arizona’s Latino population, and likened the situation to the way Jews were treated in Germany prior to World War II, when they were required to carry documentation with them at all times.

“The right of undocumented immigrant children to a K-12 public education has long been protected,” Orozco said. “This legislation may be the start of a very slippery slope. What’s next? Will lawmakers require teachers, education-support professionals and school employees to act as immigration agents?”

Orozco said that he feared the impact that potentially oppressive measures could “impede on the mission of teaching and learning.”

“I understand that my peers and some members of the community will probably criticize me … but it needs to be said,” Orozco said during board comments at the end of the meeting. “I am speaking not just as a board member or public official, but also as a leader of our community and a concerned American citizen who cannot sit by and be silent.”

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Former DA investigator sentenced to probation

A former investigator in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office was sentenced to probation Thursday for accessing criminal rap sheets in a law enforcement database for his personal benefit and that of his friends and colleagues.

Christopher Cardoza, 46, was sentenced to three years probation and 420 hours of community service by Judge Kyle Brodie in San Bernardino Superior Court. He is also responsible for $7,762 in restitution.

Defense lawyer James Vincent Reiss said the case brought against Cardoza had political overtones and that prosecutors sought to make an example out of his client.

“I think it’s an appropriate resolution for a case that in our mind is being brought out of spite,” Reiss said.

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Maryland Citizens Face Felony Charges for Recording Cops

In Maryland, it is a felony to record thuggish cops as they push around skateboarding teenagers, beat sports patrons, and pull guns on motorists for speeding.

“Several Marylanders face felony charges for recording their arrests on camera, and others have been intimidated to shut their cameras off,” reports WJZ 23 in Baltimore.

Maryland cops are using a Maryland law that states conversations in private cannot be recorded without the consent of both people involved in order to go about their business of harassing, intimidating, and assaulting citizens.

It is legal according to Maryland’s attorney general for cops to videotape citizens with dashcams but illegal for citizens to do the same.

State authorities are upset after a video appeared on the internet showing the merciless beating of a university student by thug cops at the University of Maryland in April.

In 2009, a video surfaced showing a Baltimore cop pushing around and verbally assaulting a teenager. Numerous videos in other states show cops beating and even murdering citizens.

Click “read more” for videos.

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Radley Balko on the Militarization of Police

Congress Coaxes States to Collect DNA

Federal lawmakers are using the purse strings to coax more states into adopting rules that require suspects who are arrested for various crimes — but not charged — to submit to DNA sampling for inclusion into a nationwide database.

It doesn’t matter if the suspect was charged or even acquitted.

Sponsored by Harry Teague (D-New Mexico), the measure provides $75 million to the nation’s financially broken states — all in a bid to coax the 11 states with such DNA-testing laws to keep them on the books, and to entice others to follow suit. The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary received the package Wednesday, a day after the House passed the bill on a 357 to 32 vote.

All Democrats voting approved the bill, CNET’s Declan McCullagh points out. And it’s likely to sail through the Senate. President Barack Obama, who supports DNA collection upon arrest, is expected to sign it.

The House’s passage of the so-called “Katie’s Law,” or HR 4614, comes as the states and federal government are slashing budgets in response to record-setting financial shortfalls.

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A Tutorial on the Classified Information Procedures Act

Last week, prosecutors in the case of Thomas A. Drake, the former National Security Agency official who is charged with unlawfully retaining classified information that he allegedly disclosed to a reporter, asked the court to hold a pre-trial conference on the use of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) in that case.

CIPA was passed by Congress in 1980 to regulate the disclosure of classified information in criminal prosecutions, such as espionage cases, and to prevent so-called “graymail,” in which a defendant threatens to release classified information in the hope of forcing the government to abandon the case.

In a nutshell, CIPA requires the defense to notify prosecutors and the court of any classified evidence it intends to introduce.  Courts must then determine if the classified evidence is admissible. If so, the government may propose an unclassified substitution that does not involve classified information.  But if the court finds that the unclassified substitution is inadequate to preserve the defendant’s right to a fair trial, and if the Attorney General objects to disclosure of the classified version, then the indictment may be dismissed.

Perhaps assuming that the judge (or the defense) was unfamiliar with the law, prosecutors in the Thomas Drake case filed a motion (pdf) explaining the meaning of each section of CIPA.

The purpose of their CIPA tutorial was “to inform the Court of the applicability of CIPA and its procedures to issues involving classified information that will arise before and during the trial of this case,” they wrote. See “Government’s Motion for Pretrial Conference Under Section 2 of the Classified Information Procedures Act,” May 5, 2010.

The development and early history of CIPA were reviewed by the Congressional Research Service in a March 2, 1989 report entitled “Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA): An Overview.”

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TSA worker assaults colleague who made crack at genitalia after walk through machine

Perhaps the new airport body scanners are a bit too revealing.

A Transportation Security Administration worker in Miami was arrested for aggravated battery after police say he attacked a colleague who’d made fun of his small genitalia after he walked through one of the new high-tech security scanners during a recent training session.

Rolando Negrin, 44, was busted for assault after things got ugly at Miami International Airport between Negrin and some of his fellow Transportation Security Administration workers on Tuesday.

Sources say Negrin stepped into the machine during the training session and became embarrassed and angry when a supervisor started cracking jokes about his manhood, made visible by the new machine.

According to the police report, Negron confronted one of his co-workers in an employee parking lot, where he hit him with a police baton on the arm and back.

“[Negron] then told victim to kneel down and say ‘your sorry,'” the report reads. “Victim stated he was in fear and complied with [Negron].”

Negron was arrested the next day when he arrived for work. He told police he had been made fun of by coworkers on a daily basis.

“[Negron] stated he could not take the jokes anymore and lost his mind,” the report reads.

Negrin was arrested and booked into Miami-Dade County Jail. His arrest photo (above) shows him wearing his blue TSA shirt at the time of the arrest.

The attack may be the first piece of proof that the new scanners may be leaving too little to the imagination.

The $170,000 machines, which were introduced last year, took some heat from fliers who weren’t quite ready to show their bod to government employees.

But if this latest incident is any indication, the scanners sound like good news for anti-terrorism and bad news for less-than-average men.

Groups Call ‘Privacy’ Legislation Orwellian

Privacy groups gave an overwhelming thumbs down Tuesday to proposed legislation by Rep. Frederick Carlyle “Rick” Boucher (D-Virginia) that for the first time would mandate the length of time online consumer information could be kept.

The proposal would require websites to discard data collected from their users after 18 months. Some suggested the retention limit for consumer data should be shorter, perhaps just days, to allow a company enough time to mine it before deleting it.

“It’s very Orwellian to call this a privacy bill,” said Evan Hendricks, editor and publisher of Privacy Times.

Boucher said in a statement the bill’s goal “is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure.”

The legislation, which Boucher released Tuesday as a “discussion” draft, also largely keeps intact the status quo of the so-called “opt-in” or “opt-out” paradigms. The measure is likely to remain in draft for months, privacy groups said.

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Bluebear: Exploring Privacy Threats in BitTorrent

BitTorrent is arguably the most efficient peer-to-peer protocol for content replication. However, BitTorrent has not been designed with privacy in mind and its popularity could threaten the privacy of millions of users. Surprisingly, privacy threats due to BitTorrent have been overlooked because BitTorrent popularity gives its users the illusion that finding them is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The goal of this project is to explore the severity of the privacy threats faced by BitTorrent users.

We argue that it is possible to continuously monitor from a single machine most BitTorrent users and to identify the content providers (also called initial seeds) [LLL_LEET10, LLL_TR10]. This is a major privacy threat as it is possible for anybody in the Internet to reconstruct all the download and upload history of most BitTorrent users.

To circumvent this kind of monitoring, BitTorrent users are increasingly using anonymizing networks such as Tor to hide their IP address from the tracker and, possibly, from other peers. However, we showed that it is possible to retrieve the IP address for more than 70% of BitTorrent users on top of Tor [LMC_POST10]. Moreover, once the IP address of a peer is retrieved, it is possible to link to the IP address other applications used by this peer on top of Tor.

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Army Wants Sensors to Nab Sweaty, Smelly Security Threats

No matter how well a terrorist covers their tracks, or how cool they are under pressure, the Pentagon wants to be able to detect, track, and even positively identify them from a distance. And they want to do it using nothing more than the heat and sweat that emanate from a person’s pores.

The military’s been after scent-based detection systems for years now. In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicited proposals for sensors to sniff out terrorists using unique genetic markers found in human emanations. The idea was based on research showing that mice each carried a unique “odortype” that was consistent despite variables like stress, hydration or diet. And odortypes are so powerful, they stick around for around a month after their host body has fled the premises.

But the most state-of-the-art tech, known as E-Nose, has only succeeded in distinguishing between two different people, and relies on “detecting human odor from the armpit region.” Now, the Army is launching Identification Based on Individual Scent (IBIS), and wants proposals for a more sophisticated detection system, that could “uniquely identify an individual based on scent,” at a geographical distance or after several hours or even days.

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Researchers hijack Google’s personalized search suggestions to reconstruct users’ search histories.

See also: Private Information Disclosure from Web Searches

Personalization is a key part of Internet search, providing more relevant results and gaining loyal customers in the process. But new research highlights the privacy risks that this kind of personalization can bring. A team of European researchers, working with a researcher from the University of California, Irvine, found that they were able to hijack Google‘s personalized search suggestions to reconstruct users’ Web search histories.

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Three More Domestic Spying Programs Revealed

The Department of Homeland Security is acknowledging the existence of three more government programs charged with spying on American citizens in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The programs — Pantheon, Pathfinder and Organizational Shared Space — used a variety of software tools to gather and analyze information about Americans, according to documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The DHS turned over the papers in response to a December 2008 Freedom of Information Act request. The documents shed new light on the proliferation of domestic intelligence and surveillance efforts after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the CIR:

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Amazon files lawsuit to block North Carolina’s data request

Online retailer Amazon.com has filed a lawsuit in a federal court to block the North Carolina state government’s demand it disclose all transaction details, including names and addresses, involving state residents, court documents show.

In the complaint, Amazon said that North Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) is demanding that the retailer turn over the name and address of virtually every North Carolina resident who has purchased anything from Amazon since 2003.

Amazon also said in the court filing that DOR also demanded the company furnish records of what each customer purchased and how much they paid.

The company said the disclosure of such information will invade privacy of its customers.

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Anti-Facial Recognition Makeup

Now that facial recognition software is being implemented in more and more security systems worldwide, in such places as airport security lines, law enforcement agencies, and the Superbowl, it’s obviously time for the average forward thinking person to consider when and where this technology will be used to create an Orwellian police state.

Or, when it will inevitably be used to target advertising, keep tabs on consumers, and otherwise just be really annoying.  Graduate student Adam Harvey has devoted his master’s thesis to finding ways to trick facial recognition into false negatives as stylishly as possible, using makeup and hair.

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CNN poll confirms: Most Americans believe their government is a threat to their welfare

A majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to rights of Americans, according to a new national poll.

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree.

The survey indicates a partisan divide on the question: only 37 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents and nearly 7 in 10 Republicans say the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans.

According to CNN poll numbers released Sunday, Americans overwhelmingly think that the U.S. government is broken – though the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what’s broken can be fixed.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

Google, NSA alliance posing security threats to users

A deal between internet giant Google and the US National Security Agency on cyber-attacks may pose serious threats to other countries’ national security and internet users.

Analysts worry the collaboration would allow Google’s data to flow to the spy agency. Journalists and experts have announced their concern over the deal as the National Security Agency (NSA) is known for intercepting private data.

During the Cold War, NSA worked with companies like Western Union to intercept and read millions of telegrams.

During the so-called US war on terror, the NSA has teamed up with telecommunications companies to eavesdrop on phone calls and internet traffic.

Google, founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, has become the world’s largest internet search engine.

It runs more than 1 million servers in data centers around the world, processes more than 1 billion search requests and 20 petabytes of user-generated data every day.

Feds Can Search, Seize P2P Files Without Warrant

The authorities do not need court warrants to view and download files traded on peer-to-peer networks, a federal appeals court says.

Wednesday’s 3-0 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concerned a Nevada man convicted of possessing child pornography as part of an FBI investigation. Defendant Charles Borowy claimed the Fourth Amendment required court authorization to search and seize his LimeWire files in 2007.

The San Francisco-based appeals court, however, cited the nation’s legal standard, reiterating that warrants are required if a search “violates a reasonable expectation of privacy.” (.pdf)

Borowy, the court noted, “was clearly aware that LimeWire was a file-sharing program that would allow the public at large to access files in his shared folder unless he took steps to avoid it.”

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FBI probes US school webcam ‘spy’ case

The FBI is investigating a Pennsylvania school district officials accused of secretly activating webcams inside students’ homes, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Days after a student filed a suit over the practice, Lower Merion officials acknowledged on Friday that they remotely activated webcams 42 times in the past 14 months, but only to find missing student laptops. They insist they never did so to spy on students, as the student’s family claimed in the federal lawsuit.

Families were not informed of the possibility the webcams might be activated in their homes without their permission in the paperwork students sign when they get the computers, district spokesman Doug Young said.

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Justice Lawyers Try to Define Cyber War

Run for the hills! The Department of Justice‘s lawyers are trying to figure out just what would constitute an act of war during a cyber attack. OK, it may not be that bad, but the specter of a room full of government lawyers trying to decide what constitutes an act of war when it occurs via the Internet is not terribly reassuring.

To be fair, no one has come up with a decent answer to what turns out to be a very thorny question. The hardest question to answer in cyber war is the one that used to be pretty simple: who attacked us. But the structural anonymity of the web allows attackers to mask their origins.

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Supervisors order surveillance sweeps for ‘bugs’

SAN BERNARDINO – County supervisors spent $22,500 last month to sweep their offices and other parts of the government center for secret recording devices and other hidden surveillance equipment.

The first sweep of the fourth and fifth floors of the county building occurred Jan. 23, and the purchase order provides for four more sweeps at undisclosed future dates.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Ovitt, who requested the counter-surveillance, declined a request for an interview Friday. But a county spokesman insisted the sweeps had nothing to do with an ongoing government corruption scandal that has implicated the offices of Ovitt, Paul Biane and former supervisor Bill Postmus.

“This is something the county periodically does and the county was doing this long before there was a (District Attorney’s) investigation,” David Wert said.

In all, Wert said, the county has spent $42,865 on sweeps in recent years but refused to disclose when previous sweeps occurred.

Last week, District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and state Attorney General Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., announced criminal charges against Postmus and former assistant assessor Jim Erwin in a wide-ranging corruption case.

Court documents also allege Biane and Ovitt’s chief of staff Mark Kirk – identified as John Does – accepted $100,000 bribes to secure a $102 million settlement payment for developer Colonies Partners LP of Rancho Cucamonga.

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Police increasingly use false wiretapping charges to prevent video recordings

A South Florida model films a cop who is threatening to arrest her son and she gets arrested on felony charges.

An Oregon man films a cop who is roughing up his mentally ill friend and he gets arrested on felony charges.

And a Boston man films a cop arresting a drug suspect and he gets arrested on felony charges.

These are only a handful of people in this country who have been arrested in recent years on felony charges after doing something that is protected under the First Amendment.

Their charges? Illegal wiretapping or eavesdropping, a charge that never fails to get thrown out before reaching court. But by then, the damage is done. Their rights have been trampled on and police rarely get punished for making such unlawful arrests.

An article this week in the Boston Globe highlighted such arrests in the Boston area, but anybody who reads this blog knows these types of arrests occur on too much of a frequent basis around the country.

There are no hard statistics for video recording arrests. But the experiences of Surmacz and Glik highlight what civil libertarians call a troubling misuse of the state’s wiretapping law to stifle the kind of street-level oversight that cell phone and video technology make possible.

“The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public,’’ said Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, who helped to get the criminal charges against Surmacz dismissed.

The laws on illegal wiretapping vary from state to state, but one thing is clear in all states. A person must have had an expectation of privacy in order to become a victim.

In other words, if you are filming a cop in public, that cop does not have an expectation of privacy. Especially if that cop sees your camera.

For more information, check out the Field Guide to Secret Audio and Video Recordings.

DOJ Finds FBI Violations Over Phone Conversation Requests

A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records

The U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General has just released a report which concludes that the Federal Bureau of Investigation violated U.S. laws by claiming terrorism emergencies which allowed it to collect more than 2,000 records on U.S. telephone calls between 2002 and 2006. This report follows two previous DOJ OIG reports on the matter, commonly referred to as ‘National Security Letters‘, which are also available at the Justice Inspector General website.

The Washington Post first broke this story yesterday and DOJ has now made the unclassified version available to the public.

Commander urges Majlis to pass legislation on modern espionage

TEHRAN — Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri has called on the Majlis to adopt a legislation on how to counter the modern methods of espionage.

Speaking at a gathering of the armed forces personnel on Saturday, Jazayeri said individuals who have links with some foreign radio and television networks are clearly spying on Iran in a modern way.

He said most of these networks are affiliated to the U.S., Britain and Israel.

Why the relevant bodies do not deal with these people and if there is a need for related legislations, why the Majlis does not legislate on the issue, he asked.

Certain people, who are taking the most advantage of the country’s ‘free and secure’ atmosphere are providing Israeli media outlets with deceptive information about the country as part of a plot to topple the Islamic Republic’s system, he said.

The enemy is seriously making efforts to sabotage the Islamic system, he noted

Taser adds mobile phone monitoring tool to its arsenal

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Stun gun maker Taser International wants to help parents, not with jolts of electricity but with a tool which allows parents to effectively take over a child’s mobile phone and manage its use.

“Basically we’re taking old fashioned parenting and bringing it into the mobile world,” Taser chairman and co-founder Tom Smith said at the Consumer Electronics Show here, where the Arizona company unveiled the new product.

“Because when you give your child his mobile phone you don’t know who they’re talking to, what they’re sending or texting, all of those things,” Smith told AFP.

The phone application, called “Mobile Protector,” allows a parent to screen a child’s incoming and outgoing calls and messages, block particular numbers and even listen in on a conversation.

A dashboard on a parent’s phone or a personal computer shows the mobiles being monitored and the permitted callers such as friends and family.

“You can start it out very restrictive and then as they get older you can relax those restrictions as that trust factor’s gained,” Smith said.

An alert is triggered when an unknown number calls a child’s phone.

“I can click on this and it’s going to say here’s the person’s who’s calling,” Smith said.

“I can either choose to block that call, allow that call or even answer that call and find out who it is before I release it through to my child.

“If it’s Grandma, who I forgot to add, I can just click ‘always allow’ and I’ll never see that alert again,” he said.

Smith said that when listening in on a call “it’s going to announce that to both parties.” “We’re not doing spyware. This is a collaboration effort,” he said.

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Gerald Celente Interview – Words of wisdom

Gerald Celente in Wikipedia

Trends Research Institute

Trends Journal

EPIC Posts TSA Documents on Body Scanners

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has posted more than 250 pages of documents it obtained in  a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit concerning body scanners. The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security, reveal that Whole Body Imaging machines can record, store, and transmit digital strip search images of Americans. This contradicts assurances made by the Transportation Security Administration. The documents include TSA Procurement Specifications, TSA Operational Requirements, TSA contract with L3, TSA contract with Rapiscan (1), and TSA contract with Rapiscan (2). The DHS has withheld other documents that EPIC is seeking. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC: Open Government.

THREADS Cell Phone Analysis

THREADS, the flagship product for Direct Hit Systems, combines patented techniques in cell phone forensics, phone analysis, text mining, and visualization to provide focused leads and actionable intelligence. Although THREADS software incorporates many powerful analytical tools, it’s straight-forward interface makes solving cases easier for all levels of investigators, from the trained tactical analyst down to the detective on the street. THREADS cell phone analysis is more than just ordinary phone analysis. It delivers actionable leads by uncovering hidden relationships and spotting conspiracies.

For more information, click here

Another City Shows Increased Accidents from Red Light Cameras

Peoria would like you to believe that they are alone in experiencing an increase in accidents due to red light cameras, but they are not. They join Los Angeles, Grande Prairie (Canada), Clarksville, TN, Temple Terrace, FL, and now Spokane, WA in recent announcements about the failure of RLC’s to make intersections safer. The Seattle Times reports:

Intersections where Spokane installed red light cameras in 2008 in the name of safety saw an increase in crashes and injuries in the first year of the controversial program.

There were 38 collisions at the three intersections the year after the city began fining violators caught on tape. That’s up from 32 the previous year, according to police collision reports provided to The Spokesman-Review.

Injury accidents at the intersections also rose from 11 the year before to 14 after.

Like the other cities, Spokane officials scrambled for excuses and justifications as to why the citizens should continue to be subjected to intersections where they face a greater chance of injuries so that the city can continue to enjoy what amounted to $108,000 in profit for 2009:

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner called the data “interesting,” but cautioned that it’s too early to make a final judgment on camera enforcement.

“The program has been effective in that we seem to have caught a lot of people running red lights,” Verner said. “If we’re not seeing a decline of injury collisions, then we need to figure out why not.”

If Spokane officials were honest, they’d join the likes of Southland City, CA, San Bernardino, CA in pulling the plug on their camera programs, a move that truly would make their cities safer.

Federal Agencies Need Not Confirm or Deny Electronic Surveillance under FOIA

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice do not need to confirm or deny the existence of electronic surveillance records under the Freedom of Information Act. The appellate court found that federal agencies are allowed to file “Glomar” responses, which were first judicially recognized in 1976 and grant an agency express refusal to even confirm or deny the existence of any records responsive to a FOIA request in the national security context.

The lawsuit was brought by advocates for former Guantanamo Bay detainees after the agencies invoked FOIA exceptions to information request regarding warrantless electronic surveillance conducted by the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Get more particulars here.

Obama Curbs Secrecy of Classified Documents

WASHINGTON — President Obama declared on Tuesday that “no information may remain classified indefinitely” as part of a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information.

In an executive order and an accompanying presidential memorandum to agency heads, Mr. Obama signaled that the government should try harder to make information public if possible, including by requiring agencies to regularly review what kinds of information they classify and to eliminate any obsolete secrecy requirements.

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CRS Report – Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping

Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, December 3, 2009

“Depending on one’s perspective, wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping are either “dirty business,” essential law enforcement tools, or both. This is a very general overview of the federal statutes that proscribe wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping and of the procedures they establish for law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering purposes. Although the specifics of state law are beyond the scope of this report, citations to related state statutory provisions have been appended. The text of pertinent federal statutes and a selected bibliography of legal materials appear as appendices as well.”

Resistance Against Checkpoints

Law enforcement agencies have declared they will hold 300 “DUI” checkpoints during the holiday season statewide. Furthermore, they have declared 2010 “the year of the checkpoint.” Checkpoints are a military tactic that violate the Fourth Amendment and condition society to passivity toward police interference in daily activities. They disproportionately impact immigrant communities, who face deportation due to 287(g) agreements, which deputize local law agencies to enforce federal immigration law. For these reasons, resistance to “the checkpoint society” has been fierce, and has included lobbying local officials, holding vigils and marches, creating communication networks, and actually being present at checkpoints to warn passing motorists and document abuses. Follow reports from the struggle:

Op/Ed: Checkpoints Violate the Fourth Amendment and Normalize the Police State by Rockero

From the newswire: Pomona anti-checkpoint action by Direct Action Claremont | | Documentación de un caso de injusticia ejecutada en un retén policial por Rockero | | Protest LAPD Stealing Cars from Raza during Xmas Season!! by Unión del Barrio

This week’s checkpoints: Retenes navideños / Christmas checkpoints (25/dec-2/ene) by Checkpoint response

Code That Protects Most Cellphone Calls Is Divulged

BERLIN — A German computer engineer said Monday that he had deciphered and published the secret code used to encrypt most of the world’s digital mobile phone calls, in what he called an attempt to expose weaknesses in the security of global wireless systems.

The action by the encryption expert, Karsten Nohl, aimed to question the effectiveness of the 21-year-old Global System for Mobile Communications (GMS –  Groupe Spécial Mobile), a code developed in 1988 and still used to protect the privacy of 80 percent of mobile calls worldwide.

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Dutch MP: Curaçao is US spy base

Mr. Harry an Bommel has asked Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen whether he is aware that a Boeing RC-135 aircraft has been making regular reconnaissance flights from the Caribbean island’s Hato International Airport airport over the past few weeks.

War on drugs
The flights were the cause of angry reactions by Venezuelan president Hugo Rafael Chávez, who accused the Netherlands of colluding with the United States. The Hague government is contributing to rising tensions between Venezuela and Colombia, according to the Venezuelan authorities.

The opposition MP said it is up to the Netherlands to help de-escalate these tensions. He is asking for a ban on American military flights over Colombia from the Antilles. Ostensibly such flights are part of the US “war on drugs” but Mr. Van Bommel claims they are also used in a “war on guerrillas”. The MP wants to scrap the US-Netherlands Forwards Operations Location Treaty enabling the Americans to use airfields in Curaçao and the Antilles for anti-drugs flights.

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Walmart Sued for Videotaping Employees, Customers in Bathroom

A Pennsylvania Walmart Supercenter videotaped employees and customers in a unisex bathroom, several former and current Walmart employees alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.

Seven former and current employees from the Tire and Lube department at the Walmart in Easton, Pennsylvania., filed a lawsuit in county court against the Arkansas-based corporation and four local managers Dec. 21.

Several employees discovered an “off-the-shelf” video camera in a store bathroom March 31, 2008, according to the court filing. The unisex bathroom, which also served as a changing room, was used by employees and customers. Customers and employees were not notified of the surveillance, according to the court filing.

“I am incredulous that anyone would think that it’s appropriate conduct for any reason to photograph people in a changing room and bathroom,” said Erv D. McLain, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

Walmart said two workers were responsible for the camera.

“Two associates were terminated for placing a camera in an associate dressing room bathroom,” Walmart spokesman Greg Rossiter said. “When store management learned of the camera, it was immediately removed.”

The company declined further comment.

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US to stop funding scandal-prone Colombian spy agency

The US Congress has voted to stop subsidizing Colombia’s soon-to-be dismantled Administrative Department of Security (DAS – Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) intelligence agency.

The Colombian government recently decided to disband DAS, after it was found to have illegally wiretapped the phones of several public figures, including the chief of the Colombian National Police (Policía Nacional de Colombia), the Minister of National Defense, as well as those of former Presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders and human rights campaigners.

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FBI Releases Michael Jackon Files

Michael Joseph Jackson, a celebrity pop star, was born on August 29, 1958. He died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.

Between 1993 and 1994 and separately between 2004 and 2005, Mr. Jackson was investigated by California law enforcement agencies for possible child molestation. He was acquitted of all such charges. The FBI provided technical and investigative assistance to these agencies during the cases. The Bureau also investigated threats made against Mr. Jackson and others by an individual who was later imprisoned for these crimes.

This release consists of seven separate files, as described below:

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Those Airport Scanners Are Sensitive

YouTube War: Fighting in a World of Cameras in Every Cell Phone and Photoshop on Every Computer

Terrorist attacks today are often media events in a second sense: information and communication technologies have developed to such a point that these groups can film, edit, and upload their own attacks within minutes of staging them, whether the Western media are present or not. In this radically new information environment, the enemy no longer depends on traditional media. This is the “YouTube War.” This monograph methodically lays out the nature of this new environment in terms of its implications for a war against media-savvy insurgents, and then considers possible courses of action for the Army and the U.S. military as they seek to respond to an enemy that has proven enormously adaptive to this new environment and the new type of warfare it enables.

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Download full study (134 pages)

Not Just Drones: Militants Can Snoop on Most U.S. Warplanes (Updated)

Tapping into drones’ video feeds was just the start. The U.S. military’s primary system for bringing overhead surveillance down to soldiers and Marines on the ground is also vulnerable to electronic interception, multiple military sources tell Danger Room. That means militants have the ability to see through the eyes of all kinds of combat aircraft — from traditional fighters and bombers to unmanned spy planes. The problem is in the process of being addressed. But for now, an enormous security breach is even larger than previously thought.

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Iran unveils new generation satellite in February

The Islamic Republic of Iran is to convey a new generation of the country’s national satellite called Toloo early February.

“The new generation of Iran’s national satellite called Toloo will be conveyed in the Ten-day Dawn this year,” IRIB quoted Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying on Wednesday.

The minister further added that the satellite has been designed and built by Iranian scientists and experts at Iran’s Electronics Industries Co. (Sana-ey Electronik-e Iran).

“Sa-Iran in Shiraz has managed to meet the country’s needs in radar and defense capabilities,” he went on to say.

“The great achievements made by Iran’s defense ministry in the electronics field has both increased Iran’s deterrent power and ended the monopoly of some countries in this complicated field,” he further explained.

According to the minister, Iran’s armed forces are able to identify the enemies’ software and hardware movements with the use of their modern equipment.

Reading mission control data from Predator Drone video feeds, 20 Dec 2009

The following PDF appeared on the “full disclosure” mailinglist on Dec 20, 2009. It contains details and a demonstration of how to read out video and mission control data from US Predator drones, which are in operation around the world, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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TSA Stonewalls Congress About Screening Manual Security Breach

On Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration‘s (TSA) acting director insisted to Congress that the mistaken posting of secret airport screening procedures online posed no threat to holiday travelers because the procedures had changed, but refused to provide members of Congress with the newest version of the TSA’s screening manual to prove it.  And current and former TSA employees, who are familiar with the screening process have told ABC News that the procedures have changed little since the most sensitive data in the manual, including the weaknesses of airport X-ray machines, and sample CIA credentials – was improperly redacted and published on the Web.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SCREENING MANUAL and HERE TO SEE THE SAMPLE CIA CREDENTIAL

Report and Recommendations of the Presidental Task Force on Controlled Unclassified Information

Report and Recommendations of the Presidental Task Force on Controlled Unclassified Information

The Presidential Task Force on Controlled Information headed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder recently released a report. This report provided findings and recommendations on current sensitive information sharing practices between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.

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Interesting FBI Priorities

Recently, I waded through the fiscal year 2010 budget request/justification documents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which for the most part are about as unexciting as you might expect. A couple of things, however, stood out as kind of interesting and worthy of discussion, so I thought I’d go over them here.

Part of the budget documents include performance metrics that the Bureau have assigned to themselves; they then annually grade themselves on how well they’re doing. I’m honestly not clear why this is the case, unless – however cynical it might be – they’re there just to make the Bureau “look good” and successful come budget-request time.

There’s nothing wrong with setting targets for performance; such a practice helps ensure focus and accountability and so on. The thing is, a lot of the FBI’s performance targets are qualitative, rather than quantitative, and I wonder if this isn’t actually detrimental under some circumstances.

For instance, the Bureau has identified certain criminal enterprises as “consolidated priority organizational targets”, or CPOTs. All fine and dandy, assuming there’s some degree of accountability where adding organizations to the list is concerned. The potential problem, as I see it, is that the Bureau then requires that a percentage of investigations by certain operational divisions involve individuals connected to a CPOT.

That’s great, on the surface, because it helps ensure that priority organizational targets remain, you know, priorities.

You have to wonder, though – given the importance of these performance metrics to the Bureau – whether (or how many) field offices skimp on other investigations so they don’t mess up their percentages and get in Washington’s bad graces.

I’m not saying it’s happening, but let’s be honest, here; that kind of target metric is incredibly prone to abuse.

Food for thought?

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Napolitano Unveils “Virtual USA” Information-Sharing Initiative

Secretary Napolitano Unveils “Virtual USA” Information-Sharing Initiative

Today Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano officially launched Virtual USA, an information sharing initiative that will help federal, state, local, and tribal responders communicate more effectively during emergencies.

According to Secretary Napolitano: “Virtual USA makes it possible for new and existing technologies to work together seamlessly during disaster response and recovery and gives the public an opportunity to contribute information in real-time to support the efforts of police officers, firefighters and other emergency management officials.”

CRS: “Not a Happy Place”

The Congressional Research Service, which performs policy research and analysis for Congress, is “not a happy place these days,” said a CRS staffer.

The staffer was referring to the fact that a respected CRS division chief, Morris D. Davis, had been abruptly fired from his position for publicly expressing some of his private opinions. (“CRS Fires a Division Chief,” Secrecy News, December 4, 2009).  CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan, the man who fired Mr. Davis (it’s Colonel Davis, actually), evidently believes that CRS employees must have no independent public persona and must not express private opinions in public, even when such opinions are unrelated to their work at CRS, as in Davis’s case.  In short, CRS employees are expected to surrender their First Amendment rights.  Who could be happy with that?

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Col. Davis’s cause and in a December 4 letter (pdf), ACLU attorneys Aden J. Fine and Jameel Jaffer asked the Library of Congress (CRS’s parent organization) to reconsider its position by today, or else risk litigation seeking Davis’s reinstatement.  But it takes a special kind of integrity to admit error and to change course, and that is not the anticipated scenario in this case.

(Update: As expected, the Library of Congress refused to reconsider its position, setting the stage for a lawsuit. See the ACLU news release and the Library response here.)

“In spite of all that, I still believe we do excellent research,” the CRS staffer told Secrecy News.  Yet that research is still not made directly accessible to the public.

In the 2010 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, Congress once again mandated that “no part of [the CRS budget] may be used to pay any salary or expense” to make CRS research reports available to the public without prior authorization.  This was obviously intended to block direct public access to CRS reports.  But it could also be read more satisfactorily to permit CRS employees to freely distribute CRS reports as long as they incur no additional expense when doing so.

Some notable new CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the following (all pdf).

“Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping,” updated December 3, 2009.

“U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2001-2008,” December 2, 2009.

“War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress,” December 3, 2009.

“The German Economy and U.S.-German Economic Relations,” November 30, 2009.

“Sexual Violence in African Conflicts,” November 25, 2009.

“Traumatic Brain Injury: Care and Treatment of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans,” November 25, 2009.

“Key Issues in Derivatives Reform,” December 1, 2009.

“U.S. Aerospace Manufacturing: Industry Overview and Prospects,” December 3, 2009.

“High Speed Rail (HSR) in the United States,” December 8, 2009.

Silence over sudden death of Jordan’s ex-spy chief in Vienna

There is widespread silence in Jordan about the sudden death of the country’s former intelligence chief, at his luxury Vienna hotel room, on Wednesday. The country’s tightly controlled press barely mentioned the news of the death of Field Marshal Said Bashir Saad Kheir, 56, whose body was reportedly discovered in bed by a maid in Vienna’s Hotel Imperial.

Austrian police representatives have ruled out foul play in Kheir’s death, which they attributed to heart failure. But there is conflicting information about the purpose of the former spy chief’s visit to the Austrian capital, which is considered the world’s largest espionage hub, with the highest density of foreign intelligence agents on Earth.

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The Australian National University sets up ‘spy school’

The Australian National University is set to become an elite educational centre for Australia‘s spies and security experts.

Prime Minister Kevin Michael Rudd yesterday announced that former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Michael L’Estrange would head up Australia’s new national security college.

A joint venture between the Federal Government and the Australian National University, the college is to provide ”world class education and training in national security policy issues”.

Mr Rudd said the college would provide executive development programs for senior national security officials and provide access to ANU teaching and research programs, with the aim of ”better preparing national security personnel for the increasingly complex challenges they face”.

Google Expands Control of Internet Architecture

Google has announced Google Public DNS, which will route all requests for internet addresses, a core Internet function, through Google’s servers. These requests would normally only pass through the servers of the users’ internet service providers. Google’s Domain Name System service does not use the new authentication standard DNSSEC, (Domain Name System Security Extensions) but instead uses a proprietary security method. By tradition, DNS is a distributed function, subject to an open standard-setting process. For more information, see EPIC DNSSEC.  (Electronic Privacy Information Center)

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