Archive for the ‘Police State’ Category

Natt Garun
Business Insider
February 28, 2012

Tweeters beware.

The Department of Homeland Security is monitoring our social media activities to look for “Items Of Interest” (IOI) that could predict potential threats.

Animal uncovered a full list of terms the DHS looks for, and some of these words are pretty general.

Aside from names of government agencies, such as the DHS or the CIA, words like “dirty bomb,” “scammers,” “biological,” and even “pork” made the cut.

If your tweets or Facebook status updates are deemed questionable, the Media Monitoring Capability team may hand over your personal information to the DHS, perhaps even by phone if the situation is that urgent.

However, the DHS notes that its got an internal privacy policy that will eliminate Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from its string of aggregated tweets and updates, so they won’t entirely snoop on your private life – not unless you post a sentence full of dangerous keywords.

For example, a status like “Jake is shooting a video of himself destroying a plate of uncooked pork chops in China, that’s some food extremism, his toilet is going to be a disaster afterward” might land you in some hot water.

So take a gander at the full list and you might want to watch the way you’re expressing yourself on the web.

Henry Blodget
Business Insider
January 5, 2012

On New Year’s Eve, President Obama signed into law a bill that eliminates one of the fundamental protections of the U.S. Constitution:

The right for people not to be detained indefinitely by the government without being formally convicted of crimes.

This erosion of the Constitution, which came in the form of new language in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allows the government to hold anyone suspected of being associated with terrorism indefinitely, without any form of due process.

No indictment.

No judge or jury.

No evidence.

No trial.

Just an indefinite jail sentence.

In other words:

If someone in the government suspects that you’re somehow associated with terrorism, you can be jailed indefinitely in a military prison.

Defenders of this language — including Senators John McCain (R) and Carl Lavin (D), who sponsored it — position it as being tough on terrorism.

And that’s fine: Everyone wants to be tough on terrorism.

And that’s fine: Everyone wants to be tough on terrorism.

There are ways of being tough on terrorism that preserve basic rights. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.

If the government and military never made mistakes–if they never suspected people of being associated with terrorism who aren’t actually associated with terrorism–then this language wouldn’t be so scary.

But, like anyone else, governments and armed-forces personnel do make mistakes.

Frequently.

So removing the intelligent and reasonable requirement that government suspicions be subjected to due process is frightening.

Of course, in signing the bill, President Obama promised that he would never use it to detain Americans.

While that’s comforting, other Presidents may not feel compelled to honor that promise. And human-rights activists who don’t believe that basic human rights apply only to American citizens are justifiably upset that America can now detain anyone indefinitely without due process.

(And, by the way, the common pushback that the bill cannot be used to detain Americans is a crock. The bill clearly states that Americans are not “required” to be detained indefinitely. Not being “required” to do something, and “preventing” something are quite different.)

To be clear: This bill isn’t just tough on terrorism. It overturns a key part of the Constitution. And it presumes that those who serve in the government and military are always omniscient and perfect and will always use their power for the good of all citizens.

And that presumption, as everyone who has ever watched our government in action knows, is laughable.

Will America be transformed into a brutal police-state by this one bill? Probably not. But the constitutional protections and other checks-and-balances that separate democracies from authoritarian states are rarely eliminated in one fell swoop.

Rather, theses protections are eliminated gradually, by governments and rulers who incrementally grant themselves ever more power.

Taken individually, each incremental change may seem well-meaning and justifiable.

But, gradually, the checks-and-balances that form the basis of a fair society are eliminated.

In signing the NDAA bill, President Obama was presumably yielding to political expediency. The bill, after all, had military funding attached.

But that’s no excuse.

The Presidential veto is supposed to function as a critical check-and-balance in our system, to be invoked when Congress collectively goes insane.

And this is one bill that Obama should have vetoed.

Kris Gutiérrez
Fox News

November 16, 2011

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is weeks away from launching an unmanned aerial asset to help deputies fight crime. The ShadowHawk helicopter is six-feet long, weighs fifty pounds and fits in the back of an SUV.

“We can put it over a fire, put it over ahazmat spill, put it over a house with a suspect barricaded inside and literally give the incident commander the ability to look at the entire scene with a bird’s eye view, ” Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel said.

Sheriff’s deputies will fly the ShadowHawk with nothing more than a laptop computer and a remote control similar to that used for video games.

It’s equipped with an infrared camera that can clearly read a license plate from an elevation of twelve hundred feet. The helicopter cost upwards of $300,000 and was purchased with a grant from the federal government.

Vanguard Defense Industries built the helicopter. The company has also supplied aerial assets to US forces over seas.

Critics argue the drone-like vehicleisn’t safe, because it’s unmanned.

“I gotta tell you, it sort of looks like boys and their toys, ” said Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “We’re giving up our privacy, we’re letting the government have way too much power.”

The ACLU is concerned that technology used by law enforcement officials in general is getting ahead of people’s privacy. No one has complained to the ACLU about the Montgomery County helicopter, but some fear it could be used to spy on people.

“The Constitution spells out very clearly that we have a right to privacy, ” Burke said.

“This sheriff’s office has better things to do with its time then spy on people, ” McDaniel argued. “That’s not our mission. The only way that it’s going to be an invasion of their privacy is if they are committing some type of a criminal act where we might utilize this to catch them.”

KIMBERLY DOZIER
Associated Press
November 4, 2011

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — In an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following tweets — up to 5 million a day.

At the agency’s Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the “vengeful librarians” also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms — anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly.

From Arabic to Mandarin Chinese, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in native tongue. They cross-reference it with the local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House, giving a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.

Yes, they saw the uprising in Egypt coming; they just didn’t know exactly when revolution might hit, said the center’s director, Doug Naquin.

The center already had “predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime,” he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press at the center. CIA officials said it was the first such visit by a reporter the agency has ever granted.

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Jennifer Valentino-DeVries
Wall Street Journal
July 27, 2011

Is the government using cellular data to track Americans as they move around the U.S.?

According to the general counsel of the National Security Agency, it may have that authority. Matthew Olsen, who is currently at the NSA and has been nominated to lead the National Counterterrorism Center, discussed the possibility at a confirmation hearing Tuesday morning in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“There are certain circumstances where that authority may exist,” he said. His comments came after Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) asked him several times whether the government has the authority to “use cell site data to track the location of Americans inside the country.”

Although Olsen acknowledged the possibility, he also said “it is a very complicated question” and that the intelligence community is working on a memo that will provide a better answer for the committee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, asked that such a memo be prepared in time for the committee’s first hearing in September, after the August recess.

The questions come after Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall (D., Colo.) wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking whether the agencies he leads, including the NSA and the CIA, “have the authority to collect the geolocation information of American citizens for intelligence purposes.”

Heather Mills
KOB.com
May 23, 2011

Saturday night, a certified TSA official will be at the Santa Fe High School prom to oversee student searches.

This all comes after two Capital High School students, sisters, filed a lawsuit saying they were groped by a security agent at Capital High School’s prom last month. On Friday, the court ordered Santa Fe Public Schools and the security company ASI to provide at least one TSA certified person at the Santa Fe High School prom and the Capital High School graduation.

The restraining order also spells out the specific ways security can perform searches. It says a pat-down is only to be used if there are reasonable grounds and that pat-downs should not be used as a first approach for every student.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 talked to one of the sisters suing the district earlier this week. Candice Herrera said, “She grabbed my breast and shook the inner part of my bra and shook it and then picked up the front of my dress to mid thigh and she was patting down my bare legs.”

Capital’s Principal told us she was standing right there when students were searched and doesn’t remember any students complaining about the pat downs.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe Public Schools says it’s happy to comply with the Federal Court’s decision, saying, student safety is a priority.

Paul Bentley
Mail Online
May 10, 2011

A disturbing photograph which shows a baby being subjected to a full body search by airport security has caused outrage after it was posted online.

The picture, which was uploaded to a social networking site, appears to show two TSA agents at Kansas City International Airport laughing as they pat down the child, who is being held in the air by his mother. Perhaps concerned that the toddler might be smuggling weapons in his diaper, the burly security guard and his female assistant focus their attention on the lower half of the child’s body.

The shocking photograph comes just a month after the TSA were widely condemned after footage emerged of a six-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy being subjected to the searches in separate incidents at airports across America.

The TSA has now said it will review its screening policies so as not to waste resources by subjecting children to over-zealous security methods. The image of the baby being touched down by agents was taken yesterday by fellow passenger Jacob Jester, as proof of what he thought was an ‘extreme’ measure.

TSA agents insisted on frisking the baby after his stroller beeped when it went through security. Jester uploaded the photograph onto Twitter and wrote: ‘Just saw #tsa agents patting down a little baby at @KCIAirport. Pretty sure that’s extreme.’

Those who then viewed the picture were shocked at what appears to show a ridiculously over-zealous approach to airport security. Chris Lopez responded to the photograph: ‘What’s even more terrible is the the TSA agent is smiling!’ Deb Wilker added; ‘Doesn’t get much more sickening, appalling, oppressive and unlawful than this… Frightening, disturbing, disgusting,’

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