Homeland Stupidity http://www.homelandstupidity.us Government is stupid. Discover a better way to organize society. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Welcome: Portraits of America http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/10/28/welcome-portraits-of-america/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/10/28/welcome-portraits-of-america/#comments Sun, 28 Oct 2007 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/10/28/welcome-portraits-of-america/ ]]> Since September 11, 2001, getting in to the U.S. as a foreign visitor has become a harrowing experience. So much so, in fact, that foreign tourism is down 17% as many tourists choose to spend their holidays elsewhere rather than be poked, prodded, searched, fingerprinted and verbally abused by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

Not to fear, though; the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State have done something about it.

The first Americans that foreign tourists run into upon arrival are Customs agents. Of course, what they’ve done doesn’t at all involve training Customs agents to be less abrasive and more welcoming.

Instead, Homeland Security and State have partnered with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to produce a video to show to foreign visitors in international airport arrival areas and make them feel welcome, while they wait their turn in line to be shaken down. The government calls this a “multimedia initiative to welcome international visitors to the United States.”

“Disney commissioned the project as part of the Rice-Chertoff Initiative that seeks to secure America’s borders while welcoming legitimate visitors to the United States,” according to a CBP news release.

“America’s arrival for its foreign visitors really needs to be a welcoming experience,’ said Walt Disney chairman Jay Rasulo in an accompanying video about the making of Welcome: Portraits of America. “We know that in the first one hundred steps when people leave an airplane is when we have a chance to really make an impression about what a welcoming place they’ve arrived.”

Now it’s true that after people manage to get past Customs and into the country, Americans are some of the most friendly, generous, welcoming people in the world. And this video showcases this fact. But it does nothing to assuage the fears of foreign tourists: that they’ll never get into the country in the first place, that they will be denied entry, or detained for hours for no reason, or even tortured.

A DHS spokesman last year called “flawed and self-serving” a 2006 survey which found that international visitors to the U.S. worried more about Customs agents than terrorists and that one-third found them so rude and abrasive that they planned never to return to the U.S.

The video began playing last Monday at Washington Dulles International Airport and Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, and will be rolled out to international airports nationwide, according to DHS. No word yet on whether Customs agents will begin treating visitors with dignity and respect.

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Social Security data used for criminal investigations http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/social-security-data-used-for-criminal-investigations/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/social-security-data-used-for-criminal-investigations/#comments Fri, 10 Nov 2006 02:37:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/social-security-data-used-for-criminal-investigations/ ]]> Wage and earnings data held at the Social Security Administration has been used in terrorism investigations since September 11, 2001. But few if any of those investigated have been brought up on terrorism charges.

Federal prosecutors don’t actually bring terrorism charges if they can find any lesser charges which will result in a deportation and preserve national security secrets, officials said.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the News 21 Program of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. According to a statement on its Web site, it aims to transform journalism in the 21st century by “preparing future media leaders to be analytic thinkers, clear writers and communicators, armed with an in-depth understanding of the context and complexity of issues facing the modern world.’ And it’s starting to unleash a new breed of journalists on the world.

Two of them turned in this story to the Washington Post, which the editor promptly buried in the back pages.

The Social Security Administration is “literally the Fort Knox of identity information in the United States,’ said James Huse, the agency’s inspector general from 1998 to 2004. “That’s a pretty impressive investigative tool that no other agency possesses.’

From just after Sept. 11 through 2005, Social Security officials sent prosecutors 456 referrals that were classified as terrorism-related, according to statistics compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The review shows that 91 percent of those referrals led to prosecutions. . . .

Still, few if any suspects in Social Security cases are ever linked publicly to alleged terrorist activity. Most cases referred to prosecutors in the months after Sept. 11 involved document fraud by Latino immigrants working at airports. . . .

“Prosecution of terrorism-related targets on [immigration and document fraud] charges is often an effective method — and sometimes the only available method — of deterring and disrupting potential terrorist planning and support activities without compromising national security information,’ Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty wrote in a Justice Department white paper in June. . . .

The Internal Revenue code normally prohibits Social Security from releasing information in the wage and earnings database, even to law enforcement agencies. But IRS and Social Security officials are permitted to waive that rule in “life-threatening situations.’ A 30-day waiver was granted immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks and was extended four times by the IRS through early 2002, [Jonathan] Lasher [deputy chief counsel to the Social Security Administration’s inspector general] said. — Washington Post

That explains how stealing Corn Flakes became a federal terrorism investigation.

Of course, it didn’t help that post-9/11 Justice Department rules allowed for almost anything to be classified as a terrorism-related investigation, as well as fudging the numbers in other ways.

So now, federal agents can turn anything into a terrorism investigation through some bureaucratic sleight-of-hand, get Social Security records which would otherwise be off-limits, and use whatever they find against you. And don’t think you have nothing to hide because you’re innocent. A screwed up computer record, and they are all over the place, would be enough for a predawn paramilitary raid at your house and a one-way trip to the nearest federal prison.

Have a nice day, tovarishch.

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The cover-up of Homeland Security’s virus infection http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/07/the-cover-up-of-homeland-securitys-virus-infection/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/07/the-cover-up-of-homeland-securitys-virus-infection/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2006 21:24:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/the-cover-up-of-homeland-securitys-virus-infection/ ]]> Last August a Windows virus infected over 1,300 computers which Customs and Border Protection uses to screen foreign travelers visiting the U.S. The bureau almost immediately tried to cover up the incident.

In “The Virus That Ate DHS,’ Wired reporter and former hacker Kevin Poulsen illustrates that the Department of Homeland Security’s grasp on computer security is tenuous at best.

The Zotob virus hit the US-VISIT computer network August 18, 2005, resulting in hours-long, snarled lines at airports and other ports of entry as Customs officials had to manually clear visitors. Though Microsoft had made a patch available before the worm hit, CBP officials had made the decision to patch most of its computers, but not the US-VISIT computers.

Poulsen has doggedly pursued the case from day one, filing Freedom of Information Act requests to get records related to the incident, and dealing with government bureaucrats stonewalling, covering up and even “losing’ his request.

His November 2 report chronicles the saga of trying to get information out of the government. When a court finally ordered DHS to comply, he found that the information that had been redacted for “security’ reasons because they “could compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive US-VISIT data’ were nothing of the sort.

And, as it turns out, the virus got onto the network in the first place through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement network, to which US-VISIT is connected. ICE, as it turns out, is responsible for security for the whole department. But DHS is transitioning to a new network architecture called OneNetwork, which CBP will run instead.

And while the documents released last week show that CBP learned its lesson unusually quickly, I suspect that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of viruses getting inside the Department of Homeland Security.

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