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 Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/18/why-the-2776-nsa-violations-are-no-big-deal/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/18/why-the-2776-nsa-violations-are-no-big-deal/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 17:00:49 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=897 Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.

The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

So although the numbers of Americans who have had their information intercepted in violation of NSA’s own rules seems large, it is actually minuscule compared to the huge volume of our communications they intercept in total!

Though it made for a sensational headline last week, the fact is these 2,776 “violations” over the course of one year are completely irrelevant. The millions and millions of “authorized” intercepts of our communications are all illegal — except for the very few carried out in pursuit of a validly-issued search warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. That is the real story. Drawing our attention to the violations unfortunately sends the message that the “authorized” spying on us is nothing to be concerned about.

When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.

Americans are increasingly concerned over these violations of their privacy. Calls for reform grow. However, whenever Washington finds itself in a scandal, the government responds by naming a government panel made up of current and former government employees to investigate any mistakes the government might have made. The recommendations invariably are that even more government employees must be hired to provide an additional layer or two of oversight. That is supposed to reassure us that reforms have been made, while in fact it is just insiders covering up for those who have hired them to investigate.

Let us hope the American people will decide that such trickery is no longer acceptable. It is time to take a very serious look at the activities of the US intelligence community. The first step would be a dramatic reduction in appropriations to force a focus on those real, not imagined, threats to our national security. We should not be considered the enemy.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/04/why-wont-they-tell-us-the-truth-about-nsa-spying/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/08/04/why-wont-they-tell-us-the-truth-about-nsa-spying/#comments Sun, 04 Aug 2013 20:53:22 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=891 In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.

This complacency has suddenly shifted given recent revelations of the extent of government spying on Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats are faced with serious backlash from Americans outraged that their most personal communications are intercepted and stored. They had been told that only the terrorists would be monitored. In response to this anger, defenders of the program have time and again resorted to spreading lies and distortions. But these untruths are now being exposed very quickly.

In a Senate hearing this March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senator Ron Wyden that the NSA did not collect phone records of millions of Americans. This was just three months before the revelations of an NSA leaker made it clear that Clapper was not telling the truth. Pressed on his false testimony before Congress, Clapper apologized for giving an “erroneous” answer but claimed it was just because he “simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.” Wow.

As the story broke in June of the extent of warrantless NSA spying against Americans, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers assured us that the project was a strictly limited and not invasive. He described it as a “lockbox with only phone numbers, no names, no addresses in it, we’ve used it sparingly, it is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch, has lots of protections built in…”

But we soon discovered that also was not true either. We learned in another Guardian newspaper article last week that the top secret “X-Keyscore” program allows even low-level analysts to “search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

The keys to Rogers’ “lockbox” seem to have been handed out to everyone but the janitors! As Chairman of the Committee that is supposed to be most in the loop on these matters, it seems either the Intelligence Community misled him about their programs or he misled the rest of us. It sure would be nice to know which one it is.

Likewise, Rep. Rogers and many other defenders of the NSA spying program promised us that this dragnet scooping up the personal electronic communications of millions of Americans had already stopped “dozens” of terrorist plots against the United States. In June, NSA director General Keith Alexander claimed that the just-disclosed bulk collection of Americans’ phone and other electronic records had “foiled 50 terror plots.”

Opponents of the program were to be charged with being unconcerned with our security.

But none of it was true.

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard dramatic testimony from NSA deputy director John C. Inglis. According to the Guardian:

“The NSA has previously claimed that 54 terrorist plots had been disrupted ‘over the lifetime’ of the bulk phone records collection and the separate program collecting the internet habits and communications of people believed to be non-Americans. On Wednesday, Inglis said that at most one plot might have been disrupted by the bulk phone records collection alone.”

From dozens to “at most one”?

Supporters of these programs are now on the defensive, with several competing pieces of legislation in the House and Senate seeking to rein in an administration and intelligence apparatus that is clearly out of control. This is to be commended. What is even more important, though, is for more and more and more Americans to educate themselves about our precious liberties and to demand that their government abide by the Constitution. We do not have to accept being lied to — or spied on — by our government.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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A House Divided Over NSA Spying on Americans http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/29/a-house-divided-over-nsa-spying-on-americans/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/29/a-house-divided-over-nsa-spying-on-americans/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 10:26:45 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=887 Last week’s House debate on the Defense Appropriations bill for 2014 produced a bit more drama than usual. After hearing that House leadership would do away with the traditional “open rule” allowing for debate on any funding limitation amendment, it was surprising to see that Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment was allowed on the Floor. In the wake of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of US government spying on American citizens, Amash’s amendment sought to remove funding in the bill for some of the NSA programs.

Had Amash’s amendment passed, it would have been a significant symbolic victory over the administration’s massive violations of our Fourth Amendment protections. But we should be careful about believing that even if it had somehow miraculously survived the Senate vote and the President’s veto, it would have resulted in any significant change in how the Intelligence Community would behave toward Americans. The US government has built the largest and most sophisticated spying apparatus in the history of the world.

The NSA has been massively increasing the size its facilities, both at its Maryland headquarters and in its newly built (and way over-budget) enormous data center in Utah. Taken together, these two facilities will be seven times larger than the Pentagon! And we know now that much of the NSA’s capacity to intercept information has been turned inward, to spy on us.

As NSA expert James Bamford wrote earlier this year about the new Utah facility:

“The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration — an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.”

But it happened anyway.

Over the last week we have seen two significant prison-breaks, one in Iraq, where some 500 al-Qaeda members broke out of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, which the US built, and another 1,000 escaped in a huge break in Benghazi, Libya — the city where the US Ambassador was killed by the rebels that the US government helped put in power. Did the US intelligence community, focused on listening to our phone calls, not see this real threat coming?

Rep. Amash’s amendment was an important move to at least bring attention to what the US intelligence community has become: an incredibly powerful conglomeration of secret government agencies that seem to view Americans as the real threat. It is interesting that the votes on Amash’s amendment divided the House not on party lines. Instead, we saw the votes divided between those who follow their oath to the Constitution, versus those who seem to believe that any violation of the Constitution is justified in the name of the elusive “security” of the police state at the expense of liberty. The leadership — not to my surprise — of both parties in the House voted for the police state.

It is encouraging to see the large number of votes crossing party lines in favor of the Amash amendment. Let us hope that this will be a growing trend in the House — perhaps the promise that Congress may once again begin to take its duties and obligations seriously. We should not forget, however, that in the meantime another Defense Appropriations bill passing really means another “military spending” bill. The Administration is planning for a US invasion of Syria, more military assistance to the military dictatorship in Egypt, and more drones and interventionism. We have much work yet to do.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked? http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/09/government-spying-should-we-be-shocked/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/06/09/government-spying-should-we-be-shocked/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 00:01:32 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=870 Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance — not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records — including his own — because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us of the tremendous benefits of this Big Brother-like program. He promises us that domestic terrorism plots were thwarted, but he cannot tell us about them because they are classified. I am a bit skeptical, however. In April, the New York Times reported that most of these domestic plots were actually elaborate sting operations developed and pushed by the FBI. According to the Times report, “of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.”

Even if Chairman Rogers is right, though, and the program caught someone up to no good, we have to ask ourselves whether even such a result justifies trashing the Constitution. Here is what I said on the floor of the House when the PATRIOT Act was up for renewal back in 2011:

“If you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.”

What most undermines the claims of the Administration and its defenders about this surveillance program is the process itself. First the government listens in on all of our telephone calls without a warrant and then if it finds something it goes to a FISA court and get an illegal approval for what it has already done! This turns the rule of law and due process on its head.

The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We need to turn the cameras on the police and on the government, not the other way around. We should be thankful for writers like Glenn Greenwald, who broke last week’s story, for taking risks to let us know what the government is doing. There are calls for the persecution of Greenwald and the other whistle-blowers and reporters. They should be defended, as their work defends our freedom.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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One Nation, Under Surveillance http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2009/10/21/one-nation-under-surveillance/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2009/10/21/one-nation-under-surveillance/#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2009 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2009/10/21/one-nation-under-surveillance/ ]]> What have you got to hide? The answer may shock you: If you’re like most Americans, you have far more than you realize that you need to be hiding, and not doing so may be putting you and your family in grave danger.

In his new book, Three Felonies a Day, attorney Harvey Silverglate holds that the typical American professional commits an average of three federal crimes a day, just going about their daily business, without even realizing it. And the only thing keeping them out of prison — make that keeping you out of prison — is the fact that federal prosecutors haven’t looked at you yet. “No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch,’ reads a statement on the book’s Web site, “and nothing less than the integrity of our constitutional democracy hangs in the balance.’

While Three Felonies a Day illustrates the problem quite well, today I want to talk about solutions. Likely you have never thought you needed to protect yourself from the government. But you probably weren’t aware that so many federal laws are “impossibly broad and vague’ that you were a “criminal’ several times over today, just for going to work, picking up your kids, and eating dinner. Moreover, the concept of criminal intent has been largely removed from the law, so you can be imprisoned even if you had no idea what you were doing was against the law.

Under the English common law we inherited, a crime requires intent. This protection is disappearing in the U.S. As Mr. Silverglate writes, “Since the New Deal era, Congress has delegated to various administrative agencies the task of writing the regulations,’ even as “Congress has demonstrated a growing dysfunction in crafting legislation that can in fact be understood.’ Prosecutors identify defendants to go after instead of finding a law that was broken and figuring out who did it. Expect more such prosecutions as Washington adds regulations. — Wall Street Journal

One of the most powerful solutions against the sorts of miscarriages of justice that land people like you in prison is privacy. Privacy makes it much harder for an overzealous prosecutor to spin your perfectly innocent activities into “crimes.’ Not to mention it also provides protection against the more mundane threats of identity thieves, psychotic ex-spouses, and so on.

A few people figured out long ago that the federal government wasn’t actually here to help, and one of them, “Boston T. Party,’ (a pen name) in 1996 wrote Bulletproof Privacy, now out of print. The thin volume, most of which is now quite dated, provided a how-to manual with practical solutions for increasing your personal privacy. Boston has since rewritten and expanded it, and the new book, One Nation, Under Surveillance, is three times the size, and has at least three times the practical solutions for protecting yourself.

(I met Boston at this year’s New Hampshire Liberty Forum where he spoke on gun rights in the U.S. after the D.C. v. Heller case. He graciously sent me a signed copy of One Nation, Under Surveillance for free. Unfortunately it got buried under a huge stack of papers on my desk for several months and I only recently found it again.)

Privacy is an insurance policy against oppression. Privacy allows a tyrannized citizenry to think independently, freely, and clearly. (Imagine if book stores were regulated as gun stores!) To speak out, network, and organize against unruly government — all of this in perfect accord with your natural rights, and in tradition with our American history and Constitution. We did not form the servile institution of government for the goal of limitless obedience to that servant. Neither did the States federate themselves under the Constitution for the utter dissolution of their own autonomy and prerogatives. . . .

A government which knows everything about its people is an unassailable government, for the people can no longer safely congregate nor precipitate. In an Orwellian state in which all your communications, transactions, and associations are monitored/approved, from whence comes any possible readjustment — much less a successful revolution from it? . . .

When privacy goes, the people have in a sense “thrown away the key’ to their shackles. Think of your decreasing privacy as being measured for a tailored straightjacket.

What do you have to hide? Today, perhaps nothing. Next year, maybe a lot depending on new information and revised priorities. Privacy is a comprehensive insurance policy. Keep up the premiums, even if you’re not quite sure why.

I’m not going to share much of the how-to with you. That’s in the book, which you should buy. Now. Or even months ago, and I’m sorry this thing sat under a bunch of junk on my desk for so long. I learned quite a few things I never knew, and refreshed myself on those I did. The thing about many of the privacy techniques shown in the book is that in order to protect your privacy most effectively, they have to be in place already before you are threatened.

That means you — no matter how innocent you think you are — need to protect yourself.

Virtually everything imaginable is covered, most in great detail. A few topics were not covered in detail, such as creating alternate identities, or trusts and financial instruments, since the information tends to go out of date rapidly, or would require their own books, or might be illegal to even talk about (in the supposed land of the free). So it is not a complete how-to, but it is nearly complete.

Most of the expanded content in this book deals with online privacy. This was hardly an issue in 1996 when Bulletproof Privacy was published and almost nobody had even heard of the Internet; today virtually everyone is online and too few people on the Internet do much of anything to protect their privacy. Consider the fugitive who fled to Mexico and then updated his status on Facebook. “People just don’t think through the privacy implications of putting their information on the Internet,’ security expert Bruce Schneier wrote Monday. “Facebook is how we interact with friends, and we think of it in the frame of interacting with friends. We don’t think that our employers might be looking — they’re not our friends! — that the information will be around forever, or that it might be abused. Privacy isn’t salient; chatting with friends is.’

The sections dealing with securing your computer and being private online are valuable content and the book is worth buying for this alone; Boston covered pretty much everything, from e-mail to cookies to malware to encryption to government raids. I did spot a few technical errors, but nothing that invalidated the techniques presented.

I do have a few minor nits to pick, though. The first is that I don’t feel enough attention was given to risk assessment. Any security expert will tell you that knowing what risks you face, how likely they are to occur, and how disruptive they would be if they occurred, is critical information in determining what you need to do to protect yourself. Boston assumes that his readers want as much privacy as possible, almost without regard to cost or inconvenience. I would have liked to see more treatment of specific risks and how particular techniques mitigate those risks, as well as how to assess risk generally. This, I think, would make the book more accessible and more useful to a wider audience.

Second, I will have to share one of Boston’s techniques. He recommends using Puppy Linux, a stripped down operating system distribution which can run from a CD or USB stick, instead of having your operating system installed on your hard drive. Puppy Linux can also encrypt your data and save it back to the same USB stick, which he recommends. This is probably workable for some people, and is practically necessary when using a public computer (since they can’t be trusted) but other people will be entirely unable to do this, myself included. His advice to never, ever use Windows for anything is sound, of course. But I do many things which pretty much require an installed operating system, such as video editing. For people who can’t live off a USB stick, I would recommend you install Ubuntu or Fedora, both of which are much more full-featured and also offer simple full-disk encryption for your hard drive which is stronger than that provided in Puppy Linux. (I helped test the full-disk encryption feature in Fedora and contributed a few small bits of code to it.)

Finally, with the rapid changes in technology, and the relentless encroachment of government into every aspect of people’s lives, doubtless much of the information in One Nation, Under Surveillance will be out of date, useless, or even potentially dangerous soon. I would like to see some sort of web site to serve as an online addendum to the book, which could contain errata, new information, perhaps a wiki, etc. Many books, especially dealing with technical topics, have such sites already and they serve to add further value.

One Nation, Under Surveillance should be on the bookshelf of anyone serious about privacy, both online and offline. If you aren’t sure, but you think you might need some privacy in the future, you should use it to get started now. By the time you’re sure you need privacy, it may be too late.

And if you’ll excuse me, I need to clean my desk.

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Supreme Court refuses Gilmore due process case http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/01/09/supreme-court-refuses-gilmore-due-process-case/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/01/09/supreme-court-refuses-gilmore-due-process-case/#comments Tue, 09 Jan 2007 20:26:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2007/01/09/supreme-court-refuses-gilmore-due-process-case/ ]]> On Monday the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Ninth Circuit appeals court decision which found that Americans do not have a “right to travel by any particular form of transportation’ and do not have the right to know the laws and regulations they must obey.

The justices let stand without comment the January 2006 appeals court decision.

In 2002, John Gilmore attempted twice to board an airplane without showing government-issued identification and was denied boarding both times. Officials repeatedly refused to show him a law or regulation which required him to show ID, claiming it was sensitive security information, and he went to court.

Copies of the security directive in question have been leaked and have been available on the Internet for years. It does not require passengers to show identification, but does require that anyone who does not show identification go through secondary screening and requires special handling procedures for their checked baggage.

But Gilmore’s Supreme Court appeal wasn’t about being asked to show ID so much as being asked to follow a law without being able to know what the law says.

According to a statement by the Identity Project, which Gilmore heads and funds, “We must insist that our elected representatives control the TSA, and hold it accountable for its actions by, first, demanding that it make public this and any other laws it promulgates to bind the public.’ — 27B Stroke 6

Gilmore calls secret law “an abomination’ and says that it violates his right to due process. But now, with the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear this case, Americans can be subject to secret laws. Didn’t think that sort of thing could happen here? It can now.

Oh, and as the Ninth Circuit said in its decision, “the Constitution does not guarantee the right to travel by any particular form of transportation.’ You don’t have the right to travel either, according to these people.

The noose tightens.

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Homeland Security contributed bad data to military intelligence database http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/22/homeland-security-contributed-bad-data-to-military-intelligence-database/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/22/homeland-security-contributed-bad-data-to-military-intelligence-database/#comments Wed, 22 Nov 2006 20:24:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/homeland-security-contributed-bad-data-to-military-intelligence-database/ ]]> If you disagree with the policies of the U.S. government, or are a member of a group or association which expresses disagreement with government policies, an agent of the federal government is likely reading your web site and subscribed to your mailing list.

Undercover officers of the Federal Protective Service subscribed to the mailing lists and monitored Web sites of peaceful anti-war groups, and contributed information about those groups’ activities to a military intelligence database, according to Pentagon documents released Tuesday.

NBC News revealed in December 2005 that the Threat and Local Observation Notice database, used by the military to track potential terrorist threats to military installations, contained data on peaceful protesters and anti-war groups. The Pentagon subsequently announced that after a review, the data had been cleaned out of the database and intelligence personnel retrained.

“I don’t want it, we shouldn’t have had it, not interested in it,’ said Daniel J. Baur, the acting director of the counterintelligence field activity unit, which runs the Talon program at the Defense Department. “I don’t want to deal with it.’

Mr. Baur said that those operating the database had misinterpreted their mandate and that what was intended as an antiterrorist database became, in some respects, a catch-all for leads on possible disruptions and threats against military installations in the United States, including protests against the military presence in Iraq.

“I don’t think the policy was as clear as it could have been,’ he said. Once the problem was discovered, he said, “we fixed it,’ and more than 180 entries in the database related to war protests were deleted from the system last year. Out of 13,000 entries in the database, many of them uncorroborated leads on possible terrorist threats, several thousand others were also purged because he said they had “no continuing relevance.’ — New York Times

Each of the documents, (PDF) released Tuesday to the American Civil Liberties Union pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, show that the leads on anti-war protests originated with undercover FPS agents, whose names were redacted from the documents at the request of FPS’s parent agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

One such document details an anti-war protest of a Sacramento, Calif., military entrance processing station planned by Veterans for Peace on Veterans Day in 2004, a day the center was closed. VFP specifically rejects any type of violent protest, according to its Web site. There were “no known vandalism or incidents as a result of the protest,’ the document notes.

Another document notes that VFP “is a peaceful organization, but there is potential future protest[s] could become violent,’ an accusation that VFP executive director Michael McPhearson calls “appalling.’

“The federal government should not be wasting valuable resources gathering files on peaceful protesters who disagree with the Bush administration’s policies,’ McPhearson said.

Another document details peaceful protests by the War Resisters League in New York City in 2005, noting that it “advocates Gandhian nonviolence,’ “will not use physical violence or verbal abuse toward any person’ and “will not damage any property.’

Several other documents detail peaceful protests at military recruiting stations by the American Friends Service Committee, National Front for Peace and Justice, and other groups.

Dave Ridley protests Nov. 13 in Concord, N.H.

FPS, originally created in 1971 as part of the General Services Administration to protect federal buildings, was moved under the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. It routinely monitors anyone it deems a potential threat to federal assets, such as Dave Ridley and the New Hampshire Underground.

An FPS officer cited Ridley for distributing handbills at an Internal Revenue Service office in Nashua, N.H., in September, after he wrote about the experience in the Keene Free Press, an alternative newspaper published in Keene, N.H. Ridley had entered the IRS office holding a sign saying “Is it right to work 4 IRS?’ and handed out flyers urging IRS agents to quit their “immoral’ jobs.

Last week he and 16 other people protested at the federal building in Concord just prior to his November 13 court appearance.

“The feds admitted in court that they read this website,’ said Kat Kanning, publisher of the Keene Free Press and owner of the New Hampshire Underground Web site. Members of the site advocate smaller government and individual liberty and regularly hold peaceful protests throughout the state.

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Secret law case sent to Supreme Court http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/14/secret-law-case-sent-to-supreme-court/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/14/secret-law-case-sent-to-supreme-court/#comments Tue, 14 Nov 2006 21:18:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/secret-law-case-sent-to-supreme-court/ ]]> One of the most fundamental, and sometimes annoying, principles of American law is described by the old adage, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.’ But the courts have held that in order for this to apply, and you to be responsible for a law, the government must provide “notice,’ for instance, publishing the law in the Federal Register.

So it is that John Gilmore is challenging apparently secret Transportation Security Agency regulations which he was told he could not see after being denied boarding two aircraft at two different California airports. Gilmore is taking his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after losing on appeal in the Ninth Circuit.

The government has said that the public can’t know what the regulations are because they constitute Sensitive Security Information, or SSI, which is overly broad and covers almost anything the TSA does — even many of the things you can stand there and obviously watch them doing.

“The TSA is allowed to withhold some information from the public, but only in cases where transportation security is at risk,’ said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “Simply showing Americans the rules they must follow can’t possibly compromise security. The real danger here is meaningless secrecy, which can hide security flaws, frustrate the justice system, create confusion, and undermine government accountability.’

The Constitution and laws like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) prohibit the government from imposing secret laws on the public. But if the lower court decision permitting the secrecy is allowed to stand, it opens the door to other government agencies creating undisclosed rules and regulations without oversight.

“‘Security’ shouldn’t be a magic password allowing the government to escape accountability,’ said Hofmann. “The Supreme Court should hear this case and review why the TSA insists on keeping this basic information secret.’ — Electronic Frontier Foundation

Since I’m in Boston right now, I’m going to forgo my usual summary of the background of the case and refer you to Ryan Singel’s excellent article at 27B Stroke 6.

The longer this goes on, the stranger it gets. Since Gilmore was denied boarding those fateful flights in 2002, many people have decided to attempt to fly without showing identification, and virtually all of them have succeeded in doing so.

Gilmore’s case, though, should clarify whether we are a secret police state where we have to follow laws that we aren’t allowed to read for ourselves, or whether some small vestiges of liberty still remain.

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The nice guys behind REAL ID http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/14/the-nice-guys-behind-real-id/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/14/the-nice-guys-behind-real-id/#comments Tue, 14 Nov 2006 15:19:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/the-nice-guys-behind-real-id/ ]]> The REAL ID Act of 2005 sets up a de facto national identification card for American citizens. Almost nobody actually wants a national identification card, though. For many, it brings up still-fresh memories of Nazi Germany, which used national identification to control, and later slaughter, its population. For others, the national ID is the mark of the beast, without which one won’t be able to participate in everyday commerce, and which brings closer the prophecy of the second coming.

For a very few well-connected people, the REAL ID Act is a way to make lots of money.

The organization set to profit from the REAL ID Act is the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. According to its web site, AAMVA “is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization striving to develop model programs in motor vehicle administration, police traffic services and highway safety. The association also serves as an information clearinghouse in these areas, and acts as the international spokesman for these interests.’

AAMVA is the most likely organization to run the massive new databases which will be required for the REAL ID Act. It represents all 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces.

And now, AAMVA has hired Brian Zimmer, a well-connected House staffer who is a major proponent of REAL ID.

Zimmer worked for the past five years as senior policy adviser and investigator for the House Judiciary Committee. There he helped investigate and conduct the committee’s oversight on issues such as fraud prevention, border security and counterterrorism, among others.

Before working with the Judiciary Committee, Zimmer from 1995 to 2001 served as the automated procurement manager in the Office of Procurement and Purchasing in the House.

At AAMVA, his responsibilities include working on identity management policy, managing the identity management staff and working with outside groups that deal with identify management, among other activities. He also will work to pursue federal grants for identity management projects. — Roll Call

AAMVA has been at this for a very long time, notes Jim Harper, director of information policy studies for the Cato Institute.

AAMVA is well recognized (by those who care to follow these issues) as a proponent of driver regulation, national IDs, and even internationally uniform ID systems. Since at least the late 1930’s AAMVA has been pushing regulatory control of drivers and driving. As I note in my book, Identity Crisis, “Before September 11, 2001, AAMVA promoted a national identification card as a solution to illegal immigration. After September 11, 2001, it promoted a national identification card as a solution to terrorism. If national identification cards are a hammer, AAMVA sees every public policy problem as a nail.’

AAMVA collects about $1 per driver per year (roughly $13 million) for its part in administering the Commercial Drivers License Information System. AAMVA would make much more as the administrator of databases required by the REAL ID Act. — Jim Harper, Cato Institute

Harper further notes that “Brian is a nice guy and, as I say, dedicated to his cause.’

The people who want to control and oppress you are almost always nice guys. But they’re always dedicated to their cause, that of complete domination of your life in every conceivable aspect. That’s why, nice as they may be, they must continue to be vigorously opposed.

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Big Brother, Big Business http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/12/big-brother-big-business/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/12/big-brother-big-business/#comments Sun, 12 Nov 2006 18:12:34 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/big-brother-big-business/ ]]> The Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, places a few restrictions on how the federal government can compile dossiers on Americans. It was passed in response to multiple scandals in which, for instance, former Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover would spy on Americans for his own purposes.

But does it go far enough? When the government can’t get the information on you that it wants because of the Privacy Act, it can always turn to a commercial data broker. And they know more about virtually everyone than anyone else, including the government itself.

On November 2, the cable network CNBC aired a two-hour special called “Big Brother, Big Business’ which explored the issues of privacy and technology which can be used to track people.

I don’t want to ruin the ending, so I’ll just say that the Liberty Coalition put a copy of the special up on Google Video, and invite you to watch for yourself and make up your own mind. See what the commercial data brokers have to say for themselves.

I will say, though, that some undeserved anti-corporate bias sneaked through the presentation. The problem is not just that companies are compiling data on people; this is actually a valuable and useful service. For instance, it actually helps cut down on the amount of uninteresting junk mail you receive.

Though there is a down side to commercial data mining: The company collecting information from you can figure things out about you which seem entirely unrelated to the information you give them. You might be pregnant, for instance, but not yet ready to tell anyone about it.

The most serious problem as I see it is that it’s too easy for the data to fall into the wrong hands. And as we’ve seen before in our history, all too frequently the wrong hands are the hands of the government. Once again, the government, not the corporation, is the root of the problem.

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