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FBI Abruptly Walks Out On Senate Briefing After Being Asked How ‘Insider Threat’ Program Avoids Whistleblowers

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 21:48 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Meanwhile, the FBI fiercely resists any efforts at Congressional oversight, especially on whistleblower matters. For example, four months ago I sent a letter to the FBI requesting its training materials on the Insider Threat Program. This program was announced by the Obama Administration in October 2011. It was intended to train federal employees to watch out for insider threats among their colleagues. Public news reports indicated that this program might not do enough to distinguish between true insider threats and legitimate whistleblowers. I relayed these concerns in my letter. I also asked for copies of the training materials. I said I wanted to examine whether they adequately distinguished between insider threats and whistleblowers.

In response, an FBI legislative affairs official told my staff that a briefing might be the best way to answer my questions. It was scheduled for last week. Staff for both Chairman Leahy and I attended, and the FBI brought the head of their Insider Threat Program. Yet the FBI didn’t bring the Insider Threat training materials as we had requested. However, the head of the Insider Threat Program told the staff that there was no need to worry about whistleblower communications. He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people.

Now I have never heard of whistleblowers being required to “register” in order to be protected. The idea of such a requirement should be pretty alarming to all Americans. Sometimes confidentiality is the best protection a whistleblower has. Unfortunately, neither my staff nor Chairman Leahy’s staff was able to learn more, because only about ten minutes into the briefing, the FBI abruptly walked out. FBI officials simply refused to discuss any whistleblower implications in its Insider Threat Program and left the room. These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection.

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  1. Why, you’d almost think that the FBI didn’t -want- there to be any whistleblowers…

    When it’s a crime to tell the world that your government is commiting a crime, it’s a bad sign.

US tech giants knew of NSA data collection, agency’s top lawyer insists

Posted on March 20th, 2014 at 16:37 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?, Privacy, Security


The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting months of angry denials from the firms.

Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”

When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke the Prism story in June, thanks to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL – claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had “never heard” the term Prism.

De explained: “Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,” De said. “Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.”

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Yahoo webcam images from millions of users intercepted by GCHQ

Posted on February 27th, 2014 at 17:23 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.


The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains “undesirable nudity”. Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography.

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Swiss fighters grounded during hijacking as outside office hours

Posted on February 18th, 2014 at 12:42 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


No Swiss fighter jets were scrambled Monday when an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane and forced it to land in Geneva, because it happened outside business hours, the Swiss airforce said.

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Dear America, I Saw You Naked And yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.

Posted on January 31st, 2014 at 15:54 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


“Working for the TSA,” I wrote, “has the feel of riding atop the back of a large, dopey dog fanatically chasing its tail clockwise for a while, then counterclockwise, and back again, ad infinitum.”

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FBI: We know you’re innocent, but you’re not getting off the No-Fly list unless you rat out your friends

Posted on September 29th, 2013 at 10:56 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


FBI agents put this pressure on ACLU clients Abe Mashal, a Marine veteran; Amir Meshal; and Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Each of these Americans spoke to FBI agents to learn why they were suddenly banned from flying and to clear up the errors that led to that decision. Instead of providing that explanation or opportunity, FBI agents offered to help them get off the No-Fly List—but only in exchange for serving as informants in their communities.Our clients refused.

The ACLU’s report,Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority, explains what happened to Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Nagib was denied boarding when trying to fly home to San Francisco after a trip to visit family in Yemen. Stranded abroad and desperate to return home, Nagib sought help from the U.S. embassy in Yemen and was asked to submit to an FBI interview. FBI agents offered to arrange for Nagib to fly back immediately to the United States if he would agree to tell the agents who the “bad guys” were in Yemen and San Francisco. The agents insisted that Nagib could provide the names of people from his mosque and the San Francisco Yemeni community. The agents said they would have Nagib arrested and jailed in Yemen if he did not cooperate, and that Nagib should “think about it.” Nagib, however, did not know any “bad guys” and therefore refused to spy on innocent people in exchange for a flight home.

Nagib’s experience is far from unique. After Abe Mashal was denied boarding at Chicago’s Midway Airport, FBI agents questioned him about his religious beliefs and practices.The agents told Abe that if he would serve as an informant for the FBI, his name would be removed from the No-Fly List and he would receive compensation. When Abe refused, the FBI promptly ended the meeting.

Neither Nagib nor Abe present a threat to aviation security. But FBI agents sought to exploit their fear, desperation, and confusion when they were most vulnerable, and to coerce them into working as informants. Moreover, the very fact that FBI agents asked Nagib and Abe to spy on people for the government is yet another indication that the FBI doesn’t actually think either man is a suspected terrorist. This abusive use of a government watch list underscores the serious need for regulation, oversight, and public accountability of an FBI that has become unleashed and unaccountable.

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  1. So, innocent men are asked to spy. They refuse & are now 2nd-class citizens. An ACTUAL terrorist would agree, feed the FBI nonsense & be allowed to fly.
    The Great War on Terror! Where stupid things are done & nobody’s made any safer…

Snowden Documents Show U.S. Spied on Petrobras, Globo TV Reports

Posted on September 9th, 2013 at 14:18 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


The U.S. government spied on Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Globo TV reported, citing classified documents obtained by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The television network, which reported a week ago that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted phone calls and e-mails of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, aired slides from an NSA presentation from 2012 that explained the agency’s capability to penetrate private networks of companies such as Petrobras, as the oil company is known, and Google Inc.

One slide in the presentation listed “economic” as an intention for spying, as well as diplomatic and political reasons. None of the documents revealed the motivation for the alleged spying on Petrobras, according to Globo.


The presentation appears to contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to the Washington Post in an August 30 article, in which the agency said that the U.S. Department of Defense “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

Petrobras declined to comment in an e-mailed response to questions. An official at the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information in order to monitor for signs of potential instability in financial markets, and not to steal commercial secrets, according to tonight’s program.

Apparently Petrobas is a hotbed of financial instability. They’re probably the single cause behind the 2008 meltdown of the financial markets.

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TSA is officially allowed to lie to you in order to cover its ass

Posted on September 5th, 2013 at 15:33 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


The TSA is allowed to lie in its responses to Freedom of Information Requests. Its court-granted ability to lie to the public it nominally serves isn’t limited to sensitive issues, either: they’re allowed to pretend that they don’t have CCTV footage of their own officers violating their own policies, even when they do.

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8-year-old boy intentionally kills his grandmother

Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 17:18 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Investigators believe an 8-year-old boy intentionally shot and killed his 90-year-old grandmother on Thursday evening after playing a violent video game.

The woman, Marie Smothers, was pronounced dead at the scene with a gunshot wound to the head in a mobile home park in Slaughter, Louisiana, the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Slaughter is about 20 miles north of Baton Rouge.

The boy initially told investigators he accidentally shot his grandmother while playing with a gun, but after further investigation officials determined it was a homicide.

The boy won’t face charges. Under Louisiana law, a child under 10 is exempt from criminal responsibility.

Before the incident Smothers had been watching TV in the living room while the boy played a video game in which players shoot people, the release from the sheriff’s office stated.

Why is it that the availability of the gun is not the problem?

There’s also a lot of comedy on TV, does that mean there’s more comedy in the street as well?

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The NSA Is Commandeering the Internet

Posted on August 12th, 2013 at 23:24 by Jan in category: Do you feel safer yet?


It turns out that the NSA’s domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we’ve learned, fight, and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it’s easier that way.

I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.

Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy’s life? It’s going to be the same way with you.

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Every Time The NSA Is Asked About Its Ability To Spy On Everyone… It Answers About Its Authority

Posted on August 7th, 2013 at 21:54 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Before getting to the X-KEYSCORE questions, Burnett runs a clip of Gen. Alexander being lobbed softballs by Sen. Mike Rogers back on June 18th. Note Alexander’s verbal head fake that makes it appear he has actually answered what was asked.

Rogers: Does the NSA have the ability to listen to American’s phone calls and read their emails?

Alexander: No. We do not have that authority.

That wasn’t what was asked. Without a doubt, the agency does not have the authority to perform these acts. But what was asked was if the agency had the ability, whether or not it was being utilized.

When Burnett presses Hayden on this point, he provides the same dodge. She asks if the NSA has the ability to collect this kind of data and Hayden responds by saying the NSA can utilize this data, but only after it’s been lawfully collected.

When she pushes further, asking what’s stopping the NSA from “collecting whatever the heck you want on whoever the heck you want,” Hayden goes right back to claiming NSA analysts are only authorized to query the data that’s been already lawfully collected. The question about ability continues to be danced around.

Hayden even reiterates Alexander’s pseudo-answer:

“General Alexander made it clear: we don’t have the authorization to do that.”

Then he goes further, claiming that an order to view real-time data would be rejected by the analyst, simply because the request is unlawful. Hayden cannot possibly believe this statement is true. Sure, some analysts might reject legally-dubious requests from superiors but there is no way this is true across the board.

Hayden’s continual reference to “lawfully collected” and “authorization” (along with the usual mentions of “oversight” and “checks and balances”) is nothing short of ridiculous. It’s as if he wants everyone to believe that because analysts aren’t “authorized” to perform certain actions, they simply won’t perform them. In Hayden’s bizarrely credulous narrative, laws prevent lawbreaking.

Over and over again, he stresses the point that the data has been “lawfully collected” and that the NSA is only “authorized” to perform certain actions with the collected data. His ultra-simplistic responses are almost laughable. Of course an analyst wouldn’t perform real-time data monitoring! It’s not permitted!

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  1. What the hell is wrong with this country. Answer the question or your fired! Lie and you go to jail! It’s is just that simple. Restore accountability or the country is lost!

  2. @chas: I’m sorry for your loss. Perhaps we are all naive.

  3. @Sue: I don’t think anyone was naive. They all knew exactly what was happening.

  4. R.I.P.

U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

Posted on August 5th, 2013 at 16:58 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”

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Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning

Posted on August 3rd, 2013 at 9:34 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August.

The bulletin to travelers and expatriates, issued by the State Department, came less than a day after the department announced that it was closing nearly two dozen American diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa, including facilities in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Britain said Friday that it would close its embassy in Yemen on Monday and Tuesday because of “increased security concerns.”

Prove it.

No, really. If there really was such a communication, the guys, ehm, “communicating” now know they were intercepted, so there’s really no reason not to release the recording. There’s no ‘means and methods’ that need further protection, the cat is out of the bag.

Unless of course this entire conversion doesn’t exist, and this whole “let’s alert the embassy” crap is just a promo exercise to say “see, we’re keeping you safe!”

With NSA directors demonstrably lying to congress, there’s zero reason to believe anything they say.

Or, and that’s another alternative, arrest the official that made the statement about an intercept, and prosecute him just as much as Manning and Snowden.

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  1. ..you took the words right out of my mouth John. What a load of B.S. this warning is. U.S. Citizens Alert: shake in your boots! Give up more freedom! And while you are at, transfer more money to the military industrial complex! (F_ing morons)

Government report: TSA employee misconduct up 26% in 3 years

Posted on July 31st, 2013 at 19:40 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


And the stories of its failures spread faster than a speeding jetliner: TSA officers stealing money from luggage, taking bribes from drug dealers, sleeping on the job.

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a new Government Accountability Office report, citing a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, is striking a nerve with some travelers who’ve had to endure the shoeless, beltless shuffle on the trip through security.

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Revealed: NSA program collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

Posted on July 31st, 2013 at 16:17 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.

Here’s a quote from the article that is really worrying:

The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.

Since nobody heard about a single prosecution, and nobody has heard about an increase in population in Gitmo, there’s two options: 1) the NSA is lying about this number, or 2) the US has another place besides Gitmo where people disappear to.

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  1. When do they start training our children to act as informers, or has this already started?

  2. @chas: Oh that’s another good reason not to have children.

Feel-free fee: TSA will grope you less for $85

Posted on July 26th, 2013 at 9:49 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


The Transportation Security Administration has launched an expansion to their program that allows members to bypass regular airport pre-flight security checkpoints. Those enrolled in the ‘trusted traveler’ program, called TSA PreCheck, don’t have to remove their shoes, jackets and belts during screening. Members can also keep their laptop computers and approved liquids in their bags.

Currently, only members of several frequent-flier programs are given the opportunity to apply without paying a fee, the TSA says. But TSA Administrator John Pistole on Friday announced that all travelers will soon be able to join PreCheck – as long as they pay $85 for a five-year membership, provide identifying information, pass a background check, and undergo fingerprinting.

So now the terrorists have a cheap way to find out if the Feds are on to them. Also, the TSA now has a financial motive to make life for normal travelers even more annoying. “You should have paid the extra fee, peon!” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the fingerprinting and background screening are done by private companies? And that the contracts to do so just… might… go to some old friends? Maybe?

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Rise of the Warrior Cop

Posted on July 21st, 2013 at 18:29 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.

Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.

In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn’t a suspect in the investigation.

What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.

Consider today’s police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.

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Lyons: Police raid felt like home invasion

Posted on July 21st, 2013 at 11:05 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


He was claiming to be a police officer, but the man she had seen looked to her more like an armed thug. Her boyfriend, Dorris, was calmer, and yelled back that he wanted to see some ID.

But the man just demanded they open the door. The actual words, the couple say, were, “We’re the f—— police; open the f—— door.”

Dorris said he moved away from the door, afraid bullets were about to rip through.

Goldsberry was terrified but thinking it just might really be the police. Except, she says she wondered, would police talk that way? She had never been arrested or even come close. She couldn’t imagine why police would be there or want to come in. But even if they did, why would they act like that at her apartment? It didn’t seem right.

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  1. The ACLU should take this up. The more people that react against the F_ing police state of the U.S., the better.

The NSA Admits It Analyzes More People’s Data Than Previously Revealed

Posted on July 18th, 2013 at 14:32 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


As an aside during testimony on Capitol Hill today, a National Security Agency representative rather casually indicated that the government looks at data from a universe of far, far more people than previously indicated.

Chris Inglis, the agency’s deputy director, was one of several government representatives—including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence—testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government’s surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.

But Inglis’ statement was new. Analysts look “two or three hops” from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed. Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops. This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with—one hop. And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with—two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three. Two hops. And now: A third hop.


For a sense of scale, researchers at the University of Milan found in 2011 that everyone on the Internet was, on average, 4.74 steps away from anyone else.

This site:


Gives the average number of people you’re connected to as 634, or 669 for internet users. At 634 and three hops that leads to 254,840,104 individuals records, and at 669 it’s 299,418,309 people per suspected terrorist. Basically the entire population of the US for each suspected terrorist.

There’s an easy solution to overwork the NSA: Everyone friend Kevin Bacon on facebook.

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  1. One theory is there are 6 degrees of separation between everyone in the world. So if you spy on everyone, you’re only 6 degrees of separation from a real terrorist at the most.

Travellers’ mobile phone data seized by police at border

Posted on July 14th, 2013 at 19:41 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Officers use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports and then scour their data.

The blanket power is so broad they do not even have to show reasonable suspicion for seizing the device and can retain the information for “as long as is necessary”.

Data can include call history, contact books, photos and who the person is texting or emailing, although not the contents of messages.

David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, is expected to raise concerns over the power in his annual report this week.

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Creating a military-industrial-immigration complex

Posted on July 13th, 2013 at 10:27 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Until you visit the yearly Expo, it’s easy enough to forget that the U.S. borderlands are today ground zero for the rise, growth, and spread of a domestic surveillance state. On June 27th, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Along with the claim that it offers a path to citizenship to millions of the undocumented living in the United States (with many stringent requirements), in its more than 1,000 pages it promises to build the largest border-policing and surveillance apparatus ever seen in the United States. The result, Senator John McCain proudly said, will be the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Yes, that same wall that his hero, Reagan, wanted torn down.

In a world where basic services are being cut, an emerging policing apparatus in the borderlands is flourishing. As Mattea Kramer and Chris Hellman reported at TomDispatch in February, since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent $791 billion on “homeland security” alone, an inflation-adjusted $300 billion more than the cost of the entire New Deal.

But at least this time around, that money is spent on the ‘right’ people.

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  1. It’s more employment! Government stimulus! The Great Depression was ended by a War, you know!

Teen Justin Carter Jailed In Texas After Making Sarcastic Threat In Facebook Comment

Posted on June 29th, 2013 at 19:04 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Maybe it’s time the Internet adopted a “sarcasm” tag to alert readers to the use of irony in online conversation, and, hopefully, avoid situations like that of Justin Carter, a Texas teenager who has been in jail since February over a Facebook comment that failed to make a woman in Canada LOL.

Earlier this year, Carter and a friend got into an Facebook argument with someone regarding “League of Legends,” an online video game with notoriously die-hard fans. Justin’s father, Jack, explained to ABC local affiliate KVUE that at the end of the conversation “[s]omeone had said something to the effect of ‘Oh you’re insane, you’re crazy, you’re messed up in the head,’ to which [Justin] replied ‘Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts,’ and the next two lines were lol and jk [all sic].”

In case you’ve never been online before today: Internet shorthand LOL stands for “laughing out loud”; JK means “just kidding.”

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  1. Kinda reminds me of that guy who was pretty unhappy with Robin Hood Airport in Nottingham, UK. He made an online comment about ‘blowing the place up’ if they ‘didn’t get their cr*p together’. He was dragged in front of a judge and eventually released. In the meantime, his tweet was retweeted by thousands with the hashtag ‘I am Spartacus’ added.

    I wonder, if this happens in the US, would all the other retweeters be jailed too?

Toddlers Killed More Americans Than Terrorists Did This Year

Posted on June 14th, 2013 at 12:08 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


Americans hate terrorists and love our kids, right? So you might be shocked to know that preschoolers with guns have taken more lives so far this year than the single U.S. terrorist attack, which claimed four lives in Boston.

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  1. Point being? I don’t see it.

  2. I see it.

  3. Yeah, that bathtubs and staircases post was problematic too. I thought I had commented on it, but I guess in the end I didn’t manage to make a concise point and threw away my draft. The casual dismissal that all efforts to curb terrorism are ineffective is an overshoot where they jump from “correlation is not causation” to “correlation disproves causation”. I mean, the fact that we don’t know how much terrorism was prevented does not mean none was prevented. And these little statistical clevernesses don’t go far either. Yes, we should be having debates about the impact of the anti-terrorism effort. But we also need to acknowledge that people are more compelled to prevent crimes than accidents and more motivated to prevent a few big disasters than many small incidents. It’s the same with plane crashes vs car accidents.

    FWIW,RE the stat on people falling down stairs: e law does already mandate handrails on stairs. What’s the dollar cost of that and what would the cost in accidents be if they weren’t there? It’s not like we don’t already try to regulate the biggest accident risks.

    So in short, I find these “foo kills more people than terrorism” posts easily become senseless. This one in particular seemed to have little logic to it.

  4. http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/A_Simple_Question

    Yes I was surprised at first by where this appears (Esquire?) but Pierce is as good an American political writer as there is. What he says is germane to the above argument.

  5. Indeed. I don’t think the bathtub, staircase, and toddler people are calling for a simple abandonment of the things we are doing against terrorism. But all we know know is a dollar amount. A HUGE dollar amount, and no way to check if that’s money well spent or not. Given the amount spent on terrorism, and the amount spent on other things, it’s no surprise that only the expenses and visible results – the amount of casualties – are compared. There is no information on the negative results, the attacks prevented. For seat belt laws you could simply compare accident numbers before and after, and you could reasonably conclude the law works. If you do the same for terrorism, the amount of money spent doesn’t seem to do much, apart from inconvenience a lot of people and take away lots of liberties. As long as the available information is insufficient, you will continue to get these comparisons, deriding all efforts against terrorism.

    Because, for all we know, it might be true we should spend some of that money going to terrorism on fighting bath tubs instead.

  6. Fully agree with that Charles Pierce piece porpentine posted.

    Also agreed that there needs to be more debate in the US on what is reasonable and what’s being sacrificed (money & liberty). Problem is of course exactly the lack of transparency in what’s being done and what’s being prevented. “Trust us!”

    Thinking out loud a bit… I think the big difference is that we’re not *terrorized* by bathtubs, staircases, or toddlers, no matter how many people they kill. We do allow ourselves to be terrorized by big attacks and by the potential for further attacks. That’s an essential difference.

Indefinite Detention Of Americans Survives House Vote

Posted on June 14th, 2013 at 10:12 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?, Foyer of Ennui (just short of the Hall of Shame)


The U.S. House of Representatives voted again Thursday to allow the indefinite military detention of Americans, blocking an amendment that would have barred the possibility.

Congress wrote that authority into law in the National Defense Authorization Act two years ago, prompting outrage from civil libertarians on the left and right. President Barack Obama signed the measure, but insisted his administration would never use it.

Supporters of detention argue that the nation needs to be able to arrest and jail suspected terrorists without trial, including Americans on U.S. soil, for as long as there is a war on terror. Their argument won, and the measure was defeated by a vote of 200 to 226.

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  1. “President Barack Obama signed the measure, but insisted his administration would never use it.” Right! If it is allowed, it will be used! I am bracing up for my long “vacation” in Guantanamo…

Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

Posted on May 6th, 2013 at 12:31 by Desiato in category: Do you feel safer yet?, Privacy


On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

CLEMENTE: "No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

BURNETT: "So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

CLEMENTE: "No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not."

"All of that stuff" – meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant – "is being captured as we speak".

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  1. A simple way to implement CALEA was to record everything, and then give lawn enforcement access when they asked for it. Even simpler and cheaper to let them record it all themselves.

    Sorry officer, I admit I am guilty of extreme cynicism.

  2. Last I heard it wasn’t necessary for the US government to record communications as they farmed the job out to the people working in this doughnut shaped monstrosity:
    As I understand it a treaty between the US/UK to monitor each others communications bypasses any rights a citizen of either country has to prevent it.
    It’s for our own good, we have nothing to worry about, we are all safe.

  3. I’m a cynic but, unlike Sue, I’m a boring cynic. Recording my private conversations would induce sleep.

  4. This is one reason we won’t eliminate terrorism. The net we use to catch terrorists is too large and inefficient. It’s like guns and bombs passing through airport security because the scanners are almost hypnotized by the sheer volume that they’re scanning.

  5. @Rob- Freedom is not a right nor should be taken for granted. It needs to be defended. I respectfully submit that those who accept these warrant-less searches only serve to whittle way at what little freedom Americans have left. (Not sure if this fits what you were saying or not…)

  6. @Mykolas – Not really. I simply refuse to concern myself about this. Americans have oodles of freedom. The average American hardly does anything in the course of his or her daily life in deference to government. Not a big fan of absolutes or slippery slope arguments.

    Information gathering is the inevitable by-product of this digital age. The information is out there. The government has it, Cisco has it, Apple Computer has it, Private Manning has it, AT&T has it, spammers have it, Amazon.com has it, etc … As Aaron Swartz might say, “Information yearns to be free”. I have already adapted to it. I’m sure most of the tech-savvy readers here have, too.

  7. @Rob – Manning is in jail, when are the others going to jail?

  8. Manning and Swartz both committed crimes, chas.

  9. Manning and Schwartz are both alleged to have committed crimes. Neither has been convicted. The distinction may seem academic, but neither one was treated with an assumption of innocence.

  10. @Rob – Crimes defined by the 1% are not crimes in my humble opinion. The laws are supposed to protect the 99% and that has been their function for almost a 1000 years. This country took a turn when the 1% became excessively greedy.

  11. I accept that distinction, Desiato. They were both accused of crimes. They were and are being treated with a presumption of innocence, though. Swartz killed himself in his apartment, not a jail cell. Manning is in a cell on suicide watch. I think that’s prudent. I’ll let you decide if Swartz presumed himself innocent. We stray from the subject, though, which I thought was privacy and the gathering of information.

  12. Crimes are not defined by the 1%. That’s silly conspiracy enthusiast nonsense. Laws are written by the people we elect.

  13. Not for nothing but Aaron Swartz, himself, was in the 1%.

  14. @Rob – Correction – laws are written by the lobbyists who funded the people “we” elect.

  15. @Mykolas – Lobbyists have been around since democracy has been around. They don’t always get what they want. They wield some influence but so does the average citizen. You’d be surprised what a phone call or letter from a citizen can do. I’ve never communicated with the President but I have communicated with our local reps. They hear us, too.

  16. @Rob…dream on.

Canada can’t account for $3.1B in anti-terror funding

Posted on May 3rd, 2013 at 1:08 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: Do you feel safer yet?, News, Security


The federal government needs to do better at tracking and evaluating some of its program spending to ensure taxpayer dollars are being well-spent, Auditor General Michael Ferguson found in his spring report released today, and one of the most striking examples is that it can’t account for $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding.

Out of $12 billion, $3.1 billion can’t be accounted for. Not exactly missing, we just can’t say what we did with it.

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  1. We need to get rid of Harper…and he’s also trying to turn the CBC into the FOX news of the north *puke*

  2. Not that I’m a Harper fan, but… the alternatives are???
    Justin will save us?
    Guess folks don’t remember how the Liberals operate.
    A quote from the Globe and Mail about his dad, and yes, I remember those times and that history:

    Aug. 21, 1982: If nothing else, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has returned from his holiday out west with the knowledge that people are angry enough to throw things. They tossed tomatoes at his railway coach as it emerged from the Connaught Tunnel in Rogers Pass. They pelted his car with eggs in Exshaw and Canmore and on the outskirts of Calgary. Five hundred of them threw rocks, eggs and tomatoes at the coach in Sudbury, breaking two windows in the process.

    Not even helpless anger in the face of the recession can excuse the tactics of these demonstrators, particularly the dangerous behaviour of the mob in Sudbury. But Mr. Trudeau’s own behaviour — giving the finger to three placard-carrying people along the rail lines at Salmon Arm — is an example of the arrogance which has driven people to believe nothing short of tomatoes and eggs will catch his attention.

    Those without jobs, and those whose paycheques can’t keep up with rising costs, are frustrated, angry, even desperate. If Mr. Trudeau has returned to Ottawa with a heightened sense of that desperation, his trip has proved more than a vacation; it has given him a timely glimpse into the communities whose welfare is determined by his government’s policies.

  3. At this point I’d just settle for competent administration.

Confrontation With TSA Agent Leaves Grandpa’s Ashes On Floor

Posted on April 7th, 2013 at 16:48 by Paul Jay in category: Do you feel safer yet?, Security


A man’s attempt to bring the ashes of his grandfather home to Indianapolis ended with an angry scene in a Florida airport, with the ashes spilled on the terminal floor.

John Gross, a resident of Indianapolis’ south side, was leaving Florida with the remains of his grandfather — Mario Mark Marcaletti, a Sicilian immigrant who worked for the Penn Central Railroad in central Indiana — in a tightly sealed jar marked “Human Remains.”

Gross said he didn’t think he’d have a problem, until he ran into a TSA agent at the Orlando airport.

“They opened up my bag, and I told them, ‘Please, be careful. These are my grandpa’s ashes,’” Gross told RTV6′s Norman Cox. “She picked up the jar. She opened it up.

“I was told later on that she had no right to even open it, that they could have used other devices, like an X-ray machine. So she opened it up. She used her finger and was sifting through it. And then she accidentally spilled it.”

Gross says about a quarter to a third of the contents spilled on the floor, leaving him frantically trying to gather up as much as he could while anxious passengers waited behind him.

“She didn’t apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments. I couldn’t pick up all, everything that was lost. I mean, there was a long line behind me.”

TSA rules say a crematory container in carry-on baggage must pass through the X-ray machine at the security checkpoint.

But the agency’s own website says human remains are to be opened under, “no circumstances.”

“I want an apology,” said Gross. “I want an apology from TSA. I want an apology from the lady who opened the jar and laughed at me. I want them to help me understand where they get off treating people like this.”


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Fusion center director: We don’t spy on Americans, just anti-government Americans

Posted on March 30th, 2013 at 10:38 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


In trying to clear up the ‘misconceptions’ about the conduct of fusion centers, Arkansas State Fusion Center Director Richard Davis simply confirmed Americans’ fears: the center does in fact spy on Americans – but only on those who are suspected to be ‘anti-government’.

“The misconceptions are that we are conducting spying operations on US citizens, which is of course not a fact. That is absolutely not what we do,” he told the NWA Homepage, which supports KNWA-TV and Fox 24.

After claiming that his office ‘absolutely’ does not spy on Americans, he proceeded to explain that this does not apply to those who could be interpreted as a ‘threat’ to national security. Davis said his office places its focus on international plots, “domestic terrorism and certain groups that are anti-government. We want to kind of take a look at that and receive that information.”

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  1. I hear the Tea Party is anti-government…

  2. They just want to see your papers. (German accent)

Horsing-around TSA agent at JFK accidentally pepper-sprays five other screeners, sending them to the hospital

Posted on March 29th, 2013 at 7:45 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?


A bumbling TSA agent “playing around” with a pepper-spray container at Kennedy Airport fired the caustic liquid at five fellow screeners yesterday, sending all six to the hospital, a source told The Post.

The agent, Chris Yves Dabel, discovered the device at the Terminal 2 security checkpoint and tried to determine if it was real, a source told The Post.

He told Port Authority cops that he “found the canister on the floor and thought it was a laser pointer.”

“They were playing around with it,” said one Kennedy Airport official.

The screener sprayed five other TSA agents around him, sending all six to Jamaica Hospital and halting security checks at Kennedy for at least 15 minutes, police said.

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FBI wants real-time Gmail, Dropbox spying power.

Posted on March 27th, 2013 at 8:31 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?, Privacy


Despite the pervasiveness of law enforcement surveillance of digital communication, the FBI still has a difficult time monitoring Gmail, Google Voice, and Dropbox in real time. But that may change soon, because the bureau says it has made gaining more powers to wiretap all forms of Internet conversation and cloud storage a “top priority” this year.

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