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.
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.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process. That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft (MSFT) and other software or Internet security companies have been aware that this type of early alert allowed the U.S. to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments, according to two U.S. officials. Microsoft doesn’t ask and can’t be told how the government uses such tip-offs, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
Michael Hayden, who formerly directed the National Security Agency and the CIA, described the attention paid to important company partners: “If I were the director and had a relationship with a company who was doing things that were not just directed by law but were also valuable to the defense of the Republic, I would go out of my way to thank them and give them a sense as to why this is necessary and useful.”
“You would keep it closely held within the company and there would be very few cleared individuals,” Hayden said.
If necessary, a company executive, known as a “committing officer,” is given documents that guarantee immunity from civil actions resulting from the transfer of data. The companies are provided with regular updates, which may include the broad parameters of how that information is used.
Intel Corp. (INTC)’s McAfee unit, which makes Internet security software, regularly cooperates with the NSA, FBI and the CIA, for example, and is a valuable partner because of its broad view of malicious Internet traffic, including espionage operations by foreign powers, according to one of the four people, who is familiar with the arrangement.
Such a relationship would start with an approach to McAfee’s chief executive, who would then clear specific individuals to work with investigators or provide the requested data, the person said. The public would be surprised at how much help the government seeks, the person said.
- They know you rang a phone sex service at 2:24 am and spoke for 18 minutes. But they don’t know what you talked about.
- They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret.
- They know you spoke with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, then your health insurance company in the same hour. But they don’t know what was discussed.
- They know you received a call from the local NRA office while it was having a campaign against gun legislation, and then called your senators and congressional representatives immediately after. But the content of those calls remains safe from government intrusion.
- They know you called a gynecologist, spoke for a half hour, and then called the local Planned Parenthood’s number later that day. But nobody knows what you spoke about.
Today, Yahoo’s General Counsel posted a carefully worded denial regarding the company’s alleged participation in the NSA PRISM program. To the casual observer, it might seem like a categorical denial. I do not believe that Yahoo’s denial is as straightforward as it seems.
If it had, even if I couldn’t talk about it, in all likelihood I would no longer be working at Google: the fact that we do stand up for individual users’ privacy and protection, for their right to have a personal life which is not ever shared with other people without their consent, even when governments come knocking at our door with guns, is one of the two most important reasons that I am at this company: the other being a chance to build systems which fundamentally change and improve the lives of billions of people by turning the abstract power of computing into something which amplifies and expands their individual, mental life.
Strong statement. And here’s Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond:
We cannot say this more clearly — the government does not have access to Google servers—not directly, or via a back door, or a so-called drop box. Nor have we received blanket orders of the kind being discussed in the media.
The government has cited the privilege in two active lawsuits being heard by a federal court in the northern district of California – Virginia v Barack Obama et al, and Carolyn Jewel v the National Security Agency. In both cases, the Obama administration has called for the cases to be dismissed on the grounds that the government’s secret activities must remain secret.The claim comes amid a billowing furore over US surveillance on the mass communications of Americans following disclosures by the Guardian of a massive NSA monitoring programme of Verizon phone records and internet communications.The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has written in court filings that “after careful and actual personal consideration of the matter, based upon my own knowledge and information obtained in the course of my official duties, I have determined that the disclosure of certain information would cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States. Thus, as to this information, I formally assert the state secrets privilege.”The use of the privilege has been personally approved by President Obama and several of the administration’s most senior officials: in addition to Clapper, they include the director of the NSA Keith Alexander and Eric Holder, the attorney general. “The attorney general has personally reviewed and approved the government’s privilege assertion in these cases,” legal documents state.
A British Defense Ministry press advisory committee, reacting to a flurry of revelations in the American press about massive warrantless US government electronic surveillance programs, quietly warned UK organizations Friday not to publish British national security information.
Defiance of the advisory could make British journalists vulnerable to prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “I would just push back on the idea that the court has signed off on it, so why worry? This is a court that meets in secret, allows only the government to appear before it, and publishes almost none of its opinions. It has never been an effective check on government.”
Several companies contacted by The Post said they had no knowledge of the program, did not allow direct government access to their servers and asserted that they responded only to targeted requests for information.
“We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers,” said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer for Facebook. “When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”
“We have never heard of PRISM,” said Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”
It is possible that the conflict between the PRISM slides and the company spokesmen is the result of imprecision on the part of the NSA author. In another classified report obtained by The Post, the arrangement is described as allowing “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” rather than directly to company servers.
Government officials and the document itself made clear that the NSA regarded the identities of its private partners as PRISM’s most sensitive secret, fearing that the companies would withdraw from the program if exposed. “98 percent of PRISM production is based on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft; we need to make sure we don’t harm these sources,” the briefing’s author wrote in his speaker’s notes.
Anyone who uses Skype has consented to the company reading everything they write. The H’s associates in Germany at heise Security have now discovered that the Microsoft subsidiary does in fact make use of this privilege in practice. Shortly after sending HTTPS URLs over the instant messaging service, those URLs receive an unannounced visit from Microsoft HQ in Redmond.
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".
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
A businessman sold fake bomb detectors to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Georgia and Niger, the Old Bailey has been told.
James McCormick’s Advanced Detection Equipment was based on a golf ball finder device and marketed to military, governments and police, the jury heard.
Prosecutors said fake detectors sold for up to $40,000 (£27,000) had no grounding in science and made “fantastic” claims.
Now if he only would have sold dowsing rods, it would have been fine…
A Department of Homeland Security program intended to give “trusted traveler” status to low-risk airline passengers soon will be extended to Saudi travelers, opening the program to criticism for accommodating the country that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A 23-year-old man being sought by police Wednesday made his way through a security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport while carrying a stun-gun, a law-enforcement official said.
The suspect, who was wanted after allegedly raping his former girlfriend, had been waiting in line inside Terminal Four to board an 8:40 a.m. flight to London on Wednesday when he was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, the official said. He was carrying a gym bag which was found to contain clothing, toiletries and a 3,800K-volt stun-gun, which is on the list of banned items for airplane travel.
The suspect was turned over to New York Police Department detectives, who are investigating accusations that he assaulted and raped his 19-year-old ex-girlfriend at her Queens apartment after arriving from Greece three days ago. He was expected to be charged later Wednesday and his name wasn’t released.
A TSA spokesperson couldn’t immediately comment on the incident.
“The internet of things, in a broad sense, is where we are starting to see everything from planes to cargo devices getting connected,” Bulman said. “The latest planes we are getting, the Boeing 787s, are incredibly connected. Literally every piece of that plane has an internet connection, from the engines, to the flaps, to the landing gear.
He continued: “If there is a problem with one of the engines we will know before it lands to make sure that we have the parts there. It is getting to the point where each different part of the plane is telling us what it is doing as the flight is going on.”
This level of operational insight will involve generating large amounts of data from each 787 aircraft, he explained. “We can get upwards of half a terabyte of data from a single flight from all of the different devices which are internet connected,” Bulman said.
%ssh left-engine.flightKL746.boeing.com Last login: Sat Mar 9 13:14:12 2013 from 188.8.131.52 Copyright (c) 1980, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. left-engine$ left-engine$ shutdown -h now left-engine shutting down. Log off now or risk losing your work! connection lost. %
In a notable relaxation of its existing security protocols, the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday that it will henceforth allow small terrorists on commercial aircraft. “After reviewing our longstanding policies, we have decided to ease our boarding requirements to allow any terrorist 5 feet tall or shorter to enter the airplane cabin,” TSA administrator John S. Pistole said in a prepared statement, specifying that any violent radical attempting to pass through security will be subject to an additional screening ensuring they weigh less than 135 pounds and are no broader than 18 inches at their widest point. “It’s a simple system that hopefully everyone will be able to understand. We will also display a height chart outside security checkpoints so as to eliminate any confusion.” Pistole added that any terrorists not falling within the acceptable boarding dimensions will have to be checked.
eaver County schools had their lives “flipped, turned upside down” Thursday morning when a phone greeting involving the theme song from the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was taken as a threat.
All schools in the county were advised to lock down for about 20 minutes while police searched for a 19-year-old Ambridge Area High School student whose greeting to callers was mistakenly taken as a threat about “shooting people outside of the school.”
The actual line from the song is “And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school.”
Even though the situation turned out to be a mistake, Mann said, “I believe everyone acted appropriately. Our first concern is the safety of kids.”
Yes. At the cost of everything else, including common sense.
The US gun-control debate may have both sides shooting their mouths off, gunning for each other, going off half-cocked, and [insert tiresome idiom here], but a group of biostatisticians and epidemiologists decided to cut through the cant and apply rigorous research to one critical question: does carrying a gun increase your safety?
“On average,” the researchers concluded, “guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault.” The finding was published in an American Journal of Public Health paper entitled, straighforwardly enough, “Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault”.
“Although successful defensive gun uses can and do occur,” the report contends, “the findings of this study do not support the perception that such successes are likely.”
The resulting data, after suitable massaging, revealed a clear result. “[I]ndividuals in possession of a gun were 4.46 (P < .05) times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. Among gun assaults where the victim had at least some chance to resist, this adjusted odds ratio increased to 5.45 (P < .05)."
from the interesting-4th-amendment-interpretation dept
We’ve written many times over the years concerning the legality of Homeland Security searching your laptop at the border without reasonable suspicion. Many courts have held that, effectively, the 4th Amendment does not apply at the border, so they don’t need a warrant to search your laptop. However, they’ve been continually pushing this ability further and further. For example, they got a court to say that this applies not just while you’re at the border — they can take your laptop off site to search it and hang onto it for a while. However, that time, they at least needed to have a “reasonable suspicion.” DHS has taken a pretty firm stand that it must be able to keep doing this. While the ACLU and the EFF and others keep challenging these rules, to date the only possible crack was in a case where there’s evidence that the search was politically motivated.
Late last week, a bizarre finding popped up. Back in 2009, when DHS announced its new rulesfor laptop searches at the border, it also promised that it would do its own “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” within 120 days. Three years later, Homeland Security’s Orwellian “Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties” has finally released a two page executive summary of the findings, which more or less says “there are no civil liberties issues” with laptop searches. What else would you expect them to say? The ACLU has filed a FOIA request for the full report, but let’s just focus on the most horrifying statement in the executive summary:
We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment. We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.
That statement is so bizarre I read it half a dozen times before I was sure it really said what it appears to say. It appears to be a somewhat stunning redefinition of how one reviews whether or not something violates the 4th Amendment. Rather than recognizing the rather explicit restrictions under the 4th Amendment, they merely say that it is okay to do these searches because not doing them would not have civil rights/civil liberties “benefits.” That is incredible. The double negative logic there is truly amazing. In other words, we can violate the Constitution, so long as not doing so would not have civil liberties benefits. Wow.
Meanwhile, since Homeland Security has similarly argued (as part of these cases) that its Constitution Free zone for searches applies to any place 100 miles from the United States border, some are pointing out that this means that every electronic device — computers, cell phones, you name it — in Detroit can be searched with absolutely no reasonable suspicion under DHS’s interpretation (since Detroit is less than 100 miles from Canada). But don’t worry, since there is little civil liberties or civil rights benefits to not searching your stuff, DHS says it’s okay.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering on what basis DHS makes this assessment, it appears to bebased on their own directives rather than on any “laws.”
So, if you’re playing along at home, DHS has decided, based on its own review of its own directives, that it can search any electronic device within 100 miles of the border without requiring a warrant, probable cause, reasonable suspicion or anything like that — because actually respecting the Constitution “would be operationally harmful” and wouldn’t really create any “civil rights/civil liberties benefits” for you.
“It is not as if the FBI actually thinks Saadiq is a threat. If it did – and it had actual evidence – the FBI would simply arrest him. As they surely recall, they let him fly just a few months ago. It turns out, though, the only reason for doing so is because it is, in the FBI’s view, slightly more indefensible to prevent an American citizen from flying home than it is to prevent him from flying abroad.
“And because we told the FBI ahead of time when Saadiq would be flying, hardly the behavior of a criminal, they could have stuck an air marshal right next to him. They could have subjected his person and luggage to extra scrutiny. But the FBI does not do these things because the No Fly List is not used to protect aircraft. This watchlist – and the many others like it – is a means by which the FBI metes out extra-judicial punishment.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.
Oh, and “the border” extends 100 miles inland.
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
Note also that ‘an associated force’ is a term so elastic as to be meaningless; it can be any person or organization that has ever exchanged an email with someone defined as being a friend of the gardener of the second cousin removed of a member of Al Qaeda. Ergo, if you are assassinated in this way, it seems likely that you will be declared retroactively guilty, even if you weren’t the original target. And, man, is it ever hard to find and pay a lawyer from the grave.
For example, Jubair Ahmad can easily be argued to fall under this memo:
Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening. The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).
What is the “material support” he allegedly gave? He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit — “a number of terrorist logos.”
You may recall that in its quixotic attempt to go after Wikileaks, the US government has been snooping through the private communications of a bunch of folks they’re trying to connect to the organization, including Icelandic politician Birgitta Jonsdottir and Jacob Appelbaum, who gets detained and harassed every time he re-enters the country. All of this came to light only because Twitter actually stood up to the US government and refused to just hand over info that was requested using the obscure 2703(d) process. Twitter also got the court to allow it to reveal the existence of the order (something that every other company which has received one has kept secret). A court eventually ruled that Twitter had to hand over the requested info.
Following this, Jonsdottir, Appelbaum and one other person, Rop Gonggrijp, (represented by the ACLU and the EFF), chose not to challenge that ruling, but did appeal concerning the secrecy around the order — asking the court to have the specific 2703(d) order unsealed — arguing that they have the right to access judicial documents about themselves. However, last week, an appeals court rejected that appeal, and basically said that the feds can sniff through your digital data without your knowledge, and, well, too bad if you don’t like it.
Even though the court did find that 2703(d) orders are “judicial records,” which could make them subject to a right to access, they then claimed that, well, when the government investigates things, it should be able to do so in absolute secrecy, and who really cares about pesky little things like oversight or a right to know about it.
The USA urgently needs an amendment to the Constitution that forbids unreasonable, dragnet searches like this. Let me suggest some language:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.