Nanny State: September 2009

30 September 2009

Fusion Center Encourages Improper Investigations Of Lobbying Groups And Anti-War Activists (2/25/2009)

WASHINGTON – A Texas fusion center's “Prevention Awareness Bulletin” made public last night is the latest example of inappropriate police intelligence operations targeting political, religious and social activists for investigation. The North Central Texas Fusion System bulletin states that it is “imperative for law enforcement officers to report” the activities of lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights organizations and anti-war protest groups in their areas.

“This memo is not a plea for legitimate intelligence, and seems to endorse discrimination against Muslims,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The idea that the tolerance advocated by the groups being targeted would be treated as a menace to American security demonstrates a disregard for civil liberties and a disdain for democracy itself. The kind of indiscriminate and unlawful investigations this bulletin calls for always results in a chilling effect on free speech and association.”

The federal government has facilitated the growth of a network of fusion centers since 9/11 to expand information collection and sharing practices among law enforcement agencies, the private sector and the intelligence community. There are currently 70 fusion centers in the United States.

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Fusion center approach could be effective in other areas

Common data formats could enable sharing data of everything from bridge sensors to business reporting

* By Shawn McCarthy
* Sep 28, 2009

Despite some documented shortcomings, fusion centers have worked fairly well for homeland security issues -- so much so that maybe it's time to extend the concept to other civilian uses. The fusion center idea could even be applied to government functions that aren't security related, but which need real-time delivery of data and detailed analysis tools to make sense of the incoming data.

Homeland security fusion centers were suggested as part of a National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan issued by the Justice Department in 2003. The concept quickly spread across multiple security and justice-related agencies as they worked to import multiple data sources for analysis.

Today, more than 70 fusion centers have been set up across multiple security-related agencies. The centers serve as terrorism prevention resources and function as information sharing hubs -- gathering, digesting and comparing data from both government and private-sector resources. In the process, the centers also promote data sharing between federal, state and local government offices, the military and intelligence agencies.

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Fusion centers to provide classified intelligence to local police

by rawstory
Thursday Sep 17th, 2009 6:43 AM

In a move raising eyebrows among civil liberties advocates, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it would give so-called local and state “fusion centers” access to classified military intelligence in Pentagon databases.

Fusion centers are hubs for local law enforcement, the private sector and the intelligence community, and were created in an effort to fight terrorism. There are more than seventy known centers across the United States.

The decision to give fusion centers access to classified intelligence appears to a shift in policy by Homeland Security. In July, Secretary Janet Napolitano “that fusion centers were not intended to have a military presence, and that she was not aware of ones that did,” according to the New York Times.

The centers have been a flashpoint of criticism from civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union, in particular, has been a vehement critic.

“As fusion centers gain more and more access to Americans’ private information, the information about them being made available to the American public remains woefully inadequate,” Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement. “There is a stunning lack of oversight at these fusion centers and, as we’ve seen, these centers are rapidly becoming a breeding ground for overzealous intelligence activities. Opening the door for domestic law enforcement to gain access to classified military intelligence coupled with no guidelines restricting the military’s role in fusion centers is a recipe for disaster.”

In February, the ACLU highlighted a bulletin issued by a West Texas center. The Texas bulletin said it was “imperative for law enforcement officers to report” the activities of lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights organizations and anti-war protest groups in their region.

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25 September 2009

The end of privacy?

Forget Street View, there is a far more subtle - and pervasive - invasion of your private life being carried out - this time through your mobile phone

When the furore about Google Street View washed across the UK last month, Google must have been pleased. For a much more sinister invasion of privacy had gone unnoticed. A week before, Google had, without any fanfare, released 11 software applications for mobile phones that spell a fundamental change in our lives.

Among the applications were functions such as text messaging, web browsing, a diary, Orkut - the company's social networking offering - and a program for Google Maps. Innocent enough, perhaps. But combined they would allow Google to know what you are doing all of the time. A truly Orwellian development that has been described by privacy campaigners as "a catastrophic corruption of consent".

Far-fetched? Not at all.

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The Tech Lab: Bruce Schneier

Bruce Schneier is the chief security technology officer at BT and a celebrated writer and speaker on privacy, cryptography and security issues.

Welcome to the future, where everything about you is saved. A future where your actions are recorded, your movements are tracked, and your conversations are no longer ephemeral. A future brought to you not by some 1984-like dystopia, but by the natural tendencies of computers to produce data.

Increasingly, you leave a trail of digital footprints throughout your day. Once you walked into a bookstore and bought a book with cash. Now you visit Amazon, and all of your browsing and purchases are recorded. You used to buy a train ticket with coins; now your electronic fare card is tied to your bank account. Your store affinity cards give you discounts; merchants use the data on them to reveal detailed purchasing patterns.

Data about you is collected when you make a phone call, send an e-mail message, use a credit card, or visit a website. A national ID card will only exacerbate this.

More computerised systems are watching you. Cameras are ubiquitous in some cities, and eventually face recognition technology will be able to identify individuals. Automatic licence plate scanners track vehicles in parking lots and cities. Colour printers, digital cameras, and some photocopy machines have embedded identification codes. Aerial surveillance is used by cities to find building permit violators and by marketers to learn about home and garden size.

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CCTV: the worst of all possible worlds

This surveillance isn't working, so what next? More cameras, watched by us online? Or a mix of publicly controlled methods

by Michael Cross, Tuesday 25 August 2009 18.00 BST

Immanuel Kant lived his public life under surveillance. When the Enlightenment's greatest philosopher took his regular afternoon walk, everyone in the city of Königsberg knew his identity and routine Рto the extent, according to legend, of setting their clocks by his time of passing.

Such public scrutiny wasn't particular to philosophers, or to 18th century Prussia. For most of human history, most people lived in settings in which every individual who stepped out automatically revealed to the world their station in life (Shakespeare's audiences knew well what was meant by "the sign of your profession") and probably their identity, too. And who knew that if they behaved inappropriately, they or their families would suffer the consequences.

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Web Censoring Widens Across Southeast Asia

Governments Lacking Technical Means Use Coercion and Intimidation in Efforts to Suppress Criticism Online


BANGKOK -- Attempts to censor the Internet are spreading to Southeast Asia as governments turn to coercion and intimidation to rein in online criticism.

Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam lack the kind of technology and financial resources that China and some other large countries use to police the Internet. The Southeast Asian nations are using other methods -- also seen in China -- to tamp down criticism, including arresting some bloggers and individuals posting contentious views online.

That is distressing free-speech advocates who had hoped that Southeast Asia -- until recently a region where Internet use was relatively unfettered -- would become a model of open debate in the developing world as its economies modernize.

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24 September 2009

Feingold: 'Sneak-and-peek' searches being used for regular crimes

The Justice Department made 763 requests for "sneak-and-peek" warrants in 2008, but only three of those had to with terrorism investigations, Sen. Russ Feingold told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"Sneak-and-peek" warrants allow law enforcement officials to break into homes and businesses and search the premises without the investigated party knowing. The authority for them was passed as part of the USA Patriot Act in late 2001, ostensibly as a counter-terrorism measure.

The revelations strengthen the arguments of opponents of the Patriot Act, who have long said that the powers granted the government to fight terrorism in the wake of 9/11 would end up being used for other purposes. Now, it appears that one of those powers -- sneak-and-peek searches -- was never meant for terrorism investigations in the first place.

"It's not meant for intelligence, it's for criminal cases," Kris told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "So I guess it's not surprising to me that it applies in drug cases."

"That's not how this was sold to the American people," Feingold responded. "It was sold -- as stated on the DoJ's Web site in 2005 -- as being necessary 'to conduct investigations without tipping off terrorists.'"

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20 September 2009

Lao Tzu - Libertarian

Was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who was born as early as 600 B.C., the world's first libertarian? He very well might have been, according to libertarian scholar Murray Rothbard.

In an essay in The Journal of Libertarian Studies (Fall 1990), Rothbard wrote: "The first libertarian intellectual was Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism... For Lao-tzu the individual and his happiness was the key unit and goal of society. If social institutions hampered the individual's flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. To the individualist Lao-tzu, government, with its 'laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox,' was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and 'more to be feared than fierce tigers.'"

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When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.

Act for the people's benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.

18 September 2009

Ron Paul Q&A: Audit the Fed, Then End It

By Sudeep Reddy, Wall Street Journal

For three decades, Rep. Ron Paul has waged a lonely battle in Congress
to abolish the Federal Reserve. But he has more foot soldiers across the
nation today, particularly after the financial crisis, who are leading
the drive for wider congressional audits of the central bank. (See
today’s Journal story for more on their movement.)

In his new book — “ End the Fed” — released today, Rep. Paul walks
through his critique of the central bank and lays out a strategy
(briefly) for eliminating it. We sat down with the congressman to hear
his views on a money system backed by gold, the Fed’s challenge of
withdrawing its stimulus and his legislation to audit the central bank.
Excerpts of the interview:

What would a world without the Fed look like?

You’d go back to the day that if you wanted to borrow money to build a
house, somebody would’ve had to save some money. You wouldn’t have zero
savings and all the credit in the world. That’s just a total distortion
of capitalism. Capital comes from savings. The part you don’t use for
everyday living which you have left over, you reinvest and you save or
you loan it out. We were living with something absolutely bizarre that
had nothing to do with capitalism. We had no savings whatsoever yet
there was all the credit in the world.

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17 September 2009

Your New Doctor?

Proposal of Smoking Ban Stirs a Sense of Tolerance

Published: September 15, 2009

We’ve come such a long way that in New York City, even many smokers feel guilty about smoking these days — if a walk through City Hall Park on Tuesday was any indication.

But what of the city health commissioner’s proposal on Monday to ban smoking in public parks? In a city where people — tall, short, fat, thin, rich, poor, pregnant, stinky, perfumed — have turned peaceful coexistence in crowded quarters like subways and sidewalks into an art, there was a widespread feeling that public parks should also be a place of tolerance.

Banning smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces is one thing, people said, but banning cigarettes in parks and on beaches might be going just a step too far — except near children — on the road to a nanny state.

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16 September 2009

Joe Scarborough: "Ron Paul was right all along!"

Listening to a Liar: Part II By Thomas Sowell

"Hubris-laden charlatans" was the way a recent e-mail from a reader characterized the Obama administration. That phrase seems especially appropriate for the Charlatan-in-Chief, Barack Obama, whose speech to a joint session of Congress was both a masterpiece of rhetoric and a shameless fraud.

To tell us, with a straight face, that he can insure millions more people without adding to the already skyrocketing deficit, is world-class chutzpa and an insult to anyone's intelligence. To do so after an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office has already showed this to be impossible reveals the depths of moral bankruptcy behind the glittering words.

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