Archive for the ‘Paranoia’ Category

Blair wants police to have war-time powers

28 May 2007

Tony Blair, in the last bit of his time in office, is trying to get British police war-time powers to stop people and ask them where they’re going, where they’re coming from, and who they are, according to the New Zealand Herald.  Police already have the power to stop and search people.

Blair’s other idea, allowing detainment for up to ninety days with no charges, was not accepted by Parliament and the courts.

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Census Data Not to be Shared

30 March 2007

The ACLU, Japanese American Citizens League, and Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee have all asked Congress to ensure that census data will not be shared with surveillance agancies, according to the ACLU. This follows a report in USA Today that said census data had been shared during WWII when Japanese were kept in internment camps.

“Wartime hysteria led our government to violate the privacy and trust of Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. She also noted that, while the census was important, it could not be effective if people were afraid of who might find out what their responses were.

It was also discovered in 2004 that the Census Bureau had shared some zip code information about Arab Americans.

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Terror List Quadrupled in Four Years

25 March 2007

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) has more than quadrupled since 2003, according to the Washington Post, going from around 100,000 files to around 435,000. It is now so large that the even the people in charge of managing it say that quality control is a serious issue.

Though the bar for inclusion on the list is set very low, getting off of it is nearly impossible. In 2005, a mere 31 people were taken off it. Names are often mixed up, and people don’t get to know why they’re on the list. For instance, the British singer Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam, is not allowed to fly. This is sometimes a problem for Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) wife at the airport, whose name is Catherine.

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“State Secrets” Used Too Often

16 March 2007

An editorial in the New York Times (Too Many Secrets) makes a short but strong argument against the overuse of “state secrets” claims by the government. The primary example cited was the case of Khaled el-Masri, which was thrown out on the claim that the mere discussion of it could be threatening to national security. El-Masri was a victim of the rendition program, and his case has been discussed worldwide without any resulting terrorist attacks.

Maher Arar’s case, which is similar, is going to an appeals court, and he will likely face similar claims of “state secrets” by the government.

The article says that the claims are increasingly being misused, preventing investigation into abuses of executive power and other matters.

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Trusting Government

11 March 2007

It was recently revealed that the FBI, unsurprisingly, abused the power that it got through the PATRIOT Act, according to
MSNBC. Nonetheless, people continued to support laws like this, trusting our government not to abuse its power. A poster on PoliticalCrossfire, Register666666, noted in response to this that “trusting government is like trusting fire.” While government is useful to us, it’s not something we can trust, it’s something we need to keep careful watch of and ensure that we are always in control of it, not the other way around.

If untrusted and controlled, government acts as a vital and highly useful part of society, but there is always the potential for it to grow beyond that role. With the threat of terrorism, the government and others like to say that it is necessary to trust the government, even ludicrous not to. From this, we have the PATRIOT Act, the REAL ID Act, and abuses like that of the FBI.

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Detainees Request Rights for Third Time

6 March 2007

For the third time, Gitmo detainees have requested the right to challenge their detainment in a US court, according to Fox News. This appeal, to the US Supreme Court, follows the 2-1 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that upheld the Military Commissions Act. Currently, detainees have to prove to a panel of three military officers that they are not a terrorist threat.

In related news, according to the Independent, less than 4% of people arrested under anti-terror laws in Britain since 9/11 have been convicted of a terrorist offense. 1,166 people were arrested under such laws between September 11th, 2001, and December 31st of last year, but there have only been 221 charges and 40 convicted.

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REAL ID Rules Set Down

4 March 2007

The DHS has released its REAL ID regulations, according to the ACLU. It is now estimated to cost $23 billion. The licenses will be federalized down to the background color and font. States will be left to determine how exactly to link their databases.

Many of the verification systems, such as for passports and foreign documents, that the states are supposed to use don’t exist yet. Despite this small issue, verification will be required for renewal as well as getting one for the first time, with exceptions only for extreme circumstances. The exemptions that most citizens won’t be allowed also conveniently open up a massive loophole, which the ACLU notes “terrorists could drive a truck through,” defeating the purpose.

When it comes to privacy, “DHS believes that it would be outside its authority to address this issue within this rulemaking,” and leaves it to states to determine how to work privacy into the many regulations that DHS thinks is in its authority.

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Bill Would Fix Many REAL ID Issues

1 March 2007

Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Sununu (R-HI) have introduced the Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007 in the senate, which would fix numerous issues with the REAL ID Act, according to the ACLU. The bill was also co-sponsored by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

The bill would reduce federal restrictions and make the system more flexible. It would also prohibit use by third parties, and require encryption of the data and adherence to any state privacy laws. Similar legislation, the Real ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007, has been introduced in the House by Tom Allen (D-ME).

The REAL ID Act was passed as part of a must-pass military spending/tsunami relief bill, and federalized driver’s license designs, data, and management. Without compliant licenses, people would be unable to do things such as enter a federal building or open a bank account. In January, Maine passed a law rejecting the REAL ID Act, and similar legislation is being considered in many other states as the May 2008 deadline approaches.

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EFF Sues for Court Order Documents

27 February 2007

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Department of Justice for records regarding secret court orders that DoJ says allow it to continue its wiretapping program, according to the EFF’s website. Last month Alberto Gonzales said that FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) had authorized some surveillance and that the wiretapping would continue under this approval.

The Department of Justice did not respond to the EFF’s FOIA request for information on changes in the program, so the EFF is now suing for the FISC orders.

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Obama on Security

25 February 2007

The Obama page on “Protecting Our Homeland” is not what you’d expect from someone who will inevitably face criticism for being “soft on terror,” and it centers to issues that GOP.com’s “Safety and Security” does not even mention. For instance, security at nuclear plants and keeping track of nuclear fuel.

The page notes that:

From improving security for our transit systems and chemical plants, to increasing cargo screening in our airports and seaports, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have been underfunded and ignored. The 9/11 Commission gave the government five F’s and 12 D’s on the implementation of its recommendations.

According to the site, security at chemical plants is voluntary, three states have reported missing spent nuclear fuel (which remains radioactive), and Illinois failed to notify residents that tritium (a byproduct of nuclear generation) had leaked into the groundwater. GOP.com, on the other hand, says that “victory in Iraq is vital is central to the Global War on Terror to ensure that those who would harm the United States suffer total defeat,” even though none of the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq and many “Iraqi insurgents” are not actually Iraqi.

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