Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged DHS

When it comes to copyright infringement, the RIAA and Homeland Security’s ICE department have been working side by side to take down the pirates. The RIAA tells the feds who they think are in the wrong; the feds investigate, and then determine if they have the right to seize the domain for that site. But that’s not exactly the case. We’ll give you an example of where they seized first, and then investigated.

In other words, having goaded the government into an outrageous and very public seizure of the blog, the RIAA members refused to follow up and answer the government’s questions. In turn, the government acted shamefully, not returning the blog or apologizing for its apparent mistake, but instead secretly asking the court to extend the seizure and deny Dajaz1 the right to seek return of its property or otherwise get due process. The government also refused to answer Congressional questions about the case. ICE finally released the domain name in December of 2011, again with no explanation.

The government failed to do its job. It did not represent the citizens of the United States. It did, however, cow-tow to the RIAA.

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We have already seen the TSA encroaching further in from our borders. They are already on the highways in Tennessee with their VIPR patrols. Several other cities have utilized the TSA at their train stations, light-rail stations, greyhound bus stations and city bus stations, as well as subway stations. Now, Houston is conducting exercises with the help of the TSA to be on its city buses.

The move to monitor and curtail crime on buses and trains is just one component of a much larger initiative called BusSafe – a national pilot program created by a peer advisory group of mass transit police chiefs and security directors, and one which METRO’s Police Department is adopting to enhance safety on the system.

It should be noted that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is the one who introduced the BUS SAFE legislation into the House of Representatives and is on the House Homeland Security Committee. It’s just a coincidence that her home city is being used as a testing area for this project.

MPD, Houston Police Department officers and Harris County Precinct 7 Deputy Constables will take part in a synchronized, counter-terrorism exercise on Friday, April 13, focusing on bus routes, bus stops and shelters, and Transit Centers in high traffic areas. The participating agencies will: ride buses, perform random bag checks, and conduct K-9 sweeps, as well as place uniformed and plainclothes officers at Transit Centers and rail platforms to detect, prevent and address latent criminal activity or behavior.

Performing random bag checks is a violation of the fourth amendment. With a city as large as Houston, you cannot simply tell people they must walk if they don’t like the violation of their rights. Citizens in Houston need to stand up to this encroachment on civil liberties.

While local law enforcement agencies focus on overall safety measures noted above, representatives with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will also be on hand, lending their counter-terrorism expertise and support during the exercise.

“We have one of the safest transit systems in the world in Houston,” said METRO Police Chief Victor Rodriguez. “One way we are able to keep it that way is through the use of deterrents such as uniformed and plainclothes officers patrolling our system and aggressively addressing suspicious and criminal activity.”

If their transit system is one of the safest in the world, why do they need the TSA on hand? If using uniformed and plainclothes officers have made the bus system one of the safest in the world, then why do they need TSA representatives there?

Houston Free Thinker, Phillip Levine was present at the press conference at the Wheeler Station off 4500 Main and witnessed DHS, and Metro Police question passengers who were exiting buses about their destinations and their reasons for riding the bus. “When I arrived at Wheeler I got off the stage and instantly noticed the massive police presence. The police presence consisted of DHS, metro police, HPD, TSA, and Harris county police officers. They were going on to buses searching and stopping people for questions. Apparently Shelia jackson Lee was there pushing for more security like what I was viewing. I asked the TSA agent if there was gonna be a bigger presence of metro or TSA. He said both,” Levine said in an email.

After seeing the exponential increase in police presence everywhere, it’s getting more and more difficult to defend the idea that the United States is not turning into a police state.

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Much has been written about what is wrong with the Department of Homeland Security’s behavior detection program, but the government hasn’t listened to any criticism. The DHS is expanding the program in the hopes to catch people with “malintent” by using passive signals.

DHS researchers are stepping things up a bit, by introducing what they call “passive stimuli” — such as non-word images of security signs, guard posts, floor layouts and interview rooms — which are intended to amplify the “malintent cues” emitted by a nervous traveler. DHS has recruited volunteers who have agreed to participate in experiments that will test whether such “passive” methodologies can be effective.

“The goal of the Passive Methods for Precision Behavioral Screening is to activate malintent representations selectively from individuals who already have malintent via passive, environmental stimuli; e.g., pictures, sounds, etc.,” explains a DHS privacy impact statement which was released last December.

The DHS’s apparent goal in this testing is to see if pictures and sounds can trigger a psychological reaction in a person. If it does, then the DHS will try to capture the person’s movements so that security can then determine if that person is a threat to airline security. If it works, the DHS plans on expanding it within the United States.

In the future, DHS researchers plan to run operational tests of this “passive” methodology by studying volunteers as they approach screening sites at public places, such as special events, mass transit portals and border crossings, says the DHS privacy impact statement. “The volunteer will be asked to answer a few questions and to observe various stimuli as they are presented on an LCD monitor,” says the notice.

According to the DHS:

“FAST is not intended to provide ‘probable cause’ for law enforcement processes, nor would the technology replace or pre-empt the decisions of human screeners,”

If it isn’t meant to provide probably cause, then what else is it supposed to be used for? If you eventually manage to catch someone, something that’s highly unlikely with such a dubious program, and you first suspected them because of this program, the person is going to be let go because you can’t use the program as probably cause. So, exactly what purpose do all these volunteer tests serve?

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In this video, you can watch DHS Secretary Napolitano quickly change the subject of cyber attacks and redirect it towards TSA screenings. If she wasn’t being so serious, I’d have to laugh at Napolitano’s constant avoidance of questions and her stating that, “the passengers have a role to play,” and “the cockpit doors are armored. once they’re shut, he can’t get back in.” In one fail swoop, she gives the two reasons why everything the TSA does is nothing but security theater.

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democracynow.org – As Congress asks if full-body scanners are “Effective Security or Security Theater?” we examine safety concerns at the heart of a lawsuit that seeks a freeze on the use body scanners pending an independent review. The Transportation and Security Administration has installed about 640 full-body millimeter wave and X-ray backscatter scanners at 65 airports as of January. Those who object to the full-body scans are subject to enhanced pat-downs and extremely invasive manual checks. We’re joined by Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is suing the TSA; and ProPublica reporter, Michael Grabell, author of a series of critical articles on the new scanners.

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