Daily Archives: September 18, 2006

Big Brother is shouting at you


Big Brother is not only watching you – now he’s barking orders too. Britain’s first ‘talking’ CCTV cameras have arrived, publicly berating bad behaviour and shaming offenders into acting more responsibly. The system allows control room operators who spot any anti-social acts – from dropping litter to late-night brawls – to send out a verbal warning: ‘We are watching you’.
Middlesbrough has fitted loudspeakers on seven of its 158 cameras in an experiment already being hailed as a success. Jack Bonner, who manages the system, said: ‘It is one hell of a deterrent. It’s one thing to know that there are CCTV cameras about, but it’s quite another when they loudly point out what you have just done wrong.


California’s secret police

Last week, the California Supreme Court issued one of the most disturbing decisions in years, ruling 6–1 that police disciplinary records must be for the most part secret.

The impact is so far-reaching it’s hard to fathom. As G.W. Schulz reports on page 15, it’s entirely possible that under this new standard, key details in some of the most important police-abuse cases of the past decade — from the so-called riders in Oakland to the Ramparts scandal in Los Angeles and Fajitagate in San Francisco — would have been kept under wraps. Under the broadest possible interpretation, the public will never know the names of the cops who break the law under color of authority, the bad actors who beat people up, harass (and sometimes assault) women, steal, lie, forge reports, frame suspects, fire their weapons without case, and — all too often — kill people without cause.
State law already gives cops, deputy sheriffs, and prison guards rights that go far beyond what any other public employees enjoy but has never been interpreted to bar the public entirely from disciplinary cases.


Government secrecy costs soar to $7.7 billion

Clandestine CIA prisons get headlines, but a recent report says that secrecy is spreading to federal programs with little connection to national security.
In its “Secrecy Report Card 2006,” a coalition of government watchdog groups cites indicators from across government to argue that areas like the patent process, military procurement and records of scientific advice given to the government suffer from a lack of transparency. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org and a co-author of the report. “We don’t know what’s being withheld. Things are set out of view with no better reason than, ‘We don’t want you to see this.’” Issues like the National Security Agency’s wire-tapping program and an increase in federal use of the state secrets privilege have made government secrecy a widely discussed issue. But the Secrecy Report Card, now in its third year, attempts to consolidate metrics on transparency from across government.


Internet Watch List: 9 little problems that could soon concern us

The Center for Democracy and Technology, a web site whose  slogan is “Working for democratic values in the digital age” recently draw out a Watch List summarizing nine bills threatening Internet users’ privacy, that are  up to be rushed into laws by U.S. Government before the midterm elections, and that could represent the beginning of larger measures potentially affecting people cyber freedom.
The “Internet Watch List,” contains  legislative efforts that, according to CDT Executive Director Leslie Harris , should not allowed to be put to use. She gets on saying that “Taken together, these measures threaten to undermine our First and Fourth Amendment rights; weaken our privacy; hobble technological innovation; and change the fundamental nature of the Internet for the worse. If even one of these misguided legislative gambits succeeds we will all be the worse for it.” Two new laws on Government  snooping in citizens’ lives, Congressional efforts to impose mandatory labelling requirements on Web site operators; a bill that would require schools and libraries to block interactive Internet content; an attempt to compel Internet providers to retain massive amounts of customer data for use by law enforcement; and several other bills and planned measures that threaten privacy and civil liberties


Communists protest in Moscow against Russia-NATO exercise

More than 800 supporters of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation gathered near the government’s residence Thursday night to protest against plans to hold a Russian-U.S. military exercise codenamed Torgau’2006, which was originally due be held near Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga from September 23 through to October 4. Yevgeny Gildeyev, the deputy chief spokesman for Moscow City’s Interior Department said participants in the action had unfolded banners urging the government to cancel the exercise and not to let NATO to the Russian territory. Left-wing organizations organized similar actions of protest earlier in the day in the major Far-Eastern city of Khabarovsk, Maikop in the west of Caucasus and Kursk, which is located 500 kilometers to the east of Moscow. In Kursk, the demonstrators demanded that the Russian authorities cancel all types of joint maneuvers with NATO and the U.S. Initial plans for Torgau’2006 envisioned participation of a Russian mechanized infantry regiment and a U.S. mechanized infantry battalion.


Airport of tomorrow might have virtual intelligence agents that check your bags

The airport of tomorrow might have virtual intelligence agents that check your bags, “smart dust” sensor networks that vet passengers heading through security and commuter pilots who fly the plane from a home office. That is, if Dave Evans’ vision is to be believed.
As chief technologist for Cisco Systems’ Internet Business Solutions Group Innovations Team, Evans set the stage Tuesday for technology innovations that will help shape the future of airport travel here at the opening of the FAA/NASA/Industry Airport Planning Workshop. “This is a great time to innovate,” Evans said as he delivered the keynote speech at the two-day conference held at NASA’s Ames Research Center here. Airport screeners, for example, could remotely identify and check in passengers carrying a cell phone or document embedded with an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip. Digital displays in airport terminals could be used to show real-time data on arrivals and departures. They could also be used to change a tarmac color to signify a landing, Evans said.
What’s more, advances in so-called brain-machine interfaces, which enable people to prompt actions with thought via electronic wires to the brain, could bring opportunities in remote flying, he said.


Uncovering the Truth about the Death of David Kelly


During 2002/3 it was obvious to many that the search for WMD in Iraq was a disingenuous ploy to secure regime change. Blair and his aides had claimed that it would take only 45 minutes for Saddam to launch a CBW attack on British bases, and that mobile laboratories found in Iraq were for the purpose of making chemical/biological weapons. In asides to journalists Dr David Kelly had shot both assertions down in flames. So when he was found ‘dead in the woods’ three days after being hauled before a televised government committee, many of us were highly suspicious.
Why were Thames Valley police labelling Dr Kelly’s death a ’suicide’ before his body had been examined? At the age of 72, judge and law lord Brian Hutton had never before chaired a public inquiry – so why did the prime minister’s old friend Charles Falconer appoint this safe establishment figure at such extraordinary speed*? As the Hutton Inquiry got underway in August 2003, I pored over the transcripts in an attempt to understand exactly how Dr Kelly had died. I listed aspects of the case that did not add up, and joined an internet forum to correspond with others working in a similar vein. One was IT expert Garrett Cooke.