Daily Archives: August 4, 2009

Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears

AP | Jul 11, 2009

By TODD LEWAN

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he’d bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.

It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker’s gold.

Zipping past Fisherman’s Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians’ electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he’d “skimmed” the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

Related

Congress proposed implanting airport workers with RFID chips
RFID Chips Enable Hackers to Sniff Passports

Embedding identity documents — passports, drivers licenses, and the like — with RFID chips is a no-brainer to government officials. Increasingly, they are promoting it as a 21st century application of technology that will help speed border crossings, safeguard credentials against counterfeiters, and keep terrorists from sneaking into the country.

But Paget’s February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent.

He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy.

Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone’s radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.

“Little Brother,” some are already calling it — even though elements of the global surveillance web they warn against exist only on drawing boards, neither available nor approved for use.

But with advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won’t be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California.

The key to getting such a system to work, these opponents say, is making sure everyone carries an RFID tag linked to a biometric data file.

On June 1, it became mandatory for Americans entering the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present identity documents embedded with RFID tags, though conventional passports remain valid until they expire.

Among new options are the chipped “e-passport,” and the new, electronic PASS card — credit-card sized, with the bearer’s digital photograph and a chip that can be scanned through a pocket, backpack or purse from 30 feet.

Alternatively, travelers can use “enhanced” driver’s licenses embedded with RFID tags now being issued in some border states: Washington, Vermont, Michigan and New York. Texas and Arizona have entered into agreements with the federal government to offer chipped licenses, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended expansion to non-border states. Kansas and Florida officials have received DHS briefings on the licenses, agency records show.

The purpose of using RFID is not to identify people, says Mary Ellen Callahan, the chief privacy officer at Homeland Security, but rather “to verify that the identification document holds valid information about you.”

Likewise, U.S. border agents are “pinging” databases only to confirm that licenses aren’t counterfeited. “They’re not pulling up your speeding tickets,” she says, or looking at personal information beyond what is on a passport.

The change is largely about speed and convenience, she says. An RFID document that doubles as a U.S. travel credential “only makes it easier to pull the right record fast enough, to make sure that the border flows, and is operational” — even though a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that government RFID readers often failed to detect travelers’ tags.

Such assurances don’t persuade those who liken RFID-embedded documents to barcodes with antennas and contend they create risks to privacy that far outweigh the technology’s heralded benefits. They warn it will actually enable identity thieves, stalkers and other criminals to commit “contactless” crimes against victims who won’t immediately know they’ve been violated.

Neville Pattinson, vice president for government affairs at Gemalto, Inc., a major supplier of microchipped cards, is no RFID basher. He’s a board member of the Smart Card Alliance, an RFID industry group, and is serving on the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.

Still, Pattinson has sharply criticized the RFIDs in U.S. driver’s licenses and passport cards. In a 2007 article for the Privacy Advisor, a newsletter for privacy professionals, he called them vulnerable “to attacks from hackers, identity thieves and possibly even terrorists.”

RFID, he wrote, has a fundamental flaw: Each chip is built to faithfully transmit its unique identifier “in the clear, exposing the tag number to interception during the wireless communication.”

Once a tag number is intercepted, “it is relatively easy to directly associate it with an individual,” he says. “If this is done, then it is possible to make an entire set of movements posing as somebody else without that person’s knowledge.”

Echoing these concerns were the AeA — the lobbying association for technology firms — the Smart Card Alliance, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Business Travel Coalition, and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security has been promoting broad use of RFID even though its own advisory committee on data integrity and privacy warned that radio-tagged IDs have the potential to allow “widespread surveillance of individuals” without their knowledge or consent.

In its 2006 draft report, the committee concluded that RFID “increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security,” and recommended that “RFID be disfavored for identifying and tracking human beings.”

For now, chipped PASS cards and enhanced driver’s licenses are optional and not yet widely deployed in the United States. To date, roughly 192,000 EDLs have been issued in Washington, Vermont, Michigan and New York.

But as more Americans carry them “you can bet that long-range tracking of people on a large scale will rise exponentially,” says Paget, a self-described “ethical hacker” who works as an Internet security consultant.

Could RFID numbers eventually become de facto identifiers of Americans, like the Social Security number?

Such a day is not far off, warns Katherine Albrecht, a privacy advocate and co-author of “Spychips,” a book that is sharply critical of the use of RFID in consumer items and official ID documents.

“There’s a reason you don’t wear your Social Security number across your T-shirt,” Albrecht says, “and beaming out your new, national RFID number in a 30-foot radius would be far worse.”

There are no federal laws against the surreptitious skimming of Americans’ RFID numbers, so it won’t be long before people seek to profit from this, says Bruce Schneier, an author and chief security officer at BT, the British telecommunications operator.

Data brokers that compile computer dossiers on millions of individuals from public records, credit applications and other sources “will certainly maintain databases of RFID numbers and associated people,” he says. “They’d do a disservice to their stockholders if they didn’t.”

But Gigi Zenk, a spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Licensing, says Americans “aren’t that concerned about the RFID, particularly in this day and age when there are a lot of other ways to access personal information on people.”

Tracking an individual is much easier through a cell phone, or a satellite tag embedded in a car, she says. “An RFID that contains no private information, just a randomly assigned number, is probably one of the least things to be concerned about, frankly.”

Still, even some ardent RFID supporters recognize that these next-generation RFID cards raise prickly questions.

Mark Roberti, editor of RFID Journal, an industry newsletter, recently acknowledged that as the use of RFID in official documents grows, the potential for abuse increases.

“A government could do this, for instance, to track opponents,” he wrote in an opinion piece discussing Paget’s cloning experiment. “To date, this type of abuse has not occurred, but it could if governments fail to take privacy issues seriously.”

___

Imagine this: Sensors triggered by radio waves instructing cameras to zero in on people carrying RFID, unblinkingly tracking their movements.

Unbelievable? Intrusive? Outrageous?

Actually, it happens every day and makes people smile — at the Alton Towers amusement park in Britain, which videotapes visitors who agree to wear RFID bracelets as they move about the facility, then sells the footage as a keepsake.

This application shows how the technology can be used effortlessly — and benignly. But critics, noting it can also be abused, say federal authorities in the United States didn’t do enough from the start to address that risk.

The first U.S. identity document to be embedded with RFID was the “e-passport.”

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks — and the finding that some of the terrorists entered the United States using phony passports — the State Department proposed mandating that Americans and foreign visitors carry “enhanced” passport booklets, with microchips embedded in the covers.

The chips, it announced, would store the holder’s information from the data page, a biometric version of the bearer’s photo, and receive special coding to prevent data from being altered.

In February 2005, when the State Department asked for public comment, it got an outcry: Of the 2,335 comments received, 98.5 percent were negative, with 86 percent expressing security or privacy concerns, the department reported in an October 2005 notice in the Federal Register.

“Identity theft was of grave concern,” it stated, adding that “others expressed fears that the U.S. Government or other governments would use the chip to track and censor, intimidate or otherwise control or harm them.”

It also noted that many Americans expressed worries “that the information could be read at distances in excess of 10 feet.”

Those concerned citizens, it turns out, had cause.

According to department records obtained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, under a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed by the AP, discussion about security concerns with the e-passport occurred as early as January 2003 but tests weren’t ordered until the department began receiving public criticism two years later.

When the AP asked when testing was initiated, the State Department said only that “a battery of durability and electromagnetic tests were performed” by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with tests “to measure the ability of data on electronic passports to be surreptitiously skimmed or for communications with the chip reader to be eavesdropped,” testing which “led to additional privacy controls being placed on U.S. electronic passports … ”

Indeed, in 2005, the department incorporated metallic fibers into the e-passport’s front cover, since metal can reduce the range at which RFID can be read. Personal information in the chips was encrypted and a cryptographic “key” added, which required inspectors to optically scan the e-passport first for the chip to communicate wirelessly.

The department also announced it would test e-passports with select employees, before giving them to the public. “We wouldn’t be issuing the passports to ourselves if we didn’t think they’re secure,” said Frank Moss, deputy assistant Secretary of State for passport services, in a CNN interview.

But what of Americans’ concerns about the e-passport’s read range?

In its October 2005 Federal Register notice, the State Department reassured Americans that the e-passport’s chip — the ISO 14443 tag — would emit radio waves only within a 4-inch radius, making it tougher to hack.

Technologists in Israel and England, however, soon found otherwise. In May 2006, at the University of Tel Aviv, researchers cobbled together $110 worth of parts from hobbyists kits and directly skimmed an encrypted tag from several feet away. At the University of Cambridge, a student showed that a transmission between an e-passport and a legitimate reader could be intercepted from 160 feet.

The State Department, according to its own records obtained under FOIA, was aware of the problem months before its Federal Register notice and more than a year before the e-passport was rolled out in August 2006.

“Do not claim that these chips can only be read at a distance of 10 cm (4 inches),” Moss wrote in an April 22, 2005, e-mail to Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. “That really has been proven to be wrong.”

The chips could be skimmed from a yard away, he added — all a hacker would need to read e-passport numbers, say, in an elevator or on a subway.

Other red flags went up. In February 2006, an encrypted Dutch e-passport was hacked on national television, with researchers gaining access to the document’s digital photograph, fingerprint and personal data. Then British e-passports were hacked using a $500 reader and software written in less than 48 hours.

The State Department countered by saying European e-passports weren’t as safe as their American counterparts because they lacked the cryptographic key and the anti-skimming cover.

But recent studies have shown that more powerful readers can penetrate even the metal sheathing in the U.S. e-passport’s cover.

John Brennan, a senior policy adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, concedes it may be possible for a reader to overpower the e-passport’s protective shield from a distance.

However, he adds, “you could not do this in any large-scale, concerted fashion without putting a bunch of infrastructure in place to make it happen. The practical vulnerabilities may be far less than some of the theoretical scenarios that people have put out there.”

That thinking is flawed, says Lee Tien, a senior attorney and surveillance expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposes RFID in identity documents.

It won’t take a massive government project to build reader networks around the country, he says: They will grow organically, for commercial purposes, from convention centers to shopping malls, sports stadiums to college campuses. Federal agencies and law enforcement wouldn’t have to control those networks; they already buy information about individuals from commercial data brokers.

“And remember,” Tien adds, “technology always gets better … ”

___

With questions swirling around the e-passport’s security, why then did the government roll out more RFID-tagged documents — the PASS card and enhanced driver’s license, which provide less protection against hackers?

The RFIDs in enhanced driver’s licenses and PASS cards are nearly as slim as paper. Each contains a silicon computer chip attached to a wire antenna, which transmits a unique identifier via radio waves when “awakened” by an electromagnetic reader.

The technology they use is designed to track products through the supply chain. These chips, known as EPCglobal Gen 2, have no encryption, and minimal data protection features. They are intended to release their data to any inquiring Gen 2 reader within a 30-foot radius.

This might be appropriate when a supplier is tracking a shipment of toilet paper or dog food; but when personal information is at stake, privacy advocates ask: Is long-range readability truly desirable?

The departments of State and Homeland Security say remotely readable ID cards transmit only RFID numbers that correspond to records stored in government databases, which they say are secure. Even if a hacker were to copy an RFID number onto a blank tag and place it into a counterfeit ID, they say, the forger’s face still wouldn’t match the true cardholder’s photo in the database, rendering it useless.

Still, computer experts such as Schneier say government databases can be hacked. Others worry about a day when hackers might deploy readers at “chokepoints,” such as checkout lines, skim RFID numbers from people’s driver’s licenses, then pair those numbers to personal data skimmed from chipped credit cards (though credit cards are harder to skim). They imagine stalkers using skimmed RFID numbers to track their targets’ comings and goings. They fear government agents will compile chip numbers at peace rallies, mosques or gun shows, simply by strolling through a crowd with a reader.

Others worry more about the linking of chips with other identification methods, including biometric technologies, such as facial recognition.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency that sets global standards for passports, now calls for facial recognition in all scannable e-passports.

Should biometric technologies be coupled with RFID, “governments will have, for the first time in history, the means to identify, monitor and track citizens anywhere in the world in real time,” says Mark Lerner, spokesman for the Constitutional Alliance, a network of nonprofit groups, lawmakers and citizens opposed to remotely readable identity and travel documents.

Implausible?

For now, perhaps. Radio tags in EDLs and passport cards can’t be scanned miles away.

But scientists are working on technologies that might enable a satellite or a cell tower to scan a chip’s contents. Critics also note advances in the sharpness of closed-circuit cameras, and point out they’re increasingly ubiquitous. And more fingerprints, iris scans and digitized facial images are being stored in government databases. The FBI has announced plans to assemble the world’s largest biometric database, nicknamed “Next Generation Identification.”

“RFID’s role is to make the collection and transmission of people’s biometric data quick, easy and nonintrusive,” says Lerner. “Think of it as the thread that ties together the surveillance package.”

On the Net:

* http://www.stoprealidcoalition.com/
* http://www.smartcardalliance.org/pages/publications-realid
* http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/02/rfid-passports-scanned-car
* http://epic.org/privacy/surveillance/spotlight/0907/

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Feds at DefCon hacker conference alarmed after RFID’s scanned

Wired | Aug 4, 2009

By Kim Zetter

LAS VEGAS – It’s one of the most hostile hacker environments in the country –- the DefCon hacker conference held every year in the summer in Las Vegas.

But despite the fact that attendees know they should take precautions to protect their data, federal agents at the conference got a scare on Friday when they were told they might have been caught in the sights of an RFID reader.

The reader, connected to a web camera, sniffed data from RFID-enabled ID cards and other documents carried by attendees in pockets and backpacks as they passed a table where the equipment was stationed in full view.

It was part of a security-awareness project set up by a group of security researchers and consultants to highlight privacy issues around RFID. When the reader caught an RFID chip in its sights — embedded in a company or government agency access card, for example — it grabbed data from the card, and the camera snapped the card holder’s picture.

But the device, which had a read range of 2 to 3 feet, caught only five people carrying RFID cards before Feds attending the conference got wind of the project and were concerned they might have been scanned.

Kevin Manson, a former senior instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Florida, was sitting on the “Meet the Fed” panel when a DefCon staffer known as “Priest,” who prefers not to be identified by his real name, entered the room and told panelists about the reader.

“I saw a few jaws drop when he said that,” Manson told Threat Level.

“There was a lot of surprise,” Priest says. “It really was a ‘holy shit,’ we didn’t think about that [moment].”

Law enforcement and intelligence agents attend DefCon each year to garner intelligence about the latest cyber vulnerabilities and the hackers who exploit them. Some attend under their real name and affiliation, but many attend undercover.

Although corporate- and government-issued ID cards embedded with RFID chips don’t reveal a card holder’s name or company — the chip stores only a site number and unique ID number tied to an agency’s database where the card holder’s details are stored — it’s not impossible to deduce the company or agency from the site number. It’s possible the researchers might also have been able to identify a Fed through the photo snapped with the captured card data or through information stored on other RFID-embedded documents in his wallet. For example, badges issued to attendees at the Black Hat conference that preceded DefCon in Las Vegas were embedded with RFID chips that contained the attendee’s name and affiliation. Many of the same people attended both conferences, and some still had their Black Hat cards with them at DefCon.

But an attacker wouldn’t need the name of a cardholder to cause harm. In the case of employee access cards, a chip that contained only the employee’s card number could still be cloned to allow someone to impersonate the employee and gain access to his company or government office without knowing the employee’s name.

Since employee access card numbers are generally sequential, Priest says an attacker could simply change a few digits on his cloned card to find the number of a random employee who might have higher access privileges in a facility.

“I can also make an educated guess as to what the administrator or ‘root’ cards are,” Priest says. “Usually the first card assigned out is the test card; the test card usually has access to all the doors. That’s a big threat, and that’s something [that government agencies] have actually got to address.””

In some organizations, RFID cards aren’t just for entering doors; they’re also used to access computers. And in the case of RFID-enabled credit cards, RFID researcher Chris Paget says the chips contain all the information someone needs to clone the card and make fraudulent charges on it — the account number, expiration date, CVV2 security code and, in the case of some older cards, the card holder’s name.

The Meet-the-Fed panel, an annual event at DefCon, presented a target-rich environment for anyone who might have wanted to scan government RFID documents for nefarious purposes. The 22 panelists included top cyber cops and officials from the FBI, Secret Service, National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Department, Treasury Department and U. S. Postal Inspection. And these were just the Feds who weren’t undercover.

It’s not known if any Feds were caught by the reader. The group that set it up never looked closely at the captured data before it was destroyed. Priest told Threat Level that one person caught by the camera resembled a Fed he knew, but he couldn’t positively identify him.

“But it was enough for me to be concerned,” he said. “There were people here who were not supposed to be identified for what they were doing . . . I was [concerned] that people who didn’t want to be photographed were photographed.”

Priest asked Adam Laurie, one of the researchers behind the project, to “please do the right thing,” and Laurie removed the SD card that stored the data and smashed it. Laurie, Zac Franken — co-directors of Aperture Labs in the United Kingdom and the ones who wrote the software for capturing the RFID data and supplied the hardware — and Aries Security, which conducts security-risk assessments and runs DefCon’s annual Wall of Sheep project with other volunteers.

Each year the Wall of Sheep volunteers sniff DefCon’s wireless network for unencrypted passwords and other data attendees send in the clear and project the IP addresses, login names, and truncated versions of the passwords onto a conference wall to raise awareness about using wireless networks without encryption.

This year they planned to add data collected from the RFID reader and camera (at right) — to raise awareness about a privacy threat that’s becoming increasingly prevalent as RFID chips are embedded into credit cards, employee access cards, state driver’s licenses, passports and other documents.

Brian Markus, CEO of Aries who goes by the handle “Riverside,” said they planned to blur the camera images and superimpose a sheep’s head over faces to protect identities before putting them on the wall.

“We’re not here to gather the data and do bad things with it,” he said, noting that theirs likely wasn’t the only reader collecting data from chips.

“There are people walking around the entire conference, all over the place, with RFID readers [in backpacks],” he says. “For $30 to $50, the common, average person can put [a portable RFID-reading kit] together. . . . This is why we’re so adamant about making people aware this is very dangerous. If you don’t protect yourself, you’re potentially exposing your entire [company or agency] to all sorts of risk.”

In this sense, DefCon isn’t the only hostile environment, since an attacker with a portable reader in a backpack can scan cards at hotels, malls, and subways. A more targeted attack could involve someone positioned outside a specific company or federal facility, scanning employees as they entered and left.

“It take s a few milliseconds to read [a chip] and, depending on what equipment I’ve got, doing the cloning can take a minute,” says Laurie. “I could literally do it on the fly.”

Paget announced he’ll be releasing a $50 kit at the end of August that will make reading 125-kHz RFID chips — the kind embedded in proximity cards — trivial. It will include open-source software for reading, storing and re-transmitting card data and will also include a software tool to decode the RFID encryption used in car keys for Toyota, BMW and Lexus models. This would allow an attacker to scan an unsuspecting car-owner’s key, decrypt the data and open the car. He told Threat Level his company H4rdw4re is aiming to achieve a reading range of 12 to 18 inches with the kit.

“I often ask people if they have an RFID card and half the people emphatically say no I do not,” says Paget. “And then they pull out the cards to prove it and . . . there has been an RFID in their wallet. This stuff is being deployed without people knowing it.”

To help prevent surreptitious readers from siphoning RFID data, a company named DIFRWear was doing a brisk business at DefCon selling leather faraday-caged wallets and passport holders (pictured at right) that prevent readers from sniffing RFID chips in proximity cards.

Tens of thousands of 11-year-olds leave primary school practically illiterate

About 35,000 11-year-olds left primary school this year unable to read and write properly, test results are expected to show today.

Telegraph | Aug 3, 2009

By Jon Swaine

The figure will bring to half a million the number of pupils who have left primary school without attaining basic language skills since Labour came to power in 1997.

The pupils are those who have failed to obtain a level three in their national curriculum English tests, meaning that they will enter secondary school with “no useful literacy”.

About 600,000 primary school leavers will today receive their results in the controversial Sats tests in English, maths and science, which are used to compile annual league tables.

Teaching unions said that they expected results to have improved slightly overall. Yet critics said that Labour had failed to lift standards among the worst pupils.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: “These children are far more likely to fall further behind and be turned off education altogether.

“Ministers need to cut class sizes and ensure schools receive additional funding so that teachers can give struggling children the extra support they desperately need.”

Those awaiting the results face having their records tainted after the tests were condemned by teachers as “unacceptably narrow” and poorly marked.

Thousands of their test papers have already been sent back by schools to be marked again. Teachers, who had already seen their pupils’ results, described some of the marking as “bizarre and petty”.

Some of the most talented pupils were penalised because the formulaic marking did not allow for flair. Others were punished for not dotting the letter i, while some had is dotted for them by markers.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that “considerable numbers” of heads had complained about marking of English writing tests.

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the NAHT, said: “We need to know whether the complaints we received were the tip of the iceberg.”

Kathleen Tattersall, the chairman of Ofqual, the exams watchdog, said that she was “continuing to monitor the quality control of the marking of this year’s papers”.

Today’s results are expected to show that about one in five of the pupils failed to reach the level four target in English and Maths.

Last year saw a slump in results for the brightest pupils, with the number of top grades suffering its biggest year-on-year drop since Labour came to power in 1997.

Teachers across the country have such little confidence in the tests that they are preparing to refuse to teach the courses in the new school year, which begins next month.

Earlier this year, two of the biggest teaching unions voted to boycott next year’s tests for both 11- and seven-year-olds, which they said have become “unacceptable for the future of children’s education”.

The NAHT and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which together represent most of the teachers in English schools, both agreed to industrial action.

The unions yesterday declined to comment on when industrial action would commence.

However it has been suggested that it may have to begin soon after the start of the school year, when teachers are asked to start teaching material for the tests.

John Bangs, the NUT’s head of education, said yesterday: “The tests are unacceptably narrow. We are arguing for a completely different approach, in which teachers have a bank of different tests and have the time and space to assess pupils individually.

“What these results will again illustrate is the utterly inappropriate way that they have damaged the curriculum and put enormous pressure on kids, parents and teachers.”

Mr Brookes said: “Children are simply having to rehearse the tests. You can train them to jump through hoops, and they’ll jump through hoops, but that’s training, not education.”

He reiterated that the teachers would “pursue every avenue” in pushing Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, to abandon the tests in favour of a new system.

The corresponding tests for 14-year-olds were scrapped last year, after a disastrous marking process.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils’ results were delayed after ETS, an American firm contracted to oversee the tests, failed to deliver.

Diana Johnson, a schools minister, said that many pupils not reaching the literacy level had special educational needs.

“Thousands more children have started secondary school with a firm foundation in the basics” under Labour, she said.

Homeless people die after bird flu vaccine trial in Poland

Three Polish doctors and six nurses are facing criminal prosecution after a number of homeless people died following medical trials for a vaccine to the H5N1 bird-flu virus.

21 people died after being given the vaccine

Telegraph | Jul 2, 2008

By Matthew Day in Warsaw

The medical staff, from the northern town of Grudziadz, are being investigated over medical trials on as many as 350 homeless and poor people last year, which prosecutors say involved an untried vaccine to the highly-contagious virus.

Authorities claim that the alleged victims received £1-2 to be tested with what they thought was a conventional flu vaccine but, according to investigators, was actually an anti bird-flu drug.

Related
Squalene: The Swine Flu Vaccine’s Dirty Little Secret Exposed

The director of a Grudziadz homeless centre, Mieczyslaw Waclawski, told a Polish newspaper that last year, 21 people from his centre died, a figure well above the average of about eight.

Although authorities have yet to prove a direct link between the deaths and the activities of the medical staff, Poland’s health minister, Ewa Kopacz, has said that the doctors and nurses involved should not return to their profession.

“It is in the interests of all doctors that those who are responsible for this are punished,” the minister added.

Investigators are also probing the possibility that the medical staff may have also have deceived the pharmaceutical companies that commissioned the trials.

The suspects said that the all those involved knew that the trial involved an anti-H5N1 drug and willingly participated.

The news of the investigation will come as another blow to the reputation of Poland’s beleaguered and poverty-stricken national health service. In 2002, a number of ambulance medics were found guilty of killing their patients for commissions from funeral companies.

Pfizer slips out of $6 billion lawsuit and criminal charges over children killed by experimental drug

Pfizer to Pay $75 Million to Settle Trovan-Testing Suit

Washington Post | Jul 31, 2009

By Joe Stephens

Pfizer signed a $75 million agreement Thursday with Nigerian authorities to settle criminal and civil charges that the pharmaceutical company illegally tested an experimental drug on children during a 1996 meningitis epidemic.

Nigerian authorities say Pfizer’s test of the antibiotic Trovan killed 11 children and disabled scores more. Pfizer says the deaths and injuries were the result of meningitis.

An attorney for the state of Kano, where the charges were lodged, said the settlement was a long time in coming but welcome because it set the record straight about Pfizer’s culpability. “People and entities can and must be held accountable for the consequences of their conduct,” the attorney, Babatunde Irukera, said. “People around the world are no different and must be accorded the same levels of protections, always.”

Charges filed against Pfizer by Nigeria’s federal government, which is seeking about $6 billion in damages, are unaffected by the settlement, Irukera said. Two lawsuits related to the Trovan experiment also remain pending in New York.

In a news release, Pfizer said that it “specifically denies” any wrongdoing or liability. The company said its researchers conducted the clinical trial of the antibiotic Trovan legally, with the approval of the Nigerian government and the consent of guardians of the children. The company said the settlement was the best way to “allow Pfizer and the Nigerian governments to focus on what matters — improving healthcare for all Nigerians.”

Under the agreement, the world’s largest drug company agreed to pay $30 million over two years toward health-care initiatives chosen by the Kano state government. It will reimburse the state for $10 million in legal costs. And Pfizer agreed to create a fund that will pay up to $35 million toward “valid claims” for financial support submitted by patients who took part in the clinical trial. A panel appointed by Pfizer and Kano state will determine eligibility and levels of support.

In return, Kano officials agreed to drop civil and criminal actions against the company. Kano and the Nigerian federal government originally filed legal actions naming as defendants Pfizer and 10 individuals, including former Pfizer chief executive William C. Steere Jr. The actions sought $9 billion in restitution and damages and included 31 criminal counts, including homicide.

Details of the drug trial were first made public in December 2000 in a Washington Post investigative series. The articles reported that the trial did not conform to U.S. patient-protection standards and that the oral form of the drug used in the trial had not been previously tested in children. Pfizer had no signed consent forms for the children, the articles said, and the company relied on a falsified ethics approval letter.

Five years later, in May 2006, The Post obtained and published a confidential report that concluded that Pfizer violated Nigerian and international law in the experiment. That set in motion the criminal charges.

Trovan was never approved for use by children in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration approved it for adults in 1998 but later severely restricted its use after reports of liver failure. The European Union banned it in 1999.

Britain Putting Big Brother Cameras Inside Private Homes

telescreen

Wired | Aug 3, 2009

By Charlie Sorrel

As an ex-Brit, I’m well aware of the authorities’ love of surveillance and snooping, but even I, a pessimistic cynic, am amazed by the governments latest plan: to install Orwell’s telescreens in 20,000 homes.

£400 million ($668 million) will be spend on installing and monitoring CCTV cameras in the homes of private citizens. Why? To make sure the kids are doing their homework, going to bed early and eating their vegetables. The scheme has, astonishingly, already been running in 2,000 family homes. The government’s “children’s secretary” Ed Balls is behind the plan, which is aimed at problem, antisocial families. The idea is that, if a child has a more stable home life, he or she will be less likely to stray into crime and drugs.

It gets worse. The government is also maintaining a private army, incredibly not called “Thought Police”, which will “be sent round to carry out home checks,” according to the Sunday Express. And in a scheme which firmly cements the nation’s reputation as a “nanny state”, the kids and their families will be forced to sign “behavior contracts” which will “set out parents’ duties to ensure children behave and do their homework.”

And remember, this is the left-wing government. The Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling, batting for the conservatives, thinks these plans are “too little, and too late,” implying that even more obtrusive work needs to be done. Rumors that a new detention center, named Room 101, is being constructed inside the Ministry of Love are unconfirmed.

‘UFO’ photographed ‘tracking’ RAF Hercules

ufo_RAF

The mystery silver shape was spotted tracking the military craft as it came to land at RAF Lyneham  Photo: SWNS.COM

An amateur photographer believes he captured a UFO tracking an RAF Hercules as it approached RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Telegraph | Aug 3, 2009

John Powell, 56, claims an unusual silver orb was following the military craft as it came in to land at the base.

The retired school teacher was gardening at his home in nearby Westbury when he noticed the sun glinting off the circular surface.

“I don’t believe in things from outer space but that thing was definitely tracking the plane,” he said.

“My neighbour was in the garden at the time and I wanted to shout to them, but I didn’t want to say ‘there’s a flying saucer in the sky’ so I didn’t say anything in the end.”

Mr Powell, who taught computer sciences in Belfast for 30 years, added: “I thought at the time this is too good to miss but I didn’t think the picture would come out as good as this.

“If I were to say it was a shot in a million I don’t think I’d be exaggerating. I’m desperately curious to find out what it is.

“Since I’ve taken the photo I’ve been on some UFO websites and there’s nothing remotely like this with an RAF plane being tracked.”

The incident happened as John was gardening at 3.45pm on July 22.

RAF Lyneham is the military base where the bodies of fallen British soldiers are flown back into the UK on Hercules planes but there were no repatriations that day.

Ministry of Defence bosses said they would not be investigating because they so not consider it a “potential threat”.

A spokesman said: “The MoD examines reports solely to establish whether UK airspace may have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised military activity.

“Unless there is evidence of a potential threat, there is no attempt to identify the nature of each sighting reported.”