Daily Archives: August 7, 2009

Internal Security Agency bill could turn Poland into a police state

Warsaw Business Journal | Aug 6, 2009

The bill on broadening of the rights of the Internal Security Agency (ABW) has been criticized by the head of the Presidential Chancellery Wladyslaw Stasiak, who declared that the new regulations do not envisage any mechanisms to control these powers.

“As a result once the regulations are in force, the head of the Agency could have greater powers than the Interior Minister or voivodes, in the event of a ‘crisis threat’,” said Stasiak.

It has also been revealed that if President Kaczynski receives the bill on “crisis management” which includes the above-mentioned regulations, he is most likely to send it to the Constitutional Tribunal.

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Wyoming police Taser 76-year-old tractor driver

AP | Aug 6, 2009

GLENROCK, Wyo. — A 76-year-old Wyoming man shot with a Taser by police while driving an antique tractor in a small-town parade says it hurt but he’s OK.

Retired truck driver Bud Grose of Glenrock told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he has a heart condition but didn’t require any medical attention.

Investigators say police in Glenrock used a Taser on the man after he disobeyed orders. They say the tractor may have hit a car.

Two officers were placed on paid leave and state agents are investigating, but the police chief says it doesn’t appear any policies were violated.

Grose wouldn’t discuss specifics of the incident until he speaks to his attorney.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

GLENROCK, Wyo. (AP) — Investigators say police in a small Wyoming town used a Taser on a 76-year-old man driving an antique tractor in a parade after he allegedly hit a car and disobeyed orders.

Two officers were placed on paid leave and state agents are investigating, but the police chief says it doesn’t appear any policies were violated.

Tim Hill of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation says the tractor may have hit a car and the tractor driver allegedly disobeyed officers Saturday.

Steven Spielberg awarded medal as champion of freedom

Steven Spielberg knighhood KBE

Steven Spielberg, Officer in the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur and Knight Commander in the Order of the British Empire (KBE).

Reuters | Aug 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) – Filmmaker Steven Spielberg is to be awarded the 2009 Liberty Medal for being a champion of freedom with “his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights.”

The National Constitution Center, which presents the Liberty Medal each year, said Spielberg had informed and inspired millions of people to better understand the call of liberty through his films in which humanity triumphs over tyranny.

His films that deal with issues like the Holocaust, slavery, and war include “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List,” “Amistad” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

“Spielberg has also dedicated himself to gathering and archiving the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, ensuring future generations will never forget the tragedy of liberty lost,” the center said in a statement on Tuesday.

The center’s president, Linda Johnson, said Spielberg had shown through his work in film and philanthropy that everyone had the power to make a difference.

“It’s truly humbling to be added to the distinguished list of past recipients, a group of men and women whom I admire deeply for their commitment to educating the world about the importance of freedom and the blessings of liberty,” Spielberg said in a statement.

After filming “Schindler’s List” in 1993, which was based on the true story of a man who risked his life to save 1,100 people from the Holocaust, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation to chronicle and preserve video and oral histories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

The collection is now the largest archive of its kind in the world with 52,000 videos and 105,000 hours of testimony in 32 languages, representing 56 countries.

The foundation now intends to collect testimony from the survivors and witnesses of other genocides and is currently in the process of gathering personal histories from survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Last year the Liberty Medal, which was established in 1988, was presented to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for his role in ending the Cold War.

Other recipients of the annual award include Nelson Mandela, Bono, Shimon Peres, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Leh Valensa.

Spielberg, 62, who has won three Academy awards, will be presented with the medal by former U.S. President Bill Clinton on October 8 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

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Related


Counterfeit Foe – The Ultimate Hegelian Dialectic

Every year since 1954, the secretive Bilderberg Group (named after the hotel they first met in the Netherlands), comprising elite powerbrokers from Europe and North America, has met to discuss, and influence, the changing global, political, economic and social landscape. Dotted amongst the usual suspects of Rockefeller, Kissinger and Soros etc. we see the presence of renowned Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Spielberg attended the 1999 Bilderberg meeting held at Sintra, Portugal. What business does Spielberg, a chieftain of the ‘entertainment’ industry have secretly mingling with international bankers, military intelligence and world political leaders?

SPIELBERG_ET

Fiction as a Precursor to Fact: Sci-fi “Predictive Programming” and the Emergent World Religion

One of the most significant pieces of messianic sci-fi predictive programming is Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The central theme of the film E.T. is most succinctly encapsulated in the familiar shot that also adorned many of the movie’s publicity posters. Of course, this is the shot of the outstretched hand of the movie’s human protagonist touching the glowing fingertip of an alien hand reaching downward.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Russian commander is responsible for promoting the idea that the Hived Mind, a mind from a collective of interconnected beings, has a higher potency than the sum of its parts. She states that the Hived Mind defined by some group of people is “more powerful together than they [the group] can ever be apart.” I expect this to be precisely consistent with the propagandistic future sales-gospel for the brain-chip. I anticipate it to be marketed as being no less than God’s gift on Earth. The idea will be peddled to the public that it offers only benefits to you as you are being absorbed into a more supremely (read: divinely) intelligent collective. The viewer is thus drawn a little closer towards acceptance of the brain-chip, all the while not realizing that it will actually make him or her rather like an insignificant little workerbee, barren of any kind of mental, spiritual and physical freedom.

pre-crime minority report

Minority Report

After all, in the movie it is being advertised and bragged about that, through pre-crime, murder-rates have plummeted to negligible levels. Therefore, of and by itself, the notion of pre-crime is presented to the viewer as being not something that is altogether disadvantageous to society. What the viewer is not made aware of however, is the type of intrusion and indeed the violation of privacy associated with the imposition of a pre-crime system onto the public. The realization of a pre-crime system therefore ultimately boils down to increases in control for the government and less freedom for its citizens. The mantra never changes, sadly.

Covert Iris Scanner Close To Minority Report Future

transformers arrest

Transformers

Another predictive programming theme surfaces in a scene where a seemingly unannounced search and seizure operation by the federal police takes place. The FBI simply come barge through the door of some house, ransacks it and without notice arrest its inhabitants. No search-warrant is provided and no Miranda rights are read to the promptly arrested civilians. In other words, the viewer is further familiarized with Police State antics and scenery.

Hoodwinked: Watching Movies with Eyes Wide Open by Uri Dowbenko

ABOUT THE LIBERTY MEDAL

Some Notable LIberty Medal recipients

“Further global progress is now possible only through a quest for universal consensus in the movement towards a New World Order.

– Mikhail Gorbachev

“We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a New World Order.”

– George Herbert Walker Bush

gorbachev_bush_liberty_medal

* 2008 – Mikhail Gorbachev
* 2007 – Bono & DATA
* 2006 – George H.W. Bush & William J. Clinton
* 2004 – Hamid Karzai
* 2002 – Colin Powell
* 2001 – Kofi Annan
* 1997 – CNN International
* 1996 – King Hussein & Shimon Peres
* 1993 – Nelson Mandela & F.W. de Klerk
* 1990 – Jimmy Carter

STEVEN SPIELBERG
2009 Liberty Medal Recipient

The National Constitution Center’s 2009 Liberty Medal will be awarded to filmmaker and humanitarian Steven Spielberg for his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights.

In 1998 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit ( Bundesverdienstkreuz ) with Ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Spielberg was also awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense William Cohen at the Pentagon on August 11, 1999.

In 2001, he was honored as an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2004 he was admitted as knight of the Légion d’honneur from president Jacques Chirac.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Spielberg

Detained Activist’s Kafkaesque Nightmare

Spiegel | Aug 3, 2009

By Ullrich Fichtner

Ji Sizun, a legal activist who represented ordinary people, disappeared into the clutches of Chinese state security a year ago, on the fourth day of the Olympic Games in Beijing. He had wanted to demonstrate in one of the official “protest parks.” Instead, he ended up in prison.

When the Beijing attorney Liu receives a telephone call, his answering machine plays a loud electronic version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” He quickly picks up the phone, shouts into the receiver, laughs loudly and makes the stuttering sound of an engine running. In China, all of this is code for: Okay, I understand, everything is fine. Sometimes Liu gets up while he is talking, stands at a window, his body rocking back and forth, and looks out at the commotion surrounding Beijing’s western train station — a chaotic scene that mirrors his own hectic life. When he travels, which he does frequently, he joins the tens of thousands of travelers milling about the train station. Anyone who, like Liu, grapples with the Chinese legal system spends much of his time taking long, arduous journeys.

It is early July, and Liu is on his way to Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, a coastal city 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) south of Beijing, where four of his clients — men and women who were arrested without explanation in the middle of the night — are currently in custody. The trouble probably stems from the fact that three of the four detainees signed Charter 08, an inflammatory appeal for a new constitution, a new political system and a new China.

Liu, 45, a small man, has been a member of the Communist Party for 19 years — an apparent but not necessarily inevitable contradiction to his commitment to civil rights. He feels a deep bond with people who are treated unjustly, he says, and he advocates on their behalf on the Internet, in police stations and in courtrooms, for which he has earned a reputation with the powers that be. When German broadcaster Deutsche Welle awarded him a prize the government refused to grant him an exit visa, thus preventing him from traveling to Germany to accept it in person. The incident was yet another episode in the cat-and-mouse game with the government that shapes his daily life.

Since February he has been handling a particularly complicated case. It revolves around his fifth, and most prominent, client in Fujian, the man who disappeared during the Olympic Games in Beijing almost a year ago, all because he had applied for a permit to protest in one of the “protest parks” the government had designated for that purpose. It was the man whose case overshadowed the daily press conferences given by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the man whose story was reported by the world news media, partly because he had shattered the IOC’s and Chinese government’s grand promises when it came to democracy in China.

That man is Ji Sizun, whose disappearance SPIEGEL reported a year ago and whose fate was long unknown. Today, he is still in detention, but at least his whereabouts are known. He is being held at the Wuyishan prison, a seven-hour train journey northwest of Fuzhou, in Section 6, Cell 207. The prison is located in the midst of a wild, magnificent landscape declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but visiting him there is out of the question. “You can try submitting an application,” says Liu. He laughs, but his laugh sounds more combative than bitter.

IOC Hoodwinked by Beijing

What has Ji been charged with? For wanting to protest? For being a regime critic? For seeking to harm China’s national image at a time — the Beijing Olympics — when preserving its image was paramount? In fact, none of these charges was leveled against him. Ji owes his imprisonment to an entirely different and unexpected charge. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for “the intentional forgery of national documents and sovereign seals.” That was the charge, and to comprehend it is to gain a deeper understanding of how China’s state security apparatus is structured. It also exposes how naïve and deceitful it was for the IOC to have claimed that China would open itself up for the Olympic Games, and that the games would open up China.

In retrospect, it seems almost laughable that the IOC, particularly its president, Jacques Rogge, allowed itself to be hoodwinked by China on the subject of Olympic ideals. In fact, it is so laughable that one could almost presume that the IOC was in league with the government and party leadership in Beijing from the start and consistently kept both eyes tightly shut when Tibetans were persecuted or Uighurs were branded as terrorists.

When confronted with the results of SPIEGEL’s research, the IOC countered with a cool, standard response, arguing that it is a sports organization that lacks the means to look into possible human rights violations. There was no mention of the name Ji Sizun in the IOC’s letter.

His story begins with a photograph taken by Danish photographer Mads Nissen on Aug. 11, 2008, on the fourth day of the impressive Beijing Games. The photo depicts Ji, who was 58 at the time, still dressed in the white, short-sleeved shirt and worn trousers he had been wearing that morning when he submitted his application. He is accompanied by two men dressed in civilian clothes, who are seen forcing him into a minivan. Shortly afterwards Ji was reached once, briefly, on his mobile phone before his service was disconnected. After Aug. 11, not even his family could reach him. He had simply disappeared without a trace.

In China, the bloggers and citizen reporters, the tough and half-baked democrats alike that now exist throughout the country assumed the worst at the time. They expected that Ji would soon end up in a labor camp and later in a reeducation camp, and they did not rule out the possibility that he would be killed in an alleged accident. But, as it now appears, he was initially taken to the National Petition Office, so that he could present his case once more behind closed doors.

Delegates from his home province, Fujian, were already waiting for him. This is a unique characteristic of Chinese political life. The country’s provinces, as well as its major cities, maintain liaison offices and guesthouses in Beijing, and they remain responsible for their own people whenever they happen to be in the capital or elsewhere.

Legal Services for Ordinary Citizens

After presenting his case to the disinterested officials at the petition office, he was taken to the guesthouse of Zhangzhou, a city in Fujian where he had lived for many years. The next day, he was put on a train for the 19-hour journey to Fuzhou, the provincial capital. From there, he was taken by car to Zhangzhou, a 300-kilometer journey, where he was detained at the “Hotel of Agriculture” and kept under house arrest. Searching for him, in China, would have been an impossible undertaking at the time. The Chinese authorities operate in secrecy, politicians have no interest in transparency, the police are world unto themselves, and the judiciary is an anonymous machine in which cases are only heard in public when they are likely to serve the propaganda interests of the party and government. The more sensitive issues, including those with relevance to the system, are handled behind closed doors. At first the authorities faced a hurdle in Ji’s case: They had no case. No crime had been committed, not even a minor offence.

In 2002 Ji Sizun, a delicate man, unmarried and living alone, undoubtedly somewhat eccentric, moved from Zhangzhou, where he had grown up and spent much of his life, to Fuzhou, a port city surrounded by rolling mountains with tea plantations on their slopes. Fuzhou is a comfortable city by Chinese standards, with fig, palm and mimosa trees lining its streets and, in its downtown area, a large, snow-white statue of Mao Zedong, which is brightly lit at night. The weather is humid and oppressively hot in the summer. Ji lived in the Taijian district, in a neighborhood called Cangxia, at Zhuangyuan Lane 9.

The entrance to his short, narrow street is flanked by a snack bar that smells of old fish and a colorful general store. A neighbor wearing a ribbed undershirt is standing in front of the door to Ji’s former house, which resembles a garage door, and when is he asked about Mr. Ji, he says: “Mr. Ji? But he moved away from here about a year ago.”

In the years leading up to his arrest, Ji had provided legal services to ordinary citizens. It was his passion. After the Cultural Revolution, Ji worked in a mine and was later assigned an office job. He read up on the law and became a self-educated, amateur legal expert, representing people who couldn’t afford a real lawyer. In some cases, he waived his fee if his clients, who he believed to be in the right, were unable to pay.

A Case, an Indictment and a Confession

He helped migrant workers defend themselves against police abuse, and he went to court with elderly women who had been expropriated without compensation in connection with hydroelectric dam projects. He helped teachers secure their pension payments, and he negotiated damage payments for people who had been the victims of work accidents. But in the summer of 2008, he paid dearly for his determination to take action against abuses committed by the police, the party and government officials. The police in Fuzhou, against whom he had successfully prosecuted cases again and again, began to harass him, looking for an opportunity to get rid of this notorious troublemaker, a man who, in 2005, had managed to expose a ring of corrupt local politicians, party members and police officers and take them to court. Seventeen people were indicted in the case and were collectively sentenced to 113 years in prison. If there was anyone who had enemies in Fuzhou, it was Ji Sizun.

While he was being held in the “Hotel of Agriculture,” the police uncovered material it believed to be incriminating. In a stack of papers removed from Ji’s apartment, they found three nondescript, stamped forms that his clients had to fill out so that he could serve as their legal representative. The forms are harmless, containing standard information such as a client’s name, age, address and marital status, and they were all stamped to indicate that they had been received by the judicial authority. The innocuous words on the red, oval stamp read: “Justice Center — Confirmation of Legal Representation.” The police, and later the district attorney, claimed that these forms were forged, and that the forger was Ji Sizun.

They now had a case and an indictment and it was enough to enable them to remove Ji from his house arrest on Sept. 18. He had already been detained for a period that exceeded the legal time limit for house arrest under Chinese law. Ji was taken to the Fuzhou Number 2 detention facility in the southern part of the city, near the main highway to Xiamen, where the city gives way to fields and factories, and where the ditches are filled with rank tropical vegetation. The only external feature identifying the facility as a prison is its tall gate, flanked by stone lions and surveillance cameras in every corner.

Accusing the authorities of torture without hearing their side of the story is a risky proposition. But the police in China have no press office worthy of the name and the Interior Ministry is not receptive to questions of this nature. For this reason, it is only possible to relate the story Ji told his attorneys, which is that the police tortured him with sleep deprivation while he was in pretrial detention. According to his account, he was once interrogated for hours and forced to stay awake for 16 hours. On a separate occasion, he was kept awake for 25 to 30 hours, a practice so abusive that even the prison warden objected.

When Ji still refused to confess to his alleged crimes, they threatened to place him in a cell with the corrupt officials he had helped put behind bars. That was when Ji told them what they wanted to hear: That he copied the forms himself and forged the red, oval stamp.

A Grotesque Photo

The authorities had their confession, and on Jan. 7, 2009, they had a conviction. Even though Ji recanted his confession during a hearing, saying that he had made it under duress, the judge, in a hearing closed to the public, sentenced him to a three-year prison term. Despite the secret proceedings, the news traveled quickly, spread by friends, attorneys, the Internet, text messages and word of mouth. That was why Jan. 7, 2009 represented the first time that there was any word of Ji after he had disappeared without a trace for a full 148 days. At least his supporters now knew that he was alive, and that he would file an appeal.

There is a grotesque photo that speaks volumes about the Chinese culture of formal politeness and saving face. The photo depicts Ji, together with a woman and man, standing behind a large banner. The picture was taken shortly after he had secured the release of 46 migrant workers who were imprisoned after the police refused to recognize their valid and properly stamped work permits. The 2000 case ended in an embarrassment for the security apparatus and the judiciary, and it was reported in the newspapers. The photo shows Ji with two migrant workers and the banner, which the group presented to the court, reads: “In appreciation to the court, for the wisdom of its decisions.” The words are not meant to be sarcastic. They are the Chinese way. China is not easy to understand, as Ji’s attorney in Fuzhou keeps repeating. His name is Lin Hongnan, and his office is at the end of a dark corridor in a house across the street from the glittering tower of the Shangri La Hotel. Lin is a dark, disheveled-looking man with puffy eyelids that make his eyes seem almost closed. His office is littered with mementoes, pictures and calligraphy scrolls. He has a benevolent face, and when Lin, 70, is asked simple questions about the weaknesses of the Chinese judicial system, he says: “It will probably take some time before we have liberated ourselves from thousands of years of tradition.”

The experienced Lin was happy to take on Ji’s case, together with Liu, the attorney from Beijing, and the two men devised a strategy for the appeal. Everything about the case, including the evidence and the court’s conclusions, seemed odd to them. The judge’s verdict was easy to contest, particularly the claim, which served as grounds for the harsh sentence, that Ji had forged “national documents” and “sovereign seals.”

China, like any other country, has laws, and there are regulations and ordinances that can be consulted. In Ji’s case, it takes little effort to realize that the trivial form in question was clearly not one of the 13 “national documents” defined by law, and it is not even clear if it should have been in circulation under the current administration of justice. And as far as the “sovereign seals” and “national stamps” are concerned, the first sentence of the applicable regulation states unequivocally that they are always round and not, as they were on Ji’s documents, oval.

Ji was not even summoned to appear at his appeal hearing. After being sentenced by the trial court, he was imprisoned at the Wuyishan prison, and yet he was optimistic. Liu had found cases that also clearly called the three-year length of the sentence into question. For instance, he had uncovered a case against a fellow attorney in Jiangsu Province. In order to trick a client into believing that his trial had been decided in his favor, the man had forged an entire verdict, including authentically round national stamps. But the crooked attorney was only ordered to serve an 18-month sentence, and he never saw the inside of a prison, because the sentence was suspended.

When Liu describes his method, he says that he is always careful not to insult anyone or make any false accusations, and that he never goes beyond the framework of the law. In the case of Ji, however, the Beijing lawyer is beginning to lose his self-control, and he has even been tempted to rail against his opponents and to leave the framework of the law.

Liu is so disconcerted because, on April 21, the court upheld the trial court’s ruling on all counts, seemingly ignoring the facts of the case. It upheld the three-year prison sentence, and it confirmed the charge that Ji committed forgery of “national documents” and “sovereign seals.” The situation is straight out of Kafka. The evidence on which court based its decision was in fact evidence of the condemned man’s innocence. Any child can see that the stamp on the documents, be it forged or authentic, is oval, not round.

‘He Should Not Have Gone to Beijing’

According to the attorneys, the judge presiding over the appeal hearing never asked a single question and was silent throughout the hearing. This could only mean that he knew from the start what his ruling would be. And this is where it becomes apparent that two worlds intersected — that of international politics in the days of the dazzling Beijing Olympics and that of the provincial corruption in Fuzhou and the surrounding region. “He should not have gone to Beijing,” says the elderly attorney Lin, as he sits in front of a calligraphy scroll of a poem by Li Bai about the beauty of the three rivers. “The government was very nervous at the time, and that wasn’t good,” says Lin.

Ji, a lone champion of the law, committed a decisive error in August 2008. It was as if his enemies, of which there were many, had only been waiting for him to slip up. He had traveled to the capital as the representative of his clients, hoping to argue their cases to the best of his ability, to bring them to the attention of the powers that be. Perhaps he went to Beijing believing in the impossible, believing that a nobody could find his way to the emperor’s throne and make himself heard.

In the end, on the day of his arrest, Ji was not standing in front of that throne. Instead, he was standing on the street, surrounded by dilapidated modern buildings, tightly holding on to his red notebook that contained all of the documentation on the 11 unresolved cases that had become stuck in the bureaucracy at home in Fujian. One of the cases dealt with a man whose house had been destroyed for no apparent reason, and another was about a man who had died in prison and whose family was never compensated. The documents told the stories of people whose land had been confiscated arbitrarily, of people who had been injured at work and were never compensated, and of those whose cases were never even heard.

Ji was their advocate. And he must have believed the promises of his government and the Olympic family, the promises that the time had finally come when he could speak his mind freely, for all the world to hear, and with no fear of repercussions. On the morning of his arrest, on Aug. 11, 2008, he said: “There are great powers that oppose me. But I am not alone. We are many.” He was sweating, even though it was early in the morning and still cool outside, and his thinning hair bristled as if it were electrically charged. An hour later, he was gone.

Will government use RFID chips to track your every move?

Suburban Journals | Aug 5, 2009

By John Stoeffler

In a recent column I reported that due to greater vehicle fuel efficiency a drop in gasoline tax revenue has the government looking for alternative ways to recoup this revenue shortfall. Under consideration would be using GPS systems installed on each vehicle to electronically monitor the miles you drive each month and bill you accordingly. But now there is another system the government is looking at to track individuals using RFID technology.

Invented in 1969, RFIDs, or Radio Frequency Identification Chips are, in simplest terms, micro chips. They might be compared to the ubiquitous BAR Codes that are printed on just about every product you buy. Simply pass the BAR Code over a scanner and the product description and price are sent to a computer. But unlike BAR Codes, RFID chips reportedly can be made smaller than a grain of sand.

Unlike a BAR Code which is limited to 20 characters, a RFID can hold 512 bits of information. And while the BAR code on a particular product like 16-ounce cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup is the same, a RFID chip embedded in your driver’s license would contain information unique to you.

Another important difference is that a BAR code is inert and must be scanned to obtain information, while a RFID is actually a transmitter, which when prompted emits a signal. But at what distance can that signal be read? Good question.

If you ever used an EZ Pass at a toll booth, you have used an RFID. That, you say, isn’t very far. True, but consider a July 11 Associated Press story reported on Fox News.com which reported a self-described “ethical hacker” in San Francisco, who spent $190 on e-Bay to purchase what he described as a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader. Hooking the reader to his laptop computer, he cruised around Fisherman’s Wharf. According to the story, it didn’t take long to strike pay dirt and obtain unique serial numbers from two passersby who were carrying electronic or e-passports – and they were just 20 feet away.

In 2006, a student at the University of Cambridge reportedly demonstrated that a transmission between a passport embedded with an RFID chip and a legitimate reader could be intercepted from as far away as 160 feet.

RFIDs in passports, maybe driver’s licenses – what’s next?

On April 20, VeriChip Corporation of Delray Beach, Fla., issued a press release to announce that it has developed the “VeriMed Health Link System.” According to VeriChip, “This system uses the first human-implantable passive RFID microchip cleared for medical use in 2004 by the United States Food and Drug Administration.”

In 2006, CNN’s Daniel Steinberg interviewed Bruce Schneier, a security expert with Counterpane Internet Security, Inc.

“The dark side of RFID,” said Schneier, “is surreptitious access.”

The following year, Neville Pattinson, a vice-president for government affairs at Gemalto, Inc., penned an article in Privacy Advisor in which he was critical of using RFIDs in driver’s licenses and passports, pointing out that it would leave the holder vulnerable “to attacks from hackers, identity thieves, and possibly terrorists.”

Just last month, AP National Writer Todd Lewan reported that Homeland Security has been promoting the use of RFIDs in spite of its own advisory committee’s warning for potential “widespread surveillance of individuals” without their knowledge. Ominously, Lee Tien, a surveillance expert with Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned that it won’t take a massive government project to build RFID reader networks.

“They will grow organically, for commercial purposes, from convention centers to shopping malls, sports stadiums to college campuses.”

As I see it, Congress needs to scrutinize this new technology and pass laws to protect individual privacy.

John R. Stoeffler, a Ballwin resident, is the president and co-founder of the Madison Forum, a constitutional think tank, dedicated to upholding the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.