Daily Archives: October 18, 2009

Obama’s unrestrained FBI: Is this America?

Is this right? Obama’s unrestrained FBI: Is this America?

htrnews.com | Oct 15, 2009

by Nat Hentoff

In the last weeks of the Bush-Cheney administration, FBI Director Robert Mueller and then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed into law such unbounded expansions of the FBI’s domestic surveillance powers that I was stunned. Years ago, I had often and critically reported on J. Edgar Hoover’s ravenous invasions of Americans’ personal privacy rights, including mine; but these new FBI guidelines, taking effect last Dec. 1, are unsparingly un-American.

As described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an ever-watchful guardian of the Constitution, these Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations authorize the FBI — without going to a court — “to open investigative ‘assessments’ of any American without any factual predicate or suspicion. Such ‘assessments’ allow the use of intrusive techniques to surreptitiously collect information on people suspected of no wrongdoing and no connection with any foreign entity. These inquiries may include the collection of information from online sources and commercial databases.”

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The press has largely been uninterested in this suspension of the Bill of Rights — but we know a lot about David Letterman.

President Barack Obama has expressed no objections to these radical revisions of the Constitution, a founding document he used to educate students about at the University of Chicago. His attorney general, Eric Holder, said calmly during his Senate confirmation hearing: “The guidelines are necessary because the FBI is changing its mission … from a pure investigating agency to one that deals with national security.”

It was the same Eric Holder who said, while George W. Bush was president: “I never thought that I would see the day when a president would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA (National Security Agency) surveillance of American citizens.”

But then-Sen., and now President, Obama approves of the all-seeing NSA — in keeping with his lack of interest in reforming the perilous health of our founding values as they are being systematically infected by the FBI.

It was only on Sept. 29 that we citizen civilians were able to actually, though partially, look inside the 258-page “FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guidelines (DIOG).” For months, the Electronic Frontier Foundation had been trying, through the Freedom of Information Act, to find out if we’ll have any privacy left. At last, the lurking report came heavily censored.

According to the Associated Press (Oct. 1), Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney David Sobel is “more concerned with what the FBI removed from its guidelines for public consumption than what it disclosed.” He added that this heavily “edited version blacked out descriptions of how the FBI pursues investigative ‘assessments’ of Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing — and how it uses informants in political, civil and religious organizations …”

I ask again: Is this America?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is going back to court to get the Obama administration to remember why we — and they — are Americans …

On “Inside the FBI” (www.fbi.gov/inside/archive/inside011609.htm) on Jan. 16, the FBI’s leading attorney, General Counsel Valerie Caproni, talks about surveilling college students interning at technology businesses for links to terrorists. “Are they a bunch of English majors and music majors? If so, they’re probably not stealing high technology. On the other hand, if they’re engineering or computer science people, then you might be more interested in them.”

It’s “enough to open an investigation,” she continued. For example, “if someone comes in (to the FBI) and says ‘Charlie seems to be acting really hinky, and he’s staying in labs after hours and I saw him taking papers home.'”

This “hinky” student, Charlie, could be a grind, obsessively trying to get to the top of his class. But according to the FBI’s Caproni, why not see what his contacts are? What sites does he visit a lot on the Web?

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Naked airport scanners in child porn uproar

body scanner at Manchester Airport

A combination of images shows an airport staff member demonstrating a full body scan at Manchester Airport. Photo: AFP

The Age | Oct 16, 2009

by Asher Moses

Manchester Airport has been forced to rethink trials of its invasive new X-ray machine after claims the “naked” images of airline passengers could violate child pornography laws.

This week, the airport began a year-long trial of the full-body scanner, which can instantly detect any hidden weapons or explosives without passengers having to remove any of their clothing – such as shoes and belts – for a search.

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It effectively does away with the need to frisk passengers and is expected to speed up the security process at airports, but the cost of that is passengers are starkly naked in front of security staff. Genital outlines are clearly visible on the screen.

The scanner’s manufacturer, RapiScan, is already eyeing further airports around the world. A few weeks ago it sold 30 of the $US160,000 ($174,000) scanners to the US Transportation Security Administration, Forbes reported.

The Times in Britain reported that the number sold to the US was closer to 1000.

The technology has already been trialled at Heathrow airport and if the trials are successful it could be rolled out across Britain.

But British children’s advocate Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) said the technology would fall foul of the country’s Protection of Children Act, which states it is an offence to “‘show” and “make” an indecent image of a child.

The group said it was irrelevant that the naked images were not stored and that parents’ permission was required before children could be scanned. It pointed to a provision in the act outlawing “pseudo-photographs”.

A child rights campaigner, Shy Keenan, told Sky News: “We can’t allow a line to be crossed in case perverts try to say they were only looking at images for a short time and weren’t storing them.”

Manchester Airport initially argued that its scanner was lawful and exempt from the child pornography laws because it was used for the “prevention and detection of crime”. ARCH said a good reason was required to qualify for this exemption.

The airport admitted on Thursday that it might be illegal for children to use the scanner. It said it would not allow anyone under 18 to use the device if it is advised the practice is unlawful.

“Since a number of people have been in touch and pointed out that there might be a problem, we have ourselves been in touch with charities working in this area to take further advice,” an airport spokesman told The Register.

“As far as Manchester Airport is concerned, we are not in the business of endangering children – our only interest is in making sure all passengers get on the plane safely. We will abide by the advice given by experts in this area.”

US judge upholds censoring CIA prisoner testimony

camp dleta

A US Army guard opens the gate at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba, in 2004

AFP | Oct 16, 2009
WASHINGTON — A federal court upheld Friday the US government’s decision to censor statements made by Guantanamo Bay detainees about their treatment at Central Intelligence Agency-run prisons.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a human rights group, had argued that the government should declassify redacted information contained in statements that detainees made before tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.

But Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday declined the ACLU’s request, which was made under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The court finds that defendants have shown that damage to national security would reasonably result if the detainees’ statements were disclosed, and that defendants did not classify portions of the detainees’ statements to conceal violations of the law or prevent embarrassment,” Lamberth wrote.

Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project slammed the decision and the US government’s insistence on fighting declassification of the material.

“The court’s ruling allows the government to continue suppressing these first-hand accounts of torture — not to protect any legitimate national security interest, but to protect current and former government officials from accountability,” he said

“While much is known about the Bush administration’s torture program, the CIA continues to censor the most important eyewitnesses – the torture victims themselves.”

Wizner said the transcripts of testimony provided by detainees, including the self-described mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, would provide “critical” information about “the CIA’s torture program.” The ACLU said it plans to appeal the ruling.

Mohamed was among a number of so-called high value detainees who were detained at CIA-run prisons located at secret sites overseas. He was transferred along with 13 other high-value detainees to Guantanamo in 2006.

CIA methods may have altered suspects’ memories

AP | Sep 22, 2009

By Pamela Hess

WASHINGTON — Prolonged stress from the CIA’s harsh interrogations could have impaired the memories of terrorism suspects, diminishing their ability to recall and provide the detailed information the spy agency sought, according to a scientific paper published Monday.

The methods could even have caused the suspects to create — and believe — false memories, contends the paper, which scrutinizes the techniques used by the CIA under the Bush administration through the lens of neurobiology.

“Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions … suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended,” according to the paper in the scientific journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Shane O’Mara, a professor at Ireland’s Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, said he reviewed the scientific literature about the effect of stress on memory and brain function after reading descriptions of the interrogation methods. Those were detailed in previously classified legal memos released in April.

O’Mara did not examine or interview any of those interrogated by the CIA, a fact noted by the agency in commenting on his work.

“The CIA’s former interrogation program was conducted pursuant to legal guidance from the Department of Justice. It produced intelligence on which our government acted to disrupt terrorist operations. Those are facts,” CIA spokesman George Little said.

CIA fuels suspicion with fight over JFK-era documents

NY Times | Oct 17, 2009

By Scott Shane

WASHINGTON — Is the CIA covering up some dark secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Probably not. But you would not know it from the agency’s behavior.

For six years, the CIA has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963, when an anti-Castro Cuban group it paid clashed publicly with the soon-to-be assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The agency says it is only protecting legitimate secrets.

The files in question involve the curious career of George Joannides, the case officer who oversaw and helped finance the dissident Cubans in 1963. In 1978, the agency made Joannides the liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations but never told the committee of his earlier role.

That concealment has fueled suspicion that Joannides’ real assignment was to limit what the House committee could learn about CIA activities.

The agency’s deception was first reported in 2001 by Jefferson Morley, a journalist and author who has pursued the files ever since, represented by a Washington lawyer specializing in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

“The CIA’s conduct is maddening,” said Morley, 51, a former Washington Post reporter.

After years of meticulous reporting on Joannides, who died at age 68 in 1990, he is convinced that there is more to learn. “I know there’s a story here,” Morley said. “The confirmation is that the CIA treats these documents as extremely sensitive.”

Gerald Posner, the author of an anti-conspiracy account of the Kennedy assassination, “Case Closed,” said the CIA’s withholding of such aged documents is “a perfect example of why nobody trusts the agency.”

Posner said that if there really were something explosive involving the CIA and Kennedy, it would not be in the files.

The CIA last year released material confirming Joannides’ involvement with the Cubans. But the agency is withholding 295 specific documents from the 1960s and ’70s and refusing to confirm or deny the existence of many others.

Oozy new military robo can squeeze through tiny spaces

ANI | Oct 17, 2009

London, October 17 (ANI): A technology company has developed a new military robot that resembles an oozy blob, which has the ability to squeeze through all manner of cracks and crevices.

According to a report in The Sun, the ‘ChemBot’, made by technology company iRobot, can ooze and pulsate across the floor.

This little robot is not just a fun gimmick, as the company were in fact given military funding to build the blob.

The idea is that the palm-sized machine can assist in reconnaissance or search and rescue missions by transforming to fit through tiny spaces.

Its secret is a process called “jamming” which sees material changing between a semi-liquid and solid state by increasing and decreasing its density.

The ChemBot, short for chemical robot, features compartments filled with air and loosely packed particles within its flexible silicon skin.

When the air is removed, the decrease in pressure constricts the skin and the particles shift slightly to fill the void left by the air, resulting in the solidification of the compartment.

Beneath the skin is an incompressible fluid and an actuator that can vary its volume.

Still at an early stage of development, potential applications for ChemBots include space exploration, military operations and medical devices
that can be implanted in the human body.

They might also prove useful for rescue operations in hostile environments such as subterranean or undersea mines and caves. (ANI)

Judge: CIA misled Kennedy panel

Lee-Harvey-Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald after his arrest on Nov. 22, 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. (UPI Photo/Files)

UPI | Oct. 17, 2009

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) — A U.S. judge says the CIA probably misled the Assassination Records Review Board’s 1990s investigation into the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Federal Judge John Tunheim, who served in 1994 and 1995 as the chairman of the congressionally created board, told The New York Times evidence unearthed by a lawsuit indicates the agency wasn’t forthcoming about the role of its liaison to the board, the late CIA agent George Joannides.

“I think we were probably misled by the agency,” Tunheim said, referring to since-revealed records that dealt with Joannides’ role within the agency.

The documents showed that even as he served as the CIA liaison to the board, as it examined the activities of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Kennedy’s death, Joannides’ role as the case officer overseeing Miami dissident Cuban groups in 1963 was never revealed, the Times said Saturday.

Oswald physically clashed with the Cuban dissidents two months before the assassination and debated them on a radio program.

“If we’d known of his role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all his records,” Tunheim told the newspaper.