Daily Archives: May 24, 2012

London’s Amazingly Explicit Surveillance State Mascot For The 2012 Olympics Has A Huge Camera Eye That ‘Records Everything’

forbes.com | May 17, 2012

Olympic mascots are often controversial. Usually this is because they are weird blobby cartoon characters with goofy names that seem to have been dreamed up by creators who mainlined Mountain Dew Code Red while watching 24 straight hours of Pokemon. The official mascot for the 2012 Olympics, set in London, has that going for it but is also controversial for an entirely different reason. London, the premiere panoptic city was one of the first to blanket itself with CCTV cameras; its heavy security and surveillance cordon is nicknamed the Ring of Steel. London decided to make its surveillance yen a dominant feature of its otherwise goofy mascots. “Wenlock” and “Mandeville” both have a huge single eye made out of a camera lens so that they can “record everything.” Image at right is from the official London Olympics website.

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It’s not just Big Brother: even his toys are watching

Total surveillance is just another nail in the coffin of civil society.

watoday.com.au | May 20, 2012

by Guy Rundle

 


‘Wenlock, the cute CCTV mascot, becomes a mordant symbol of love, as stern a guarantor of safety as was, in time past, a trade union banner or a crucifix.’

TWO years ago, the London Olympic Committee to smiles all round, unveiled the 2012 Games official mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville – cartoonish aliens, each with one eye in the middle of the head.

The committee couldn’t have been more chuffed, but pride turned to dismay once the public had a chance to react, pointing out en masse that the duo did indeed symbolise London, but only because the creature resembled the city’s most ubiquitous presence, the street CCTV, the beige, rectangular cameras bolted to every street corner, every wall.

The committee had got it right, of course. For most Londoners, the Olympics will be experienced as little more than a series of security crackdowns and prohibitions – on assembly, on free movement, even on public transport use.

The enormous security presence will include licensing of foreign security agencies to deploy operatives and force during the Games fortnight, the promulgation of a host of new laws banning protests anywhere near the stadiums and, most recently, the attempt to introduce legislation to allow GCHQ – the real British spy agency, hidden behind the more visible MI5 and MI6 – to monitor the sender, receiver, date and time of all phonecalls and emails made in Britain, without a warrant.

Supporters of this measure insisted that it was essential for the Olympics. Yet even though protest has now delayed the introduction of the measures until well after the Games, incredibly, they are still going ahead. The crackdown rolls on automatically.

Nor is the process confined to Britain. In the US, a new comprehensive security bill, the NDAA Act, authorises a whole new range of powers beyond the Patriot Act, including the imprisonment without trial of US citizens. There’s random drug-testing of civil servants (Florida), making it illegal to debate whether Armenia suffered a genocide (France), a two-month jail term for some offensive remarks on Twitter (Britain), and on and on.

These initiatives have become so many, self-generating and interconnected that anyone wanting to oppose them has to recognise that some stage of resisting them is over, lost. Something has gone, and it is worth trying to work out what it was and what has replaced it.

What has departed is usually known as liberal society, but it goes deeper than the principles of one political ideology. What has gone is what one might call ”citizen-society”, a society based on a set of beliefs about public life – that speech should be free unless it contains direct menace, for example. But it also involved a host of more particular practices. That of reciprocal recognition, for example – that if a police officer can see you as you go about your law-abiding life, you should be able to see her/him, rather than being spied on. For nearly 200 years in the West, we have in general been on a trajectory towards a more comprehensive citizen-society. Why has it started to reverse with such energy?

The short answer is what for any other matter would be called a long answer – the long answer would take the whole newspaper.

Left and liberal movements in the modern era made it impossible for the state to clamp down for long. But these faltered in the 1970s, and a new type of liberalism, so-called neoliberalism, took over, in which liberty resided in the exchange of goods rather than ideas. Citizens became consumers.

Society became the market. Collective dissent atomised and was treated as criminal, and the most cost-effective solution was to apply technologies of surveillance and control. Sections of the left contributed the idea of behavioural reshaping, from ”offensive speech” to ”nudge” theory, dealing a further blow to social citizenship.

Then came 9/11, and it became possible to connect social control to national defence. Real terrorist threats mingled with wildly exaggerated ones.

Total surveillance was offered not merely as the means but the symbol of social wellbeing. An event such as the Olympics becomes little more than a ritual of security and population management, with sport as a pretext. Believing, with Mrs Thatcher, that there is ”no such thing” as society, we have nowhere to go but technology.

Wenlock, the cute CCTV mascot, becomes a mordant symbol of love, as stern a guarantor of safety as was, in time past, a trade union banner or a crucifix.

When the merchandisers came to offer soft-toy versions of the character, as they did a few months ago, it was inevitable that Wenlock and Mandeville would appear dressed as police officers. What else could they be?

And what answer is there to this deep dilemma, one that increasing numbers now recognise? There is none offered here, and the occasional desperate reprieve – such as the quick-fix delay by which the GCHQ’s total surveillance proposal has been removed from public view – should not be used to hide from the reality of an onslaught.

But the first and most important task in responding to an event is to recognise that it has happened, that what looks like a thousand small defeats is one big disaster.

Drones, missiles and gunships: Welcome to the 2012 London Olympics


A missile defence battery is deployed in London as part of an operation earlier this month to test security for the London 2012 Olympics. (May 2, 2012)
Peter Macdiarmid/GETTY IMAGES

thestar.com | May 21 2012

by Dave Zirin

As many as 48,000 security forces. 13,500 troops. Surface-to-air missiles stationed on top of residential apartment buildings. A sonic weapon that disperses crowds by creating “head-splitting pain.” Unmanned drones peering down from the skies. A safe zone, cordoned off by an 18-kilometre electrified fence, ringed with trained agents and 55 teams of attack dogs.

One would be forgiven for thinking that these were the counter-insurgency tactics used by U.S. army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. But instead of being used in a war zone, they in fact make up the very visible security apparatus in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London, which has the most street cameras per capita of any city on Earth, has since the terror attacks of 7/7/05 been a city whose political leaders spare no expense to monitor its own citizens. But the Olympic operation goes above and beyond anything we’ve ever seen when a western democracy hosts the Games.

Not even China in 2008 used drone planes or ringed the proceedings with a massive, high-voltage fence. But here is London, preparing a counter-insurgency, and parking an aircraft carrier right in the Thames. Here is London adding “scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints.”

The number of troops will exceed the forces the U.K. has had in Afghanistan.

It’s not just the costs or the incredible invasion into people’s privacy. It’s the powers being given to police under the 2006 “London Olympic Games Act” which empowers not only the army and police, but also private security forces to deal with “security issues” using physical force. These “security issues” have been broadly defined to include everything from “terrorism” to peaceful protesters, to labour unions, to people selling bootleg Olympic products on the streets, to taking down any corporate presence that doesn’t have the Olympic seal of approval. To help them with the last part, there will be “brand protection teams” set loose around the city. These “teams” will also operate inside Olympic venues to make sure no one “wears clothes or accessories with commercial messages other than the manufacturers who are official sponsors.

And, as the Guardian reported: “Officers have powers to move on anyone considered to be engaged in anti-social behaviour, whether they are hanging around the train station, begging, soliciting, loitering in hoodies or deemed in any way to be causing a nuisance.”

Not to shock anyone, but there are no signs that any of the security apparatus will be dismantled once the Olympics are over. Local police forces have just been given an inordinate number of new toys and the boxes have been opened, the receipts tossed away.

London will be left with a high-tech police force, terrible debt, higher taxes, with a camera around every corner. The only people who will leave this party enriched will be the private security industry who will tout “the peace” as their personal accomplishment, encouraging more of the global 1 per cent to get more guards, more walls, and more separation from the great unwashed.

There is no reason that the Olympics have to be this way. There is no reason that an international celebration of sports can’t take place without drones and aircraft carriers. There is no reason athletes from across the globe can’t join together and showcase their physical potential.

But the Olympics aren’t about sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy. The Olympics are not about athletes. And they’re definitely not about bringing together “the community of nations.” They are a neo-liberal Trojan Horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties.

In many ways, this is what the Games have always been. From Hitler’s Berlin Olympics in 1936, to the slaughter of students in 1968 in Mexico City, to the gang sweeps in Los Angeles in 1984, to Beijing’s mass displacement of citizens in 2008, the “crackdown” has always been a part of the Olympic Games. But in the post-Sept. 11 world, the stakes are even higher to expose this for what it is. The Olympics have become the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine to down, and the medicine is that our elected leaders have seen the enemy, and it is all of us.

DARPA Officially Opens New Bomb-Proof ‘People-Friendly’ Facility


The new DARPA headquarters at 675 N. Randolph St. in Ballston. Credit: Jason Spencer

Local, state and federal officials say they worked for years to keep the agency that gave the world the Internet in Arlington.

More than 38 tons of paper was shredded while packing up the old location.

ballston.patch.com | May 22, 2012

By Jason Spencer

The government agency that gave birth to the Internet, unmanned drones and stealth technology officially settled in to its new location Tuesday at 675 N. Randolph St., just east of Ballston Common Mall.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is essentially the brain of the Department of Defense. It had been located near Arlington Central Library, but area representatives have worried it would leave Arlington — a community already coming to grips with the loss of an estimated 20,000 jobs as part of the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process.

“Every community in the country wanted DARPA,” U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., told Patch. “…It was politics and policy that enabled us to keep it here.”

Arlington did more than keep it. The public and private sector advocates working on the project fully integrated it into the Ballston neighborhood.

The $86 million, 13-story building includes more than 300,000 square feet. It is expected to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum designation. And it features a secure conference center, a controlled parking garage and outdoor amenities that blend seamlessly into the surrounding community.

“It’s fair to say that nobody got hit harder by BRAC than Arlington County,” Arlington County Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes said at the opening ceremony. “But our leadership at the time said what’s most important is to hold on to DARPA. DARPA is the center of the wonderful knowledge economy that’s become part of our identity.”

The site at 675 N. Randolph St. is a brownfield, or abandoned site, that has been transformed through federal and other funding. Hynes pointed out that longtime residents of nearby neighborhoods like Ashton Heights and Buckingham had to compromise the vision they had for the area, but she said they did so out of service to the work DARPA does and its importance to the country and economy.

Hynes pointed out the green lawns, trees, sidewalks, benches and other amenities that make the DARPA campus interact with the community. Later, she said it doesn’t have the “no-people zone” feeling found at many government facilities.

“This is what we need to show the rest of the country,” Hynes told a room full of dignitaries. “Because scientists stuck at the end of subway lines or out in the middle of nowhere don’t have the same experience as scientists who are in a living place where other people also work.”

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, the Department of Defense implemented a new series of anti-terrorism standards. The decision was made to move DARPA into a new building that met those standards. Moran said those standards range from the building being a specific number of feet back from the sidewalk to making the entire building “bomb-proof.”

Kaigham J. Gabriel, acting director of DARPA, said the move had been planned for about seven years. He said more than 1,100 people have been moved into the new building, with “hundreds more” to follow. More than 4,500 packing crates will be moved to the new site. And more than 38 tons of paper was shredded while packing up the old location, he said.

“While our time in the old building is finished, the agency’s work continues. And we have a fresh start,” Gabriel said. “Let’s make it count.”

Construction at 675 N. Randolph St. began in January 2009. John Shooshan, president and CEO of the Shooshan Co., estimated construction affected 10,000 jobs, from construction to materials.

Shooshan called completion of the new DARPA facility “a blessing.”

“When you think about the people who come to work here every day, they’re the best and the brightest,” Shooshan told Patch. “It’s a dream come true.”

The Shooshan Co. leases the building to the General Services Administration. It is administered by Washington Headquarters Services.

DARPA is the kind of anchor tenant that draws everything from hotels to cutting-edge research firms to a community, Moran said. Work in Richmond to keep the agency in Arlington spanned the administration of three governors and at least two generations of state senators.

“DARPA is basically one of the key sources of innovation for the Department of Defense. This is not a lab. But we reach out to creative people all over the country — bringing people together, funding projects at universities,” said Norman Whitaker, deputy director for the agency’s Information Innovation Office.

“We didn’t know back then what the next Internet would be. But we’ve got a lot of things going.”

DARPA began as a reaction to Sputnik, he said. Its mission is to make sure national security isn’t jeopardized by “technological surprise.”

One area the agency is currently breaking ground in is prosthetics — and giving people the ability to move artificial limbs with just their thoughts, he said.

“People come here with a vision,” he said. “And they see it through.”

Secret Service agents engaged in 64 acts of sexual misconduct in five years


Prostitute Dania Suarez triggered the scandal when an agent refused to pay her $800.

US Secret Service agents have been accused of more than 60 acts of sexual misconduct in recent years, it emerged Wednesday, as senators grilled the agency’s director over his handling of the Colombian prostitute scandal.

Telegraph | May 23, 2012

By Raf Sanchez, Washington

Six weeks after it was revealed that members of President Barack Obama’s elite bodyguard had hired prostitutes ahead of a major international summit, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan apologised to a congressional hearing but denied there was a widespread culture among his agents.

However, his claim to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy towards misbehaviour by agents was met with scepticism from by a committee of US Senators, who detailed a long list of alleged impropriety by the Secret Service.

Senator Joe Lieberman said the Service’s own records showed 64 allegations or complaints of sexual behavior by employees in the last five years.

While many of these involved sending sexual emails there were at least instances of agents beginning relationships with foreigner nationals, something strictly against the rules of an agency tasked with protecting the President.

Mr Lieberman also said one agent had been accused of “non-consensual intercourse”, while Mr Sullivan admitted that another had been fired after trying to hire a prostitute in Washington, who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Senators seized on the long record as proof that April’s incident in Cartagena, Colombia, was not an isolated incident.

Eight agents have so far lost their jobs over the scandal, which only emerged after one of them refused to pay a prostitute the $800 he had drunkenly promised.

Senator Susan Collins, the most senior Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Colombian incident was “morally repugnant” and “not a one-time event”.

“The circumstances unfortunately suggest an issue of culture,” she said.

Mr Sullivan, who has so far retained his job and the confidence of the Obama administration, said he could “understand” the allegation but insisted that the vast majority of his 7,000 employees were among “the most dedicated, hardest working, self-sacrificing” members of the US government.

He added that the scandal was the work of a small minority and he apologised “for the conduct of these employees and the distraction it has caused.”

While Mr Sullivan has earned praise for his seemingly decisive handling of the incident, which has also implicated 12 military personnel, he faces the worrying possibility of a fresh eruption after it emerged that four of the sacked agents would appeal against their dismissals.

The appeals raise the prospect of fresh and damning details emerging.

Senate Democrats move to increase cost of getting groped and irradiated by the TSA

thehill.com | May 23, 2012

By Erik Wasson

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday moved forward with legislation to increase airline passenger security fees, beating back a GOP attempt to keep them at current levels.

The 2013 Homeland Security appropriations bill would increase one-way fees for passengers from $2.50 to $5 in order to close a budget shortfall at the Transportation Security Administration.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said the $315 million in funding would otherwise come from taxpayers and argued it is better to stick passengers who rely on TSA with the bill.

TSA Groping About to Become More Expensive

You May Have To Pay More To Be Groped And Scanned By The TSA

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) sponsored an amendment to strip out the fee increase and offset the loss of revenue with cuts to state and local grants, emergency food and shelter funding, and dropping $89 million in funding for a new highway interchange leading to the Homeland Security’s new headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C. Hutchison noted that the Senate had decided not to increase the fees in the recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

That amendment was defeated on a 15-15 vote. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) joined Republicans in supporting the measure to strip out the fee increase.

Hutchinson joined Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) in voting against the DHS bill as a whole. Johnson and Moran have been voting against non-defense 2013 appropriations bills. Johnson has said his votes are protesting the lack of a Senate budget resolution. The other Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee have all voted to support the August debt ceiling deal levels.

The committee on Tuesday also approved the 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, traditionally the least controversial of all 12 annual spending bills. The vote was 30-0.