Monthly Archives: October 2012

TSA Wants To Track All ‘Daily Travels To Work, Grocery Stores & Social Events’

It seems as if the massive DHS database of secret watchlists will continue to grow with U.S. citizens’ names even if the threat of terrorism does not.

While the TSA can’t explain why invasive patdowns without probable cause are legal, that isn’t stopping TSA from future plans to track all your daily travels, anywhere you go, from work, to stores, or even when you go out to play. | Aug 23, 2012

By Ms. Smith

When the TSA was asked to provide legal reasons that definitely spelled out why physically invasive patdowns are legal, without any probable cause, not one TSA person had an answer. There was no legal documentation for enhanced patdowns other than it serves “the essential administrative purpose.”

Peep show, police state or privacy invasion, patdowns and body scans are not just in airports. EPIC said DHS is refusing to disclose details of mobile body scanner technology. In fact, in answer to EPIC’s FOIA request, DHS handed over “several papers that were completely redacted.”

Meanwhile at airports, the TSA is rolling out “less-invasive gingerbread man” body scanners to a tune of $2.7 million for 240 machines. At this point, I don’t think skinnier versions of the Pillsbury Doughboy via kinder and gentler naked body scans are going to placate people who are secretly murmuring that America is truly becoming a police state. Spending countless billions of dollars on all this ‘security theater’ makes it look like the TSA is “doing their best to ensure that if there’s a terrorist attack the public doesn’t blame the TSA for missing it.”

According to TSA Blogger Bob, in the 10 years after 9/11, there have been vast improvements and new technology as well as a “professionalized workforce” of Transportation Security Officers. Professional as in claiming no more enhanced groping of children under 12, only to break that promise and seemingly molest this little boy dressed as Spiderman?

The Los Angeles Times reported on TSA launching a behavior-detection program at Boston’s Logan International Airport. These TSA officers received a whopping two weeks of training and are supposed to ask each passenger a “few” questions “in an effort to detect suspicious behavior.” Doesn’t this seem like yet another strike at your privacy? Some people are stressed or even nervous when they are traveling. What if you don’t feel like talking or being questioned? Is this too going to become yet another TSA-mandated “you will answer if you want the privilege of flying?”

A MSNBC travel article warned that when it comes to airport security, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Some security analysts suggest Big Brother will employ an even Bigger Brother in the form of “chip-embedded passports that someday tell the federal transportation watchdogs all about your daily commutes to work, the mall — even to parties.”

Other security analysts suggest it will all be about “gathering intelligence technologically” or that increased biometrics is the security answer. The Known Traveler Program will launch this fall so previously known and trusted travelers will “have bar codes stamped on their boarding passes, authorizing TSA screeners to allow those passengers to skip shoe and laptop removals.” TSA Administrator John Pistole said, “Enhancing identity-based screening is another common sense step in the right direction as we continue to strengthen overall security and improve the passenger experience whenever possible.”

So even though the TSA is building up its ranks with bomb-sniffing dogs, there will be dramatic changes in store for travelers within the next 30 years. There will be biometric fingerprinting as well as other biometric and personal info stored in government databases.

Senior policy analyst at the Center for Health and Homeland Security Vernon R. Herron told MSNBC that your official travel document “will not only have information as to who you are and where you have traveled, but it will also … allow government officials to track your travel not only in the air, but your daily travels to work, grocery stores and social events.” In the future the “government will detain passengers who have traveled to places that are suspicious in nature” once they enter an airport, Herron added. “All these measures seem extreme. However, after we declared a war on terror, we must be more proactive than reactive when it comes to airport security.”

Ah, again with the “suspicious” lists even if it’s places to which you traveled this time. Regarding the dreaded list after list of supposed suspicious activity, are they meant to keep the public in a state of paranoia and fear so they just roll over and watch it happen? Digg commenter leodin said, “Strange… The actual threat of terrorism hasn’t increased, and the odds of actually dying in a terrorist attack make the lottery look like a sound investment, and yet the government seems insistent upon taking more and more measures to protect us from these imaginary threats.”

It seems as if the massive DHS database of secret watchlists will continue to grow with U.S. citizens’ names even if the threat of terrorism does not.

Mind’s Eye surveillance to watch, identify and predict human behavior

The future surveillance society world could have a very Orwellian no-privacy flavor.

Carnegie Mellon researchers, taking part in DARPA’s Mind’s Eye program, have created visually intelligent software to recognize human activities in video and then predict what might happen next. | Oct 29, 2012

By Ms. Smith

If a person holding a gun were to walk up to you, what might you think would happen next? Researchers from Carnegie Mellon have created intelligent software that will identify human activities in videos and then predict what might happen next. It should come as little surprise that the spookily named ‘Mind’s Eye’ program is sponsored by DARPA’s Information Innovation Office.  

“A truly ‘smart’ camera would be able to describe with words everything it sees and reason about what it cannot see,” said DARPA. Visually intelligent technology previously ‘thought’ in terms of nouns to describe a scene, but Carnegie Mellon researchers have made smart software that can also think in terms of action verbs. “A video shows a woman carrying a box into a building. Later, it shows her leaving the building without it. What was she doing?” asked Carnegie Mellon University.

The Mind’s Eye software “will compare the video motion to actions it’s already been trained to recognize (such as walk, jump, and stand) and identify patterns of actions (such as pick up and carry). The software examines these patterns to infer what the person in the video is doing. It also makes predictions about what is likely to happen next and can guess at activities that might be obscured or occur off-camera.”

Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center explained the image below as: “The Mind’s Eye program will automate video analysis – recognizing current behavior, interpolating actions that occur off-camera, and predicting future behavior.”

The next step is to make the ‘Cognitive Engine’ even smarter. According to the report “Using Ontologies in a Cognitive-Grounded System: Automatic Action Recognition in Video Surveillance”, the researchers “plan to extend the system functionalities in order to support a wider range of action verbs and run tests on a large video dataset.”

DARPA explained, “In the first 18 months of the program, Mind’s Eye demonstrated fundamentally new capabilities in visual intelligence, including the ability of automated systems to recognize actions they had never seen, describe observed events using simple text messages, and flag anomalous behaviors.” Carnegie Mellon is one of twelve research teams and three commercial integrators participating in the five-year Mind’s Eye Program.

Previously, BRS Labs had the “smartest AI suspicious behavioral recognition system” with “the capability to learn from what it observes, remember activity patterns and adjust to changes in the environment, field of view and equipment – without manual interaction.” Phys reported that the Carnegie Mellon “researchers’ approach is designed to help prevent crimes or dangerous events from happening.” The newest visually intelligent software “system would eventually sound an alarm if it recognized that an action was not permitted, detecting anomalous behaviors. One example of such a scenario would be the cameras at an airport or bus station, flagging a bag abandoned for more than a few minutes.” This Army-funded AI research was disclosed “at the Semantic Technology for Intelligence, Defense, and Security conference at George Mason University.”

The Mind’s Eye system could potentially be used to analyze live drone footage. Who knows, it might even be integrated to work with the unblinking surveillance stare of the Army’s 7-story flying football field-sized blimp? It will likely be embraced in the future by the police and by the military to keep soldiers out of harm’s way. It might have home security applications, watching the surveillance video and alerting home owners with a text message before burglars break in.

On the creepy privacy invasion side of the coin, it’s one more surveillance technology hunting suspicious behavior. Let’s hope the researchers get it right because when added to social media surveillance helping the government read your mind and future TSA plans to track all ‘daily travels to work, grocery store and social events’, the future surveillance society world could have a very Orwellian no-privacy flavor.

TSA barcode flaw allows terrorists to bypass security | Oct 26, 2012

by Emma Woollacott

A vulnerability in the system for US domestic airline boarding cards could tell terrorists when it’s safe to take unauthorized items on board.

Under what’s known as the PreCheck system, certain randomly-chosen frequent fliers are allowed to skip part of the normal security processes, such as removing shoes and taking laptops out of bags.

Passengers can become eligible for the PreCheck system by paying $100 to the US customs agency, which then carries out a background check. Frequent fliers are also often enrolled for free.

The information on whether or not a particular passenger is to be given an easier ride is contained in a barcode on his or her boarding card.

But according to aviation expert John Butler, it’s possible for passengers to use their smartphone to discover what type of security check they’re about to face, 24 hours in advance.

“The problem is, the passenger and flight information encoded in barcode is not encrypted in any way. Using a web site I decoded my boarding pass for my upcoming trip,” he says.

“It’s all there, PNR, seat assignment, flight number, name, ect. But what is interesting is the bolded three on the end. This is the TSA Pre-Check information. The number means the number of beeps. 1 beep no Pre-Check, 3 beeps yes Pre-Check.  On this trip as you can see I am eligible for Pre-Check.”

The flaw was first detected back in July, when the barcode data was analyzed by a poster on the flyertalk forum. Characters 104 and 105, he says, reveal whether a passenger has been selected for the full security process or not.

Astonishingly, much of the information needed to decode the barcode is published online in the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) implementation guide.

Most worryingly, says Butler, the data could even be used to create fake boarding cards with PreCheck eligibility.

“Thankfully, there is a really simple solution: encode the information before putting it on the boarding pass,” he says.

At least 400 TSA agents caught stealing passenger’s items

Hand over them bags and git yer hands up!

Travelers need to be more cautious when flying this holiday season | Oct 25 2012

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Federal Agency has recently come under fire after national news outlets caught agents stealing red-handed.   

This comes right around the same time the Transportation Security Administration is releasing the top 20 airports for employee theft.

For anyone wondering how safe their luggage is when they leave it at the gate, they have every right to be following the release of TSA’s theft statistics.

Jewellery stolen by TSA worker, surveillance footage deleted when traveler complained

The Federal Agency announced they’ve fired 400 of their employees for stealing. Some gave the items away as gifts, others tried to sell them online or kept them.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, TSA was also released the airports where theft is happening the most.

Number one is Miami International Airport followed by JFK in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Dallas.

Orlando International Airport came in at number 11 for TSA thefts.

A large part of the equation are international airports.

“When you have an airport, international, these things have a propensity to happen,” Channel 4’s Safety Expert Ken Jefferson said.

Jefferson said if someone has something of great value, ship it UPS or FEDEX and have it insured.

The other option if the items are small enough, is to check it as a carry on. But if it’s not small enough, it’s not worth the risk to check it.

“The people who we trust the most are the ones stealing from us,”Jefferson added.

“There’s always a few bad apples,” passenger Dave Andorsoezslo said. “Some are honest. I feel my bag is safe and you always wonder what’s going on in the back of your mind.”

Channel 4 didn’t find any passengers who have had items stolen themselves, only passengers who want to believe it won’t happen to them.

“You hate to think ill of the population, but I guess you run that risk right,” passenger Mike Durden said. “So I don’t know how you protect against everybody 100 percent.”

Jewellery stolen by TSA worker, surveillance footage deleted when traveler complained

Deleted evidence: After those 30 days, security footage like this one seen here, that may have captured the alleged theft had been deleted by the TSA

My jewellery was snatched by a TSA worker and they deleted the surveillance footage when I complained, claims passenger | Oct 28, 2012

By Nina Golgowski

A Boston woman claims TSA agents walked off with thousands of dollars’ worth of jewellery from her luggage, amid a growing number of similar cases spanning the U.S.

Terri Ivester says it was an agent at Logan International Airport who stopped her at a security checkpoint took the bag, and returned it with the jewellery missing

‘The TSA agent holds my backpack up, says there’s a water bottle in this backpack, I’m going to have to take that,’ Mrs Ivester told CBS Boston.

Grabbing her bag, she says the agent left the area to remove the bottle.

400 TSA agents caught stealing passenger’s items

It wasn’t until she had arrived at her final destination in Chicago for a family Christening that she realized several pieces were missing.

‘I’m ready to put on my jewellery and I can’t find it,’ she said, claiming to be missing four pieces totalling $3,700.

‘It had gone through the scanner. I think they saw the jewels and I think they took them,’ she said.

Included in her theft she said was an 18-inch strand of pearls and a double stranded pearl bracelet featuring diamond baguettes.

Adding to her outrage, she says the TSA has notified her that any surveillance footage capturing her trip has since been erased.

While in the past security cameras have been used to capture theft, most recently in the news at New Jersey’s Newark airport, the TSA says they save the footage for only 30 days.

Mrs Ivester says that most of those days were consumed by her filing a report.

Since 2011, more than $60,000 in claims have been filed in Boston, with the TSA reimbursing less than $3,000 of them, CBS reports.

Unfortunately, Mrs Ivester’s case is similar to hundreds of others pouring in across the country.

In last 10 years, 382 TSA agents across the U.S. have been fired for theft.

In Boston, out of thousands hired, Logan’s Federal Security Director George Naccara said only six have been fired.

On a list of the top U.S. airports for TSA employees fired for theft, the airport competes with Denver International and San Diego International for 17th place because of those six thefts.

As the TSA puts it, collectively the number of officers fired ‘represents less than one-half of one per cent of officers that have been employed,’ they said in a statement obtained by ABC.

Microchip implants, tumors and cash

Company glosses over research pointing to health risks | Oct 3, 2007

By Jim Hightower

Untitled Document Have you been chipped? In another cabal of corporate and governmental officials, there’s been a steady push during the past few years to authorize and market microchip devices to be implanted into humans. An outfit named VeriChip Corp. is the chief pusher, asserting that implanting one of its radiofrequency ID chips into your upper arm can be a medical boon.

These electronic capsules transmit a unique code, says VeriChip, and if something happens to you hospital staff can run a scanner over your chip, get your code, and activate a database containing your medical history. VeriChip envisions a market of at least 45 million Americans sporting their very own RFID codes.

But — oops — one bit of info the corporation never mentioned is that studies have found that these implants have induced malignant tumors in lab mice and rats. “There’s no way in the world that I would have one of those chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members,” one eminent cancer expert says.

Where were our regulatory watchdogs? Too busy cheering on the chippers to ask tough questions about side effects. Tommy Thompson, the Bush appointee who oversaw the agency that approved VeriChip for use in humans, has been a vigorous promoter of such electronic medical technologies. Five months after Thompson resigned his cabinet position in 2005, guess where he went?

Right onto the board of directors of both VeriChip and its parent corporation, where he was paid $40,000 a year and given about $1 million worth of stock. Interestingly, while Thompson once told an interviewer that he would “absolutely” be willing to have a VeriChip implanted in his own arm, he never did. Maybe he felt that an injection of VeriChip cash would be better for his health.

Future Military Robots To Be More Quiet, Lethal And Intelligent

The U.S military along with DARPA have begun researching ways for soldiers to use their minds to remotely control androids. The Pentagon has earmarked $7million for research into the project, nicknamed Avatar. | Oct 27, 2012

Militaries across the globe have begun implementing the use of robots for various military and naval activities. From autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) to ground robots everybody wants a piece of the action.

Australia has also undertaken an ambitious robotics project, the MoD is looking to develop a new generation of unmanned maritime drones that would be used for anti-submarine warfare and possible missile attacks on enemy ships.

A fleet of Royal Navy unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) is already being used in the Gulf to help prevent Iran laying mines in important sea lanes, and ministers are now considering whether similar devices could be used to tackle pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Video: Pet-Proto biped robot/Terminator precursor terrifyingly navigating obstacles

The Russian Navy also plans to equip the unmanned submarines in which the issue of the creation of an autonomous unmanned submarines fleet has been in discussion since 1980. Large UUV programs exist in Australia, Great Britain, Sweden, Italy and other countries.

In the future, UUVs will be equipped with advances in machine intelligence, closed-system propulsion, long-life rechargeable batteries, digital data storage, through-water communications, and rugged-environment embedded digital signal, surveillance and reconnaissance relocatable covert communications and networking nodes; electronic warfare; anti-submarine tracking; and perhaps even weapons delivery.

Military robots are as popular; next week the Pentagon will launch one of its robots to achieve greater autonomy. The PackBot, a tracked robot used by US troops to help clear bombs in Afghanistan, will get a number of upgrades that will allows it to operate autonomously in some situations, according to Tim Trainer, a vice president for product management at iRobot.

Earlier this week, Israeli robotics developer Roboteam introduced a new miniature robot designed for intelligence gathering and counter IED operations.

The ultra-light, 13-lb, highly maneuverable robot can be carried by an individual soldier, climbs stairs and 60⁰ obstacles, operates effectively indoors utilizing secure MANET data link.


DARPA’s ‘Avatar project’ aims to give soldiers surrogate robots, make James Cameron proud

The U.S military along with DARPA have begun researching ways for soldiers to use their minds to remotely control androids. The Pentagon has earmarked $7million for research into the project, nicknamed Avatar.

The Pentagon recently began development of new chameleon robots. DARPA has built prototypes of the robot, which like a chameleon, changes color to blend in. The prototype is an early model with the robot tethered to the control system. DARPA officials said the next model will potential have more self contained hardware.

It is clear that the military robotics arena is far more advanced and developed in comparison with its naval counterparts.

According to various studies, the AUV market is set to expand up to $2.3 billion by 2019 while the military robotics field is expected to surpass $8 billion by 2016.

Pentagon developing robotic soldiers for future wars

The Pet-Proto robot (file photo) | Oct 28, 2012

The US Pentagon has begun a contest to advance its efforts to develop robotic soldiers to fight the wars of the future.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), which kicked off at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conference center in Arlington, Virginia on Wednesday, focuses on testing robots’ abilities to work in difficult situations designed for humans that “simulate conditions in a dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environment.”

US officials and the designers of the robots say they are only being built to provide emergency services during disasters and have made no comments on any possible military applications.

Video: Pet-Proto biped robot/Terminator precursor terrifyingly navigating obstacles

The DRC has four tracks, with teams participating in tracks B and C competing for access to a modified version of the Atlas robot for use in live disaster-response challenge events in 2013 and 2014.

One of the robots, called Pet-Proto, a predecessor of DARPA’s Atlas robot, can maneuver over and around obstacles, using “capabilities, including autonomous decision-making, dismounted mobility and dexterity.”

DARPA project leader Gill Pratt says the DRC is “about trying to use robots to improve the resiliency of the US and world to natural and man-made disasters.”

According to DARPA’s $2.8 billion budget for 2013, the US military’s research arm intends to invest $7 million in a project to create robotic partners for its soldiers.

The project, called the Avatar Project, was devised to “develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the solder’s surrogate,” DARPA announced.

Earlier this year, DARPA released a video of the robodog, which is capable of hauling a soldier’s gear and following the soldier using its “eyes” — which are actually sensors that can distinguish between trees, rocks, terrain obstacles, and people.

Cyberdyne Unveils Improved Robotsuit ‘HAL’

Both the names Cyberdyne and HAL may not be the best names to imply a positive omen for the robotic suit, given the connotation to the Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey movies. | Oct 21, 2012

by Wolfgang Gruener – source: Cyberdyne

Japan-based Cyberdyne unveiled a new, radiation-protected version of its exoskeleton HAL, which is designed to be used for workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Both the names Cyberdyne and HAL may not be the best names to imply a positive omen for the robotic suit, given the connotation to the Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey movies, but the manufacturer says that its improved Hybrid Assistive Limb suit is an ideal fit to provide a human cyborg-type robot assist that can be essential in an environment such as the severely damaged Fukushima plant.

From Cyberdyne’s product description:

“When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneurons, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. “HAL” catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint in unison with the wearer’s muscle movement, enabling HAL to support the wearer’s daily activities. […] Not only a ‘voluntary control system’ “HAL” [also] has a ‘robotic autonomous control system’ that provides human-like movement based on a robotic system which integrally work together with the ‘autonomous control system’. “HAL” is the world’s first cyborg-type robot controlled by this unique Hybrid System.”

The new version of HAL was shown at the Japan Robot Week 2012. In addition to the previous power units and exo-limbs, the new version is equipped with a 132-pound vest made out of tungsten to protect workers from radioactive radiation. Since the vest is largely supported by the powered units of HAL, Cybedyne says it has virtually no effect on the wearing person. There is also a ventilation system that prevents overheating and keeps a worker cool inside the suit.

Cyberdyne HAL Robot Suit and Cybernics research

DARPA’s Pet-Proto Robot climbs over and skirts around obstacles

Watch Darpa’s Rescue Robot Jump, Climb and Dodge Obstacles