Category Archive 'Security Measures'

04 May 2010

Supreme Court Abandons Using Front Door

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A lot of taxpayers’ money was wasted on this impressive entrance

Yahoo News:

The Supreme Court is closing its iconic front entrance beneath the words “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Beginning Tuesday, visitors no longer will ascend the wide marble steps to enter the 75-year-old building. Instead, they will be directed to a central screening facility to the side of and beneath the central steps that was built to improve the court’s security as part of a $122 million renovation.

Two justices, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called the change unfortunate and unjustified.

Breyer said no other high court in the world, not even Israel’s, has closed its front entrance over security concern. …

Other justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, have spoken fondly of being able to walk up the steps and through the 1,300-pound bronze doors at the center of the court’s columned entryway. Justice Anthony Kennedy told C-SPAN last year that the steps and the words, written by building architect Cass Gilbert, were intended to inspire visitors and justices alike.

The court said the new entrance grew out of two independent security studies in 2001 and 2009.

The fortress-mentality that has taken over all the court houses I’ve visited in recent years has finally reached the Supreme Court of the United States.

The monumental entrance is just not ideally conducive to electronic searches, so it will no longer be used for its intended purpose.

In my lifetime, we’ve gone from the America of Norman Rockwell to the Amerika of Franz Kafka and the security state that makes you remove shoes in airport boarding lines. Arriving visitors and attorneys will get to slink in some subterranean bunker entrance where they can be properly channeled through security stops. Our courthouses are not open to the public any longer. Who knows? Someone might try to rebel and attack the authorities. All our officials need constant protection from us.

I can remember just a bit over a decade ago being in the Clinton County Courthouse in Lock Haven (Pennsylvania) researching a few deeds in the Recorder’s Office. There were some good old boys in camouflage, their shotguns leaning on the wall, practicing turkey calls in the corridor while the ladies in the sheriff’s office critiqued their performances through the open doorway.

Today, you get searched every time you walk into a courthouse. The first time I ran into this kind of crap outside the big city was in Danbury, Connecticut in the mid-1990s. The rent-a-cop demanded I remove my belt, and in my outrage and frustration I delivered an indignant ex tempore sermon on the subject of the decline of freedom in the United States to the general population in the hallway.

The security guard scoldingly informed me that I should be grateful that he was protecting a mere civilian like me against someone coming into the building with a gun and injuring me. He then warned me against openly challenging official policies.

My wife wasn’t present, and I got a little more angry.

“Why exactly is somebody carrying a gun such a big deal?” I deliberately responded. “You have a gun, you little pipsqueak.” I observed, “I don’t, and I’m not afraid of you.” I then leaned toward him, invading his personal space and grinned, implicitly offering him an invitation to reach for it, feeling quite sure I could swat him before he could clear his holster. He thought seriously about it for a few seconds, and decided not to try.

I got some mixed reactions from the crowd. Several people gave me some very fishy looks. A few guys grinned. The security guard did his best to look intensely occupied, and the moment passed.

25 Jul 2007

Goverrnment Warns of Terrorist Dry Runs

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The Transportation Security Administration (7/20) warned:

A surge in recent suspicious incidents at U.S. airports may indicate terrorists are conducting pre-attack security probes and “dry runs” similar to dress rehearsals. Past terrorist attacks and plots show that such testing generally indicates attacks will soon follow, according to a joint FBI and Homeland Security assessment. …

5 July 2007, San Diego, CA – A U.S. Person’s (USPER) checked baggage contained two icepacks covered in duct tape. The icepacks had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.

4 June 2007, Milwaukee, WI – The carry-on baggage of a USPER contained several items resembling IED components, such as a wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes, and two blocks of cheese.

8 November 2006, Houston, TX – A USPER’s checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals, and pipes.

16 September 2006, Baltimore, MD–The checked baggage of a couple contained a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.

06 May 2007

Latest British Orwellianism

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Lionel Shriver, in the Wall Street Journal, describes how environmentalism is used by Government in Britain to justify reduced services, fee increases, and more totalitarian surveillance.

As they campaigned for midterm regional elections on Thursday, the biggest issue that British politicians met on doorsteps was a load of rubbish. Specifically, one load of rubbish, where before there were two. Pressed to meet European Union targets for reducing landfill volume, many local councils now collect refuse only once every two weeks. As flies and vermin gather while food scraps achieve a fine perfume, residents have grown so enraged that bin-men are under repeated physical attack.

The logic of fortnightly collections — if you can follow it — is to encourage recycling. Lest widespread consternation over garbage seem petty, fortnightly collections now emblemize a broader source of indignation: the U.K. government’s self-righteous “green” justifications for reduced services on the one hand, and thievery on the other.

Halving the frequency of waste removal conveniently saves money. A host of other new “green” measures in the U.K. will make money: $200 fines for poorly separated recycling, or microchips implanted in wheelie bins to weigh residential refuse — dragging Britain’s surveillance culture to a new low, and facilitating charges for waste disposal by the kilo. Furious that they are already paying once for this service through local taxes, some householders have ripped the microchips from their bins.

The premier example of having to pay twice for the same dispensation, all under the guise of environmentalism, is the British government’s proposal to bring in “road pricing,” unveiled last December. This literal highway robbery would charge motorists up to $2.56 per mile to drive on roads whose construction they had paid for to begin with. Announcement of the scheme stirred the complacent, slow-to-anger British public to circulate an Internet protest petition that secured 1.8 million signatures.

And little wonder. Since the average British commuter travels 9.6 miles each way, a nine-to-fiver in a built-up area would pay $50 a day for the privilege of going to work. The Sunday Telegraph calculates that even in moderately populated Yorkshire, where the first pilot programs are planned, road-pricing would cost the average family $6,000 a year. …

Environmentalism has become the fashionable fig leaf to cover for extortion. If a tax is “green” it is “for the sake of the planet,” and fairness doesn’t come into it. Neither, apparently, does greed. Hence Britain’s petrol duty — the fourth highest in the world at over $4 a gallon plus 17.5% VAT levied on both the fuel and the duty ( in the U.K., even taxes are taxed) — has nothing to do with sticky fingers; it’s to confront the all-purpose bogeyman of global warming.

Mayor Ken Livingstone has installed a “congestion charge” for central London. At $10 per day at inception, the charge has risen to $16 in three years; the area covered by the charge doubled in February. Mr. Livingstone further proposes that high carbon-emission “Band G” vehicles — not only SUVs, but smaller sedans like the Ford Mondeo — be charged instead £25 per day, and be excluded from the 90% residents’ discount. That’s fifty bucks — every weekday, if you live or work in the congestion zone, or $13,000 a year. Richmond council has followed suit, tripling the cost of parking for Band G cars to £300 — meaning even outside of central London it will cost close to $600 a year to park in front of your own house. But that’s ok! It’s for the sake of the planet.

Britain pursues monetarily punitive policies to advance environmental goals. Expediently, punitive fiscal policies line treasury coffers. They not only disproportionately penalize the less well off, and stultify economic growth; these fees, fines, duties, and charges lurking on every corner also create a larger social climate of oppression, resentment, and paranoia.


Mark Steyn
identified the author as “an American lady novelist in London and a Guardian columnist of conventionally leftie views” writing under a nom de plume, but he complimented and linked her column, and added the following comments.

It’s not enough that the average Briton is captured on closed-circuit TV cameras in his car, in the street, in the shopping mall, and even in country lanes where the rural constabulary have hidden them in trees to catch illegal fox hunters. Now the government is monitoring his garbage. If they ever take up Sheryl Crow’s all-we-are-saying-is-give-one-piece-a-chance toilet-paper rationing, you can bet the enforcers will mandate CCTVs in every bathroom if not microchips in the bowl.

If George Bush put a microchip in your garbage under the Patriot Act, there’d be mass demonstrations across the land. But do it in the guise of saving the planet and everyone’s fine with it.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds (for the Mark Steyn item).

25 Mar 2007

What Damage to Society?

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Brad Warbiany has been reading liberal journalists and democrats, and (worse!) taking their nonsense seriously.

Brad writes:

Fear has become the name of the political game, and the stakes are high. Unlike World War II, we’re not asked to ration sugar or observe meatless meals. Instead, we’re asked to suspend habeas corpus, willingly submit to National Security Letters and warrantless domestic wiretapping. Of course, we’re asked to provide implicit trust to the government to faithfully protect us, while acting as watchdogs to snitch on our untrustworthy family, friends, and neighbors at the first sign of wrongdoing. We’re watching as crucial controls on government, going back to the Magna Carta in 1215, are being removed…

There was never, ever any occasion from 1215 to the present day, in which prisoners of war had the benefit of habeas corpus. Still less, spies, saboteurs, and other illegal combatants, who did not even enjoy the privileges and immunities associated with the status of prisoner of war, and who were traditionally executed out of hand, by hanging.

What should still be regarded as determinative is the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), which held:

Modern American law has come a long way since the time when outbreak of war made every enemy national an outlaw, subject to both public and private slaughter, cruelty and plunder. But even by the most magnanimous view, our law does not abolish inherent distinctions recognized throughout the civilized world between citizens and aliens, nor between aliens of friendly and of enemy allegiance, nor between resident enemy aliens who have submitted themselves to our laws and non-resident enemy aliens who at all times have remained with, and adhered to, enemy governments. …

But, in extending constitutional protections beyond the citizenry, the Court has been at pains to point out that it was the alien’s presence within its territorial jurisdiction that gave the Judiciary power to act. …

If this [Fifth] Amendment invests enemy aliens in unlawful hostile action against us with immunity from military trial, it puts them in a more protected position than our own soldiers. …

We hold that the Constitution does not confer a right of personal security or an immunity from military trial and punishment upon an alien enemy engaged in the hostile service of a government at war with the United States.

Brad Warbiany continues:

The time comes that I have to ask myself a simple question: Is it worth it?

What level of uncertainty of a terrorist attack should we allow in our lives in order to be certain that we’re not subjects of a police state? It has become a sad state of affairs when I’m more concerned that the actions of my own government will cause me trouble than the actions of extremists who have sworn an intent to kill me. In a world where we’re asked to submit to intrusive surveillance on a daily basis, and further to do so gladly and “for our own protection”, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to simply take my chances without their blanket of security?

Might there be better ways of reducing terrorism than turning our own country into a prison, while engaging in a foreign policy which causes those who didn’t hate us 5 years ago to start? Nearly 40 years of effort have proven that our tactics in fighting a war on drugs have proven futile and counterproductive, while damaging American society in the process. Should we take a step back and evaluate whether our tactics fighting international terrorism have been futile and counterproductive, while damaging American society in the process?

“Turning our own country into a prison” is just a bit of an exaggeration, is it not?

What intrusive surveillance has the gentleman experienced? I wonder, outside the revolting and irrational practices of airline security, which have gotten worse recently, but which long predate 9/11 and the current administration, going back to the 1960s when Castro’s Cuban regime initiated the practice of airline hijacking.

The government is widely believed to be practicing some forms of mechanical surveillance, data-mining electronic and telephonic communications, in search of messages transmitted between terrorists.

This sort of thing has been going on for a very long time, all the way back to the WWII era, when the predecessor agency of the NSA was opening every telegram.

In 1945 Project SHAMROCK was initiated to obtain copies of all telegraphic information exiting or entering the United States. With the full cooperation of RCA, ITT and Western Union (representing almost all of the telegraphic traffic in the US at the time), the NSA’s predecessor and later the NSA itself were provided with daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing and transiting telegraphs.

Are either Mr. Warbiany or myself really inconvenienced by the NSA’s Echelon program datamining our emails, presumably in search of such obvious giveaway signals as the presence of provocative texts like “Allahu Akhbar!”, “the anthrax is on the way,” or “the nuclear bomb goes off at noon”? Our emails are, in a sense, “read” by machines already simply in the process of being transmitted across the Net.

Do I really even care if some clerical employee pulls my sarcastic “Allahu Akhbar!” email out of the pile, and eyeballs it for a fraction of a second? Not much. In fact, a lot less than I like having to remove my shoes at the airport.

It is somewhat difficult for those of us on the sidelines to evaluate sensibly the necessity and propriety of the secret operations of our intelligences services in time of war. We do know, however, that no successful incident of mass terrorism has taken place on US soil since 9/11, and we have good reason to believe that there are a lot of people trying. So somebody, somewhere, must be doing something right.

As to international opinion, what can one expect? The international leftwing intelligentsia, and its media outlets, have always hated the United States. They hate the United States more vigorously when the United States actually does something in the world, it’s true. But it would be insane to base US foreign policy upon the preferences and desires of our rivals and adversaries, on the one hand; and even worse to base it upon the goofy and pernicious world view of the international community of leftist bien pensants on the other.

01 Mar 2007

Boston Panicks Again

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The Boston Bomb Squad was back in action, blowing up a suspicious object found chained to a lamppost in the Financial district. The object turned out to be a traffic counter.

MyFox

Homeland Stupidity

Previous Cartoon Promotion incident

09 Feb 2007

Not Terrorism, Just Lithuanian Flyrods

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ABC News reports:

Pipe bombs found in an aqueduct that supplies water to millions in Southern California were probably not intended for sabotage, but for fishing, state officials said Thursday.

The five small bombs found in a branch of the California Aqueduct were typical of those used to stun and collect fish, the state Department of Water Resources said in a statement.

“Similar devices have been found previously when water levels in State Water Project facilities are drawn down for maintenance and other purposes,” the statement read.

The bombs were found this week in a section of an aqueduct branch in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Two had already been exploded, and the others were detonated by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The bombs turned up along with cars and other debris when water levels were lowered for a routine cleanup.

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26 Sep 2006

From My College Class List, 2

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One of my liberal classmates cited that reptile John Dean’s new book Conservatives Without a Conscience. Dean repeats the ancient liberal wheeze of supposedly identifying conservatives as dangerous paranoids, in this case citing Robert Altemeyer:

“No question hovered at the front of my mind more, reading through Altemeyer’s studies of authoritarian behavior, that, why are right-wingers often malicious, mean-spirited, and disrespectful of even the basic codes of civility? While the radical left has had its episodes of boorishness, the right has taken these tactics to an
unprecedented level. Social science has discovered these forms of behavior can be rather easily explained as a form of aggression.

Altemeyer discovered that the aggression of right-wingers seems to be not merely instrumental-that is, expressed for some political purpose-but engaged in for the pure pleasure of it.. Torture is an extreme example, yet apparently authoritarians can find even that enjoyable, as the Abu Ghraib photos tragically illustrate. But on a more pedestrian level, he found it difficult for most right-wingers to talk about any subject about which they felt strongly without attacking others. Right-wing authoritarians, as we have seen, are motivated by their fear of a dangerous world, whereas social dominators have an ever-present desire to dominate. The factor that makes Right-wingers faster than most people to attack others, and that seems to keep them living in an ‘attack mode,’ is their remarkable self-righteousness. They are so sure they are not only right, but holy and pure, that they are bursting with indignation and a desire to smite down their enemies, Altemeyer explained.

To which, I replied:

Authoritarian, baloney. More idiotic left-wing self-abuse consisting of the application of paranoid moonbat fantasy to domestic political opponents. If George W. Bush had a turban and beard, lived overseas, and was actively conspiring to blow you to Kingdom Come, you’d be telling us how he has legitimate grievances, is too commonly misunderstood, amd must above all be conciliated.

The current conflict is between responsible adults who believe in taking steps to protect the population of the United States from terrorist attacks on mass population centers, and a pathetic collection of opportunistic pols, old lady do-gooders, head-in-the-clouds moralizers, Utopian pacifists, sissies, and the perennially in-protest.

Torture? The list of alleged coercive techniques runs from keeping bad guys awake and making them stand in the corner to a few slaps. If those things are torture, just about all of us have been tortured. Circumstances have more than once caused me to stay awake for days. Children were commonly punished in my day by being forced to stand for uncomfortably long intervals. And even I have been slapped around a few times. More than once, in my boyhood, older and stronger and more numerous villains pinioned my arms, and slapped my face back and forth, attempting to persuade me to submit formally. It wasn’t so terrible being slapped in the face as all that, and I found it entirely possible to continue to resist.

The only technique actually provoking alarm is waterboarding, which seems alarming only in terms of its “rosy-fingered dawn” invariably-quoted description: “The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.”

I was thinking about this recently, and I began to wonder. It certainly sounds disagreeable to be tied to a board with one’s head lower than one’s feet. Obviously no one wants cellophane wrapped around one’s face. But if it is wrapped around one’s face, why does water poured over your head, which you don’t feel on your skin anyway, make you gag? What if you resolve not to gag? What if you do yoga breath-control? How do you breathe with the cellophane anyway? I don’t know how accurate that description really is. Perhaps water-boarding is not entirely everything it’s cracked up to be.

But supposing it is really awful, just like drowning, to be water-boarded? They waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who sawed off the American journalist Daniel Pearl’s head with a knife. I saw the video. Pearl screamed as the sawing commenced. I’m not easily perturbed, but that video gave me bad dreams. Frankly, I think waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammad would only represent at best a good start.

WARNING

Do not dowload and watch this video, unless you feel you must know the worst about the crimes of our adversaries. It is unspeakably ugly and horrifying. Avoid this, if you possibly can. This is absolutely not something women or young people should see.

The video of the murder of Daniel Pearl can be found here.

25 Jun 2006

What Would Lincoln Do?

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The Republican Administration, at the present time, clearly needs to be reminded that it is the Party of Lincoln.

On August 15, 1861, a grand jury was convened in New York to investigate the conduct of a number of opposition newspapers.

The records of that grand jury state:

There are certain newspapers within this district which are in the frequent habit of encouraging the rebels now in arms against the federal government by expressing sympathy and agreement with them, the duty of acceding to their demands, and dissatisfaction with the employment of force to overcome them…

The grand jury are aware that free governments allow liberty of speech and of the press to the utmost limit, but there is, nevertheless, a limit…

The conduct of these disloyal presses is, of course condemned and abhorred by all loyal men; but the grand jury will be glad to learn from the Court that it is also subject to indictment and condign punishment.

On August 22, the newspapers named by the grand jury were suspended from the mail by order of the New York postmaster.

When their next issues were delivered to Northern cities by train, the United States marshall for the Eastern District seized all the copies, in accordance with the War Department’s General Order No. 67.

That order specified that “all correspondence and communications” which put the public safety at risk should be confiscated, and that, in future, the punishment for creating such correspondence and communications would be death.

–Robert S. Harper, Lincoln and the Press, 1951, pp.114-116.

12 Jun 2006

Yamanner Worm Hits Yahoo Today

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If you subscribe to any Yahoo Groups email lists, you have undoubtedly been hit today by numerous copies of a worm. I’ve seen about twenty copies this afternoon, all stopped by PC-cillin.

Information Week warns:

A new worm targeting Yahoo’s Web-based e-mail service bent on collecting addresses for a spam database has been spotted in the wild, a security company warned Monday.

The “Yamanner” worm exploits a JavaScript vulnerability in Yahoo’s Web mail, Cupertino, Calif. security specialist Symantec said in a Monday morning warning to customers of its DeepSight Threat Management System. Yamanner is spreading, added Symantec, which has assigned the threat a “2” in its 1 through 5 rating system.

The worm targets addresses with the “yahoo.com” and “yahoogroups.com” domains, and arrives as an HTML message containing JavaScript. As soon as the recipient views the message, the script automatically runs to spread the worm to other users in the Yahoo address book. The message will have a From” address of av3@yahoo.com and a Subject: of “New Graphic Site.”

“Harvested addresses from the address book are then submitted to a remote URL, which is likely to be used for a spam database,” noted Symantec in its alert.

08 Jan 2006

How to Stay Out of Power

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Primary Colors author, Joe Klein, writing in Time, predicts that democrats will inevitably pay the price for their partisan games-playing on issues of National Security:

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, engaged in a small but cheesy bit of deception last week. She released a letter, which quickly found its way to the front page of the New York Times, that she had written on Oct. 11, 2001, to then National Security Agency director General Michael V. Hayden. In it she expressed concern that Hayden, who had briefed the House Intelligence Committee about the steps he was taking to track down al-Qaeda terrorists after the 9/11 attacks, was not acting with “specific presidential authorization.”

The release of Pelosi’s letter last week and the subsequent Times story (“Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show”) left the misleading impression that a) Hayden had launched the controversial data-mining operation on his own, and b) Pelosi had protested it. But clearly the program didn’t exist when Pelosi wrote the letter. When I asked the Congresswoman about this, she said, “Some in the government have accused me of confusing apples and oranges. My response is, it’s all fruit.”

A dodgy response at best, but one invested with a larger truth. For too many liberals, all secret intelligence activities are “fruit,” and bitter fruit at that. The government is presumed guilty of illegal electronic eavesdropping until proven innocent…

It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys. There is evidence that the information harvested helped foil several plots and disrupt al-Qaeda operations.

There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials, that since the New York Times broke the story, the terrorists have modified their behavior, hampering our efforts to keep track of them—but also, on the plus side, hampering their ability to communicate with one another.

…liberal Democrats are about as far from the American mainstream on these issues as Republicans were when they invaded the privacy of Terri Schiavo’s family in the right-to-die case last year.

But there is a difference. National security is a far more important issue, and until the Democrats make clear that they will err on the side of aggressiveness in the war against al-Qaeda, they will probably not regain the majority in Congress or the country.

26 Nov 2005

Papieren, Bitte!

Deborah Davis ID

How many movies have we seen with villainous Gestapo men, attired in leather-trenchcoats, marching down train corridors, demanding “Your papers, please!”? The ever-escalating securitization of America, fueled simultaneously by liberal Nanny-ism and by war-time security concerns, produces a thousand stories of nincompoopery and Jack-in-Office excess monthly. One irrational demand for personal ID on a bus in Denver seems to have inspired a web-site erected to do something about all this.

Despite the presence of a banner on that web-site from the Colorado branch of a loathsome organization, I’m inclined to sympathize with the lady’s position. I’ve come pretty close to taking a poke at courthouse rent-a-cops more than once myself.

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Story picked up Sunday, November 27th, Denver Post.

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A disagreeable example of just where this kind of thing can lead is provided by Malaysia, where a cellphone-captured video of a Chinese female suspect stripped and forced to perform “ear squats,” hands-free deep knee bends performed holding hands to ears, has produced a scandal being reported all over South-east Asia: Sydney Herald and BBC.


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