Monthly Archives: November 2007

TSA Complaints On The Rise

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that complaints regarding Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening at airports have risen over the past several months — but the reason for the increase in complaints depends on who you ask.

The TSA says the increase has occurred because they weren’t counting all the complaints before. Until May this year, the TSA was losing customer complaints and under-reporting traveler gripes. To some travelers, security screening at the nation’s airports remains as big a hassle as ever, and screeners are even grumpier nowadays, which could obviously lead to an increase in complaints.

Recent totals of complaints regarding TSA service (not including reports about damaged luggage) supports the theory that the TSA did have a hard time keeping up with big crowds this past summer.

In the first five months of this year, complaints to the TSA about security courtesy were down. September of this year, the most recent month reported by the government, saw a 71.4% increase in TSA complaints.

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Legal Issues Dawg Bush Administration

It seems the more secrets the Bush Administration tries to keep, the more it comes back to bite them in their collective butts. Here are a couple examples of the president’s secret fantasy justice in the name of the ‘global war on terror’ that are blowing the lid off the illicit ways this presidential adminstration has operated as no other.

The New York Times is reporting that a federal judge recently warned that if the government did not allow lawyers to review classified materials on possible wiretapping of one ‘terrorist’, she might order a new trial for him and MSNBC News is reporting that 5 news organizations are complaining they’ve been denied access to a Guantanamo case where a trial was held in secret closed sessions via e-mail.

One of the latest legal problems involves the legality of the National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping program. Ali Al-Timimi, an islamic scholar in Northern Virginia was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 for inciting followers to commit acts of terrorism. Al-Timimi claims he was illegally wiretapped by the NSA  as part of its eavesdropping without warrants that was approved by President Bush after 9/11 (although it’s now public knowledge that the illegal wiretapping started long before then).

Four months after the NSA program was disclosed, an appellate court directed the trial judge in Mr. Timimi’s case to reconsider it in light of his lawyers’ accusations.

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Flaws Found In FBI Forensic Test

A joint investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” has found that hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide were convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago, but the FBI lab hasn’t taken any steps to alert affected defendants or courts, even while the window for appealing convictions is closing.

Comparative bullet-lead analysis was first used after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 (which probably should have been a clue as to how effective it was). The scientific technique used chemistry to link crime-scene bullets to ones possessed by suspects, based on the theory that each batch of lead had a unique elemental makeup.

In 2004 the nation’s most prestigious scientific body concluded that variations in the manufacturing process rendered the FBI’s testimony about the science “unreliable and potentially misleading.”

The National Academy of Sciences determined that decades of FBI statements to jurors linking a particular bullet to those found in a suspect’s gun or cartridge box were so overstated that such testimony should be considered “misleading under federal rules of evidence.” One year later the bureau abandoned the analysis.

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TSA List Woes Grow And Visa Games

Labeling tens of thousands of people who have been incorrectly deemed guilty until proven innocent because they happen to have the same name as “a suspected terrorist” and putting them on a No-Fly List that’s currently impossible to get off of isn’t enough for the Bush Administration…they also like to label critics of the Iraq war as terrorists. I thought McCarthyism died in the 1940’s.

Colorado’s 9News is reporting on more victims of The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) No-Fly List and how ineffective it is. Retired Major General Vernon Lewis, Jr., who served in two wars, was a Brigade Commander and still holds top-secret clearance keeps getting confused with a terrorist by the TSA.

After serving the U.S. Army for more than 30 years during Vietnam and Korea, being decorated four times for valor and receiving the Army’s highest medal for service — the Distinguished Service Medal — Lewis is understandably upset about being treated like a terrorist.

Three years ago Lewis started getting delayed at airports because he shares a name with a terrorist on the TSA No-Fly List, being delayed more than 40 times. Every time he’s delayed he has to stand in line and check in with an airline attendant who takes his drivers license and determines he’s not a terrorist.

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New Security Concerns For Feds

Another embarrassing example of the Federal Government caught with their pants down also serves as another reason why trusting them to protect your privacy could be disastrous despite delusions of government and businesses safeguarding people’s private communications and financial information.

The Los Angeles Times reported that an illegal immigrant from Lebanon with relatives linked to the militant Islamic group Hezbollah forged her way to citizenship by paying a U.S. citizen to marry her, lied her way through national security background checks, joined the FBI and the CIA, then accessed government computers for restricted information relating to her relatives and a U.S. investigation into the group.

Nada Nadim Prouty, a 37-year-old Lebanese national pleaded guilty to conspiracy, unauthorized computer access and naturalization fraud, agreeing to cooperate with authorities in an ongoing investigation into the security breaches. Court papers were unsealed Tuesday providing the details.

The FBI and the CIA had tightened personnel screening and monitoring a few years ago after a CIA officer and an FBI agent were caught selling secrets to foreign governments.

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How The Government Defines Privacy

As the telcos immunity games continue to roll along, the Bush administration has apparently decided to change course…instead of using the usual deceptions, lies and fear-mongering, they’ve reportedly moved on to deciding that it’s time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy…so said a top ‘intelligence’ official in a comment made during a recent speech (PDF).

Donald Kerr, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, thinks privacy can no longer mean anonymity and that government and businesses should properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information. (Mike McConnell is the Director of National Intelligence, and he has a bad habit of lying to Congress under oath and using scare tactics to try to coerce submission).

Kerr’s epiphany comes while Congress takes a second look at renewing a hastily changed extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, while the debate over the contentious issue regarding retroactive immunity for telecoms involved in civil lawsuits for their aiding the government rages on.

President Bush has promised to veto any bill that doesn’t grant immunity to the telcos and everyone else involved in the governments inept, illegal data-mining operations. The current extension will expire on February 1, 2008.

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The NSA Dragnet Surveillance Program

Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician is reportedly “turning in” AT&T over the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program, after President Bush defended the NSA’s surveillance program as limited to collecting phone calls between suspected terrorists overseas and people in the United States.

In the summer of 2002 a visitor from the NSA visited the office of AT&T in San Francisco. A year or so later, Klein stumbled upon documents that, he said, nearly caused him to fall out of his chair.

The documents show that the NSA gained access to massive amounts of internet records, including e-mails and search records, of more than a dozen global and regional telecommunications providers. AT&T allowed the NSA to hook into its network, and according to Klein, many of the other telecoms most likely knew nothing about it.

Klein, 62, was in Washington this morning to share his story with Congress, in hopes that it will pursuade lawmakers not to grant legal immunity to the telecoms that were involved in the illegal surveillance activities. He worked for AT&T for 22 years before retiring in 2004, and has no qualms about “turning in” AT&T.

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Another Election Manipulation Attempt

The New York Times is reporting that Republican donors are trying to get a ballot initiative that would alter the way electoral votes are apportioned in California to the benefit of Republican presidential candidates.

Earlier this summer a prominent Republican lawyer began the initiative, but financing concerns waylaid it in October. Last week a new organization began raising the roughly $2 million thought to be needed. David Gilliard, a Republican consultant, with help from Anne Dunsmore, who recently resigned from Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential campaign, are spearheading the movement.

The proposed initiative would ask voters to replace California’s winner-take-all 55 electoral college votes with one that parses the votes by Congressional district. Democrats have strongly opposed the initiative since it would hand the Republican nominee roughly 20 of the 55 votes.

Art Torres, head of the California Democratic Party will constitutionally challenge the initiative if it qualifies for the ballot, arguing that only state legislators can determine how electoral votes are allocated.

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Telcos Immunity Games Continue

The FISA Amendment Act, currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would amend the questionable Protect America Act, absolving the telecoms, the president and all the others in his administration involved in the illicit wiretapping activities retroactive immunity. Two federal judges have already found that the Protect America Act is unconstitutional.

In spite of President Bush’s hissy fits and demands for retroactive immunity protecting telecoms involved in more than 40 lawsuits related to illegal surveillance, using threats, deceitful and unethical propaganda and fear-mongering to feed his fantasy of being above the law, some key U.S. Senators are reportedly reluctant to offer it…they’re thinking of making the taxpayers pick up the legal bills instead.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA.), the co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they still don’t have enough information to decide whether it’s wise or not to immunize past assistance by the telecoms to a wide variety of U.S. agencies over the past six years.

Earlier this summer, Congress and the Senate quickly approved an amendment making it easier for the government to get information with no oversight (technically, it’s ‘monitored internally’ which is the same thing) for six months, set to expire on February 1, 2008.

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