Turns out that driver’s license photos are useful for more than acute embarrassment. States, realizing they have a de-facto visual database of most of their residents, are increasingly plugging those photos into facial-recognition software and Facebook to solve crimes — and worrying privacy advocates in the process.
A total of 37 states now use facial-recognition software to tag driver’s license photos in their records, according to a recent Washington Post survey. Most allow federal, state and local authorities to search the databases with few restrictions.
Police say the databases are becoming an invaluable aid in solving crimes, allowing them to quickly compare a photo from Facebook or a surveillance camera with official records and potentially make an ID.
But for privacy advocates, the technology is emblematic of a disturbing trend where identification techniques once applied only to criminals now apply to society at large, raising prospects that universal ID will become a reality before we know it’s there.
“As a society, do we want to have total surveillance?” Laura Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor, asked the Post. “Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are .?.?. without any immediate probable cause?…A police state is exactly what this turns into if everybody who drives has to lodge their information with the police.”
Read at the Washington Post.
Despite how much sense it would make to have actual security at schools, people are irrational about it.
But I do worry about putting police officers in schools. With kids getting into trouble for smaller and smaller offenses, I don’t think it’s wise or safe to increase their exposure to police. But having real, physical, tangible security makes 110 percent sense.
FYI, Colion Noir has a new website, if you like his videos you should check it out.
The White House says President Obama is close to completing a series of executive actions to address gun violence, but they are not a substitute for congressional legislation.
In a report issued Tuesday, the administration has “completed or made significant progress” on 21 of 23 executive actions that Obama outlined Jan. 16 as part of a major gun-control initiative.
“But Congress must also act,” the report says. “Passing common-sense gun safety legislation, including expanding background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, remains the single most important step we could take to reduce gun violence.”
With Obama in Northern Ireland for the G-8 summit, Vice President Biden will discuss the report in a speech Tuesday afternoon.
The Senate blocked a background check bill in April, thanks mostly to the votes of Republicans. Obama administration officials and Senate Democrats are trying to revive the bill by pressuring senators who voted against it to reconsider.
Gun-control opponents say the proposals are ineffective, and undermine the Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.
The Obama administration began pushing for new gun legislation after the Dec. 14 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 students and six educators.
The new White House report listed the executive actions on guns taken by the administration.
Does America face a “stealth jihad”? Is radical Islam an existential threat to our way of life? Is the newly appointed CIA Director a secret Muslim convert? Is it possible that our constitutional system could be replaced by Sharia law?
Former FBI counter-terrorism expert John Guandolo insists that the answer to each of these ominous questions is “yes” — and he warns that our current policy-makers are either desperately mistaken about the nature and severity of the threat that confronts us.
Bow and Arrow porn…
A June 18 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing will focus on the future of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
Currently, the U.S. can freely export LNG to another country only if it has a free trade agreement with that country. Requests to export to the rest of the world must be approved by the Department of Energy (DOE) on a case-by-case basis. This results in costly delays.
Other energy-producing countries are big fans of the restrictive U.S. policy. As American producers wait for DOE approval to export LNG, Canada is building a $16 billion terminal to export LNG to Japan and other countries.
Some groups argue that the government should block LNG exports to reduce U.S. energy prices. This is like arguing that the government should prohibit farmers from exporting grain in order to reduce U.S. food prices.
In reality, there is no such thing as “American” LNG any more than there is “American” grain. Our energy and food producers don’t operate in North Korea, where everything is owned by the state. In the U.S. we have privately produced energy, grain, and other products. Allowing those private producers to sell to anyone they want fits best with U.S. constitutional values.
We can do better. Legislation has been introduced to remove restrictions on LNG exports to Japan and our NATO allies. A more far-reaching option would be to treat LNG like all other U.S. exports by removing the DOE’s authority to derail them.
Don’t take a patriot’s word for it that the purpose of “immigration reform” is to permanently tilt American politics far to the left. Let’s hear from an expert who should know: labor leader Eliseo Medina of the Democratic Socialists of America. He appeared at the America’s Future Now! conference in DC in 2009 as SEIU International Executive Vice President and said this:
“If we reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people [at the absolute least, and that’s just in the short term] on the path to citizenship and eventually voters. Can you imagine if we have even the same ratio [of Hispanic voters who voted for Obama in 2008], two out of three, if we get 8 million new voters that care about our issue [i.e., the conversion of the USA into a Third World, socialist country] and will be voting, we will create a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”
The reason our liberal rulers want the country swamped by Third World immigrants is they are confident that at least two out of three of them will vote Democrat. Due to conservatives’ willingness to tolerate RINOs, they are finding it easy to enlist nominal Republicans in their campaign to permanently eliminate the GOP from national contention through amnesty.
The fundamental transformation of America is to be irreversible.
(note: see who wrote this and when he wrote this. how time changes viewpoints of people)
Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America’s Constitution is in grave danger.
In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.
It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.
So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.
It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.
On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.
The FBI privately called King the “most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country” and vowed to “take him off his pedestal.” The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.
This campaign continued until Dr. King’s murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King’s life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.
Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on “large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States.” The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program “without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection.”
During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.
But surprisingly, the President’s soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: “The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.”
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, “On Common Sense” ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America’s alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that “the law is king.”
Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.
The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.
A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.
The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.
Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.
Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.
The President’s men have minced words about America’s laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the “kind of surveillance” we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.
This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically – and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.
When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: “To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress.”
This is precisely the “disrespect” for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.
Finish reading this at Common Dreams.
The Edward Snowden affair demolishes US cyberwar hype
The Edward Snowden affair has done many things. One of the most signal is its complete destruction of the US government/national security megaplex’s campaign of cyberwar hype, disinformation and outright lying.
In the weeks preceeding the emergence of Edward Snowden’s information on cyber-spying the US government had been conducting a carefully staged p.r. operation to paint China as the primary sinner in cyberspace. China was a country that was not playing fair, one targeting our networks and “intellectual property” in the cyber equivalent of a clandestine war.
This was said, most notoriously by National Security Agency director Keith Alexander, to constitute “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” The economic future of the United States was imperiled by Chinese espionage.
The Snowden affair has silenced Alexander on this matter. If only for the time being. And the crisis has forced the four-star general to explain, a job he has performed very poorly, what US cyber-spying and cyberwar operations are really up to.
And what is it that the US government, the NSA, the military and its intelligence agency contractors are up to? That’s easy to summarize. It was so before Edward Snowden spilled the beans to the Guardian.
The US has been quietly building the biggest cyberwar machine in history.
And it’s aimed wherever they want it to be aimed.
Read more HERE.
Horrific abuse. Rampant contamination. And the crime is…exposing it?
Shawn Lyons was dead to rights—and he knew it. More than a month had passed since People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had released a video of savage mistreatment at the MowMar Farms hog confinement facility where he worked as an entry-level herdsman in the breeding room. The three enormous sow barns in rural Greene County, Iowa, were less than five years old and, until recently, had raised few concerns. They seemed well ventilated and well supplied with water from giant holding tanks. Their tightly tacked steel siding always gleamed white in the sun. But the PETA hidden-camera footage shot by two undercover activists over a period of months in the summer of 2008, following up on a tip from a former employee, showed a harsh reality concealed inside.
The recordings caught one senior worker beating a sow repeatedly on the back with a metal gate rod, a supervisor turning an electric prod on a sow too crippled to stand, another worker shoving a herding cane into a sow’s vagina. In one close-up, a distressed sow who’d been attacking her piglets was shown with her face royal blue from the Prima Tech marking dye sprayed into her nostrils “to get the animal high.” In perhaps the most disturbing sequence, a worker demonstrated the method for euthanizing underweight piglets: taking them by the hind legs and smashing their skulls against the concrete floor—a technique known as “thumping.” Their bloodied bodies were then tossed into a giant bin, where video showed them twitching and paddling until they died, sometimes long after. Though his actions were not nearly as vicious as those of some coworkers who’d been fired immediately, Lyons knew, as the video quickly became national news, that the consequences for him could be severe.
As we sat recently in the tiny, tumbledown house he grew up in and now shares with his wife and two kids, Lyons acknowledged—as he did to the sheriff’s deputy back then—that he had prodded sows with clothespins, hit them with broad, wooden herding boards, and pulled them by their ears, but only in an effort, he said, to get pregnant sows that had spent the last 114 days immobilized in gestation crates up and moving to the farrowing crates where they would give birth. Lyons said he never intended to hurt the hogs, that he was just “scared to death” of the angry sows “who had spent their lives in a little pen”—and this was how he had been trained to deal with them. Lyons had watery blue eyes that seemed always on the verge of tears and spoke in a skittish mutter that would sometimes disappear all the way into silence as he rubbed his thin beard. “You do feel sorry for them, because they don’t have much room to move around,” he said, but if they get spooked coming out of their crates, “you’re in for a fight.”
Read it all HERE.
In the course of exploring the properties of a strange subatomic particle, physicists may have stumbled upon something even stranger: a mysterious and exotic new form of matter.
The intriguing discovery was made more or less simultaneously by two collaborations: the Belle experiment at the Japanese High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) and BESIII experiment run by the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in China.
Both teams were looking at a particle called Y(4260) that had been discovered in 2005 but whose nature has mystified researchers since. By smashing together electrons and their antiparticle, positrons, the experiments produced large numbers of Y(4260), which lives for only 10-23 seconds before falling apart into other particles. The teams noticed that their data had a peculiar bump around 3.9 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), an energy corresponding to roughly four times the weight of a proton.
“Inspired by this discovery, we decided to further study the Y(4260) decay, which indeed did not disappoint us,” said particle physicist Zhiqing Liu, lead author of a paper from the Belle experiment that appeared in Physical Review Letters on June 17. A second paper from BESIII, of which Liu is also a member, appears in the same issue.
Read it all HERE>
On November 29, 2010, federal agents in San Francisco arrested a 33-year-old New Yorker named Samuel Phineas Upham, setting in motion the chain of news reports that are responsible for Google’s autocompleting his name in the following ways:
PHINEAS UPHAM TAX
PHINEAS UPHAM ARREST
PHINEAS UPHAM INDICTMENT
The case against Upham, who goes by “Phin,” was laid out by Preet Bharara, the financial-crime-fighting U.S. Attorney. The indictment alleged that Phin tried to cheat the IRS by conspiring to hide over $11 million in Zurich at the Swiss bank UBS, and helped his mother, Sybil Nancy Upham, sneak the money into the United States. It said Nancy Upham, with the aid of UBS advisers, started a sham Liechtenstein nonprofit, the Rivaro Foundation, in 1993, then a sham Hong Kong corporation, Grand Partner International Limited, and, when UBS began cooperating with the IRS, moved the accounts to a bank in Liechtenstein without a U.S. branch. In 2005, Nancy directed Phin to go to Zurich to secretly retrieve some of the money in cash. He went, in 2005 and 2007, bringing back amounts as large as $300,000.
Nancy pleaded guilty and was sentenced in April, paying half the hidden money in penalties and receiving a three-year suspended sentence. Phin was both more and less lucky. In May 2012, Bharara dropped the charges, but the Google stain remains. Bloomberg’s headline, one of the most prominent in the search results, said Phin was “accused of helping Mom hide money,” and so even with the Jason Bourne–like cachet of having traveled around Switzerland with a bag full of cash, Phin still seemed, to those who Googled him, like a 33-year-old errand boy for his mother, herself an inept financial criminal. It was an especially cringe-inducing Google Easter egg for someone like me, who’d gone to college with him.
Finish reading HERE.
Putin’s biggest critic talks about the troubles facing the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Boris Nemtsov has occupied many roles in post-Soviet Russia, both in government and in the parallel polis that is oppositional politics. He was first elected governor of Nizhny Novgorod, whose successful economic reforms in that region carved a political pathway that would ultimately take him into the deputy premiership under the Yeltsin government. Nemtsov has also been a dogged opponent of Vladimir Putin for the better part of a decade, warning as early as 2004 of a creeping dictatorship. He’s perhaps best recognized by the series of reports or white papers that he has co-authored on the state of Russia’s economy, the corruption at the heart of Gazprom, and Putin’s rumored multi-billion dollar personal fortune, a subject of endless fascination for journalists. Most recently, Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk produced a large study of waste and graft that has become the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. My colleague Olga Khvostunova and I had a chance to interview Nemtsov about his report, ” Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics: Corruption and Abuse in Sochi .” (An English-language version of the report was put out last week by The Interpreter, an online translation journal I edit under the auspices of the Institute of Modern Russia. Both the report and the following interview were translated by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick.)
Read it all HERE.
“Harvard economist George Borjas has recently estimated that low-skilled American workers already suffer wage losses of $402 billion a year because of immigrant labor, a sum that does not include the costs to taxpayers of welfare paid to low-skill immigrant workers and their children. Amnesty proponents should explain how providing legal status to millions of illegal aliens will affect the job prospects of the poorest Americans.” –Heather Mac Donald
An extraordinary fuss about eavesdropping started in the spring of 1844, when Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian exile in London, became convinced that the British government was opening his mail. Mazzini, a revolutionary who’d been thrown in jail in Genoa, imprisoned in Savona, sentenced to death in absentia, and arrested in Paris, was plotting the unification of the kingdoms of Italy and the founding of an Italian republic. He suspected that, in London, he’d been the victim of what he called “post-office espionage”: he believed that the Home Secretary, Sir James Graham, had ordered his mail to be opened, at the request of the Austrian Ambassador, who, like many people, feared what Mazzini hoped—that an insurrection in Italy would spark a series of revolutions across Europe. Mazzini knew how to find out: he put poppy seeds, strands of hair, and grains of sand into envelopes, sealed the envelopes with wax, and sent them, by post, to himself. When the letters arrived—still sealed—they contained no poppy seeds, no hair, and no grains of sand. Mazzini then had his friend Thomas Duncombe, a Member of Parliament, submit a petition to the House of Commons. Duncombe wanted to know if Graham really had ordered the opening of Mazzini’s mail. Was the British government in the business of prying into people’s private correspondence? Graham said the answer to that question was a secret.
Questions raised this month about surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency have been met, so far, with much the same response that Duncombe got from Graham in 1844: the program is classified. (This, a secret secret, is known as a double secret.) Luckily, old secrets aren’t secret; old secrets are history. The Mazzini affair, as the historian David Vincent argued in “The Culture of Secrecy,” led to “the first modern attack on official secrecy.” It stirred a public uproar, and eventually the House of Commons appointed a Committee of Secrecy “to inquire into the State of the Law in respect of the Detaining and Opening of Letters at the General Post-office, and into the Mode under which the Authority given for such Detaining and Opening has been exercised.” In August of 1844, the committee issued a hundred-and-sixteen-page report on the goings on at the post office. Fascinating to historians, it must have bored Parliament silly. It includes a history of the delivery of the mail, back to the sixteenth century. (The committee members had “showed so much antiquarian research,” Lord John Russell remarked, that he was surprised they hadn’t gone all the way back to “the case of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who opened the letters which had been committed to his charge, and got Rosencrantz and Guildenstern put to death instead of himself.”)
Read it all HERE.
For the past week and a half, U.S. officials have told us that the National Security Agency’s vast collection of phone “metadata”—which numbers have called which other numbers and when—is kept in a “lockbox.” They’ve implied that the data can’t be searched without court approval. That’s false. The records can be searched without a warrant. The “lockbox” has no lock.
On June 6, hours after the Guardian reported details of the phone surveillance program, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, issued a statement describing oversight of the program by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. “By order of the FISC, the Government is prohibited from indiscriminately sifting through the telephony metadata acquired under the program,” said Clapper. “The court only allows the data to be queried when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization.”
Clapper’s terms—specific facts, particular basis—created an impression that the court applied these standards as a gatekeeper, case by case. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, added to that impression three days later. In an interview on This Week, Rogers described the court’s role in the phone records program: “The court said, ‘Put all of that information in a box, and hold that information. And when you want to access that information, you have to use this very specific court-ordered approval process.’ ”
Finish reading HERE.
Big gun porn…