‘In a satirical jibe at stringent censorship imposed by Fiji’s military Government, the Daily Post newspaper has been filling the space with some no news.
Headlines in Wednesday’s edition included “Man gets on bus” over an item reading: “In what is believed to be the first reported incident of its kind, a man got on a bus yesterday. ‘It was easy,’ he said. ‘I just lifted one leg up and then the other and I was on.’ ”
Another headed “Breakfast as usual” began: “It was breakfast as usual for the staff of this newspaper. ‘I had leftover roti from last night,’ senior reporter Manueli told his colleague yesterday morning.”
A third story began, “Paint has apparently dried on his old couch, Max reports. Given the job of painting the couch, Max was excited at the prospect of the paint drying. But when asked how it dried, he was nonplussed.’
‘A private intelligence company has been engaged by police to secretly monitor internet and email use by activist and protest groups, a report says.
The company was hired to monitor and report on the internet activities of anti-war campaigners, animal rights activists, environmental campaigners, and other protest groups, Fairfax Media reported.
It was hired by Victorian Police, the Australian Federal Police and the federal Attorney-General’s department.
The Melbourne-based firm has for the past five years monitored websites, online chat rooms, social networking sites, email lists and bulletin boards, the report said.
It has gathered intelligence on planned protests and other activities, and many of those on the watch list have broken no laws, the report said.’
‘The Australian Federal Government is pushing forward with a plan to force Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to censor the Internet for all Australians. This plan will waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and slow down Internet access.
Despite being almost universally condemned by the public, ISPs, State Governments, Media and censorship experts, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is determined to force this filter into your home.’
There are contact details for the fool behind this nonsense. If you’re annoy by all this, you should let them know.
‘James Robinson is a retired Air National Guard brigadier general and a commercial pilot for a major airline who flies passenger planes around the country.
Eight-year-old James Robinson isn’t sure what “terrorist” means, but he’s on the government list, too.
He has even been certified by the Transportation Security Administration to carry a weapon into the cockpit as part of the government’s defense program should a terrorist try to commandeer a plane.
But there’s one problem: James Robinson, the pilot, has difficulty even getting to his plane because his name is on the government’s terrorist “watch list.”
That means he can’t use an airport kiosk to check in; he can’t do it online; he can’t do it curbside. Instead, like thousands of Americans whose names match a name or alias used by a suspected terrorist on the list, he must go to the ticket counter and have an agent verify that he is James Robinson, the pilot, and not James Robinson, the terrorist.
“Shocking’s a good word; frustrating,” Robinson — the pilot — said. “I’m carrying a weapon, flying a multimillion-dollar jet with passengers, but I’m still screened as, you know, on the terrorist watch list.”‘
‘Transit police have identified the man seen with a young girl on-board a bus at Sullivan Station Sunday night.
Officers have met with both the young girl, and the family member who was with her on the bus.
A passenger noticed a man holding the child’s hand. That passenger says she overheard the girl say she was hungry, and the man told her to “Please be quiet.”
T police say there was no criminal conduct. They consider the case closed.’
‘Britain’s biggest teachers’ union has accused the Ministry of Defence of breaking the law over a lesson plan drawn up to teach pupils about the Iraq war. The National Union of Teachers claims it breaches the 1996 Education Act, which aims to ensure all political issues are treated in a balanced way.
Teachers will threaten to boycott military involvement in schools at the union’s annual conference next weekend, claiming the lesson plan is a “propaganda” exercise and makes no mention of any civilian casualties as a result of the war.
They believe the instructions, designed for use during classroom discussions in general studies or personal, social and health education (PSE) lessons, are arguably an attempt to rewrite the history of the Iraq invasion just as the world prepares to mark its fifth anniversary.’
‘An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida terrorist network.
The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam’s regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.
The new study of the Iraqi regime’s archives found no documents indicating a “direct operational link” between Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report. [..]
Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed in September 2002 that the United States had “bulletproof” evidence of cooperation between the radical Islamist terror group and Saddam’s secular dictatorship.’
‘For law enforcement, fear and the politics of fear have entwined to create a radical new paradigm. Even the term “law enforcement” has been rendered quaint by the Bush administration. These days, the term of art is “lawfare” — the confluence of police work and military tactics. With Joint Terrorism Task Forces set up across the country to coordinate the work of federal agencies and local cops, the FBI now devotes nearly two-thirds of its resources — some $4 billion — to waging war on terrorism. The approach today is not the traditional police work of investigating actual crimes but the far more slippery goal of preventing terrorist attacks before they occur.
To hear the Bush administration tell it, the JTTFs have been an unqualified success. [..]
But a closer inspection of the cases brought by JTTFs reveals that most of the prosecutions had one thing in common: The defendants posed little if any demonstrable threat to anyone or anything. According to a study by the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, only ten percent of the 619 “terrorist” cases brought by the federal government have resulted in convictions on “terrorism-related” charges — a category so broad as to be meaningless. In the past year, none of the convictions involved jihadist terror plots targeting America. “The government releases selective figures,” says Karen Greenberg, director of the center. “They have never even defined ‘terrorism.’ They keep us in the dark over statistics.”‘
‘The Australian Government is contemplating introducing ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ laws for online copyright offenders.
Broadband minister Senator Steven Conroy told the Sydney Morning Herald that such an approach, with ISPs being required to first warn offending users, then suspend their access temporarily, then cut off access altogether, was being seriously considered by the government.
The proposal is said to mirror similar suggested policies in Britain, though the details leaked of that plan suggest that the exact model for prosecution hasn’t been finalised. Using a system that mimics baseball also seems a tad un-Australian, though presumably being bowled out on the first offence would be even less popular.’
‘A technical glitch gave the F.B.I. access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network — perhaps hundreds of accounts or more — instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode.
F.B.I. officials blamed an “apparent miscommunication” with the unnamed Internet provider, which mistakenly turned over all the e-mail from a small e-mail domain for which it served as host. The records were ultimately destroyed, officials said.
Bureau officials noticed a “surge” in the e-mail activity they were monitoring and realized that the provider had mistakenly set its filtering equipment to trap far more data than a judge had actually authorized.’
‘Smokers could be forced to pay £10 for a permit to buy tobacco if a government health advisory body gets its way.
No one would be able to buy cigarettes without the permit, under the idea proposed by Health England.
Its chairman, Professor Julian Le Grand, told BBC Radio 5 Live the scheme would make a big difference to the number of people giving up smoking.
But smokers’ rights group Forest described the idea as “outrageous”, given how much tax smokers already pay. [..]
He said it was the inconvenience of getting a permit – as much as the cost – that would deter people from persisting with the smoking habit.
“You’ve got to get a form, a complex form – the government’s good at complex forms; you have got to get a photograph.
“It’s a little bit of a problem to actually do it, so you have got to make a conscious decision every year to opt in to being a smoker.”‘
‘POLICE are stepping up the heat on potential terrorists by seeking access to “tens of thousands” of closed circuit television cameras.
Police will store every NSW camera location in a central database so that terrorists and other criminal activity can be speedily tracked.
Owners of large and small businesses who have installed CCTV cameras in customer areas or outside their premises will be asked to register them with police.
The information will be used to create a map of CCTV locations, allowing police to quickly source footage showing suspects and crimes.’
‘China has systematically covered up the accidental deaths of at least 10 workers, and perhaps many more, in a rush to construct the futuristic “bird’s nest” stadium in Beijing for this summer’s Olympic Games.
The estimates are drawn from dozens of interviews conducted over six months, under a guarantee of anonymity, with employees from the huge building site in a northern district of the capital.
Witnesses have told The Sunday Times of seeing workers plummet to their deaths from the perilous heights of the stadium [..]
The bodies were swiftly removed by police, who sealed off accident scenes with orange tape and cleared other workers from the area while the dead were loaded into police vehicles, witnesses said.
Managers and police ordered the workers not to mention the deaths to anyone and not to talk about the accidents among themselves.’
‘Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.
The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.
Technology allowing constant monitoring of workers was previously limited to pilots, firefighters and Nasa astronauts. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces.’
‘The arrest of a man named Steven Howards in June 2006 after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney at a Colorado ski resort and denounced the war in Iraq might have seemed, at the time, no more than a blip on the vice president’s schedule.
But now the blip has become a blowup, with Secret Service agents — under oath in court depositions — accusing one another of unethical and perhaps even illegal conduct in the handling of Mr. Howards’s arrest and the official accounting of it.
The revelations arise from a lawsuit Mr. Howards filed against five Secret Service agents, accusing them of civil rights and free-speech violations. They offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Secret Service, which usually wears the standoffish, plainclothes cool of its mission like a cloak of invisibility.’
Followup to Criticizing Cheney to His Face Is Assault?.
‘North Vietnamese made hoax calls to get the US military to bomb its own units during the Vietnam War, according to declassified information that also confirmed US officials faked an incident to escalate the war. [..]
During the war, North Vietnamese intelligence units sometimes succeeded in penetrating US communications systems, and they could monitor American message traffic from within, according to the report “Spartans in Darkness.”
On several occasions “the communists were able, by communicating on Allied radio nets, to call in Allied artillery or air strikes on American units,” it said. [..]
But he said that probably the “most historically significant feature” of the declassified report was the retelling of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident. [..]
The author of the report “demonstrates that not only is it not true, as (then US) secretary of defense Robert McNamara told Congress, that the evidence of an attack was ‘unimpeachable,’ but that to the contrary, a review of the classified signals intelligence proves that ‘no attack happened that night,'” FAS said in a statement.’
‘National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell is drawing up plans for cyberspace spying that would make the current debate on warrantless wiretaps look like a “walk in the park,” according to an interview published in the New Yorker’s print edition today. [..]
McConnell is developing a Cyber-Security Policy, still in the draft stage, which will closely police Internet activity.
“Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the autority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search,” author Lawrence Wright pens.
“Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation, he said,” Wright adds. “Giorgio warned me, ‘We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'”‘
‘Luther Ricks and his wife worked most of their lives at a steel foundry in Ohio. Not trusting of banks, they say they’ve lived frugally, and managed to save more than $400,000 over the years, which they kept in a safe in their home.
Last summer, two burglars broke into Ricks’ home. He shot and killed one of them. Police determined he acted in self-defense, and cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing. But local police did find a small amount of marijuana in Ricks’ home, which Ricks says he uses to manage the pain of his arthritis and a hip replacement surgery. Ricks was never charged for the marijuana. But finding it in his home was enough for city police to confiscate Ricks and his wife’s life savings under drug war asset forfeiture laws. Oddly enough, the FBI then stepped in, and claimed the money for itself.’
‘Donald Kerr, a top intelligence official with the US government, says that citizens need to change their definition of privacy to match the government’s definition, the AP reports. Appointed Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2005, Kerr is now the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Kerr is one of many in the intelligence community who finds Americans’ views on privacy to be antiquated and unreasonable. [..]
Americans need to shift their definition of privacy to center instead on the proper maintenance and protection of personal data by government and business entities. Kerr said that “privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured. And it is that framework that we need to grow and nourish and adjust as our cultures change.”‘
‘Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.
The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.
The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous — and possibly illegal.
A check of federal court records in California did not reveal any prosecutions developed from falafel trails.’
‘When Shawn Hicks returned to his North Braddock home on Stokes Avenue after a Saturday night out on the town with friends, he didn’t bother turning on the lights.
Instead of heading to his bedroom, Mr. Hicks, a 29-year-old business major at Point Park University, plopped himself face down and fully dressed on his cream-colored leather sofa in his living room. He also neglected to deactivate his home security system, which has a silent alarm.
Surrounded by the darkness and familiar comforts of his home, Mr. Hicks was asleep within five minutes. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was not destined to have sweet dreams that night.
“I felt a lot of voltage going through my body,” Mr. Hicks said recalling the events of that late July weekend. “That’s what woke me up.”‘
‘About a hundred times a day, from anywhere in the world, a phone call comes in that sounds something like this: I think I’ve got a terrorist suspect here, can you check it out?
Answering those calls are dozens of operations specialists in a highly secure center in a classified location in northern Virginia. With access to the government’s secret terror watch list, their job is to make sure nobody on the list falls through the cracks.
CNN got a firsthand look inside the Terrorist Screening Center recently — but not until a security officer who accompanied the TV crew at all times bellowed to the hub of the center’s operation, “Unsecure!” to make sure any classified information was protected from view.
For the first time publicly, officials told CNN the consolidated watch list has 300,000 names.’
‘China has banned “sexually provocative sounds” on television and pulled the plug on a show reconstructing infamous crimes by women ahead of a major Communist Party meeting next month.
The order, issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, is the latest in a raft of measures which have included cancelling reality shows featuring sex changes and plastic surgery and banning talent contests during prime-time.
“Sexually suggestive advertisements and scenes showing how women are influenced into a life of crime are detrimental to society,” it said in a statement posted on its website, referring to its decision to axe Red Question Mark, a crime documentary.
“Commercials containing sexually provocative sounds or tantalizing language as well as vulgar advertisements for breast enhancement and female underwear are banned, effective immediately,” said the SARFT notice.’
‘International travelers concerned about being labeled a terrorist or drug runner by secret Homeland Security algorithms may want to be careful what books they read on the plane. Newly revealed records show the government is storing such information for years.
Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore’s choice of reading material, and worry over the number of small flashlights he’d packed for the trip.
The breadth of the information obtained by the Gilmore-funded Identity Project (using a Privacy Act request) shows the government’s screening program at the border is actually a “surveillance dragnet,” according to the group’s spokesman Bill Scannell.
“There is so much sensitive information in the documents that it is clear that Homeland Security is not playing straight with the American people,” Scannell said. ‘
‘Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.
Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders like Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Ms. Ghuman was to have participated last month in the Bard Music Festival, showcasing Elgar’s music.
But the door has remained closed to Ms. Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who is British and who had lived, studied and worked in this country for 10 years before her abrupt exclusion.
The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.’
‘A military watchdog organization filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and a US Army major, on behalf of an Army soldier stationed in Iraq. The suit charges the Pentagon with widespread constitutional violations by allegedly trying to force the soldier to embrace evangelical Christianity and then retaliating against him when he refused. [..]
“Immediately after plaintiff made it known he would decline to join hands and pray, he was confronted, in the presence of other military personnel, by the senior ranking … staff sergeant who asked plaintiff why he did not want to pray, whereupon plaintiff explained because he is an atheist,” says the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to Truthout. “The staff sergeant asked plaintiff what an atheist is and plaintiff responded it meant that he (plaintiff) did not believe in God. This response caused the staff sergeant to tell plaintiff that he would have to sit elsewhere for the Thanksgiving dinner. Nonetheless, plaintiff sat at the table in silence and finished his meal.”‘
‘At first there was a wall of secrecy about a supposed Israeli attack on Syria 10 days ago. Now, the leaks have started and there are suggestions the air assault by Israel was in response to Syria’s nuclear ambitions.
In Israel itself there is an official blackout on any information related to the attack, with the Israeli military censor banning any reporting from Israeli sources.
However the British and American press, quoting unnamed US sources, have been putting together an alarming picture.
What happened in Syria 10 days ago has been at the centre of one the biggest guessing games in Israel. Whatever it was, it was very serious.’
‘A McDonald’s worker in Union City, Ga., was arrested and jailed Thursday night for putting too much salt and pepper on a police officer’s hamburger, MyFoxAtlanta reported Friday.
Kendra Bull was mixing hamburger meat when, she said, too much salt and pepper accidentally spilled into the bowl. Bull said her manager was working with her, and continued to make patties out of the meat. Bull grilled and ate one of the over-seasoned burgers for her dinner break and grilled the remaining burgers from the batch. [..]
Bull, who spent Thursday night in jail until she was released on a $1,000 signature bond Friday morning, admitted the burgers were too salty, but said she ate one from the batch and did not get sick. She also said that security cameras trained on the work area and grill will prove that the salt was spilled accidentally.
Bull’s attorney, a public defender, asked the judge to dismiss the charges, but the judge refused.’
‘A police operation to covertly follow a Central Otago man came to an abrupt halt this week when the man found tracking devices planted in his car, ripped them out and listed them for sale on Trade Me. [..]
Williams said a cellphone sim card in one of the devices appeared to transmit messages to the mobile phone of Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw, of the Central Otago CIB.
Williams provided The Press with emails from Shaw saying: “If you have got something of ours it would be good to get it back. You can call me and I can come meet you.” [..]
Williams said he did not know why police were interested in him. He spent two years in jail “20 years ago” for selling marijuana to an undercover policeman, but had no convictions since then.
Williams said the devices were not hard to find and he described the operation as “a bumbling attempt” by “weirdos”.’
‘The freedom to travel of more than 100,000 Americans placed on “watch” and “no fly” lists is being restricted by the Bush-Cheney regime.
Citizens who have done no more than criticize the president are being banned from airline flights, harassed at airports, strip searched, roughed up and even imprisoned, feminist author and political activist Naomi Wolf reports in her new book, “The End of America.”(Chelsea Green Publishing)
“Making it more difficult for people out of favor with the state to travel back and forth across borders is a classic part of the fascist playbook,” Wolf says. She noticed starting in 2002 that “almost every time I sought to board a domestic airline flight, I was called aside by the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) and given a more thorough search.”
During one preboarding search, a TSA agent told her “You’re on the list” and Wolf learned it is not a list of suspected terrorists but of journalists, academics, activists, and politicians “who have criticized the White House.”‘