Archive for the ‘terrorism’ Category

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Social Security Information Systems Near Collapse

Cato Analysis here.   Similar news here.

Feds Subpoena Twitter Seeking Information on Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer

Photo ID’s could be required to cast ballots in Wisconsin

Rush Holt vs. the airport scanners

Wes Benedict tackles TSA “adult” scanners

1.11-22.2011 Fast for Justice with Witness Agianst Torture for Brad Manning

1.28.2011 International Data Privacy Day

c/o Transect blog

By Quinn
I’ve seen a lot of talk about full-body scans on CNN, but it took William Saletan’s piece over on Slate advocating the use of full-body scans in order to protect from terrorists like Abdulmuttalib to push me to write about this.

The lack of consideration for the side-effects of a mandatory, uniform full-body scan policy is absurd.

Now, I actually agree with one of Saletan’s major points – that people should get over their hang-ups about other people seeing their entire bodies. Puritanism is so last century (and last decade). I also certainly appreciate that many people worry about their security on flights.

However, the statistical likelihood of being caught in a terrorist attack is quite low – so low that I can’t imagine how the loss of efficiency in the security process or the invasiveness of the procedure can find a counter-balance in “preventing terrorist attacks.” We’ve already done quite a bit in terms of making it difficult for terrorists to pull off an attack. Anything more just leads to diminishing returns. Saletan seems to think a continual escalation – like an “arms race” – is what’s necessary to keep people safe. But there comes a point at which more security measures won’t actually much of anything to deter attacks.

More to the point, this particular attack was a failure of intelligence, which just didn’t get its act together. Perhaps it might be better to address intelligence rather than airport security.

Previous moves, including requiring gender markers on tickets and ID issues, have already made travel unappealing for trans people. But full-body scans are beyond what’s even potentially justifiable. This will out trans people left and right. In a transphobic society, this puts too many people at risk for harassment. I’m sorry – I don’t trust U.S. TSA or any law enforcement agency not to give me crap for being trans. They have the power to pull me aside for even more scrutiny or say that I’m not who I present myself as. Or pull some madness like assuming that my trans-ness is a disguise for terrorist activity. Or just harass me – since law enforcement officials can be bigots just as much as anyone else.

And don’t even get me started on how this violates the religious liberty of people who do believe in modesty as a matter of faith, even though I generally don’t agree with them. This really won’t help relations with Islam.

The U.S. needs to catch itself before setting up full-body scanners everywhere. And, if it doesn’t, no country that seriously respects the privacy of its citizens should cooperate with the U.S. if asked to use full-body scans – including the Netherlands (and Nigeria) and Canada. The consequence is effectively deterring me – an otherwise law-abiding person – from air travel, along with an uncounted number of people like me.

We need to ask more questions about full-body scans than what Saletan has mentioned – or what the talking heads on CNN are blathering about. Do we really want to punish many innocents to catch the few guilty? Do we really want to make it impossible for some marginalized communities to fly for the sake of “mainstream” society? And do we really want to enact extreme measures in response to an attempt at terrorism that didn’t even succeed?

c/o The Washington Post

In the wake of embarrassing stories a few years ago about members of Congress and babies appearing on the “no-fly” list, the government reduced the number of names drawing extra scrutiny at airports. Federal officials are right to worry about the civil-liberties ramifications of the no-fly list, but the facts surrounding the attempted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 underscore that the wrong approach has been taken. Rather than simply reducing the number of names on the no-fly list or raising the bar for a name to be listed, the government should make it easier for wrongly listed travelers to clear their names.

One of the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001, reaffirmed last month, is that it is difficult to keep dangerous items off planes. Watch lists will never replace metal detectors, but they may stop some people who would destroy planes with box cutters or liquid explosives. The no-fly list itself targets potentially dangerous people without the use of racial or religious profiling, and improving it does not require expensive scanning equipment or the hiring of additional screeners.

The problem with the no-fly list is not its size but that some individuals appear on it because they share the name of a dangerous person or as a result of bureaucratic accident or thinly sourced and inaccurate intelligence tips. Rather than require the government to be nearly certain that an individual is an actual security threat before initially listing him or her — and running the risk that the truly dangerous will be left unlisted — it would make more sense to facilitate the removal of wrongly listed people.

To begin, travelers should have a way to determine in advance of a flight whether their names are on the list. That way they won’t be surprised when they show up at the airport and are forced to miss a flight. Of course we don’t want to have a Web site where people can check their names; that would make it too easy for terrorists to check false identities against the list until they find one that works. A better approach would be to create a system where people can check — in person — whether they are on the list. Locations for such checks could be airport security offices, U.S. embassies or other federal buildings. Truly dangerous people are unlikely to identify themselves to security officials to ask whether they are on the list; if they do, they can be questioned or arrested. But people who should not be on the list would have the chance to clear their names before enduring delays or missing flights.

For individuals listed by accident or because they share a dangerous person’s name, the Transportation Security Administration’s ombudsman system could simply update the federal watch list (with more specific identifying data such as date of birth, if necessary). The bigger challenge is people who may well be dangerous but for whom the intelligence community has only a single, classified red flag, perhaps a warning from a concerned parent or intelligence asset. The question becomes whether that tip is an indication of real danger or the result of undue suspicion.

To resolve these difficult cases, listed individuals should be given the right to request an administrative hearing. If the government is concerned that sharing secret evidence might reveal intelligence sources and methods, it should provide these individuals with an attorney who has security clearance. These lawyers can review the evidence, clear up confusion and present the individual’s best case. (Providing representation would help compensate people for the inconvenience of an erroneous listing.) It is hard to imagine that actual terrorists would request such a hearing to attempt to remove their names from the list. If they did, the government would be able to learn more about them and would be in a position to arrest them when appropriate. But it should not be difficult for innocent people to clear their names with the help of an attorney who has access to secret evidence.

Because Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was listed in a government database but was not on the no-fly list, some have suggested making the revocation of travel privileges more automatic. We should know more soon about where our system broke down and why the warnings from Abdulmutallab’s father did not result in greater scrutiny. But whether or not the government expands the no-fly list, federal officials should incorporate ways for wrongly listed travelers to clear their names. This would help the no-fly list keep dangerous people out of our aviation system with minimal inconvenience to the rest of us.

The writer is an attorney at a Washington law firm and a fellow at the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law. He has previously published in the Yale Law Journal on the constitutionality of the no-fly list.

Prospective Real ID Act language for “Tier 3” asylum seekers may create hardship

BTC – Immigration relations in conjunction with the Real ID Act have proven beastly in the past. This report reflects on those who may suffer unintended labeling or consequences from Real ID’s language.

For Human Rights First


The lives of thousands of refugees in the US are also in limbo. Human rights observers say changes to US immigration law within the PATRIOT Act and REAL ID Act have created an overly broad definition of terrorist – and now thousands of people fleeing repression and war-torn countries are being denied their applications for asylum, permanent residence, and family reunification.

Anwen Hughes is a researcher with Human Rights First.

“These include, for example, people who engaged in ordinary military activity against an opposing army, people who fought for the independence of countries that have now been independent for a long time, like Eritrea or Bangladesh, people who were fighting really awful regimes in their countries, people who had fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, people who had fought to try to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In some cases people were doing these things with the support of the United States or at the behest of the United States.”

Hughes is the author of a new report on this issue. The data she collected shows some 18,000 refugees and asylum seekers affected by the broad definition of terrorism used by US immigration officials. Hughes said the statutory definition of this “Tier III terrorist organization” is any group of two or more people who have used a weapon for any unlawful purpose other than personal monetary gain. Hughes says Congress needs to act on this issue now.

“One of the small fixes would be to eliminate the immigration law concept of a non-designated, or Tier 3 as we’ve been calling it, terrorist organization because that has broadened the scope of this problem more than, basically, anything else. We also believe that the definition of terrorist activity under the immigration law is overwhelmingly broad and needs to be focused more so that it’s actually targeting the activities that the government means to target instead of targeting everybody else as well.”

Some 7500 refugees and asylum seekers’ have their cases currently on hold with the Department of Homeland Security. For those the US does deny or deport, Hughes says there’s another indirect impact — these people will have a much harder time getting refugee status in another country, after being labeled a “terrorist” by the United States. To read the full Human Rights First report click on the link to open the PDF document at:


DALLAS — Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and despite repeated mandates from Congress, the United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country.

New concern was focused on that security loophole last week, when Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian who had overstayed his tourist visa, was accused in court of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

Last year alone, 2.9 million foreign visitors on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s checked in to the country but never officially checked out, immigration officials said. While officials say they have no way to confirm it, they suspect that several hundred thousand of them overstayed their visas.

Over all, the officials said, about 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.

Mr. Smadi’s case has brought renewed calls from both parties in Congress for Department of Homeland Security officials to complete a universal electronic exit monitoring system.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Smadi case “points to a real need for an entry and exit system if we are serious about reducing illegal immigration.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration, said he would try to steer money from the economic stimulus program to build an exit monitoring system.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, immigration authorities, with more than $1 billion from Congress, have greatly improved and expanded their systems to monitor foreigners when they arrive. But despite several Congressional authorizations, there are no biometric inspections or a systematic follow-up to confirm that foreign visitors have departed.

Homeland security officials caution that universal exit monitoring is a daunting and costly goal, mainly because of the nation’s long and busy land borders, with more than one million crossings every day. The wrong exit plan, they said, could clog trade, disrupt border cities and overwhelm immigration agencies with information they could not effectively use.

Since 2004, homeland security officials have put systems in place to check all foreigners as they arrive, whether by air, sea or land. Customs officers now take fingerprints and digital photographs of visitors from most countries, instantly comparing them against law enforcement watch list databases. (Canadians and Mexicans with special border-crossing cards are exempt from those checks.)

But homeland security officials said that a series of pilot programs since 2004 had failed to yield an exit monitoring system that would work for the whole nation. They have not yet found technology to support speedy exit inspections at land borders. And airlines balked at an effort last year by the Bush administration to make them responsible for taking fingerprints and photographs of departing foreigners.

The current system relies on departing foreigners to turn in a paper stub when they leave.

Last year, official figures show, 39 million foreign travelers were admitted on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s. Based on the paper stubs, homeland security officials said, they confirmed the departure of 92.5 percent of them. Most of the remaining visitors did depart, officials said, but failed to check out because they did not know how to do so. But more than 200,000 of them are believed to have overstayed intentionally.

Immigration authorities have put in place a separate system for keeping track of foreigners who, unlike Mr. Smadi, come on student visas. That system has proved effective at confirming that the students have stayed in school and do not overstay their visas, officials said.

Immigration analysts said that given the difficulties of enforcing the United States’ vast borders, it remains primarily up to law enforcement officials to thwart terrorism suspects who do not have records that would draw scrutiny before they enter the United States.

“You can’t ask the immigration system to do everything,” said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a research center in Washington, and a former commissioner of the immigration service. “This is an example of how changes in law enforcement priorities and techniques since Sept. 11 actually got to where they should be.”

Mr. Smadi, like many tourists who overstay visas, was able to fade easily into society and encountered few barriers to starting a life here, according to court documents and people who know him. He enrolled in high school, obtained a California identification card, landed jobs in two states and rented a string of apartments and houses. He bought at least two used cars, and even procured a handgun and ammunition.

Mr. Smadi’s arrest on Sept. 24 for the attempted bombing was not his first encounter with American law enforcement. Two weeks earlier, a sheriff’s deputy in Ellis County, Tex., pulled him over for a broken tail light just north of the town of Italy, then arrested him for driving without a license or insurance.

When the deputy checked his identity, Mr. Smadi’s name showed up on a watch list by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was already investigating him. But the background check turned up no immigration record. The deputy called the F.B.I. and was told there was no outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Smadi. So on the evening of Sept. 11, Mr. Smadi paid a $550 fine and walked out of the county jail.

“There was nothing to indicate to us that this person was currently in the States illegally,” said Chief Deputy Dennis Brearley.

Mr. Smadi had come to the United States from Jordan in early 2007 on a six-month tourist visa, immigration officials say.

For a few weeks he stayed in San Jose, Calif., with Hana Elrabodi, a retired Jordanian businessman who knew his family, according to Mr. Elrabodi’s wife, Temina. Though Mr. Smadi was not authorized to work, he found a job at a local restaurant. In late March, Mr. Smadi obtained a California identification card using Mr. Elrabodi’s address.

In October 2007, Mr. Smadi moved into an apartment in Santa Clara with his younger brother, Hussein Smadi, and another man he identified as his cousin, according to the manager of the apartment complex, Joe Redzovic. Mr. Smadi took another job, in a falafel restaurant, and in the winter he briefly enrolled in the Santa Clara High School.

After a fire gutted his Santa Clara apartment, Mr. Smadi moved to Dallas. Though his visa had expired by April 2008, he landed a job working behind the counter at Texas Best Smokehouse in Italy, Tex., about 45 miles from Dallas. He rented a bungalow nearby, using his California identification and passing a criminal background check, said his former landlord, David South.

Three months later, Mr. Smadi married one of his co-workers, Rosalinda Duron. They separated in the fall of 2008 after only three months, Ms. Duron said.

Investigators have found no evidence that Mr. Smadi, during his first year in the United States, openly espoused Islamic fundamentalism. Neither have they found any evidence that he received terrorist training abroad or came to the United States intending to commit a terrorist act, said Mark White, a spokesman for the F.B.I. in Dallas.

But by the spring of 2008, he caught the attention of the F.B.I. by posting incendiary remarks about wanting to kill Americans on Jihadist Web sites. Over the summer, he met with agents posing as members of Al Qaeda and planned to bomb the Fountain Place office building in downtown Dallas, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

His arrest on terrorism charges came after he parked a truck that he had been told was carrying explosives in the building’s underground garage, according to court documents.

When the F.B.I. later searched his residence, they found a Beretta 9 millimeter pistol and a box of ammunition, along with his passport and the expired visa, the court documents show.

“What needs to be understood is the fact that in order to operate any sort of coffee wagon, hot dog stand or other such business in New York and most other cities, the vendor needs to have legitimate ID in order to qualify for a vendor’s license. It is also obvious that to drive any conveyance, such a taxi cab, limo or airport shuttle bus, the would be driver, first and foremost needs to have a valid driver’s license.

This is why the Real ID Act was so important and one of the reasons I am adamantly opposed to providing illegal aliens with driver’s licenses.”

Michael Cutler, a former INS Agent

*The views and opinions of Michael Cutler are not necessarily the views and opinions of

BTC- According to these reports, the current investigation of an Afghani and another muslim terrorism suspect in NY has revealed that both have lawful immigrant status here in the U.S. The billowing rhetoric from some national Republican lawmakers that a national ID will both control immigration and terrorism is examined in the following News Blaze editorial.

It is our assessment, that not every state is clear about how Real ID and drivers licenses will play out per the administration to legal OR undocumented aliens. In the case of terrorism, lawful entry into the country seems to be the popular modus operandi or means where terrorist are subversively allowed to roost.

However, you cannot prosecute for a crime that has not been committed. The point of an investigation is to determine if a crime has been committed. If a crime has been committed, a jury trial ensues and then a verdict is given towards the culpability of a crime.

In my previous writings and posts here, amnesty has been a stumbling block set in place, ironically, by a Republican president. The Real ID Acts aims to deal with amnesty are placebo in nature, like a sugary pill which actually treats or cures nothing for immigration reform efforts for both sides of the aisle.

Millions of New Yorkers were outraged when former Governor Eliott Spitzer gave Enhanced Drivers Licenses [New York’s respective Real ID] the greenlight because so many undocumented aliens were able to attain legal drivers licenses. In this case the Real ID Act became a leg up for would be terrorism. Cutler’s editorial perspective sheds light on the ideas of immigrants in our country being able to receive identity in order to function normally in day-to-day living. Real ID will be an undocumented aliens American Identity in New York and in Texas or New Mexico Real ID legislation portends relief from amnesty clauses, which it won’t necessarily deliver on. Long standing immigration law goes unenforced every day.

Immigration in this country has become about a black market labor trade. 3rd world undocumented immigrants in this country do not require health benefits, lawful working conditions and receive drastically undercut wages for their work. It’s a business market where both Democrats and Republicans in this country have their own way of keeping things moving towards a profitable hand over fist arrangement.

Anti- National ID advocates are encouraged to accept that Real ID will not do much at all for immigration reform at all because that is not the reason for its design. Its design is to get every American to prove their citizenship at every turn. Real ID’s design is orchestrated so citizenship will constantly be questioned. At that point no amount of citizenship will be enough to escape an arbitrary prying into your life. You will lose some of the integrity of your citizenship, because you may not be American enough for someone that day to receive whatever it is that your mandated Real ID card will call for.

Whether or not we agree with Cutler’s views on immigration reform, it is an honest portrayal of how a NY drivers license didn’t prove its worth as a citizenship sieve to stop terrorism. That is the job of federal law enforcement.

Response to “Two New Yorkers Questioned in Zazi Investigation, Attorneys Say”

Cutler’s editorial was a response to ABC news reporting on the investigation of the NY based terrorism plots.

Support Articles on the Zazi Case & Prosecution for Terrorism in the U.S. [ABC]

Two New Yorkers questioned in Zazi investigation, attorneys say

WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Intelligence activities across the U.S. government and military cost a total of $75 billion a year, the nation’s top intelligence official said on Tuesday, disclosing an overall number long shrouded in secrecy.

Dennis Blair, the U.S. director of national intelligence, cited the figure as part of a four-year strategic blueprint for the sprawling, 200,000-person intelligence community.
In an unclassified version of the blueprint released by Blair’s office, intelligence agencies singled out as threats Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea’s “erratic behavior,” and insurgencies fueled by militant groups, though Blair cited gains against al Qaeda.

Blair also cited challenges from China’s military modernization and natural resource-driven diplomacy, as well as from efforts by Russia to reassert its power.

“I think for the first time we have a good understanding of the world that we’re in,” Blair said.
Officials said the $75 billion total figure cited by Blair incorporated spending by the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies, as well as the amounts spent by the Pentagon on military intelligence activities.

The United States has taken some steps in recent years to open the books on some of its secretive intelligence spending activities.

It has disclosed the amount spent by the 16 intelligence agencies — $47.5 billion in 2008 alone — but those figures did not incorporate the military’s intelligence activities, officials said.
Blair, in a conference call with reporters, explained that his four-year strategy was not set up on the “traditional fault line … between military intelligence and national intelligence.”

“This whole distinction between military and non-military intelligence is no longer relevant,” Blair said.

Spending for most intelligence programs is described in classified annexes to intelligence and national defense authorization and appropriations legislation. Members of Congress have access to these annexes but must make special arrangements to read them. (Editing by Eric Beech)