Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Archive for the ‘Privacy Rights’ Category

An open letter from a suspicious package…

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His name was Carl. That's right, he had a name. NOPD blew him up ten minutes later. RIP

That bag’s name was Carl. That’s right, he had a name. NOPD blew him up ten minutes later. RIP Carl…

Good morning.

Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a suspicious package. It would seem my brothers and I are causing a bit of a problem in the Crescent City these days. At the WWII Museum, at the Superdome, on Canal, on Poydras, on Rampart: though my first impulse might be to apologize for the actions of my wayward brothers, I can’t. I won’t. Not today, not ever.

You see, there once was a time where my brothers and I could be simply left alone to enjoy the sun, relax while holding a good book or maybe some gym clothes and we could do it alone. By ourselves. Everyone needs alone time right? Well, since that horrible day twelve years or so ago, it would seem that everybody and their mother feels we need to constantly be chaperoned. I mean, chaperoned all the time. Every minute of every day unless we’re tucked neatly into the corner of someone’s apartment or perhaps in the closet, a school or gym locker, anywhere out of sight and out of the sun.

It’s a fucking drag.

Seriously.

How would you feel if you always had to be slung over somebody’s back or swinging wildly from someone’s hands, knocking into shit, each and every time you were out in public. Don’t lie…you wouldn’t like it all. In fact, I’ll go on record right now saying that each and every one of you reading this would fucking hate it.

So why are we supposed to enjoy it so much?

Because we’re supposedly inanimate objects? Because we don’t have feelings, worries or concerns? Because we don’t like to be left alone in peace, maybe over coffee? A drink? Or as mentioned before, out in the sun, enjoying the heat, trying to suck up a little life from the warmth of the day?

Don’t tell me to get over it.

You wanna know what happens sometimes when one of us decides to take a risk and venture forth without accompaniment? I’ll tell you what, some asshole in a police uniform starts to attack us with robots. That’s right, your Terminator nightmares can be the reality for some of us…and what do those robots occasionally do? Sometimes they blow us the fuck up!

Sucks. It sucks a lot.

So keeping all that in mind, here’s a thought: maybe the package isn’t the one that’s suspicious. Maybe the suspicious one is actually…you. Let that sink in for a moment.

You are the suspicious one.

Why else would you call the police every time one of our owners lets us have a few moments of idle time, even if it’s done by accident? You say it’s a  vigilance thing, uh-huh. Beware of the terrorists, okay. Still, you gotta ask yourself who would be so demented as to intentionally allow one of us some free time in this day and age? Why, and for what possible reason? Oh, but I’ll tell you. Beyond the occasional absent-mindedness, there are certain criminal elements in society who have learned just how suspicious you all can be, and that you project your suspicions upon us, the package. They know what a distraction we are, that if we’re dropped on a corner the NOPD will get called, everyone will freak the fuck out and the majority of the police will respond to stare all loony at us while those who left us there are free to do whatever it is they didn’t want the police or people to see outside of the now cordoned off zone. That’s right, too often these days we’re just a convenient decoy to lure the police and press away from some of your brethren’s more dastardly deeds, such as ripping off your mortgages, stealing your pensions, cutting food stamps to the poor, killing off your schools, raising the rates on flood insurance and raising rents while destroying your public hospital systems ability to treat the poor both medically and emotionally.

How long do you think it’ll take before this trickles down and would be drug dealers and/or assailants realize that if they want to assault people in one block or deal on the corners of another all they need do is leave one of us, a suitcase, a backpack or a briefcase unattended on a bench two or three blocks away?

I know, it’s crazy right?

Nope…you are.

Crazy nervous…so many are hyped up by breathless news stories and stupid action flicks and lingering governmental-hyper-vigilance-report-your-neighbor campaigns. You need proof? Okay. How many surveillance cameras did you get spotted by today…and you didn’t even notice, did you? Of course not. Now you’re all way too used to that kind of thing. Warrant-less wiretapping? National Security letters to Google? Eric Holder accessing reporters’ e-mails without their knowledge? The attack on whistle-blowers? The militarization of police departments?  Yeah, all of it is so commonplace nobody blinks an eye anymore. Freedoms are being whittled away by the National Security apparatus, including your own NOPD, who thanks to a ruling today by the US Supreme Court can now take a DNA sample and store it away if you ever get arrested…that’s right, a DNA database on you.

That’s what’s crazy.

But hey, it’s your world isn’t it? We just get carried through it so go ahead, be afraid…but dammit, can’t you give us a break sometimes? Not all of us are all that suspicious and none of us like it when the bomb squad gets called in to blow our ass up all over the street. It’s positively inhumane.

Okay…I know.

Alright.

I know…I need to be fair and up front here.

Therefore, I feel I must also address those packages out there that may very well be “suspicious,” that one out of a hundred thousand, a million, a billion of us packages who might actually deserve such a label.

You! Knock it the fuck off!

Really, you too are responsible, albeit slightly, for this horrid state of affairs. I know…right now I can hear you all: bags don’t kill people, people kill people. Right, I got it brother…but you bare some of the responsibility. We all know how easy it is to just slip off the shoulder, loosen a strap and just go off. Real easy. So if one of your owners are up to no good, please…be responsible, take one for the team and blow up your owner, preferably when no one else is around. It is an honorable death, and in doing so you’ll make the life for those of us who harbor no ill will a whole hell of a lot easier. Remember how it was thirteen years ago? Before things got all crazy, I used to love spending fifteen minutes or so alone on a Moonwalk bench, feeling the sun and that Mississippi River breeze. Loved it, but now that people are so suspicious and afraid, such a scenario could be my death sentence.

And I don’t want to die.

I just want a safe five minutes alone, unsupervised, monitored or spied upon…in private, clear the head to focus on who’s really doing the wrongs out there.

Hey, maybe we could all use the time.

Hell, anymore suspicious packages and we all just might wind up with some goddamned Duck Tours in the French Quarter and if that happens, an unattended bag will seem like heaven next to thousands of tourists walking down Bourbon Street with quackers in their mouth.

Think about it…and thank you for the time.

Have a nice day.

The GOP’s final solution…

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Yeah, and when I kicked the puppy again, it's face went like this...ha ha, yeah, puppies are stupid...

When it comes to…

…disaster aid, clean air, clean water, financial regulation, voting rights, health care, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, mortgage reform, banking reform, union support and collective bargaining, jobs programs, unemployment insurance, infrastructure repair, fairness in taxation, energy assistance, coal, natural gas and oil industry regulation, overall environmental concerns including endangered species and especially global warming, state and national parks, wildlife refuges, storm monitoring, food safety testing and regulation, protecting the oceans…

…rebuilding the Louisiana Coast and true levee protection for the city of New Orleans and the state of California…

…taxes on hedge fund managers, honest protection of small business, rebuilding schools, funding education, funding for the CDC, the EPA, the NOAA, the NIH, the FDA, the ADA, privacy rights, 4th amendment rights, school lunches, worker re-training, protecting the constitution, protecting the first amendment, maintaining free and honest elections, funding FEMA, funding green energy, protecting American citizens from toxic pollution, protecting innocent men and women from a state sponsored death…

…reining in Wall Street, keeping commodities speculators from increasing the price of such commodities as food and oil through their trading so they can make a buck, the same extra bucks the rest of this country pays for their unlimited greed…

Yeah, the GOP solution to all of the above?

Simple:

Fuck the People – The Kills

Have a nice day.  

What me, worry? With privacy rights, Obama worse than Bush…

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Privacy is for the "good" Americans.

So yeah, the FBI is getting set to get all new powers…which could be used to make past illegal activity by the FBI now legal, and to make new activity by the FBI as legal as they want it to be…

But one still might ask: but if you’re doing nothing wrong why worry about it?

The simple answer is these new rules would allow the FBI to dig up information on anyone they want, use it to blackmail anyone they want into being informants.

Also, it would allow the FBI to dismantle any remaining protections for people who are the sources on “low-profile blogs.” And who gets to decide which blogs are low profile?

Huh, I wonder…

From the article:

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention…

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.”

They will of course claim the new powers are necessary to: keep pace with technology, to combat serious threats, to just, you know…eliminate some minor procedural issue…because these are the things they always say…

Tired old record played on tired old record players…

Now, I would also like to add this, and feel free to throw me into the conspiracy portion of the internet if you like, but nonetheless…many people often examine any new erosion of privacy rights not through the way things are now, but through to the way this country could drift towards, and that being said, as Congress continues to cede control to Wall Street and large financial institution, as they continue to speak to the concerns of their country’s citizens with a collective shrug (unemployment benefits, home loan fraud, deregulation of commodities leading to the rising price of groceries and oil)…as they continue to do nothing about climate change (even though the Pentagon has done their own study and label it a threat to National Security)…as they continue, essentially to consolidate power into the hands of government institution and agency, and the wealthiest Americans and corporations…well, they understand this is just beginning to make Americans angry, and this anger is likely to grow and to one day, possibly foment acts against government institutions…

So, it would seem that over the past three Presidential Administrations…all of this eroding of privacy, what would be blatantly illegal even fifteen years ago…ten years ago…five years ago…while this is not necessarily some grand scheme of control, it is a bit by bit consolidation and anticipation of what could someday be necessary…should Americans really get upset when they finally wake up and realize that yes, they are being truly screwed, by Republicans and Democrats…

Present day erosion of American rights and privacy are “aces in the hole,” perhaps necessary for the government to identify and combat the potential for wider domestic unrest in the future.

Okay, enough about that…

Read the article:

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

Have a nice day…

…just don’t try no funny business.

A Few Thoughts About Wikileaks…

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National Security's newest enemy, keep a look out...

For anyone not following the story, Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 250,000 secret State Department documents on its website, in one of the largest leaks of classified information in history. Previous to their release, the documents were shown to the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel and several weeks ago, they were also shown to the US government who were given opportunity to help edit and comment. The US government declined, and the White House responded, “To be clear — such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, commented on this refusal in a letter to the State Department “I understand that the United States government would prefer not to have the information that will be published in the public domain and is not in favor of openness…that said, either there is a risk or there is not…you have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behavior.”

In publishing the documents, The New York Times wrote, “The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest…The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.”

So, what do the documents say?

A number of things, but to explore this would not be what is most on my mind this morning, so feel free to check it out yourself:

Wikileaks US Embassy Cables: New Documents Released – HuffingtonPost

State’s Secrets – New York Times

The US Embassy Cables – Guardian

What is on my mind this morning is the US governments desire to have things both ways, oftentimes at the expense of its citizens in the name of “National Security,”  and how Wikileaks release of the cables effectively does what an American citizen is unable to do, shine a light on a government that seems to no longer feel it is accountable for its actions.

Since 9-11, government abuse of privacy and civil rights in our country has sped up to an alarming degree. Illegal wiretapping, infiltration and monitoring of activist groups including the prior arrests of citizens in New York and Denver before national political conventions, the government monitors the internet, shuts down websites without court order…etc, all in the name of business and National Security. We have our citizens being spied on, inadvertently put on no-fly lists, intrusively screened and patted down at airports, being told they can’t get within shouting distance of politicians and in many other ways restricted, all with little to no recourse at all.

Wars are begun in Afghanistan and Iraq. People are illegally extradited. Large financial institutions are bailed out with our money while the same financial institutions illegally foreclose on our homes, in process making even more money while the government does nothing to stop it. In the Gulf of Mexico there is an alarming and growing health crisis as a result of chemical poisoning from the BP oil spill and the government simply pretends it isn’t happening. Katrina killed well over a thousand people and though everyone knew the levees had been suspect for years, the government did nothing about it and seemingly even less when they broke. We now have torture in this country, we are lied to every day and encouraged to feel afraid by politicians who dismissively speak the phrase, “It’s a new world,” and then justify all by telling us “we don’t understand the real dangers,” all while a complicit media agrees to being embedded with troops, accompanied by the National Guard in New Orleans, and in the Gulf told to get on board or get out.

And we as citizens have no recourse.

The Freedom of Information Act has been gutted, thus enabling the government to be even more secretive as to what it is doing, leaving any concerned American citizen in the dark, and time and time again we are told the same thing:

Its about our safety.

Its about National Security.

All of these arguments hold the same water these days as a parent telling a child to do or not do something, simply because the parent “told you so.” The American government has become so accustomed to manageable reaction, they now engage freely in these acts of lazy parenting where we are told our patriotic duty is not to question, but instead go shopping.

So Wikileaks comes along and does what none of us has been able to do, they shine a flashlight on the whole damn thing by exposing our unvarnished foreign policy goals, our comments about various leaders, our diplomats unfiltered opinions about the actions of our government, their successes, their failures and their embarrassments.

Already various members of Congress are calling for Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist operation as a result of this release because it is, of course, harmful to National Security.

Well, as an ignorant child, I would guess it is not my place to speculate but should I get too upset and decide to throw a tantrum in the aisles of Wal-Mart, I might so respond to these same politicians how they should hope no inside staffer gets a bug far enough up his ass that they go after their secrets and expose them to the country, because as a Guardian columnist writes about the Embassy Cable release: “Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organization can treat digitized communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.”

And I’d also like to think, like any child growing up, eventually “because I said so,” will finally stop working and the parent must at last begin to explain their reasoning to every American citizen.

Have a nice day.

Government Porn Booths and Molestation Makes Me Safe?

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Umm...nice gun?

Talking about the new porn booths she’s rolling into airports across the nation, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Chief says “Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal.”

Okay, but what is the goal?

Violation of the fourth amendment? Invasion of privacy? Profits for a company, Rapsican who makes the scanners and wouldn’t ya know, is a client of Michael Cherthoff’s lobbying group, the same Michael Cherthoff who introduced the idea of using the scanners when he was Department of Homeland Security Chief?

In case you’ve been living in a bubble, people are getting angry about the TSA’s new tool to fight crime, full body scanners. They take a full body image that is sharp enough to show non-metallic weapons and body genitalia through x-ray technology. The TSA maintains these x-rays are safe, but par usual whenever a government agency maintains the safety of (gulf seafood, genetically modified crops and salmon) something they mandate by law, scientists without agenda hold a differing view: “They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” says Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine. Should one opt out of the scanners they are then forced, in lieu of a $10,000 fine should they try to leave the screening process, into an intrusive body pat down, one that has been an equated with sexual assault. In response to such comparisons, Ron Paul, introduced a bill which would waive immunity for TSA airport screeners, opening them up to charges of assault by travelers, feeling they should beheld to the same laws as the rest of us.

Some have suggested that the more intrusive pat downs, rolled out this past October are meant as a deterrent to get people into the machines and some people, rightfully so, question what happens to these naked computer images? In an earlier post from August, I explored this issue. The TSA first maintained that the computers were not capable of saving or transmitting images. Then a courthouse in Florida demonstrated that not only are they capable, but the sheriff’s department at one court house had saved over 35,000 of them. Then the TSA said, okay, but they are deleted right away, but then those images started to make their way to the internet. Then they said well, okay, but we would never use machines with those capabilities at airports.

Right.

And since those capabilities are a matter of software inside the machines, we’ll never know, and even if those machines are truly disabled what would prevent a TSA screener from taking a picture of the image with his cellphone. Oh, right, the TSA doesn’t permit its employees to carry cellphones. How many of you work in jobs where cellphones aren’t permitted, but have brought them with you anyway?

Yep, me too.

So now the horror stories begin:

An airline pilot brings his 18 year old daughter to the airport and overhears one TSA agent say to another, “Heads up! I’ve got a cutie for you,” as she was headed for the scanner. When the pilot confronted the TSA clerk, he was told there must be a misunderstanding.

A breast cancer survivor is forced to remove her breast prosthesis in Charlotte. Cathy Bossi, a flight attendant relates the story: “She put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’ Bossi recalled. “And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll need to show me that.’”

Thomas Sawyer tried to warn the TSA agents that he had a urostomy bag and they might break the seal if they weren’t careful during the invasive pat downs. The TSA agents ignored this and then, of course, broke the seal, resulting in the man walking through the airport and onto his plane covered in urine.

And what do TSA agents think about this, well those without morale compass certainly wouldn’t be bothered, but lest we forget, TSA agents are people too and one particular agent who remembers this, describes his feelings this way:

“It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man’s private parts, their butt, their inner thigh. Even worse is having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!”

“Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me, said in my presence as I patted passengers down. These comments are painful and demoralizing, one day is bad enough, but I have to come back tomorrow, the next day and the day after that to keep hearing these comments. If something doesn’t change in the next two weeks I don’t know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry. I am serving my country, I should not have to go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country.”

Initially, airline pilots were forced to undergo the screenings, but now will be allowed to bypass as the TSA apparently realized how ridiculous it was to check the individual flying the plane for bombs.

Several lawmakers are getting into the act, including President Obama, who despite never having gone through the scanners or suffered the indignity of the pat downs, said he “understands peoples frustrations.” He states he asks, constantly, if there isn’t a better way to do this, but TSA officials have told him there isn’t, not yet. Congressional members, who have been sounding off about this, both pro and con, you know, our elected representatives, they of course are exempt from these screenings.

This is not your Congressman

Oh, and the most amusing fact about these new procedures?

They all come as a result of last years attempted Christmas bombing when a man snuck explosive chemicals onto a plane in his underwear. Well, the GAO reports: “it remains unclear whether the AIT (Scanners) would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information GAO has received.”

Passengers, pilots, flight attendants, members of congress, front line employees of the TSA, the media…everyone up in arms about these new procedures, the invasive pat downs, the radiation from the machines. Republican congressman are calling for airports to ditch the TSA and hire private security (an empty gesture as the airports would still be mandated to follow TSA guidelines), passengers are talking on public forums about the best way to humiliate TSA agents, four lawyers in New York City have proposed legislation to ban the machines in New York City’s airports, the morale of TSA agents are flagging, people are opting out of flying. With all the uproar, what is the response from the TSA?

TSA Chief John Pistole told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that his inspectors at 453 of the nation’s airports are not going to back down in the face of complaints that techniques are invasive. Pistole acknowledged the outcry, but he argued that passengers need to be educated, rather than change the procedures.

“Am I going to change the policies?” he said. “No.”

So here we are:

I fly mainly into two airports: Louis Armstrong International and San Francisco International and both have the scanners. I can choose to be radiated and allow the TSA to take a nude image or I can subject myself to an invasive pat down where a TSA agent runs his hands over every inch of my body…well, either that or I don’t fly. The president, congress, people, the TSA’s own employees, everyone but Joe Lieberman and Michael Cherthoff are less than thrilled by any and all of this, yet my three choices remain. I didn’t vote for the TSA. I have a big problem with what it is they are doing. They are a government entity doing something that would get everyone but them arrested for sexual assault, yet I have no choice but to submit. I have no recourse to being wronged.

Yeah, this is why I feel disenfranchised.

So look for me at the airport, I’ll be the one feeling much, much safer and making things very awkward for the TSA agent who’s touching my balls. I’ll also be the one contacting members of congress and demanding they stop this bullshit money grab for yet another company in the name of (fear) safety.

Check out National Opt-Out Day, November 24th where a large number of people plan to skip the scanners and demand pat-downs, keeping the pressure where it should be, on the TSA.

Have a nice day.

Hey TSA…Can You Record Obscene Finger Gestures On Your Body Scanners Too?

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Coming soon to the internet...Airport Porn

The new airport body scanners the Transportation Security Administration have been unrolling into airports across the country penetrate clothing to provide highly detailed images so accurate that critics have likened it to a virtual strip search. How accurate might you ask? Due to child pornography laws, children are not permitted to be scanned by the machines. As soon as they were announced a couple of years back, the TSA moved quickly to quiet any criticisms by explaining at length, for anyone who could hear how the images would not be saved, in fact, could not be saved on the machines.

Yeah, they lied.

So then they admitted okay, yes, these scanners do have the capability to store and transmit images, however they would never do such a thing, it would be a violation of privacy.

Yeah, they lied again.

The machines can store up to 40,000 images and wouldn’t you know, the U.S. Marshals Service in Florida admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved 35, 134 images with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse. Obviously, they were being respectful as if they really wanted to push the envelope they could have saved an additional 4,866 more.

“TSA is not being straightforward with the public about the capabilities of these devices,” said Marc Rotenberg, the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Exec Director, “This is the Department of Homeland Security subjecting every U.S. traveler to an intrusive search that can be recorded without any suspicion–I think it’s outrageous.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently stated the scanners would soon be at almost every major airport, including New York City, Dallas, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia.

Seriously though people…relax.

All that image storing stuff happened at a courthouse with criminals and people who know criminals…you know, bad people. Airports are a different story altogether – on Wednesday, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said that the agency’s scanners are delivered to airports with the image recording functions turned off. “We’re not recording them,” she said. “I’m reiterating that to the public. We are not ever activating those capabilities at the airport.”

Umm…you lie.

Read the article,

Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images

Have a nice flight.

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