FEMA and "The X Files" -- The strange and scary history of America's disaster relief agency and its role in "continuity in government."
The amount of homeland security we actually need is inversely related to how good our foreign policy is.
The odds of dying on an airplane as a result of a terrorist hijacking are less than 1 in 25 million which, for all intents and purposes, is effectively zero according to Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. By comparison, the odds of dying in a normal airplane crash, according to the OAG Aviation Database, are 1 in 9.2 million. This means that, on average, pilots are responsible for more deaths than terrorists. In the same vein, the average American is 87 times more likely to drown than die by a terrorist attack; 50 times more likely to die by lightening; and 8 times more likely to die by a police officer, according to the National Safety Councils 2004 estimates..- Evan DeFilippis, Oklahoma Daily
NY Times - When the Occupy protests spread across the country three years ago, state and local law enforcement officials went on alert. In Milwaukee, officials reported that a group intended to sing holiday carols at an undisclosed location of high visibility. In Tennessee, an intelligence analyst sought information about whether groups concerned with animals, war, abortion or the Earth had been involved in protests.
And in Washington, as officials braced for a tent encampment on the National Mall, their counterparts elsewhere sent along warnings: a link to a video of Kansas City activists who talked of occupying congressional offices and a tip that 15 to 20 protesters from Boston were en route. None of the people are known to be troublemakers, one official wrote in an email.
The communications, distributed by people working with counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing offices known as fusion centers, were among about 4,000 pages of unclassified emails and reports obtained through freedom of information requests by lawyers who represented Occupy participants and provided the documents to The New York Times. They offer details of the scrutiny in 2011 and 2012 by law enforcement officers, federal officials, security contractors, military employees and even people at a retail trade association. The monitoring appears similar to that conducted by F.B.I. counterterrorism officials, which was previously reported.
In many cases, law enforcement officials appeared to simply assemble or copy lists of protests or related activities, sometimes maintaining tallies of how many people might show up. They also noted appearances by prominent Occupy supporters and advised other officials about what or whom to watch for, according to the newly disclosed documents...
The nations 78 fusion centers which have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, as well as money from state governments are run by state and local authorities. They were created after the 2001 Qaeda attacks to share information about terrorism or other national security threats, but have provided little of value related to that mission, a Senate subcommittee report concluded in 2012. Many centers, which can involve dozens of officials from police and fire departments, federal agencies and private companies, now focus on more routine criminal activity.
Albuquerque Journal - Today, in addition to protecting Americas borders and airports, [Homeland Security] is interrogating people suspected of pirating movies at Ohio theaters, seizing counterfeit NBA merchandise in San Antonio and working pickpocket cases alongside police in Albuquerque. Homeland Security agents are visiting elementary schools and senior centers to warn of dangers lurking on the Internet.
Some government watchdogs and civil liberties advocates and even the nations first Department of Homeland Security secretary question how those actions serve the purpose set forth in the 2002 law.
Theyve kind of lost their way, former Secretary Tom Ridge told the Journal in Washington this month. I was proud to be associated with those men and women, but it just seems to me the focus the primary focus has been substantially diminished....
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is the third-largest agency in the federal government, behind only the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.
When created in 2002, DHS merged 22 pre-existing federal agencies into one, marking the largest reorganization of the federal government in more than 50 years...
In the first year of its existence, the Department of Homeland Security employed 180,000 full-time workers. Today, 240,000 people collect paychecks from the agency, according to its website.
The departments budget has more than doubled since the agencys inception in 2003, when it spent $29 billion. This year, DHS is slated to spend $61 billion. The departments spending request for 2015 is about $60 billion, a $1 billion reduction from current-year spending and a nod to the constricted federal budget climate...
A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service last year found that more than a decade after the Department of Homeland Securitys creation and despite the specific language in the law that created it the sprawling agency still didnt have a clear definition for homeland security, or a strategy for integrating the divergent missions that are supposed to achieve it. The report suggested the uncertainty could actually be compromising national security.
The U.S. government does not have a single definition for homeland security, the report said. Multiple definitions, missions and an absence of prioritization results in consequences to the nations security...There is no clarity in the national strategies of federal, state, and local roles and responsibilities; and, potentially, funding is driving priorities rather than priorities driving the funding. ....
The ambiguity of purpose and growing budget and workforce at DHS prompted Ridge to question the overall direction of the agency he helped establish.
Someone needs to explain to me how critical all these new people are to the nation, Ridge said. Are they getting so big theyre actually making work?...
Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard Extension School, has called the Department of Homeland Security a colossal and inefficient boondoggle.
In a Journal interview, she said cultural problems at DHS are festering because of duplications of missions among agencies within the department, as well as a lack of top-level leadership.
DHS was put together as one great big organized department, and in fact theyve became one big disorganized group of stovepipes, she said...
An Associated Press investigation from 2011 lends credence to Johnson-Freeses assertion. The news service found that a 25-year, $24.2 billion overhaul initiated around the time of DHSs inception and intended to add or upgrade more than 250 vessels to the Coast Guards aging fleet had produced just two new ships after more than $7 billion had been spent.
Ill be the first to admit, we werent prepared to start spending this money and supervising a project this big, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp told the news service.
Washington Post - The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.
The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
VIA CURTIS KISE
Other examples of why you may be a suspected terrorist
(like having a bumper sticker that says,
"Know your rights")
Boing Boing - The Disaster Preparedness Plan prepared by the local DHS for Union County NC explains what steps you should take if you have to evacuate and take your pet fish: "Your name and where you will be located should be on an ID tag and taped to the fish bowl. This should include your description of all your fish and pictures of them with you in the pictures for identification purposes."
Chicago teachers strike TOP
Jim Ridgeway looks at the health issues of strip search machines
It has emerged that India's UN envoy, Hardeep Puri, was reportedly asked to remove his turban at an airport in Houston, Texas, two weeks ago. When the Sikh refused to do so, he was detained in a "holding room", say Indian media. India's US ambassador Meera Shankar was frisked at a US airport this month.- BBC
Rep. John Duncan Listen to this paragraph from a front-page story in the USA Today last November: Since 9/11, more than three dozen Federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.''We now have approximately 4,000 in the Federal Air Marshals Service, yet they have made an average of just 4.2 arrests a year since 2001. This comes out to an average of about one arrest a year per 1,000 employees.
Personal to John Pistole: You say that flying is not a right of Americans. Now strip search machines are showing up in federal courthouses. Would you say that going to a federal courthouse is also not a right of Americans?
MORE TSA BUMPER STICKERSObama stands up for TSA absurities So does HilClin And Joe Biden TSA search of bladder cancer survivor leaves victim covered in urine TSA makes cancer survivor remove her prosthetic breast TSA inspector general admits its fondlers aren't well trained Ron Paul introduces traveller dignity act
Things to tell a TSA fondler: "Do I get to pick the screener?.. I'll take that Guy, he has nice firm hands.". . . "I feel like I should buy you dinner after this.". . . "I feel like I under performed, can we go again?
Taiwanese new video explains the TSA furo
There is broad political opposition to the false choice between strip search and sexual assault. Full body scanners are notably opposed by Ralph Nader and Matt Drudge, Green, Libertarians, and the Constitution Party.
Tweet from Clarko: Do you have any idea how much I usually have to pay people to look at me naked and touch my testicles? This TSA thing is a bargain
If terrorism is so dangerous why aren't more of us dead?
The number one threat to the United States is said to be international terrorism. So you'd think it would easy to find out exactly how big a threat. Unfortunately, Google will pretty much fail you on this, perhaps because, well, the numbers just aren't all that exciting.
For example, the State Department, well buried in its annual report, was able to find just nine Americans worldwide who died in 2009 as a result of terrorism.
And Firedog Lake came up with this domestic calculation: "If you count the Ft. Hoot shooting as a terrorist attack, 16 people have died in the United States as result of terrorism in 2009. The other three deaths include the Little Rock military recruiting office shooting, the Holocaust Museum shooting, and Dr. George Tillers assassination, the last two coming at the hands of right-wing extremists."
And we also came upon this chart from Wired in 2006, which while a little out of date (and includes 9/11), shows terrorist risk over a ten year span compared to other ways you could die.
Why does TSA assume that terrorists overwhelmingly prefer flying in planes to going to shoppng malls, riding subway, or attending football games?
Members of the Pirate Party in Germany organized a fleshmob of people who stripped down to their skivvies last Sunday and converged on the Berlin-Tegal airport.The protesters marked their bodies with a number of messages such as, Something to hide? and Be a good citizen drop your pants.
Some things you may not know can't be taken on board in your carry bag: box cutters, meat cleavers, ice axes, sabers, cricket bats, spear guns, cattle prods, throwing stars, cordless portable power saws, "tools greater than seven inches in length", dynamite, hand grenades, plastic explosives, and vehicle airbags
Herald Tribune, FL - In recent weeks, representatives from the International Air Transport Association, the U.S. Travel Association, the Allied Pilots Association and British Airways have criticized the T.S.A., saying it adds intrusive and time-consuming layers of scrutiny at airport checkpoints, without effectively addressing legitimate security concerns.
Flight attendants join protest against TSA fondling
YOU CAN'T EVEN GO TO THE HOMELAND SECURITY WEBSITE
WITHOUT THEM SPYING ON YOU
AMERICAN ARTIST ARRESTED AT U.S. BORDER
FOR DRAWNG THIS PICTURE
Emily Feder, AlterNet - I arrived at JFK Airport two weeks ago after a short vacation to Syria and presented my American passport for re-entry to the United States. After 28 hours of traveling, I had settled into a hazy awareness that this was the last, most familiar leg of a long journey. I exchanged friendly words with the Homeland Security official who was recording my name in his computer. He scrolled through my passport, and when his thumb rested on my Syrian visa, he paused. Jerking toward the door of his glass-enclosed booth, he slid my passport into a dingy green plastic folder and walked down the hallway, motioning for me to follow with a flick of his wrist. Where was he taking me, I asked him. "You'll find out," he said. . .
No one who had been detained knew precisely why they were there. A few people were led into private rooms; others were questioned out in the open at desks a few feet from the crowd and then allowed to pass through customs. Some were sent to another section of the holding area with large computer screens and cameras, and then brought back. . .
There was one British tourist in the group. Paul (also not his real name) was traveling with three friends who had passed through customs soon after their plane landed and were waiting for him on the other side of the metal barrier; he suspected he had been detained because of his dark skin. When he asked if he could go to the bathroom, one of the guards said, "I wouldn't." "What if someone has to?" I asked. "They will just have to hold it," the guard responded with a smile. Paul began to cry. I watched as he, over the course of four hours, went from feeling exuberant about his trip to New York to despising the entire country. "I speak the Queen's English," he said to me. "I'm third-generation British. I came to America because I've always wanted to come here, and now they've got me so scared that all I want to do is go home. We're paying for your stupid war anyway.". . .
Within a few hours of my arrival, I saw at least 10 people denied the right to use the bathroom or buy food and water. . .
After four hours, I finally demanded to speak to the guards' supervisor, and he was called down. I asked if the detainees could file a formal complaint. He said there were complaint forms (which, in English and Spanish, direct one to the Department of Homeland Security's Web site, where one must enter extensive personal information in order to file a "Trip Summary") but initially refused to hand them out or to give me his telephone number. "The Department of Homeland Security is understaffed, underfunded, and I have men here who are doing 14-hour days." He tried to intimidate me when I wrote down his name -- "So, you're writing down our names. Well, we have more on you" -- and asked me questions about my address and my profession in front of the rest of the people detained. I pointed out a few of the families who had missed their flights and had been waiting seven hours. His voice barely controlled, his lip curled into a smirk. . .
STUPID HOMELAND SECURITY TRICKS: YOU CAN'T BE RESCUED WITHOUT A BACKGROUND CHECK
HOMELAND POLICE STORING WHAT AIR PASSENGERS READ IN THEIR FILES
RYAN SINGEL, WIRED - 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. . .
One report about Gilmore notes: "PAX (passenger) has many small flashlights with pot leaves on them. He had a book entitled 'Drugs and Your Rights.'" Gilmore is an advocate for marijuana legalization.
Another inspection entry noted that Gilmore had "attended computer conference in Berlin and then traveled around Europe and Asia to visit friends. 100% baggage exam negative. Resides 554 Clay Street , San Francisco, CA. PAX is self employed 'Entrepreneur' in computer software business."
"They are noting people's race and they are writing down what people read," Scannell said.
IF YOU'RE AFRAID OR DISGUSTED AT THE AIRPORT, HOMELAND SECURITY WANTS TO QUESTION YOU
KAITLIN DIRRIG, MCCLATCHY - Next time you go to the airport, there may be more eyes on you than you notice. Specially trained security personnel are watching body language and facial cues of passengers for signs of bad intentions. The watcher could be the attendant who hands you the tray for your laptop or the one standing behind the ticket-checker. Or the one next to the curbside baggage attendant.
They're called behavior detection officers, and they're part of several recent security upgrades, Transportation Security Administrator Kip Hawley told an aviation industry group in Washington last month. He described them as "a wonderful tool to be able to identify and do risk management prior to somebody coming into the airport or approaching the crowded checkpoint."
ACLU SUES TSA, JET BLUE OVER ARABIC T-SHIRT BAN WHAT IT SAID