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
Washington Post - The residents of Belle Harbor Manor spent four miserable months in emergency shelters after Superstorm Sandys floodwaters surged through their assisted-living center on New York Citys Rockaway peninsula.
The homes disabled, elderly and mostly poor residents have a new headache: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked at least a dozen of them to pay back thousands of dollars in disaster aid.
Robert Rosenberg, 61, was among the Belle Harbor Manor residents who recently received notices from FEMA informing them that they had retroactively been declared ineligible for aid checks they received two years ago in the storms immediate aftermath. The problem, the letters said, was that the money was supposed to have been spent on temporary housing, but that never happened because the residents were moved from one state-funded shelter to another.
FEMA gave Rosenberg until Nov. 15 to send a refund check for $2,486 or file an appeal.
Were on a fixed income. I dont have that kind of money, said Rosenberg, who has a spinal disability and other chronic health problems. He said he spent the aid money long ago on food and clothing, both of which were in short supply after the storm.
The demand letters are part of a broader FEMA effort to recover millions of dollars in aid payments that went to ineligible households, either because of errors, a misunderstanding of the rules or outright fraud.
Tech Dirt - Your homeland has never been more secure.
They came in and there were two guys Honig said. I asked one of them what size he needed and he showed me a badge and took me outside. They told me they were from Homeland Security and we were violating copyright laws.
Peregrine Honig runs a lingerie shop in Kansas City. Not coincidentally, her shop was raided by DHS agents just as the World Series commenced. The target? "Boy shorts" sporting an approximation of the Kansas City Royals logo as well as the cheekily-applied phrase "Take the crown."
Politico - Stephen Hayes, a senior writer at The Weekly Standard and a regular Fox News contributor, was informed Tuesday that he had been placed on the Department of Homeland Securitys Terrorist Watchlist.
Hayes, who spoke to Politico by phone , suspects that the decision stems from U.S. concerns over Syria. Hayes and his wife recently booked a one-way trip to Istanbul for a cruise, and returned to the States, a few weeks later, via Athens.
Id be concerned if it was anything more than that, Hayes said.
Hayes first learned about his status on the watchlist during a trip to Minneapolis a few weeks ago when he was stopped for extra screening.
When I went online to check in with Southwest, they wouldnt let me. I figured it was some glitch, he explained. Then I got to the airport and went to check in. The woman had a concerned look on her face. She brought over her supervisor and a few other people. Then they shut down the lane I was in, took me to the side, told me I was a selectee and scrawled [something] on my ticket.
On my way back. the same thing happened, he continued. I got pulled out, they closed down the lane, and did a full pat-down and looked in all parts of my luggage.
Things got slightly awkward on that return flight, because one of the TSA employees was a frequent Fox News viewer. He knew I wasnt an actual terrorist, Hayes explained, but it didnt matter.
Hayes finally contacted Southwest on Tuesday, ahead of another flight, to ask why he couldnt check in. A customer service supervisor told him he wasnt going to be able to get a boarding pass before arriving at the airport.
So I asked if I was on the governments terrorist watchlist, and she said Yes.
Prior to joining The Weekly Standard, Hayes served as a senior writer at National Journals Hotline and as the Director of the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University. He has written for at least a half-dozen prominent publications and has appeared on as many television news networks.
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