In an exclusive interview, Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook talks with ICLOAK founder and CEO Eric B. Delisle about the FBI, Apple and Zero Knowledge Systems.
In the interview, Delisle shares his thoughts with Cook about privacy and “zero knowledge” systems. Delisle also discusses with Cook his position on the FBI-Apple controversy and practical solutions on how to secure data from government spying.
(The encryption tool discussed in the interview is called ICLOAK Messages, which is free for anyone to use and it can be accessed from any web browser, including on a smartphone. It is currently in BETA and can be accessed at www.ICLOAK.me/im)
NAIROBI, Kenya – Following the emergency landing of a Boeing 777 flight last Sunday, the CEO of Air France announced that the suspicious device discovered in the bathroom of the aircraft was a hoax.
The flight from the island nation of Mauritius to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris was diverted to make an emergency landing in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa.
“This object did not contain explosives,” said Fredric Gagey, CEO of Air France in a Paris news conference, adding the device was made of cardboard, paper and a household timer.
Gagey went on to state a security check of the bathroom had been done prior to take-off and that passengers are checked and sometimes double checked as part of pre-flight safety procedures. Gagey also congratulated the crew for their cool-headed reaction to the incident.
Kenyan officials are questioning six passengers over the incident. One of the men being questioned is said to be the individual who reported the device to the cabin crew, prompting the emergency landing.
The flight carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew left Mauritius at 9 p.m., according to Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino.
“The plane just went down slowly, slowly, slowly, so we just realized probably something was wrong,” Benoit Lucchini, a passenger from Paris, told journalists after leaving the plane in Mombasa.
“The personnel of Air France was just great, they were just wonderful. So they keep everybody calm. We did not know what was happening,” said Lucchini. “So we secured the seat belt to land in Mombasa because we thought it was a technical problem but actually it was not a technical problem. It was something in the toilet. Something wrong in the toilet, it could be a bomb.”
Sunday’s incident follows the diversion of a pair of Air France flights bound for Paris on Nov. 18 following bomb threats. The planes from Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. were found to have no bombs on board.
France has been under a state of emergency following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people. Concern for flight safety has also been heightened following an Oct. 31 crash of a Russian plane in Egypt. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the plane which killed 224.
PARIS- Following the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13th, seventy workers of the Paris airports have had their security passes revoked after suspected ties to radical Islam.
“Nearly 70 red badges were withdrawn after the attacks, mainly for cases of radicalization,”said Augustin de Romanet, chief executive officer of ADP, the company who operates the two Paris airports.
French security personnel also searched the lockers of some 4,000 workers at the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in an attempt to locate potential terrorists employed at the Paris hubs.
Plans to attack Charles de Gaulle, France’s largest international airport, were found by French security forces during raids in Paris suburbs five days after the November 13th attacks.
Concerns over airport employees were first initiated in October after Western intelligence officials voiced concerns that the bomb which destroyed a Russian passenger aircraft was planted by Egyptian airport personnel.
85,000 people are said to have secure-zone clearance between the two Paris airports, mostly consisting of airline personnel or several hundred firms subcontracted to work on the premises.
The red badges are specifically issued to individuals employed to work secure areas in positions such as baggage handling, suppliers and aircraft cleaning.
“To be issued with a red badge, you have to be cleared by police, and if you work for a company that carries out security checks of in-flight luggage, you need three police checks,” De Romanet said.
State of emergency powers implemented by the French government allowed to a number of airport workers with suspected links to radical Islam to be placed under house arrest.
Information releases following the November 13th attacks state that dozens of personnel had security passes revoked following the January attack of the Paris based magazine Charlie Hebdo. Other individuals were allowed to maintain security access despite being flagged as potential Islamic extremists.
The Paris region maintains concern about radicalized bus, metro and rail operators following news that Samy Amimour, an attacker of the Bataclan rock venue the night of November 13th, had worked as a bus driver even after being flagged on an intelligence watchlist.
In 2004, Nicholas Merrill, founder of internet service provider (ISP) Calyx Institute, was served a controversial national security letter (NSL) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Eleven years later, the NSL’s gag order- which prevented Merrill from discussing the letter he’d received- has been lifted by a federal judge in a historic decision which “marked the first time such a gag order has been fully lifted since the USA Patriot Act in 2001 expanded the FBI’s authority to unilaterally demand that certain businesses turn over records simply by writing a letter saying the information is needed for national security purposes,” according to the Intercept.
NSLs are a tool used by the government to force telecommunication companies to give customer information without the use of a warrant from a judge. While NSLs have been in use since at least the late 1970s, their use has exploded since the 9/11 attacks.
NSLs are generally issued by the FBI to gather information from companies when related to national security investigations. This information can include customer names, addresses, phone and internet records, and banking and credit statements.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, at least 300,000 NSLs have been delivered over the last decade. The year 2004 saw over 56,000 NSLs issued. For comparison, in 2000 before the passage of the Patriot Act which relaxed standards to issue NSLs, there were about 8,500 NSLs sent.
The most contentious part of NSLs is the usage of gag orders. When a credit reporting agency, telecom company, bank or travel firm receive the letters requesting customer information, they are legally gagged and are prohibited from alerting anyone about the incident- not the customer, and not their families. The individual may seek help from a lawyer, but the lawyer then also becomes gagged.
Another alarming feature of NSLs are the fact that a judge is not needed to approve the letter or gag order.
Eventually the FBI would withdraw the NSL because Merrill refused to comply, but Merrill continued to fight, partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union to launch a lawsuit against the FBI in the case Doe v. Ashcroft. In 2010 Merrill was finally able to disclose his identity but the fight against the gag order continued.
On August 28, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero ruled that there was no “good reason” to force Merrill to remain silent about the NSL. After eleven years, the gag order has been lifted and Merrill is almost free to speak about the experience. He remains under gag order for 90 more days as the Justice Department weighs an appeal.
“‘If Merrill were only allowed to disclose details about the request ‘in a world in which no threat of terrorism exists,’ or in the case that the FBI disclosed the records itself — two extremely unlikely possibilities — it would effectively prevent ‘accountability of the government to the people,’ the judge wrote.”
Judge Marrero also stated that the FBI’s position was “extreme and overly broad,” and reminded the government that “Courts cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, simply accept the Government’s assertions that disclosure would implicate and create a risk.”
In a press release from the Calyx Institute, Merrill writes,“Judge Marrero’s decision vindicates the public’s right to know how the FBI uses warrantless surveillance to peer into our digital lives. I hope today’s victory will finally allow Americans to engage in an informed debate about proper the scope of the government’s warrantless surveillance powers.”
Jonathan Manes, supervising attorney in the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, commented on the ruling, stating, “Today’s decision will finally allow Mr. Merrill to shed light on the scope of the FBI’s claimed authority under the NSL statute, and to explain how the FBI’s interpretation is deeply problematic and potentially unlawful.”
Truth In Media has previously written about other efforts to reign in the use of National Security Letters. In October 2014, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked an appeals court to uphold a ruling that found the NSL provision of the Patriot Act to be unconstitutional.
In 2013, the unnamed company took their NSL to court to debate its constitutionality. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco ruled that the NSLs violated the First Amendment by removing the recipient’s ability to speak about the letter. The EFF and the company itself face federal prison time if they choose to reveal the names of the defendants.
What are your thoughts on National Security Letters? Do you believe this ruling will slow down the surveillance state? Leave your comments below.
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which is designed to allow private companies to easily share threat intelligence with government agencies, is facing resistance from privacy advocates who fear that the provisions will only increase the indiscriminate monitoring of legal activity.
In early August the White House gave the CISA a boost through an official endorsement. The Hill reported: “Cybersecurity is an important national security issue and the Senate should take up this bill as soon as possible and pass it,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in a statement. “The endorsement will increase pressure on Senate leaders to reach an agreement to limit floor debate and come to a final vote on the bill — which would increase the data shared on hackers between companies and the government — before the month-long break”.
The National Journal also released new information related to CISA. On August 26, the Journal reported on 22 proposed amendments to CISA. When the bill is eventually debated the Senators will have to work their way through each amendment.
According to the Journal, the amendments deal with liability protections, more narrow definitions of cyber threats, qualifications for removing personal identity information, cyber crime penalties, and the voluntary nature of information sharing.
It is exactly this alleged “voluntary” information sharing that has come under fire. Recently Wired reported on the possibility that the programs are not exactly as voluntary as supporters of CISA would have you believe.
Wired mentions a previous “information sharing” program for defense contractors which was falsely advertised as “voluntary”. Wired wrote:
In order to receive information as part of the program, entities were required to sign contracts as program ‘participants.’ This would not have been so bad, except that a precondition for being a participant was the requirement that the entity file reports with the government on a regular basis. In fact, the Defense Industrial Base Pilot Cybersecurity Plan definitively showed that participants were required to agree to transfer information about their private network traffic to the government.”
Although at least one of the amendments to be debated deals with establishing narrower definitions of terms like “voluntary”, at this point there is nothing in the bill which would prevent Department of Homeland Security from taking a similar route while calling the program a voluntary interaction.
The DHS also has its own issues with CISA. In late July, the agency sent a letter to Sen. Al Franken, the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and Law, discussing a number of problems with the bill.
The DHS said that if the bill does not mandate the removal of personal information the agency will be forced to “contribute to the compromise of personally identifiable information by spreading it further.” The letter also stated that the bills vague language and broad definitions could lead to “receiv[ing] large amounts of information with dubious value.”
The bill has also been opposed by a number of leading security experts, and privacy organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF opposes CISA in its current form because it does not require companies to remove unrelated personal information prior to sharing it with the government.
For Americans who value privacy and liberty, CISA is a looming threat. As is the case with most legislation passed under the guise of protecting the people, it will, in fact, only further erode the peoples freedom and empower the State. We should also take a moment to recognize that this growing Surveillance State could not happen without a compliant partner, the corporations that provide our personal data to the government.
Keep an eye on the CISA saga throughout the coming months. An endorsement from the White House is a sure sign that President Obama wants the “cybersecurity” measure to be a part of his legacy before he leaves office.
What are your thoughts on CISA? Is it necessary to protect your data from hackers? Or is this another government ploy to spy on your activity?
New details of the Transportation Security Administration’s behavior screening have been leaked, and they are just as ludicrous as expected.
The Transportation Security Administration’s checklist for spotting suspicious behavior has been leaked to The Intercept. The checklist, also known as the SPOT Referral Report, is part of the much maligned Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques program, also known as SPOT. Under the program Behavior Detection Officers identify suspicious passengers, monitors their activity, and questions the suspect to determine threat potential.
The checklist includes 92 items with different categories including a call for further inspection based on passengers’ possible “signs of deception.” These signs of deception the TSA is trained to watch for include having a recently shaved beard, whistling, and “wearing improper attire for the location.” Critics say the checklist is further proof that the TSA is a waste of taxpayer dollars and continues to be unsuccessful at catching terrorists.
Passengers are given a preliminary “observation and behavior analysis,” and then, if suspected of terrorism, they are pulled aside and inspected further. At this point the checklist calls for scoring suspicious behavior based on two or more categories. This includes having “unusual items” such as”numerous prepaid calling cards or cell phones.” The Behavior Detection Officers can also deduct points from passengers’ terrorism “scores”. For example, if two people are married and over the age of 55 they could each have one point deducted.
“Behavior detection, which is just one element of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to mitigate threats against the traveling public, is vital to TSA’s layered approach to deter, detect and disrupt individuals who pose a threat to aviation,” the TSA told The Intercept.
The leaked document comes one week after the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the TSA for records related to the SPOT program. The civil liberties organizations say they are seeking records related to the effectiveness of the widely criticized program, as well as the percentage of minorities that are targeted.
In November 2013 the Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday detailing the massive financial failures of the behavior screening program. According to the report, the program works “no better than chance” and has not proven effective even at a cost of more than $1 billion since 2007. Steve Lord, director of the investigation for the GAO, stated that the “”TSA has yet to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.”
The new details of the behavior screening program reveal how arbitrary TSA training methods truly are. With over a billion dollars spent on this failure of a program, it has become even more obvious that the U.S. government’s Fear Campaign built around the War on Terror is yet another farce in a long line of lies from the alleged authorities.
A report from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted that its agents are not prepared to detect or to respond to the threat posed by a bomb made of the substance thermite, which could have a catastrophic effect if ignited on an airplane.
The classified document, first released by The Intercept, revealed that if igniting on an aircraft, thermite, which is a “mixture of rust and aluminum powder,” could result in “catastrophic damage and the death of every person onboard.”
Written in Dec. 2014, by the TSA’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the report stated that not only are thermite-based devices “easily assembled and concealable,” they are also likely to go undetected under current TSA screening procedures.
The report claimed that both a thermite-based substance and an ignition source can be placed in items that would “not arouse suspicion as they pass through TSA security screening,” such as children’s toys and water canteens.
Several anonymous TSA officials told The Intercept that while they had been briefed on the threat, they were given “no information or training on identifying thermite ignition.”
One federal air marshal described the situation by saying, “They say to identify something we don’t know how to identify and say there is nothing we can do. So basically, we hope it’s placed somewhere it does minimal damage, but basically we’re screwed.”
“When ignited, thermite burns violently and at extremely high temperatures, and may spray molten metal in all directions,” the report stated. “Thermite has the ability to burn through steel, and every other material of which an aircraft is comprised, it will continue to burn to completion.”
The report went on to state that not only would a thermite-based incendiary device burn through all of the parts of an aircraft, it would also produce toxic gasses, “which can act as nerve poison,” along with a thick black smoke, which would “significantly inhibit any potential for in-flight safety officers to address the burn.”
The anonymous officials told The Intercept that while TSA “floods its employees with intelligence products from other agencies on various types of threats,” it has not told them how to respond to this threat.
The FBI released a statement saying that the “coordination between public safety, aviation, and national security focused agencies occurs on a continuous and collaborative basis to identify and neutralize threats to aviation safety.”
While visiting Stanford University on Friday, President Obama announced he was signing an executive order meant to encourage the sharing of information, regarding cyberthreats, between private sector companies and the government.
The order was signed at the first summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, which focused on consumer protection and private-public partnerships against cyberthreats.
While at the summit, the president likened the internet to the “Wild West,” and said the public are looking to the government for protection against cyber attacks. President Obama also called these cyber attacks one of the greatest threats to national security, safety, and economic issues.
“Everybody is online, and everybody is vulnerable,” said President Obama, according to NBC News. “The business leaders here want their privacy and their children protected, just like the consumer and privacy advocates here want America to keep leading the world in technology and be safe from attacks.”
However, groups in Silicon Valley are not jumping on board with the president’s push for new digital securities.
Ben Desjardins, the director of security solutions with the cyber-security firm Radware, said, “The new proposals face significant headwinds, both legislatively from Congress and cooperatively from heavyweights in the tech sector.” Desjardins also said many companies in Silicon Valley already feel “burned” by the government after the companies learned of the various government surveillance programs through the Snowden leaks.
Scott Algeier, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Information Sharing and Analysis Center, also said this new executive order sounds like a federal takeover of information sharing among people and companies in the private-sector.
The White House has said the executive order is only a framework, and with it the White House aims to allow private companies access to otherwise classified cyber-threat information and ensure information sharing is strongly secure, all while protecting the civil liberties of citizens.
The text of the executive order can be found here for more details.
The Secret Service has faced a lot of scrutiny recently after allowing multiple people to breach the perimeter of the White House and approach the president unhindered. Now, a review panel released a report of the agency responsible for protecting the president, and is calling for a major overhaul of the agency.
“The panel heard one common critique from those inside and outside the Service: The Service is too insular,” reads the summary of the report. The report also says the Secret Service is “starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence.”
The report outlined a few recommendations for ways to help the Secret Service, the first of which, according to Reuters, is to simply build a higher fence around the White House. The new fence would be “4 to 5 feet higher” than the current fence and the top of which would curve outwards.
Another recommendation was also hiring more agents. “The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits,” said the report. The addition of close to 300 new agents, the report found, would shorten the long hours the agents currently work and allow more needed rest for agents.
Finally, the report suggests the need for a non-Secret Service person to be selected for the position of leader within the agency. This goes against the long-standing practice of choosing a Secret Service member as the leader, but it would also bring a fresh view of the agency from the outside. This, the report claims, would bring more accountability to the agency.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson weighed in on the review, saying, according to CBS News, the panel findings were “astute, thorough and fair.”
“It is now up to the leadership of the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all the recommendations are carefully considered,” said Johnson. “In fact, some of the panel’s recommendations are similar to others made in past agency reviews… The Secret Service itself must commit to change.”
After WWII, many Nazis made an exodus out of Germany, and found themselves embedded in countries all over the world, including the US. Now, an investigation has found Nazis who came to America have been collecting Social Security payments, even after they have left the US for other countries.
The Associated Press found that through a legal loophole, the US Justice Department would allow the former Nazis to continue to collect their Social Security payments if they agreed to leave the US or fled before they were deported. According to the investigation, about $1.5 million had been paid out to former Nazis through this loophole by the turn of the century.
Out of at least 38 Nazis who came to the US after 1979 and began collecting social security payments, about four remain alive, and they all are rumored to live in Europe.
Jakob Denzinger is one of these former Nazis collecting payments while living in Croatia. Denzinger was a guard at the notorious prison camp Auschwitz, and moved to Ohio after the war where, according to RT, he started his own plastic company.
Denzinger reportedly collects about $18,000 a year from Social Security, but he would not comment on these new developments. Thomas, Denzinger’s son who lives in the US, did say his father would not give up his benefits because he “paid into the system.”
The Social Security Administration would not disclose information regarding the use of benefits to try and drive the former Nazis out of the country.
Agency spokesman Peter Carr said, “The matter of Social Security benefits eligibility was raised by defense counsel, not by the department, and the department neither used retirement benefits as an inducement to leave the country and renounce citizenship nor threatened that failure to depart and renounce would jeopardize continued receipt of benefits.”
However, even though the SSA denies paying former Nazis to leave the US, a piece of legislation in 1999 was meant to stop all benefits from reaching former Nazis, whether they were American citizens or not. This legislation failed to pass at the time, but these new developments might raise the issue again.
WASHINGTON D.C., October 6, 2014 – Many Americans no longer feel certain their government can protect their personal or economic security according to the latest Associated Press poll. According to the poll, more than half of those surveyed no longer feel Washington has the ability to effect threats such as mass shootings, climate change, racial tensions, an unstable job market, and economic uncertainty.
Of those polled, 9 out of 10 of those most likely to vote in the November 4 election labeled the economy as an extremely or very important issue.
While the poll found that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to express faith in their government, only 27% of Democrats felt confidant the government could protect them from terrorist attacks. Only 1 in 5 people polled said they were extremely or very confidant the government could prevent another terrorist attack.
The poll also found that Hispanics were more confidant in the government’s ability to cease racial tensions than blacks and whites, and that people living in urban environments were slightly more confidant in the government’s ability to provide safety from terrorist attacks than those living in suburbs or rural areas.
Events such as the rioting and protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the killing of an unarmed black 18 year old by a cop, and the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma at a food processing plant were credited with causing those polled to feel insecure in the safety of their country.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted in September of 2014 and processed online interviews with 1,845 adults selected randomly.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, who has taken most of the blame for the various White House security breaches over the past month, has resigned.
The most recent security breach, which seems to have pushed the tipping point, involved Iraq War veteran, Omar Gonzalez, who jumped the fence surrounding the White House, evaded several layers of security, and made his way into the White House’s East Room. What is even more shocking than the breach itself is Gonzalez was wielding a knife when he was subdued, which has raised concerns over potential threats to the president’s life.
This, as well as other incidents in the past month, are not the first time the Secret Service has come under fire for her handling of the security detail for the White House and the First Family. The first scandal Pierson had to deal with in her role as Secret Service Director involved a bullet left in a Washington hotel room by an agent after spending the night with a woman in the room.
In March of this year also, three agents were sent home while on duty in Amsterdam. The agents in question were found to be drunk less than 10 hours before they were supposed to provide security for the president.
When Pierson was named director in March 2013, many had hoped she could mend the Secret Service, which has had a multitude of scandals over the past few years.
Over the past few weeks, a number of representatives have called for her resignation.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said, in a secret service hearing concerning Pierson, “You’re not taking your job seriously… I have very low confidence in the Secret Service under your leadership.”
The Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said, according to the Business Insider, he welcomes recommendations for a new director of the Secret Service. “I also request,” said Johnson, “that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service.”
Until the position is filled, Joseph Clancy, a former special agent in charge of the presidential protective division of the Secret Service, will take the place of interim director.
The New York Times is signaling the end of the Snowden-era with Apple’s release of the latest iPhone.
According to the Times, the National Security Agency and other law enforcement agencies are not pleased that the iPhone 6 and its encryption technology will hinder phone monitoring.
The phone encrypts emails, photos and contacts based on a complex mathematical algorithm that uses a code created by, and unique to, the phone’s user — and that Apple claims it will not possess.
So, essentially, if Apple is sent a court order demanding that the contents of an iPhone 6 be provided to intelligence agencies or law enforcement, it will turn over gibberish, along with a note saying that to decode the phone’s emails, contacts and photos, investigators will have to break the code or get the code from the phone’s owner.
According to an Apple technical guide, it could take more than 5-½ years to break this code, but computer security experts point out that the NSA has supercomputers that could potentially crack those codes quickly.
The NSA spying scandal will cost American tech companies billions of dollars if they can’t gain trust in the international market.
This could just be a real effort by Apple to secure their product or just a marketing ploy.
The three missing soldiers, Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Cpt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada, and Cpt. Noorullah Aminyar, arrived in the United States on September 11th of this year and were originally housed at Joint Base Cape Cod for Exercise Regional Cooperation.
The Regional Cooperation exercises have been held annually since 2004 for the purposes of promoting cooperation among forces. Troops from six nations are participating in this year’s event, which wraps on Wednesday, including roughly a dozen Afghan soldiers who are still participating.
All of the troops were subjected to thorough background checks before being allowed into the country. The missing men are not thought to be a threat to the public.
This is the second time this month that Afghan security trainees have gone missing in the United States. Earlier in September, two Afghan police officers training with the DEA disappeared during a tourist trip to Georgetown, but were quickly found and deported by authorities. The men reportedly wandered off because they decided they wanted to remain in the United States.
The three latest deserters were reported missing late Saturday evening by base security. State authorities were notified an hour after the men were reported missing.
Ever since Janet Yellen took over as Chair of the Federal Reserve, life has changed for the other well-to-do residents of her Georgetown-area, Washington DC gated community. The Wall Street Journal notes that an armed encampment has formed outside of one of her neighbor’s houses in the Hillandale community, and the federal government is paying thousands per month to rent an adjacent town home, which had at one point been equipped with a massive, brightly-lit camera on the roof, peering down on disgruntled neighbors. 7,000 pound security trucks noisily plow through the neighborhood to pick her up each morning, spilling fluids on the street in violation of Hillandale’s rules.
Upset neighbors have penned a lengthy list of complaints about the uniformed, taxpayer-funded security detail. Vans full of armed police speed through Hillandale in violation of its 15 mile-per-hour speed limit, intimidating residents. Officers behave in an unprofessional manner, loudly socializing, smoking cigarettes, and scarfing down fast food. Also, the extreme visibility of the police presence offends other homeowners, who chose the neighborhood for its strict, privately-enforced rules aimed at keeping the community quiet and aesthetically pleasing. FBI Director Bob Mueller lives in the neighborhood as well, and his security detail stands in stark contrast to the one protecting Yellen. A neighbor who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of federal retaliation told The Wall Street Journal, “Bob Mueller, who you would think would have a much more dangerous job dealing with terrorists all over the world, had people who were businesslike, didn’t socialize and waited for him outside the gate. Now we have this group, overweight, wearing the most ridiculous blue uniforms with the most ridiculous blue caps, and they have guns that are visible.”
Some residents in the area are pushing for new rules to be adopted by the gated community to prevent security outfits from renting property in the neighborhood. The Hillandale Board and Covenant Committee maintains strict rules and enforces them on the other homeowners in the area in the interest of protecting property values, as homes in Hillandale sometimes sell for millions of dollars. The president of the Hillandale board, a real estate agent, has been accused of having self-interested motives and throwing neighbors under the bus by renting a town home to the Federal Reserve.
The heightened police presence doesn’t comfort everyone living in Hillandale. Said another resident, “Some neighbors say it’s great, all the security that is in the neighborhood. But these characters are only here for Janet Yellen. They’re not going to be distracted by robbers, rapists or any other thing. Besides, these guys couldn’t catch a thief if their lives depended on it.”
A number of residents are calling for the Federal Reserve, the FBI, or an independent, third-party consultant to conduct an investigation into the security detail to see if it can be done in a more cost-effective, professional, and less intrusive manner. It is worth noting that the Federal Reserve, a private bank, was given this armed police force as a part of the USA PATRIOT Act. Under Title III, Subtitle B, Section 364 of the law, the Federal Reserve was granted armed officers to protect the bank’s property and top officials.
So often, we hear stories about the growing “police state.” While it is legitimate to be concerned by police officers who abuse their power, it is also important to point out and acknowledge officers who uphold the law with dignity and respect for citizens’ rights. This story particularly caught our attention, especially with the growing concern over TSA tactics in airports.
Two activists, Ashley Jessica and Jason Bermas, showed up at the Albany International Airport in November 2012 to protest what they believe are invasive techniques used by the TSA.
The duo handed out packets to travelers in common areas outside of security that contained information regarding citizens’ rights to opt out of full-body scanners. Jessica and Bermas were also informing citizens that they have the right to film pat-downs performed by TSA officials.
After spending some time at the airport, Director of Public Affairs Doug Myers approached them along with an Albany County sheriff’s deputy. Myers ordered the two activists to stop filming.
The activists refused to stop filming and were brought downstairs where the interaction became tense.
Finally, Deputy Stan Lenic told Myers that as far as the law is concerned, Bermas and Jessica had every right to be filming. Lenic said, “Obviously, this is your constitutional right.”
Myers then commanded Lenic to keep the activists downstairs. Lenic said, “I can’t really keep them down here.”
Myers responded, “Then we’re going to close to all but ticketed passengers. We can do that. Only ticketed passengers upstairs from now on, OK?”
He then asked Bermas and Jessica to fill out a form and show identification, but Lenic intervened once again and said the pair did not need to do this.
The video of the incident went semi-viral online, and eventually the airport’s CEO, John O’Donnell, issued a statement regarding the matter. He said, “On Nov. 23, we asked two individuals to move away from the escalator area of the terminal where they were distributing fliers. Our concern — as it always is — was for the safety of the passengers and the public who were in the airport. It had nothing to do with their message or the content of their handouts. The policy we have in place for filming and leafleting in the airport is intended to help us ensure that this type of activity does not interfere with normal airport operations or safety. We would welcome them back to the airport to distribute their information. Filing a simple form and providing advance notice of their arrival are all that is required.”
On April 16th, CBS San Jose local news stations reported that acts of “sabotage” occurred, with assailants cutting fiber optic cables, disabling 911 service, and shooting at a PG&E substation. Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith said the assailant(s) appeared to have the goal of “shutting down the system.” The assailant(s) fired more than 100 rounds from high-powered rifles at the transformers.
The attack happened around 1:30am in the area of Metcalf Road and Monterey Highway, southeast of San Jose city limits. Near Coyote Ranch Road, close by, bundled fiber optic cords were cut. South Bay customers lost landline and cell phone service. 911 call systems in the area were also knocked out. Gunfire was reported. The assailants breached the security fence and damaged thirteen transformers. Hazardous materials had also spilled, damaging transformers as well.
San Jose resident Leilani Zamora had no internet service, or home phone service. Her cell phone did not work. When she tried to make a call, she was met with the message, “Mobile network not available.”
“Freaks me out. It’s something that I would think that people would have access to,” Zamora said. “Then what happens in case of emergency? There’s nobody there to respond. That’s terrifying to not be able to reach your family or 911.”
On April 18th, AT&T offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of the assailant(s). The press release included a statement that due to the 911 terrorist attacks, networks such as these were declared “National Critical Infrastructures” and tampering carried a stiffened penalty.
Now 8 months later, the case has been taken out of the hands of local law enforcement and is under investigation by the FBI.
“Initially the attack was treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” said an FBI representative. “Investigators have reason to believe the timing of the attacks and the target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication. FBI has noted the attack happened the day after the Boston Marathon bombing. At this time the FBI states they are following up on leads, and it may be an isolated incident. An official said the incident “did not involve a cyber attack,” but the severity of it requires a more thorough investigation, including forensic examination of the surveillance tapes.
“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former PG&E executive said at a press conference on grid security in November. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal.”
Lawmakers and power executives came together for Grid-EX II drills on November 13th. The drills were designed to discover weaknesses and brainstorm solutions to protect the nations power grids.
The TSA better take note: a man in Tennessee has proven that a deadly firearm can be created only with items purchased from retail stores in airport terminals.
Evan Booth, a computer programmer from Greensboro, created the gun using items like a hairdryer, lithium batteries, and body spray. He calls his gun BLUNDERBUSiness.
“If we’re trying stop a terrorist threat at the airport, it’s already too late,” Booth said.
Booth said he decided to embark on this project after the TSA introduced body scanners, which he believes violate travelers’ privacy. He said, “It just seemed so invasive, really expensive.”
He continued, “And if you’re going to go through all that trouble getting into the terminal, why is all this stuff available in the terminal? I think people have kind of been suspecting that the type of things I’ve built are possible. I just don’t think anyone’s ever taken the time to do it.”
Booth was able to shoot pocket change out of his gun with enough power to blow a hole through Sheetrock.
In addition to creating BLUNDERBUSiness, Booth made several other deadly weapons. Also using common items purchased in airport stores, he made a crossbow, blowgun, and spiked club.
To prevent himself from being investigated by the government, Booth alerted the FBI and CIA prior to beginning his project.
Many have pointed to Booth’s gun to argue that no amount of airport security will prevent bad people from doing bad things. Airport security arguably does not work any more than “gun free” zones do.
Get ready to jump through yet another “security” hoop next time you travel by plane.
The TSA is now installing exit “detention pods” at major airports that will temporarily “jail” passengers before they are allowed to leave terminals.
Here is how the pods work: when passengers are ready to leave a terminal, they will be forced into the pods, one at a time. Each passenger must remain in the pod until an electronic voice gives them permission to leave and the door opens.
After passing through a pod, passengers may not re-enter the terminal without going through security again.
Currently at most airports, TSA agents stand at terminal exits for safety purposes. The idea is that these new pods will replace such agents, therefore saving money and increasing security.
The pods are already being used in the Syracuse International Airport.
Syracuse Airport Commissioner Christina Callahan said, “We need to be vigilant and maintain high security protocol at all times. These portals were designed and approved by TSA which is important.”
At Callahan’s airport, the post cost $60 million to install.
While the pods will likely make some passengers feel secure, other travelers are likely to feel like they are being treated like prisoners.
InfoWar’s Paul Joseph Watson pointed out that there are already multiple TSA standards in place that make “travelers feel like they are under constant suspicion”:
“While threatening to arrest passengers who make jokes about airport security, the federal agency has also instituted a ludicrous ‘freeze’ policy whereby travelers are ordered to stand in place like statues while TSA agents resolve some unexplained security threat.
Another policy that has provoked questions is the TSA’s random testing of passengers’ drinks for explosives after they have already passed through security and purchased beverages inside the secure area of the airport.”
Of course, some level of security is necessary in any international airport. However, there is a balance to be struck between making passengers safe and making them feel imprisoned or violated.