Police State

TSA Hit With Lawsuit After Nixing Body Scanner Opt Out

airport scanners

27th Dec 2015

The TSA has been hit with a lawsuit just days after it quietly introduced new rules that banned the ability of travelers to opt out of the agency’s controversial naked body scanners.

“In a document published earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security outlined an update to the Advanced Imagery Technology protocols used by the TSA at US airports, adding a clause which allows officers to insist travelers go through the controversial machines,” reported SlashGear.

The federal agency now insists it has the right to “direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers,” even if they refuse.

Activist Jonathan Corbett, who famously exposed TSA body scanners to be completely useless in detecting items concealed in hidden pockets, wasted no time in filing a lawsuit in an attempt to restore a traveler’s right to opt out of the scanner.

The TSA shall receive on Friday a petition that asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to consider: 1) whether the body scanner program is constitutional when the option to opt-out is removed, and 2) whether the TSA must engage in “notice & comment rulemaking” before making such a change.

You all may remember that in 2013, the TSA “invited” (after being forced to by the Court of Appeals as a result of EPIC’s lawsuit) the public to submit comments regarding the nude body scanner program. Over 5,500 of us replied, and well over 95% of the comments were in opposition. The TSA still hasn’t responded to those comments, but yet feels that it can remove the opt-out procedure without again asking the public or considering our feelings regarding the scanners even with the opt-out option.

Given the timing, Corbett even personally gift-wrapped the lawsuit for the TSA.

gift wrapped

Earlier this year, Corbett also lifted the lid on a hitherto secret TSA program which mandates that airlines operating outside of the U.S. conduct invasive security interviews of travelers before allowing them to return to America.

Read the lawsuit in full via the links below.

Corbett v. TSA IV – Petition (.pdf)

Corbett v. TSA IV – Motion for PI with Exhibits (.pdf)




Ron Paul Warned About This: TSA Removes Opt-Out From Full Body Scanners


Never let a crisis go to waste. That is the motto of every government agency and every bureaucrat. Citing “heightened tensions over terrorism,” the Transportation Safety Administration has unilaterally decided that fliers can no longer “opt-out” of the potentially cancer-causing and completely useless full body scanners in favor of a pat-down from a TSA agent. There was no debate in Congress. Not even an executive order. It was just a rule made by an unelected and unaccountable body, as one might expect in a dictatorship. 

The TSA decision is a psychological defeat for liberty as well. Removing the option to “defy” the agency’s demand that travelers submit to the scanners takes away that little bit of what America once was, the independent spirit of a free people. Now, head down, we must march through like cattle as our rude overlords bark out orders. It didn’t have to be this way. Ron Paul saw this coming and introduced in several Congresses the American Traveler Dignity Act, which would have curtailed TSA powers and made TSA agents subject to the same assault laws as the rest of us. Here is a clip to remember while being corralled through the TSA cancer machines this Christmas season:

New Study Finds That State Crime Labs Are Paid Per Conviction

1st Dec 2015

I’ve previously written about the cognitive bias problem in state crime labs. This is the bias that can creep into the work of crime lab analysts when they report to, say, a state police agency, or the state attorney general. If they’re considered part of the state’s “team” — if performance reviews and job assessments are done by police or prosecutors — even the most honest and conscientious of analysts are at risk of cognitive bias. Hence, the countless and continuing crime lab scandals we’ve seen over the last couple decades. And this of course doesn’t even touch on the more blatant examples of outright corruption.

In a new paper for the journal Criminal Justice Ethics, Roger Koppl and Meghan Sacks look at how the criminal justice system actually incentivizes wrongful convictions. In their section on state crime labs, they discover some astonishing new information about how many of these labs are funded.

Funding crime labs through court-assessed fees creates another channel for bias to enter crime lab analyses. In jurisdictions with this practice the crime lab receives a sum of money for each conviction of a given type. Ray Wickenheiser says, ‘‘Collection of court costs is the only stable source of funding for the Acadiana Crime Lab. $10 is received for each guilty plea or verdict from each speeding ticket, and $50 from each DWI (Driving While Impaired) and drug offense.’’

In Broward County, Florida, ‘‘Monies deposited in the Trust Fund are principally court costs assessed upon conviction of driving or boating under the influence ($50) or selling, manufacturing, delivery, or possession of a controlled substance ($100).’’

Several state statutory schemes require defendants to pay crime laboratory fees upon conviction. North Carolina General Statutes require, ‘‘[f]or the services of’’ the state or local crime lab, that judges in criminal cases assess a $600 fee to be charged ‘‘upon conviction’’ and remitted to the law enforcement agency containing the lab whenever that lab ‘‘performed DNA analysis of the crime, tests of bodily fluids of the defendant for the presence of alcohol or controlled substances, or analysis of any controlled substance possessed by the defendant or the defendant’s agent.’’

Illinois crime labs receive fees upon convictions for sex offenses, controlled substance offenses, and those involving driving under the influence. Mississippi crime labs require crime laboratory fees for various conviction types, including arson, aiding suicide, and driving while intoxicated.

Similar provisions exist in Alabama, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Jersey, Virginia, and, until recently, Michigan. Other states have broadened the scope even further. Washington statutes require a $100 crime lab fee for any conviction that involves lab analysis. Kansas statutes require offenders ‘‘to pay a separate court cost of $400 for every individual offense if forensic science or laboratory services or forensic computer examination services are provided in connection with the investigation.’’
In addition to those already listed, the following states also require crime lab fees in connection with various conviction types: Arizona, California, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Think about how these fee structures play out in the day-to-day work in these labs. Every analyst knows that a test result implicating a suspect will result in a fee paid to the lab. Every result that clears a suspect means no fee. They’re literally being paid to provide the analysis to win convictions. Their findings are then presented to juries as the careful, meticulous work of an objective scientist.

No wonder there have been so many scandals. I’m sure we’ll continue to see more.



source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2013/08/29/in-some-states-crime-labs_n_3837471.html?ir=Australia

Councils and taxman to be given power to view your internet history


2nd Nov 2015

Councils, the taxman and dozens of other public bodies will be able to search the internet and social media activity of everyone in Britain, The Telegraph can disclose.

Technology firms will be required to keep records of the websites and apps which people have used and details of when they accessed them for 12 months under new powers unveiled this week.

The new powers, contained in legislation which is published on Wednesday, will primarily be used by police and the security services in pursuit of suspected terrorists and serious criminals.

They will not be allowed to see which pages people have viewed or their searches while on the websites and apps, or the content of any messages, without a warrant.

However, The Telegraph understands that a total of 38 bodies will also be entitled to access the records for the purpose of “detecting or preventing crime”.

A government source said that access will be “limited, targeted and strictly controlled” and overseen by a new Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

Ministers are also planning to introduce a new offence to deter the abuse of powers which will result in significant fines. Councils will also be required to get requests signed off by a magistrate before they are authorised.

‘It is a serious amount of information. I don’t think that the British public want councils to have access to this’ David Davis, Conservative MP

However David Davis, a senior Conservative MP, warned that the wider access to the information was potentially “dangerous” and could lead to abuse.

Town halls were granted permission to access private communications data 2,110 times last year, more than GCHQ and MI6 combined.

Mr Davis said: “It is a serious amount of information. I don’t think that the British public want councils to have access to this.”

Ministers have abandoned several of the most controversial elements of the so-called “snoopers’ charter” in an attempt to persuade Labour and Tory rebels to back the plans.

However Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is likely to face significant opposition if she refuses to give judges, rather than ministers, the power to sign off interception warrants.

According to reports, Mrs May is considering a “two stage” approval process in which ministers are responsible for the initial decision to sign off surveillance warrants, a decision which then has to be approved by a senior judge.

Both David Davis, a senior Conservative MP, and Keir Starmer, the shadow home affairs minister, said that judges should be involved in the decision from the “get go”.

Mr Davis suggested that without full judicial authorisation Mrs May would struggle to get the bill through both the Commons and the Lords.

It came after Mrs May insisted that the government has abandoned plans to allow police to access people’s full browsing history.

Internet companies will instead be required to record details of the websites which people have visited and the apps they have used, with the time they have accessed them.

The authorities will be able to see which websites were visited, but not the exact page that hey viewed.

The intelligence agencies, police and the National Crime Agency will be the most prolific users of the new powers.

But other bodies including the Financial Conduct Authority, HMRC, councils, the Health and Safety Executive and the Department for Work and Pensions will be able to access the information.

Mrs May told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show: “As people move into the digital age they no longer always communicate on telephone, they communicate over the internet.

“So, what we’re talking about is just knowing that first step, that who has been contacted [by whom] or did this particular device access WhatsApp at 13.10 or Facebook at 14.05 – it doesn’t go beyond that.

“It’s precisely this area of catching paedophiles and dealing with child abuse that is precisely one of the reasons why we want this ability to look at these internet connection records.”

Mrs May also confirmed that authorities will not be given new powers to limit encryption used by the biggest technology companies, despite previous suggestions by David Cameron that they could.



Australia to trial cloud passports in world-first move

big brother facebook

29th Oct 2015

Australia is looking at trialling passport-less travel in a move Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop predicts will go global.

The idea of cloud passports is the result of a hipster-style-hackathon held at the Department of Foreign Affairs, which culminated in an X-Factor style audition before the secretary Peter Varghese, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Assistant Minister Steve Ciobo and Chris Vein from the World Bank.

“We think it will go global.”

Earlier this year the call was put out to the diplomatic corps in Canberra and the 110 missions around the world for any idea that would provide a radical rethink of business as usual.

More than half the department’s staff responded by submitting, or by voting or commenting on one of the 392 pitches to the “DFAT Ideas challenge”.

The top 10 were presented to the quartet of judges, who favoured the idea of passport-less travel. Under a cloud passport, a traveller’s identity and biometrics data would be stored in a cloud, so passengers would no longer need to carry their passports and risk having them lost or stolen. DFAT says 38,718 passports were registered as lost or stolen in 2014-15, consistent with the 38,689 reported missing the previous year.

Australia and New Zealand are now in discussions about trialling cloud passports. Ms Bishop acknowledged there were security requirements that would have to be met in order to store biometrics in the cloud, but told Fairfax Media: “We think it will go global.”

The minister revealed the idea at the InnovationXchange headquarters in Canberra. InnovationXchange is a brainchild of the minister, dreamed up to disrupt the traditional ways bureaucrats distribute the aid budget, which the Coalition has severely cut since coming to office.

With its low slung chairs and beanbags for seats, standing desks and low hanging lightbulbs that wouldn’t look out of place in a converted warehouse in New York, Ms Bishop says the headquarters “would be at home in Silicon Valley”.

Staff dress casually and are encourage to shun suits. But the serious results they are already achieving in InnovationXchange’s short life are attracting attention from other departments, which have visited the team of nine staff to observe how they are challenging the cultural norms of bureaucracy.

Another initiative InnovationXchange is pioneering includes a US$100 million data collection service in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg sits on InnovationXchange’s reference group.

His organisation will tip in $85 million with the Australian government contributing $15 million.

“That’s my idea of public-private leverage,” Ms Bishop said.

Data for Health will collect basic births and deaths data in 20 countries. The so-called health census data will be open source and available to governments, NGOs and the media.

Demerits for 1km/h over limit


28th Oct 2015

The State Government needs to stop apologising for enforcing speed limits and introduce a demerit point penalty for drivers who flout the laws by even 1km/h, says a leading road safety adviser.

As fresh Department of Transport figures revealed that by mid-September 12,639 motor-ists had received driving bans this year for exceeding their points, Max Cameron called for a demerit-penalty — rather than just a fine — for speeding less than 10km/h over the limit.

The Monash University Accident Research Centre professor said the demerit system encouraged motorists to change their behaviour because they feared losing their licences.

But the system was less effective in WA because it was the only State without a demerit penalty for low-level speeding, he warned.

A police officer hands out a speeding ticket in a school zone. Picture: Mogens Johansen/ The West Australian

“Some people feel they can keep speeding at those low levels because they can afford to pay the fines and they’re not threatened with losing their licence by accumulating demerit points,” Professor Cameron said.

At least 35 per cent of WA’s more than 1.9 million registered drivers, including P-platers and learners, have demerit points, which take three years to clear.

By mid-September, 5708 people were waiting for a suspension notice after accruing the maximum 12 points and another 6563 were clinging to just one point.

Last year, 19,072 motorists, including 3285 novice drivers, were issued demerit point suspensions.

The State Government has not changed its position from when it ignored Road Safety Council advice to include a demerit penalty for low-level speeding during a review last year.

Road Safety Minister Liza Harvey said then that low-level speeding was not linked to the worst crashes, so she was not convinced it warranted a demerit penalty despite being one of the most common offences.

Professor Cameron said that with no demerit point for the offence, it was “almost saying the de facto speed limit is 10km/h above the posted limit”.

“That’s not a message the road authorities want to get across,” he said.

“It’s time all Australian States stop apologising for enforcing speed limits — they are road crimes.”



U.S. Will Require Drones to Be Registered

18th Oct 2015

The federal government will announce a new plan requiring anyone buying a drone to register the device with the U.S. Department of Transportation, NBC news has learned.

The government has been concerned about the rise in close calls between unmanned drones and aircraft flying into and out of some of the nation’s biggest airports. The plan is expected to be announced Monday.

In July, there was a dangerously close encounter between a drone and a passenger jet with 159 people aboard setting up to land at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The unmanned aerial vehicle was just 100 feet away from the passenger jet at an altitude of 1,700 feet; normal safe separation distance is between aircraft is at least 1,000 feet.

Private drones were also blamed for hampering aerial firefighting efforts over a California blaze in July.

Firefighting aircraft trying to attack the fast-moving blaze in the Cajon Pass had to leave the area for around 20 minutes over safety concerns, officials said. The fire swept over a busy freeway and torched 20 vehicles.

Under the plan, the government would work with the drone industry to set up a structure for registering the drones, and the regulations could be in place by Christmas.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $1.9 million fine against Chicago drone company SkyPan, which was alleged to have flown dozens of unauthorized flights over Chicago and New York since 2012




NYPD has super-secret X-ray vans


14th Oct 2015

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton won’t let the NYCLU — or anyone else — bully him for details on the NYPD’s super-secret X-ray vans.


The top cop was asked Tuesday about the counter-terror vehicles, called Z Backscatter Vans, in light of the NYCLU’s request to file an amicus brief arguing that the NYPD should have to release records about the X-ray vans.

“They’re not used to scan people for weapons,” Bratton insisted. “The devices we have, the vehicles if you will, are all used lawfully and if the ACLU and others don’t think that’s the case, we’ll see them in court — where they’ll lose! At this time and the nature of what’s going on in the world, that concern of theirs is unfounded.”

He declined to give more specific details about the devices themselves.

“Those are issues I’d prefer not to divulge to the public at this time,” Bratton said. “I will not talk about anything at all about this — it falls into the range of security and counter-terrorism activity that we engage in.”

The website ProPublica filed suit against the NYPD three years ago after an investigative journalist’s requests for police reports, training materials and health tests related to the X-rays were denied.

Modal Trigger

New York State Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the department should have to turn over the records, despite the NYPD’s arguments that disclosing that information could interfere with investigations.

“While this court is cognizant and sensitive to concerns about terrorism, being located less than a mile from the 9/11 site, and having seen firsthand the effects of terrorist destruction, nonetheless, the hallmark of our great nation is that it is a democracy, with a transparent government,” the judge wrote in the December 2014 decision.

The NYPD appealed that decision — and now the NYCLU has requested to file an amicus brief urging the appeals court to uphold the lower court’s original ruling.

“People should be informed if military-grade X-ray vans are damaging their health with radiation or peering inside their homes or cars,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “New Yorkers have a right to protect their health, welfare and privacy.”

Little is known about how the NYPD uses the high-tech machines, which reportedly cost between $729,000 and $825,000.

The vans are also employed by US Customs and Border Protection to scan for drugs and explosives.



Border Force to check people’s visas on Melbourne’s streets this weekend

28th Aug 2015

Border Force officers will check people’s visas on the streets of Melbourne this weekend, the Federal Government has revealed.

In a statement, the Australian Border Force’s regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith, said his officers would be positioned at various locations around the city and would speak “with any individual we cross paths with”.

“You need to be aware of the conditions of your visa; if you commit visa fraud you should know it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught out,” he said.

The statement said border force officers would work with, “a diverse team of transport and enforcement agencies to target crime in the Melbourne Central Business District (CBD) as part of Operation Fortitude”.

“Tonight and tomorrow evening [Friday and Saturday] Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, the Sheriff’s Office, Taxi Services Commission and the ABF will join Victoria Police as part of the inter-agency operation.”

“With a particular focus on people travelling to, from and around the CBD, the group of agencies will work together to support the best interests of Melburnians, targeting everything from anti-social behaviour to outstanding warrants.”

Victorian Police released a statement saying the public transport system would “be at its safest … as a diverse team of transport and enforcement agencies take to the streets as a part of Operation Fortitude”.

“There is a lot of truth to the saying that there is strength in numbers,” Transit and Public Safety Command acting superintendent Campbell Mill said.

“From a policing perspective we will have Protective Services Officers, Passive Alert Detection Dogs, police, booze buses and automated number plate recognition vehicles deployed this Friday and Saturday night.

“While we are all separate organisations, we all have something in common – a responsibility to keep our community safe.

“In order to do that, we need to ensure that people are behaving appropriately.”


Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-28/border-force-to-check-visas-on-the-streets-of-melbourne/6732086

Morrissey claims he was sexually assaulted by a member of staff at San Francisco Airport

31st July 2015

Morrissey has claimed he was sexually assaulted by a member of staff at San Francisco International Airport earlier this week.

Posting on True To You, an online Morrissey fanzine, the singer detailed an incident where he was approached by an airport security officer who “crouched before me and groped my penis and testicles.”

“Luckily I was accompanied by two members of British Airways Special Services, who were horrified at the sexual attack and suggested that I lodge a complaint.”

He said that he confronted the staff member and complained about the treatment only to be rebuffed by the man, who repeatedly said “That’s just your opinion.”

“Since the penis and testicles were mine and no one else’s, then my opinion must surely have some meaning,” he said.

“But, of course, what the airport security officer was saying was: your opinion will never count in the eyes of the law.”

He went on to say that though the incident was caught on CCTV, he doubted anyone would be reprimanded over what happened, and cast doubt over the airport’s duty of care regarding its  passengers.

The Independent has reached out to Morrissey’s agent and San Francisco International Airport for comment.