Apr 092007

The master list the federal government keeps of known and suspected terrorists, from which other government agencies derive their own watch lists, already hundreds of thousands of names large, is growing out of control, filling with “fragmentary,” “inconsistent” and “sometimes just flat-out wrong” information, a top counterterrorism official said.

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, described as “one-stop shopping” for federal watchlisting, collects scraps of intelligence from all across the government, and disseminates it to other government agencies for them to build their own watch lists. TIDE is the database created after 9/11 to centralize information about known and suspected terrorists. It was based on its predecessor, known as TIPOFF, a State Department terrorism database, and is run out of the new National Counterterrorism Center.

after 9/11 to centralize information about known and suspected terrorists. It was based on its predecessor, known as TIPOFF, a State Department terrorism database, and is run out of the new National Counterterrorism Center.Unlike most other government databases, TIDE mixes records on U.S. citizens with records on aliens. And unlike its predecessor, TIDE can store biometric information such as fingerprints and DNA records.

Unclassified portions of the TIDE database are used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening Center as well as the Transportation Security Administration for its no-fly list and selectee list, as well as many other government agencies. Each agency decides what criteria to use to accept a name from TIDE, which sets a very low bar on what information it will accept.

And therein lies the problem. As anyone who is familiar with computers will tell you, “Garbage in, garbage out.” And so, you get delayed at the airport for hours while people around you think you’re some kind of terrorist, because somebody put bad information into a computer. I warned you.

Sunday’s Washington Post has an excellent description of the TIDE database, how it works, and how it fails.

The single biggest worry that I have is long-term quality control,” said Russ Travers, in charge of TIDE at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean. “Where am I going to be, where is my successor going to be, five years down the road?”

TIDE has also created concerns about secrecy, errors and privacy. The list marks the first time foreigners and U.S. citizens are combined in an intelligence database. The bar for inclusion is low, and once someone is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off it. At any stage, the process can lead to “horror stories” of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information, Travers acknowledged.

TIDE is a vacuum cleaner for both proven and unproven information, and its managers disclaim responsibility for how other agencies use the data. “What’s the alternative?” Travers said. “I work under the assumption that we’re never going to have perfect information – fingerprints, DNA – on 6 billion people across the planet. . . . If someone actually has a better idea, I’m all ears.” – Washington Post

I have a better idea. Stop creating terrorists in the first place. Stop getting involved in other people’s business. Stop arming the terrorists. Stop funding them. Return America’s foreign policy to what it was supposed to be all along, in the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

You may call that unrealistic, but you do so without reason. It’s unrealistic to think the U.S. can win an ill-defined “war on terror” without turning into the sort of authoritarian state that we all used to point at and decry its horrors. Look around. It’s not just around the corner anymore; the U.S. has already become that police state. It’s unrealistic to think any foreign policy other than Jefferson’s will restore the United States to the grand old republic we all were told we lived in.

Boston's Big Dig–Top Secret Stuff

 Places, Politics, The Courts  Comments Off on Boston's Big Dig–Top Secret Stuff
Apr 022007

In Boston, the state is trying to shut down a lawsuit brought by the family of Milena Del Valle, who was killed last July when 12 tons of Boston’s Big Dig tunnel fell on her husband’s car. The excuse they’ve given this time is that if they turn over relevant documents to the family, the nation’s transportation security could be compromised. By discovering exactly what shortcuts they took in building the thing and where it’s likely to kill someone next? (I’ve survived two trips through the Big Dig and I hope never to be caught down there again, especially with the state continuing its cover-up of just how shoddy a job the Big Dig really was.)

Is there ANYTHING this bunch of goobers won’t roll out the “9/11” mantra for in order to avoid responsibility? How long are we going to let the government, at every level, hide behind this lame-ass excuse?

Chertoff's Web of Terror

 Congress, Constitution, Crime, Politics, Society, Technology  Comments Off on Chertoff's Web of Terror
Oct 172006

I’ve seen several articles about this over the past day or so. I’m linking to a brief article on Wired News. Apparently U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is laying the ground work for the more agressive government monitoring of the web, if not outright control. Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills over the internet and that could present the next major U.S. security threat, Chertoff said on Monday.

“They can train themselves over the internet. They never have to necessarily go to the training camp or speak with anybody else and that diffusion of a combination of hatred and technical skills in things like bomb-making is a dangerous combination,” Chertoff said. “Those are the kind of terrorists that we may not be able to detect with spies and satellites.”

I happen to personally think this is just all about this Administration trying to lay the groundwork of fear so they can start even greater monitoring of the internet…without the sheeple making a fuss.

Letter to Congress About Marines on No-Fly List

 Congress, Crime, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Letter to Congress About Marines on No-Fly List
Apr 132006

After reading of a Marine Reservist placed on TSA’s no-fly list because gun powder was found on his boots, I wrote the following to my congressional delegation. I would invite you to take action as well.

I am reading the morning news and come across to this story on MSNBC. Apparently, a Marine reservist had served a two month tour in Iraq. Then, this past June, while boarding a plane in Minneapolis to go to training (before another tour in Iraq), TSA found traces of gun powder on his boots. (Whoa! I guess they were expecting the fragrance of the flowers we all were promised the Iraqi’s would be throwing at our troops.)

He was detained then, and that resulted in his name being added to the infamous, no-fly list. That resulted in his not being permitted to board a recent flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis AS HE WAS RETURNING HOME WITH HIS UNIT FROM IRAQ.

So, Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown joins the illustrious list with the likes of known terrorist Sen. Ted Kennedy.

How long is it going to take for you all in Congress to realize the absurdity of this list, and put an end to this? Please tell me that you all are as incompetent as the people at TSA? Do you not, by now, realize that no list maintained by the federal government has ever been of any significant value, and is typically a detriment? Please do not send a form letter with no real answer to my question. I want you to explain to me why I am, through my taxes, paying salaries to clearly incompetent people to maintain a completely ineffective program? And as noted above, I’d like to know when you will take action to end this absurdity?

I look forward to your response.

And So Begins The End

 Constitution, Politics  Comments Off on And So Begins The End
Mar 032006

A couple in Rhode Island decided to pay off their J.C. Penney credit card, so they mailed in a $6,500 payment. They later learned their payment was being held until reviewed by Homeland Security because it was more than their usual monthly payment.

You can read the complete story at the Scripps Howard News Service.

And so who is it that says, “Well, it’s okay to give up our privacy to fight terrorism. If you’re not doing anything wrong, it won’t matter to you anyway”

When are we going to demand that government get out of the private lives of its citizens?