• Department of Homeless Security

    September 23, 2016 // 37 Comments »

    homeless-man

    Busy weekend for terrorism. Nine people stabbed in a shopping mall in Minnesota (meh), and the big one in New Jersey/New York.

    It was there Afghan American Ahmad Rahami made up a bunch of pipe bombs and pressure cooker IEDs, distributed them in four separate locations, and set off two explosions. The one detonation in New York’s Chelsea area injured 29 people.



    What We’re Told Happened

    In the 15 years since 9/11, the United States has spent trillions of dollars on security, created a new cabinet agency that memorialized an odd term of reference to America, the Department of Homeland Security, and convinced far too many Americans that they had to choose between security or freedom, safety or privacy. Along the way our air travel experience is now a form of bondage play.

    And we are watched.

    For example, the city of New York boasts it has more than 8,000 cameras pointed at Manhattan streets. The NYPD calls it the city’s “Ring of Steel.”

    Images from those cameras feed into the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. Officers there also keep track of biological, chemical, radiation, and shot-spotter sensors (which detect gunfire), throughout the city.

    Data from the cameras and the detectors, as well as 911 calls, license plate readers, and crime databases is fed into a map-based Domain Awareness System, which analyzes information. The NYPD also has a “Dashboard” system that receives alerts on unattended packages, stolen vehicles crossing tunnels and bridges, and suspicious odors of hazardous materials.

    In addition, the Lower Manhattan Center maintains a “vehicle of interest” listing to track vehicles utilizing license plate readers, and can go back 30 days to find suspect vehicles. More than 200 license plate readers within the city triangulate information with GPS systems.

    That is a helluva lot of watching, all keeping us safe. Except it didn’t.



    What Really Happened

    What really happened is a guy built multiple explosive devices, and deployed them in public areas, without being detected. All that stuff above, plus the NSA, FBI, DHS, CIA, et al, missed him.

    No one got killed and no one was seriously injured only because of two factors: an inept terrorist and America’s homeless.

    Ahmad Rahami had a string of pipe bombs lined up along a marathon run route. One went off early (the start of the race was delayed) and the others failed to explode. If Rahami had used a command detonator triggered by the runners or himself, not a timer, and/or if all of the bombs had exploded when people were around, it would have been carnage.

    One of Rahami’s Manhattan bombs failed to go off, even after two passersby shook it out of the suitcase Rahami had hid it in. His other bomb was set on a timer and randomly no one happened to be in its kill zone went it went off.

    One is reminded of America’s other inept terrorists: the underwear bomber who couldn’t get his bomb to explode, the shoe bomber who couldn’t get his bomb to explode, and the Times Square car bomber who couldn’t get his bomb to explode. We’ll throw in the Minnesota mall guy, who failed to seriously injure anyone despite his multiple stabbings of unarmed people.

    As for the bombs planted at a New Jersey train station, they were found by two homeless guys who were looking to steal (the media now uses the word scavenge because they’re heros) the backpack one of the explosives was tucked into.



    How to Respond

    The response the day after the New York bombings was swift — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deployed an additional 1,000 New York State Police and National Guard people to Manhattan’s bus terminals, airports, and subway stations. The NYPD turned out in force in similar locations, with officials boasting Manhattan on the Monday after the weekend explosions had more security personnel on its streets than at any other time in New York history.

    Of course all of the previous security did not stop the bomber, and he did not target any bus terminals, airports and subway stations. Nor has any other terrorist.

    So maybe it is time for a better solution.

    The homeless guys who found the bomb at the New Jersey train station were rewarded by social services finding them a place to stay and getting them signed up for food stamps. Someone set up a GoFundMe page for the two that has raised $16,000. A kind citizen even gifted both men new backpacks, as the bomb backpack was blown up by police. They are happy guys.

    So why not deputize our army of zombie homeless into terrorist hunters? The poor dudes are out on the streets all the time in all sorts of weather anyway, and they’re always digging in trash cans. If the homeless know that free housing and food stamps await them if they can bring in some terrorist booty, well, the terrorists don’t stand a chance.




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    Posted in Post-Constitution America

    Student Thrown Off Flight After Passenger Heard Him Say ‘God Willing’ in Arabic

    April 17, 2016 // 8 Comments »

    makhzoomi-800x430

    So once again people from The World’s Most Frightened Country (C) fully overreacted to nothing. One of the 230 million people worldwide who speak Arabic happened to be on an airplane and happened to use one of the most common expressions in his language.


    Hilarity ensued. Bigoted, frightened, discriminatory hilarity, in keeping with the American Way.

    UC Berkeley student Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, above, whose family fled Iraq in 2002 after his diplomat father was killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime, was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight and questioned by the FBI after another passenger heard him speaking Arabic. Makhzoomi was flying home from attending a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon when he stopped to make a call to an uncle.

    Makhzoomi explained he was talking on the phone with his uncle and, as he said goodbye, he used the phrase “inshallah,” which translates as “if God is willing.” The student said that after hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him who then got up and left her seat.

    Moments later an airport employee made Makhzoomi step off the plane into the arms of security officers. Makhzoomi was told the woman thought he said “Shahid,” meaning martyr. Because in-shal-lah and sha-hid sound the same, at least to a dumb ass who speaks no apparent Arabic and likely learned the term shahid when it was last mispronounced on AM talk radio.


    The student was told he would not be allowed to get back on the plane. Security officers searched his bag again, asked him if he had any other luggage he was keeping “secret,” and publicly felt around his genital area and asked him if he was hiding a knife.

    “The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me,” Makhzoomi said. “I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father.”

    Makhzoomi said the FBI questioned him about his family, and about his phone call and what he knew about martyrism. The FBI informed Makhzoomi that Southwest would not fly him home. He later booked a flight on another airline, arriving home nine hours later than expected.

    According to Southwest Airlines, the student was removed because crew members decided to “investigate potentially threatening comments made onboard our aircraft.”



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    Student Busted for Saying ‘ISIS’ During Pledge of Allegiance

    March 19, 2016 // 18 Comments »

    Hitler-Jugend_(1933)


    Ho, ho, another brainiac goes down as stupidity is mistaken for a real threat, apparently our national pastime. And then, my new favorite phrase, “out of an abundance of caution.”

    The fun started after a Connecticut high school student was pulled out of class and reported to police for substituting “ISIS” for the “United States of America” during the Pledge of Allegiance.

    A policespokesnazi said the 15-year-old student at Ansonia High School wasn’t charged, but the case was turned over to the Das Department of Homeland Security. Police say there is no danger to the community. Federal officials declined to comment.

    The boy, who wasn’t identified because he is a minor terrorist, now attends classes alone, isolated in a Board of Education annex building.

    An attorney representing the school and Board of Education says the boy’s dismissal was “out of an abundance of caution.” The boy’s mother said at a board meeting that removing her son from school was an irrational decision.


    So:

    — What kind of fascist society requires school kids to pledge allegiance? Didn’t that kind of thing go out of favor in like the 19th century? Why don’t we substitute blood oaths or some Hunger Games thing instead?

    — Why did the cops report the case to the Department of Homeland Security? And what do they do with this information? What kind of file is now going to follow this kid around for how long?

    — What’s up with this “out of an abundance of caution” thing? Where did it come from? Houses catch fire from time to time, a real danger, but the fire department doesn’t drive around spraying water on everything “out of an abundance of caution.”

    — Where did our sense of balance go? High school kids have always said smart ass things. That just makes them smart asses, not terrorists.

    “Out of an abundance of caution,” America really need to get its act together.




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    There are 72 DHS Employees on Terrorist Watch List

    February 9, 2016 // 16 Comments »

    Stephen Lynch


    So you can read this one one of two ways:

    Either the terror watch list is complete bull, or the Department of Homeland Security has a big problem. Come to think about it, maybe you can read it both ways.

    At least 72 employees at the Department of Homeland Security are listed on the U.S. terrorist watch list, according to Representative Stephen Lynch (D., MA, pictured)


    It is entirely possible Representative Stephen Lynch just demonstrated there is little to no actual threat from terrorists.

    “Back in August, we did an investigation — the inspector general did — of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security. The former DHS director had to resign because of that.”

    Lynch did not say what has happened to the 72 employees, however. That in fact is the key question. If any of them are indeed bad guys, how did they get their jobs at DHS, and keep them, and what, if any, naughtiness did they do? If some/none of the 72 are bad guys, why were they on the terror list and WTF is the point of such lists?


    Meanwhile, list or no list, DHS continues to fail inspections aimed at determining the efficiency of its internal safety mechanisms, as well as its efforts to protect the very Homeland that is part of its own name. Lynch referred to a recent report that found the Transportation Security Administration, which is “overseen” by DHS, failed to stop 95 percent of those who attempted to bring restricted items past airport security.

    “We had staffers go into eight different airports to test the department of homeland security screening process at major airports. They had a 95 percent failure rate,” Lynch said. “We had folks going in there with guns on their ankles, and other weapons on their persons, and there was a 95 percent failure rate.”

    And that brings up another question. If TSA has a 95 percent failure rate, and since no terror incidents have happened due to contraband being smuggled through our airports, doesn’t that strongly imply there really isn’t much of a threat? At a 95 percent failure rate, given the level of threat we are told is now part of our post-ISIS lives, shouldn’t planes be dropping daily from the sky?



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    Posted in Post-Constitution America

    Post-Constitutional America, Where Innocence is a Poor Defense

    July 30, 2015 // 3 Comments »

    Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a U.S. student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed against Muslims, she was investigated by the FBI. In 2004, while she was still in the U.S. but unbeknownst to her, the FBI sent her name to the no-fly list.

    Ibrahim was no threat to anyone, innocent of everything, and ended up on that list only due to a government mistake. Nonetheless, she was not allowed to reenter the U.S. to finish her studies or even attend her trial and speak in her own defense. Her life was derailed by the tangle of national security bureaucracy and pointless “anti-terror” measures that have come to define post-Constitutional America. Here’s what happened, and why it may matter to you.

    The No-Fly List

    On September 10, 2001, there was no formal no-fly list. Among the many changes pressed on a scared population starting that September 12th were the creation of two such lists: the no-fly list and the selectee list for travelers who were to undergo additional scrutiny when they sought to fly.  If you were on the no-fly list itself, as its name indicated, you could not board a flight within the U.S. or one heading out of or into the country. As a flight-ban plan, it would come to extend far beyond America’s borders, since the list was shared with 22 other countries.

    No one knows how many names are on it. According to one source, 21,000 people, including some 500 Americans, are blacklisted; another puts the figure at 44,000. The actual number is classified.

    On January 2, 2005, unaware of her status as a threat to the United States, Ibrahim left Stanford for San Francisco International Airport to board a flight to Malaysia for an academic conference. A ticket agent saw her name flagged in the database and called the police.

    Despite being wheelchair-bound due to complications from a medical procedure, Ibrahim was handcuffed, taken to a detention cell, and denied access to medication she had in hand. Without explanation, after extensive interrogation, she was allowed to board her flight. When she tried to return to America to resume her studies, however, she found herself banned as a terrorist.

    Suing the United States

    Stuck in Malaysia, though still in possession of a valid student visa, Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, asking to be removed from the no-fly list and allowed back into the country to continue her architectural studies.

    Over almost nine years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) employed an arsenal of dodges and post-9/11 tricks to impede her lawsuit, including invoking the “state secrets doctrine” to ensure that she would never have access to the records she needed. “State secrets” is not a law in the U.S., as it is, for example, in Great Britain, where the monarch also retains “Crown Privilege,” the absolute right to refuse to share information with Parliament or the courts. Here, it is instead a kind of assumed privilege and the courts accept it as such. Based on it, the president can refuse to produce evidence in a court case on the grounds that its public disclosure might harm national security. The government has, in the past, successfully employed this “privilege” to withhold information and dead-end legal challenges. Once “state secrets” is in play, there is literally nothing left to talk about in court.

    A related DOJ dodge was also brought to bear in an attempt to derail Ibrahim’s case: the use of made-up classification categories that dispatch even routine information into the black world of national security. Much of the information concerning her placement on the no-fly list, for instance, was labeled Security Sensitive Information (SSI) and so was unavailable to her. SSI is among hundreds of post-9/11 security categories created via memo by various federal agencies. These categories, too, have no true legal basis. Congress never passed a law establishing anything called SSI, nor is there any law prohibiting the disclosure of SSI information. The abuse of such pseudo-classifications has been common enough in the post-9/11 years and figured significantly in the ongoing case of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) whistleblower Robert MacLean.

    Next in its end-run around Ibrahim’s lawsuit, the DOJ pulled “standing” out of its bag of tricks. Standing is a legal term that means a person filing a lawsuit has a right to do so. For example, in some states you must be a resident to sue. Seeking to have a case thrown out because the plaintiff does not have standing was a tactic used successfully by the government in other national security cases. The ACLU, for instance, sued the National Security Agency for Fourth Amendment violations in 2008. The Supreme Court rejected the case in 2013 for lack of standing, claiming that unless the ACLU could conclusively prove it had been spied upon, it could not sue. In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations showing that the NSA indeed spied widely on American citizens, the ACLU has revived the suit.  It claims that the new documents provide clear evidence of broad-based surveillance and so now give it standing.

    Standing was also used by the DOJ in the case of American citizen and purported al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki, whom the U.S. murdered by drone in Yemen. Prior to his son’s death, attorneys for al-Awlaki’s father tried to persuade a U.S. District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government from killing him. A judge dismissed the case, ruling that the father did not have standing to sue.

    In Ibrahim’s no-fly case, the government argued that since she was not an American citizen, she had no standing to sue the government for its actions against her in the U.S. When all of those non-meritorious challenges failed to stop the case, the government invoked the very no-fly designation Ibrahim was challenging, and refused to allow her to travel to the United States to testify at her own trial.

    Next, Ibrahim’s daughter, an American citizen traveling on a U.S. passport, was not allowed to board a flight from Malaysia to serve as a witness at her mother’s trial. She, too, was told she was on the no-fly list. After some legal tussling, however, she was finally allowed to fly to “the Homeland.” Why the American government changed its mind is classified and almost all of the trial transcript concerning the attempt to stop her from testifying was redacted from public disclosure.

    In addition, by regularly claiming that classified information was going to be presented, the government effectively hid the ludicrous nature of the Ibrahim case from much public scrutiny. The trial was interrupted at least 10 times and the public, including journalists, were asked to leave the courtroom so that “classified evidence” could be presented.

    A message of intimidation had been repeatedly delivered. It failed, however, and Ibrahim’s case went to trial, albeit without her present.

    Ibrahim Wins

    Despite years of effort by the DOJ, Ibrahim won her lawsuit. The U.S. District Court for Northern California ordered the removal of her name from the no-fly list. However, in our evolving post-Constitutional era, what that “victory” revealed should unnerve those who claim that if they are innocent, they have nothing to fear. Innocence is no longer a defense.

    During the lawsuit, it was made clear that the FBI had never intended Ibrahim to be placed on the no-fly list. The FBI agent involved in the initial post-9/11 investigation of Ibrahim simply checked the wrong box on a paper form used to send people into travel limbo. It was a mistake, a slip up, the equivalent of a typo. There was no evidence that the agent intended harm or malice, nor it seems were there any checks, balances, or safeguards against such errors. One agent could, quite literally at the stroke of a pen, end someone’s education, job, and family visits, and there was essentially no recourse.

    Throughout the nine years Ibrahim fought to return to the U.S., it appears that the government either knew all along that she was no threat and tried to cover up its mistake anyway, or fought her bitterly at great taxpayer expense without at any time checking whether the no-fly designation was ever valid. You pick which theory is most likely to disturb your sleep tonight.

    Ibrahim Loses

    Having won her case, Ibrahim went to the airport in Kuala Lumpur to fly back to Stanford and resume her studies. As she attempted to board the plane, however, she was pulled aside and informed that the U.S. embassy in Malaysia had without notice revoked her student visa. No visa meant, despite her court victory, she once again could not return to the United States.

    At the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Ibrahim was handed a preprinted “explanation” for the visa revocation with the word “terrorist” hand-written next to the boilerplate text. Ibrahim was never informed of her right under U.S. law to apply for a waiver of the visa revocation.

    Though it refused to re-issue the visa, the State Department finally had to admit in court that it had revoked the document based solely on a computer “hit” in its name-checking database, the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS.) That hit, in turn, appeared to be a straggler from the now defunct no-fly list entry made erroneously by the FBI.

    The State Department and CLASS

    As is well known, the State Department issued legal visas to all of the 9/11 terrorists. In part, this was because the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies failed to tell State what they knew about the hijackers, as all were suspected to be bad guys. Then and now, such information is passed on when intelligence and law enforcement agencies make electronic entries in State’s computerized lookout system. CLASS is part of the Consular Consolidated Database, one of the largest known data warehouses in the world. As of December 2009, it contained over 100 million cases and 75 million photographs, and has a current growth rate of approximately 35,000 records per day. CLASS also collects the fingerprints of all foreigners issued visas.

    Pre-9/11, various agencies in Washington were reluctant to share information. Now, they regularly dump enormous amounts of it into CLASS. The database has grown 400% since September 11, 2001.

    The problem is that CLASS is a one-way street. Intelligence agencies can put data in, but can’t remove it because State keeps the database isolated from interactive data maintenance. In addition, the basic database it uses to screen out bad guys typically only has a subject’s name, nationality, and the most modest of identifying information, plus a numerical code indicating why a name was entered. One code, 3B, stands for “terrorist”; another, 2A, means “criminal”; and so forth through the long list of reasons the U.S. would not want to issue a visa. Some CLASS listings have just a partial name, and State Department visa-issuing officers regularly wallow through screen after screen of hits like: Muhammad, no last name, no date of birth, Egypt — all marked as “critical, Category One” but with no additional information.

    Nor, when the information exists but was supplied by another agency, do U.S. embassies abroad have direct access to the files. Instead, when a State Department official gets a name “hit” overseas, she must send a “Security Advisory Opinion,” or SAO, back to Washington asking for more information. The recipient of that cable at Foggy Bottom must then sort out which intelligence agency entered the data in the first place and appeal to it for an explanation.

    At that point, intelligence agencies commonly to refuse to share more, claiming that no one at State has the proper clearances and that department should just trust their decision to label someone a bad guy and refuse to issue, or pro-actively revoke, a visa. If, on the other hand, information is shared, it is often done on paper by courier. In other words, a guy shows up at State with a bundle of documents, waits while someone reviews them, and then spirits them back to the CIA, the FBI, or elsewhere. That way, the intelligence agencies, always distrustful of State, are assured that nothing will be leaked or inadvertently disclosed.

    In cases where no more information is available, or what is available is inconclusive, the State Department might allow the visa application to pend indefinitely under the heading “administrative processing,” or simply “prudentially” revoke or not issue the visa. No one wants to risk approving a visa for the next 9/11 terrorist, even if it’s pretty obvious that the applicant is nothing of the sort.

    This undoubtedly is what happened to Ibrahim. Though the details remain classified, State certainly didn’t possess super secret information on her unavailable to other law enforcement or intelligence outfits. Some official surely decided to take no chances and revoked her visa “prudentially” based on the outdated information still lodged in CLASS.

    Not CLASS Alone

    Ibrahim’s case also reveals just how many secret databases of various sorts exist in Washington. Here’s how a name (your name?) gets added to one of those databases, and how it then populates other lists around the world.

    A name is nominated for the no-fly list by one of hundreds of thousands of government officials: an FBI agent, a CIA analyst, a State Department visa officer. Each nominating agency has its own criteria, standards, and approval processes, some — as with the FBI in Ibrahim’s case — apparently pretty sloppy.

    The nominated name is then sent to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) at a classified location in suburban Northern Virginia. TSC is a multi-agency outfit administered by the FBI and staffed by officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and all of the Intelligence Community.

    Once a name is approved by the TSC (the process is classified), it will automatically be entered into a number of databases, possibly including but not necessarily limited to:

    *the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list;

    *that same department’s selectee list that ensures chosen individuals will be subject to additional airport screening;

    *the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS, including CLASS-Visa for foreigners and CLASS-Passport for U.S. Citizens);

    *the Department of Homeland Security’s TECS (a successor to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System), which is used in part by customs officials, as well as its Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), used by immigration officials;

    *the Known and Suspected Terrorist File (KSTF, previously known as the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organizations File);

    *TUSCAN, a database maintained by Canada;

    *TACTICS, a database maintained by Australia;

    *and finally, an unknown number of other law enforcement and intelligence agency databases, as well as those of other foreign intelligence services with which information may be shared.

    As Ibrahim discovered, once a name is selected, it travels deep and far into both U.S. and foreign databases. If one clears one’s name from one database, there are many others out there waiting. Even a comprehensive victory in one nation’s courts may not affect the records of a third country. And absent frequent travel, a person may never even know which countries have him or her on their lists, thanks to the United States.

    Once she learned that her student visa had been revoked in Malaysia, Ibrahim sued again, asking that the State Department reissue it. The government successfully blocked this suit, citing a long-established precedent that visa matters are essentially an administrative function and so not subject to judicial review.

    A court did scold State for failing to notify Ibrahim of her right to seek a waiver, as it was required to do by law. To the extent that Ibrahim’s case has any life left in it, her next step would be to return to the Department of Justice’s bailiwick and apply for a waiver of the revocation the State Department made based on data given to it by the DOJ that both outfits know was struck down by a court. It’s that “simple.” Meanwhile, she cannot return to the U.S.

    Nothing to Hide?

    A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

    Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. She even has a court decision declaring that she never was nor is a threat to the United States, yet she remains outside America’s borders. Her mistaken placement on the no-fly list plunged her head first into a nightmarish world that would have been all too recognizable to Franz Kafka. It is a world run by people willing to ignore reality to service their bureaucratic imperatives and whose multiplying lists are largely beyond the reach of the law.

    Sad as it may be, the Ibrahim case is a fairly benign example of ordinary Washington practices in the post-9/11 era. Ibrahim is going about her life at peace in Malaysia. Her tangle with the United States seems to have been more a matter of bureaucratic screw-ups than anything else. No one sought to actively destroy her. She was not tortured in a CIA black site, nor left for years in a cage at Guantanamo. Her case is generally seen as, at worst, another ugly stain on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

    But the watch lists are there. The tools are in place. And one thing is clear: no one is guarding the guards. You never know whose name just went on a list. Maybe yours?


    [Note to Readers: You can fact-check this one by reviewing the same sources I drew from via links in the piece. Since many of the facts of Ibrahim’s case come from her suit against the Department of Homeland Security, however, I have limited the repetition of that link for ease of reading.  You can find it by clicking here.]





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    FBI, DHS Now Zero for 40 at Predicting Terror Attacks

    July 9, 2015 // 2 Comments »

    TerrorAlert

    Did you make it through the July 4th weekend alive? No ISIS attacks? I drank 78 Red Bulls to stay alert and maintain constant vigilance in my backyard, after fearing ISIS chatter was singling me out for retribution. I lived to write this.

    Were you scared about the full week’s worth of warnings from the FBI, DHS and their spokespersons at CNN, FOX and other media outlets?

    You shouldn’t have been. Website Fair.org chronicles almost 15 years of fear-mongering via warnings that meant nothing. Their list is just below. However, first, it is worth noting that real terror things, such as the failed by being too dumb to set off a bomb Times Square bomber, the failed by being too dumb to set off a bomb “Underwear bomber,” and the killed (OK, sadly) all of three people Boston bombing were accompanied by no such government warnings. Not a word about the deadlier terrorist attacks by right-wing white supremacist terrorists.

    Here’s the full list of the government’s 0 for 40 warning record:

    October 2001: “Potential use of chemical/biological and/or radiological/nuclear weapons“
    November 2001: California bridges
    February 2002: “Hollywood studios”
    May 2002: Statue of Liberty
    June 2002: “Around the Fourth of July holiday”
    July 2002: Stadiums
    August 2002: “Landmarks”
    October 2002: “AQ to attack Amtrak”
    November 2002: “Spectacular Al Qaeda attacks”
    February 2003: “Apartments, hotels, sports arenas and amusement parks“
    May 2003: “Possibility of multiple attacks”
    May 2004: “Attempt to affect the outcome” of presidential election
    July 2004: “Military facilities and large gatherings” on July 4th
    August 2004: VA hospitals
    January 2005: Dirty bomb
    March 2005: US/Mexican border
    October 2005: NYC & Baltimore subways
    March 2006: “Sporting events”
    June 2007: Colleges
    December 2007: “Shopping malls in Chicago and LA”
    November 2008: “Al Qaeda to attack transit during Thanksgiving”
    November 2010: Mass transit in New York City
    October 2011: “Americans in Europe” facing “commando-style AQ attack”
    February 2011: “Financial institutions”
    May 2011: “Threats of retaliation”
    June 2011: Al Qaeda “hit list”
    July 2011: “Private jets of executives” involved in drone manufacturing
    September 2011: “Small planes”
    September 2011: “New York City or Washington around…10th anniversary of 9/11”
    September 2011: Airports
    March 2012: “Terrorist hacking”
    August 2012: Anarchists blowing up bridge during Tampa RNC
    September 2012: “Islamic violence over movie”
    August 2013: “San Francisco on high alert”
    November 2013: “cyber attacks”
    April 2014: “College students abroad”
    December 2014: ISIS targeting Mississippi River bridge
    December 2014: ISIS “sabotaging US military personnel” over social media
    April 2015: ISIS targeting “parts of California”
    May 2015: ISIS targeting “military bases”
    July 2015: ISIS targeting July 4

    Sleep tight America, knowing rough men stand ready on those walls to try and scare you into obedience.




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    Home of the Brave: And Please Panic This July 4th

    July 3, 2015 // 18 Comments »

    4th

    America used to be a country with balls. Now, our government wants to make us into a nation of scaredy cats, existing in a state of constant fear and near-panic, like we were kids worrying if the school bully was waiting for us after school.

    Here’s the basic theme for this weekend: Americans need to remain vigilant to the threat of a terrorist attack, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul, warned. He said there has been increased chatter on social media that indicates terrorists may be planning to strike during the celebrations. “I am extremely concerned Syrian and ISIS recruiters can use the Internet at lightning speeds to recruit followers in the United States and then activate them to do whatever they want to do. Whether it’s military installations, law enforcement or possibly a Fourth of July event parade.”

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS. “There’s been about 50 people in the last 12 months who have been arrested in the United States for being radicalized by ISIS, wanting to go fight there or wanting to conduct an attack here.”

    USA Today added to the fear-mongering, noting “While there was no specific or credible threat of attack, the official said the intelligence bulletin prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI alerted local colleagues to the ongoing threats posed by the Islamic State and other homegrown extremists. The official was not authorized to comment publicly.”

    So let’s break this down, ahead of your BBQ, beach time and backyard sparklers.

    America has suffered one significant foreign terror attack in the 239 years since the July 4th we celebrate this weekend. That attack was fourteen years ago and while tragic, took a similar number of lives has the number of Americans who have died since from toxoplasmotic brain parasites. The 2011 Report on Terrorism from the National Counterterrorism Center notes Americans are just as likely to be “crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year” as they are to be killed by terrorists. Perhaps even sadder, about double the number of Americans killed on 9/11 have died in the still-ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Disagree with one set of numbers, pick your favorite statistic/comparison, but you get the idea.

    Noteworthy is that while fourteen years ago, and for most of the succeeding years, is that the government warned the attacks were to be carried out or threatened by foreigners. This weekend’s warnings, however, point at Americans who want to do harm to other Americans. That seems to be one of the most significant “achievements” of the fourteen year war of terror, turning us into them.

    So this July 4, in honor of America’s 239th birthday, our government tells us not to be brave and free, but to be scared and fearful. We need to watch around us, and we need especially to watch our fellow citizens. One of them might be a lone wolf, supposedly “radicalized” by 140 characters he read on Twitter. We are to balance in our minds the conflicting images of a government that takes away our civil rights and pisses away our tax dollars to protect us while simultaneously saying they may not be able to protect us.

    Whatever you do this July 4th, don’t look for me there. I’ll be at home, doors locked, weapons cocked and ready in abject terror, trying not to remember what I’ll be drinking to forget. Happy Birthday America.




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    Man Held 20 Hours for Asking to File TSA Complaint

    February 13, 2015 // 10 Comments »

    vanderklok_600


    Here’s a flash in the dark peek at justice in America, all in the name of keeping us safe from terrorism by using the tools of law enforcement to terrorize us.

    If that’s not the case, then why is Charles Kieser still employed by the TSA?



    The Terrorist

    Random American Citizen Roger Vanderklok (aka “Josef K.“) had the misfortune of going through TSA Supervisor Charles Kieser’s security-screening area. Vanderklok, 57, pictured with his wife, is a Philadelphia architect who runs half-marathons. He flies around the country for weekend races.

    The TSA said it was concerned about the gear in his carry-on bag, and pulled him out of line. The items of concern turned out to be only a running watch and some Power Bars, wrapped in a small PVC pipe for protection against crushing. Nonetheless, for the next 30 minutes, screeners checked and rechecked the bag. They found nothing dangerous. Vanderklok protested that he was no threat, and that the items were of no danger to anyone, and insisted on making a complaint.

    Electronics and “organic mass” can be used to make bombs, TSA Supervisor Charles Kieser said in response to Vanderlok’s complaint. “The passenger made a bomb threat to me,” Kieser testified later according to a court transcript. “He said ‘I’ll bring a bomb through here any day that I want… and you’ll never find it.'”

    The Stormtroopers

    Kieser did not evacuate the area or follow TSA protocol to contact the FBI, as required in the face of a bomb threat. Instead, he just summoned the Philadelphia Police. Vanderklok was taken to an airport holding cell, and his personal belongings, including his phone, were confiscated while police “investigated” him. Vanderklok was detained for three hours in the holding cell, missing his plane. He was not questioned. Instead, after waiting the three hours, he was handcuffed, taken to a downtown police station and placed in another cell. He says that no one, not the police officers at the airport nor the detectives downtown, told him why he was there. He didn’t find out until he was arraigned at 2 a.m. that he was being charged with “threatening the placement of a bomb” and making “terroristic threats.” Despite all that threat stuff, he was released on bail. His wife, worried about not hearing from her husband, was never notified of his arrest until Vanderklok was allowed to phone her for bail money.

    The Trial

    When Vanderklok finally had his case brought to court, the charges were quickly dismissed. A review of airport surveillance videos showed that TSA Supervisor Kieser simply made everything up. Vanderklok made no threats. The security video shows him standing calmly with his arms in front of him holding a laptop. Prosecutors called no witnesses against Vanderklok except TSA Supervisor Kieser.

    As you may have guessed, Vanderklok has now filed a civil suit against the TSA, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that he was willfully deprived of his liberty, and his Fifth Amendment rights were violated, by the false statements made against him. Kieser remains employed by the TSA. No charges have been filed against him for what appears to have been outright perjury in his court testimony.

    Homeland Security has made no public comment, citing the pending lawsuit. Taxpayers will of course be on the hook for any settlement coming out of the lawsuit.

    BONUS: Taxpayers, on behalf of Philadelphia Airport TSA, recently paid out a $25,000 settlement over detaining a college student for possessing Arabic language flashcards.




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    Caught with Prostitute, Investigator in Secret Service Prostitution Scandal Resigns

    November 4, 2014 // 11 Comments »

    secret service


    Stay with me here, there may be more to this one than just naughty fun.


    The Secret Service and its Prostitutes

    In 2012, prior to the arrival of President Obama for an official visit to Colombia, 13 Secret Service agents had “personal encounters with female Colombian nationals” at their hotel. Prostitution is legal in Columbia, and mostly for their own safety working women register their presence with the hotel’s front desk. The actions of the Secret Service came to light only because one of the agents failed to pay his companion, and things turned ugly. The woman reported that she had agreed on a price the night before. However, when she asked for the money the next morning, the agent told her “Let’s go, b*tch, I’m not going to pay you.” He then pushed her out of his room and into the hallway.


    White House Staffer Involved?

    There may have been another person using a prostitute that night in Colombia. The investigator who led the Department of Homeland Security’s internal review of the Secret Service’s 2012 prostitution scandal, David Nieland, claimed hotel records showed a member of the White House advance team signed a prostitute into his room the same night. The White House denied one of its people was involved and a formal report of the scandal by Nieland did not mention the White House staffer.

    The staffer alleged to have been involved is now a policy adviser at the State Department. His father also works in the Obama administration.

    After the report became public, Nieland said he was asked to delete information about the White House staffer because it was potentially damaging to the administration during an election year. A Senate report challenged that, and said the changes were part of the editing process. The White House also denied that it had intervened in the report.

    The whole thing was dropped, until now.


    Nieland and His Crimes

    Things started to turn weird when in 2013, according to Homeland Security officials, Nieland accused the inspector general’s office of retaliating against him when it suspended him for two weeks without pay after he circulated photographs that he had taken of a female intern’s feet. Nieland said he had circulated the images as a joke. The whole thing was dropped. Until…

    Sheriff’s deputies in Broward County, Florida happened to have a no-tell motel under surveillance as part of a prostitution investigation. They noticed a man who turned out to be David Nieland entering and leaving the building. When the cops stopped Nieland, he told them he was part of an undercover human trafficking operation run by the Department of Homeland Security. The cops checked with Homeland Security, who said they were not running any such operation. The Florida cops then checked with the prostitute Nieland had visited, and she confirmed he paid her for sex.

    Back at work, Nieland for his part told his own inspector general’s office that he was stopped by police in Florida because of a broken tail light. Homeland Security called the Florida cops to learn that was a lie, Nieland refused to answer any questions, and then resigned, citing health problems. He denies the allegations.


    The Coincidence Factor

    Assuming the allegations against Nieland are true, he may be a guy with some issues. Circulating photos of an intern’s feet is way outside the boundaries, and the story that the guy investigating a prostitution scandal is himself caught up in a prostitution scandal makes for juicy headlines.

    But it is worth considering the coincidence factor. It may be the cops in Florida stumbled into a headline-grabbing bust just by staking out the right motel or they had some idea which motel to stake out. Nieland did everything he could to make it all worse, lying to cover a lie, but still, the coincidence of calling out the White House and challenging a Senate report’s conclusion followed by a career-ending bust, well, anyway, something to think about, right? Probably all just a coincidence.



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