Activist group sues US border agency over new, vast intelligence system

Activist group sues US border agency over new, vast intelligence system
CBP never responded to request for info on “Analytical Framework for Intelligence.”
By Cyrus Farivar

Jul 21 2014
 
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has sued the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an attempt to compel the government agency to hand over documents relating to a relatively new comprehensive intelligence database of people and cargo crossing the US border.

EPIC’s lawsuit, which was filed last Friday, seeks a trove of documents concerning the “Analytical Framework for Intelligence” (AFI) as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. EPIC’s April 2014 FOIA request went unanswered after the 20 days that the law requires, and the group waited an additional 49 days before filing suit.

The AFI, which was formally announced in June 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), consists of “a single platform for research, analysis, and visualization of large amounts of data from disparate sources and maintaining the final analysis or products in a single, searchable location for later use as well as appropriate dissemination.”

The new system appears to be a one-stop shop for classified and nonclassified materials and can include a target’s name, address, race, physical characteristics, gender, social security number, family relationships, occupation, and more. The AFI went into effect in August 2012.

The June 2012 announcement in the Federal Register states, “The purpose of this system is to enhance DHS’s ability to: Identify, apprehend, and/or prosecute individuals who pose a potential law enforcement or security risk; aid in the enforcement of the customs and immigration laws, and other laws enforced by DHS at the border; and enhance United States security.”

EPIC did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for further comment.

In an e-mail, CBP spokeswoman Erlinda Byrd told Ars, “CBP cannot comment on pending/ongoing cases.”

“Significant increase in arrests and disrupts”

DHS report from earlier this year stated that the AFI “augments CBP’s ability to gather and develop information about persons, events, and cargo of interest by creating an index of the relevant data in the existing operational systems and providing AFI analysts with different tools that assist in identifying non-obvious relationships.”

The report also described how initial testing of the AFI “along the Southwest border” yielded “valuable assistance to ongoing operations.” The report said:

For example, a user from the California Corridor Campaign received an unclassified Intel Alert notification from AFI based on the alerts the individual was monitoring. The analysis showed that the alert mentioned that the user’s area of responsibility was being utilized to smuggle narcotics. The Intel Alert was distributed through chain of command and specific targeting was initiated by the Cargo Analysis Research Investigative Team unit. Seven days later, the Calexico port-of-entry commercial facility interdicted and seized 1265.86 kilograms of marijuana.

In another instance, an AFI user analyzed narcotics and weapon seizures, alien apprehensions, and assaults on CBP personnel while on duty to determine how best to allocate resources. The user analyzed the locations and times when the highest rates of seizures occurred with the lowest rates of assaults on CBP personnel. The information from this analysis was imported into AFI’s analytical tool and exported into geospatial and temporal graphs. This work resulted in a significant increase in arrests and disrupts.

The suit comes as I recently published the results of my own FOIA request to CBP for my passenger name records, which revealed years of records. In some cases, those included:

  • The IP address that I used to buy the ticket
  • My credit card number (in full)
  • The language I used
  • Notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change

I will be filing a new FOIA request in attempt to find out what information, if any, the AFI maintains on me.

Re: Don’t Blame Malaysia Airlines

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Scott Berry.  DLH]

From: Scott Berry <sjb@optonline.net>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Re: Don’t Blame Malaysia Airlines
Date: July 20, 2014 at 21:55:04 EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

Dewayne,

According to a co-worker in the know (ex-military), there are very few things sophisticated enough to have shot down an airliner at that height.  And very few counties who own one.  Russia is one.  They wouldn’t even sell these things to Iran. The U.S. has to know this, though won’t go public with it.

Anyone who thinks Putin has “given up” on Eastern Ukraine needs to rethink things.

Scott

Don’t Blame Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines: The Ukraine War’s Victim
By JAMES FALLOWS
Jul 18 2014
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/19/opinion/malaysia-airlines-flight-17-the-ukraine-wars-victim.html>

Re: Don’t Blame Malaysia Airlines

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Brian Berg.  DLH]

From: Brian Berg <brianberg@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Re: Don’t Blame Malaysia Airlines
Date: July 20, 2014 at 18:48:24 EDT
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@warpspeed.com>

A pilot friend had this comment, which I have embellished somewhat with my own thoughts:

While all the technical regulations may have been met, the route and altitudes seem to be missing the ‘an abundance of caution’ aspect. For example, an independent emergency like cabin depressurization would require a quick descent to below 32,000′, and there would be the need to find an emergency airport. A good pilot always knows the location of the nearest airport in case of a sudden emergency, and one wonders where that would be when flying over any part of Ukraine.

Brian

Don’t Blame Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines: The Ukraine War’s Victim
By JAMES FALLOWS
Jul 18 2014
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/19/opinion/malaysia-airlines-flight-17-the-ukraine-wars-victim.html>

HBO Doc “The Newburgh Sting” Asks Terrorism or Entrapment?

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  David's comment:'Truth, Justice & the American Way'.  DLH]

HBO Doc “The Newburgh Sting” Asks Terrorism or Entrapment?
By Shannon Sonenstein Sonrouille
Jul 20 2014
<http://arts.firedoglake.com/2014/07/20/hbo-doc-the-newburgh-sting-asks-terrorism-or-entrapment/>

In 2009, with television cameras rolling, the FBI triumphantly busted a domestic terrorist ring from Newburgh, NY. The men, known as the Newburgh Four, are each serving a 25-year sentence for plotting to blow up two synagogues and shoot down military supply planes. FDL reported on the story and case; read Kevin’s take on it for more background information.

What happened in Newburgh continues to attract attention although perhaps not in the way the FBI intended. Instead, it serves as a cautionary tale in post-9/11 America. An uneasy story about what happened when the FBI went into an impoverished community and offered a large sum of money to people in exchange for their agreement to participate in a fake bombing plot. This case inevitably raises questions about our rights as Americans, what constitutes terrorism, and the definition of entrapment.

Monday night at 9PM HBO will air The Newburgh Sting. Veteran filmmakers David Heilbroner and Kate Davis direct this unsettling and provocative documentary. The film provides a disturbing window into the FBI’s role in the case and methodically explores the idea that the Newburgh Four, whatever else they may be, are victims of entrapment.

It’s around dinnertime when I call The Newburgh Sting’s co-director, David Heilbroner, to discuss the film. He tells me, “I want people to understand that this case is emblematic, it’s not an aberration. The FBI believes that this case was a success and they want it replicated. If we approve of these tactics then it won’t be long before they appear in other contexts.”

David, what was it about the Newburgh Four that originally called to you? 

“This is really a case about the FBI committing fraud on Congress and the American people. This was a case that the FBI created using taxpayer dollars to go to Congress and the public and say, ‘Look at what a great job we’re doing.’ So it called to me because before I became a filmmaker I was a prosecutor. I was an Assistant DA in Manhattan. I worked for the federal court and I believe in the system. Most law enforcers are genuinely honorable people, but something has been going on at the FBI that is deeply disturbing.”

This documentary lays out the case that the Newburgh Four are victims of entrapment. In order to achieve this, what elements did you see as critical to include in the film and how did you secure access to them? 

“One of the reasons we focused on the Newburgh Four, as opposed to other cases where similar tricks were employed, was that the Newburgh Four went to trial. And, due to this, all of the FBI’s undercover tapes were introduced as evidence. These then became available to journalists who were willing to sift through hundreds of hours of material. So, all of a sudden, low and behold, we have the FBI’s home movie available to those who will go through the trouble of getting it. So we got all of the tapes, transcripts, photographs, wiretaps- and it actually wasn’t that easy to get. Lawyers wouldn’t talk to us, prosecutors wouldn’t talk to us, and the FBI wouldn’t talk to us. We eventually got them, sifted through everything, and you can see for yourself what went down.”

[snip]

Mr. Wheeler, tear down these walls: The economic case for removing barriers to muni broadband

Mr. Wheeler, tear down these walls: The economic case for removing barriers to muni broadband
By Craig Settles, Gigabit Nation
Jul 20 2014
<http://gigaom.com/2014/07/20/mr-wheeler-tear-down-these-walls-the-economic-case-for-removing-barriers-to-muni-broadband/>

SUMMARY:
The FCC has been gently pushing for the end of state laws that make it difficult to build out municipal broadband networks. It should push harder.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler clearly wants to protect communities from state intrusion by having the legislative barriers to public-owned networks in 19 states removed or heavily curtailed. Those who see high-speed internet services strengthening local economies, transforming medical and healthcare delivery, improving education and increasing local government efficiency agree with him.

How would removing these walls to progress not only impact states with public network restrictions as well as other states? Community broadband history indicates this would unleash competitive forces so that, according toMassachusetts Senator Ed Markey, “prices go down dramatically. All of a sudden, the two private sector incumbents find a way to lower prices.” Constituents in urban as well as rural communities also would get much faster speeds.

Community broadband success breeds success

Over 400 public-owned networks operate in the United States, according tothe Institute of Local Self-Reliance, including 89 fiber and 74 cable community-wide networks, and over 180 partial-reach fiber networks covering business districts, industrial parks and medical and university campuses. Evaluating these networks’ impact on job creation, education and stirring innovation, as well as their financial sustainability, uncover hundreds of success stories that can be replicated once the barriers in those 19 states drop.

Some networks such as those in Cedar Falls, Iowa; Thomasville, Georgia; Santa Monica, California and Bristol, Virginia have operated successfully for over 10 years. Thomasville Mayor Max Beverly credited, its 14-year-old network for profits of $2 million a year and has contributed to the city eliminating taxes. Danville, Virginia’s public utility’s network that launched in 2004 helped cut the locale’s unemployment in half, down from 19 percent, by directly enticing several large companies to the area, and creating a local technology industry that otherwise likely wouldn’t exist. Santa Monica’s fiber network, launched the same year, reduced government voice and data communication charges by over $750,000 a year. Those savings, plus selling fiber services to local businesses helped build a $2.5 million surplus.

However, community networks’ return on investment often is not about revenue, but benefiting the public good. Prestonburg, Kentucky, for example, built a municipal wireless network in 2008 for its 3,255 citizens. Brent Graden, the city’s former Director of Economic Development, stated, “We have folks in who live in pretty remote areas we call hallows who hadn’t seen a doctor in years, particularly specialists, because it’s so much trouble and expense to get to an office or hospital. Those folks use videoconferencing over the network to enable doctor consultations.”

Dismantling legislative barriers would accelerate the number of interstate projects such a Chattanooga incubator that is using the public utility’s (EPB) gig network to link with the University of Texas at Dallas’ gig network to collaborate on a 3-D printing project. Tennessee’s anti-muni network law currently prevents EPB from expanding its service to nearby communities desperate to open similar mutually beneficial opportunities with states not shackled by these laws.

[snip]

California Couple Tries To Conserve Water, Ends Up Facing $500 Fine For Brown Lawn

California Couple Tries To Conserve Water, Ends Up Facing $500 Fine For Brown Lawn
By KILEY KROH

Jul 20 2014

As California’s severe drought deepens and officials look to reduce water consumption in every possible way, the state appears to be sending mixed signals as to which water-related activity is the most egregious.

The entirety of California is currently experiencing drought conditions and more than 80 percent of the state is classified as an extreme drought. Laura Whitney and her husband, Michael Korte, have been trying to conserve water in their Glendale, California home by cutting back on lawn watering, taking shorter showers, and doing larger loads of laundry. Now, they are facing a fine of up to $500 for not keeping their lawn green.

Survey results from the State Water Resources Control Board found that instead of achieving the 20 percent water reduction sought by Gov. Jerry Brown, water use actually jumped one percent this May, compared to the same period in previous years. As a result, the board voted unanimously this week to impose the first mandatory water restrictions on California residents. The regulations seek to curb water use among urban residents by banning wasteful outdoor watering, such as over-watering lawns, hosing down sidewalks or driveways, and washing cars without a shut-off nozzle on the hose. Violators could face a fine of up to $500.

“Our goal here is to light a fire under those who aren’t yet taking the drought seriously,” water board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus told the Associated Pressafter the vote.

On the same day the state approved the mandatory water restrictions, Whitney and Korte received a letter from the city threatening a fine for not sufficiently watering their brown lawn.

“Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green,” the letter reads. The couple were given 60 days to restore the lawn or be slapped with a fine ranging from $100 to $500, Reuters reported.

“My friends in Los Angeles got these letters warning they could be fined if they water, and I got a letter warning that I could be fined for not watering,” Whitney told the Associated Press. “I felt like I was in an alternate universe.”

According to the Contra Costa Water Board, lawn care is typically the single biggest water user for the average property and a 500-square-foot lawn can use more than 18,000 gallons of water per year. Among their tips for maintaining a lawn while in the midst of drought conditions: “Be willing to accept a less than lush lawn during the drought.”

Similarly, state water board Chairwoman Marcus told residents this week that “a brown lawn should be a badge of honor because it shows you care about your community.” However, Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers told Reuters that Whitney and Korte’s lawn had deteriorated so severely, the city was receiving reports of a possible abandoned property.

Gov. Brown signed an executive order in April stating homeowners associations could not punish residents for scaling back on landscaping but the Associated Press notes that neither the order nor recent legislation awaiting the governor’s signature address fines imposed by city governments.

As California endures its third straight year of drought conditions, some in the state see a slow shift away from the water-guzzling traditional lawns that were once a symbol of wealth. “We’re on the cusp of change. It’s definitely here,” Kevin Carson, Northern California president for The New Home Co., told the Sacramento Bee earlier this year. Cities like Davis are insisting on drought-tolerant landscaping for new developments and others, like Sacramento and Roseville, instituted programs that pay residents to switch from grass to plants that use less water.

And according to Lisa Brown, Roseville’s water conservation manager, the program was a big hit with residents: “We had a line outside the door the morning we started.”

Europe to move against ‘pariah Putin’

[Note:  This item comes from friend Janos Gereben.  DLH]

From: janosG <janosg@gmail.com>
Subject: Europe to move against ‘pariah Putin’
Date: July 20, 2014 at 14:27:30 EDT

MH17: ‘Pariah Putin’ faces new sanctions within days
David Cameron calls Angela Merkel and François Hollande and secures agreement that a new EU approach to Russia is needed
Jul 20 2014
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/10978876/MH17-Pariah-Putin-faces-new-sanctions-within-days.html>

David Cameron calls Angela Merkel and François Hollande and secures agreement that a new EU approach to Russia is needed

David Cameron is close to securing tougher sanctions against Russia following the downing of flight MH17 after speaking to Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande. Both Mrs Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Mr Hollande, the French President, agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach and be prepared to impose further sanctions on Tuesday.

The conversations mark a significant change in their approach after Mr Cameron warned that the world must “turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action. On Wednesday this week, before Flight MH17, Mr Cameron attended a summit in Brussels where European leaders failed to agree on imposing further sanctions.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “All three leaders agreed that the immediate priority is to secure access to the crash site and to ensure that specialist teams are able to recover the victims and return them home. “They agreed President Putin has an important role to play by persuading the separatists to grant access and to work with the international community to ensure that all that needs to be done can be done as soon as possible.”

It came as Philip Hammond, the new Foreign Secretary, warned that Russia risks becoming a “pariah state” if it continues to ignore the international community. Mr Hammond said that the “eyes of the world” are on Vladimir Putin as he called on him to allow access to the crash site and stop supporting rebel fighters. <snip>