The FBI wants to interview your neighbors and work-mates

Are your neighbors starting to look at you funny?   Do strangers seek you out and chat you up for no particular reason? When you sit down in the company cafeteria, does everyone suddenly get up and leave?

Maybe you’re not really paranoid. Maybe the FBI has been asking everyone about you because you are the subject of a “preliminary terrorism investigation“. The guidelines for who can be investigated are in the process of being reviewed before they are finalized next week.

…the new policy would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious….(F)actors that could trigger an inquiry would include travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity and access to weapons or military training, along with the person’s race or ethnicity.

A group of senators has asked for more time for the public to study the rules before they are implemented.  Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island

said the guidelines would let the FBI use “a variety of intrusive investigative techniques” with no evidence of possible wrongdoing. The techniques could include: long-term FBI surveillance, interviewing neighbors and work-mates, recruiting informants and searching commercial databases for information on people “all without any basis for suspicion.”

Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and  Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who are members of the Senate Judiciary committee, also asked for the guidelines to be delayed.

Somehow you can just know the Americans being spied on aren’t going to be blue-eyed Rebublican Buddhists.  Good for Senators Leahy, Specter, Durbin, Feingold, Kennedy, and Whitehouse.  Where are the rest the senators?

Posted in Conspiracies, Free speech, Homeland Security. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on The FBI wants to interview your neighbors and work-mates

Text of FISA constituent letter from Senator Dick Durbin

Text of constituent reply letter on FISA Amendments Act of 2008 from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL):


July 25, 2008 [Nijma][address] Dear Ms. [Nijma]: Thank you for your message regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue and share your concerns. Protecting both the security and the freedom of the American people is among my highest priorities. We must ensure that the federal government defends the people of the United States from external threats while preserving the civil liberties that have helped make the United States the greatest and most enduring democracy in the world. On July 9, 2008, the Senate passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 6304) which I opposed, and the President signed the measure into law the following day. On the positive side, the legislation establishes clearer protections for Americans, including the requirement that all electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens – both inside and outside the United States – be approved by the FISA Court. Information obtained about Americans can only be used for proper intelligence or law enforcement purposes, and the procedures for using information obtained about Americans must be approved annually by the FISA court. However, central to the debate on this legislation was the issue of whether or not telecommunications companies that participated in illegal surveillance should receive retroactive immunity from prosecution. I opposed retroactive immunity for these companies and supported an amendment to the Act that would have prevented them from obtaining immunity retroactively. The amendment was unsuccessful. After the amendment failed, I voted against the final bill, but it passed by a vote of 69-28. While I still oppose immunity for the telecommunications companies, it is my hope that the other provisions of this new legislation will strengthen the protection of American citizens so that electronic surveillance is conducted in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution’s commitment to civil liberties. Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch. Sincerely, Richard J. Durbin United States Senator RJD/td P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join me and other members of the Illinois Congressional delegation at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details.


Comment on letter:

The big talking point here is opposition to telecom immunity–I have pointed out before that the fourth amendment is not very talkable, especially in brief or casual conversations, in spite of the outrage in the blogosphere on the subject, although Durbin does mention rule of law and civil liberties. Echoing Obama’s hints of a quid pro quo, Durbin has hope that “other provisions of this new legislation will strengthen the protection of American citizens” without enumerating what provisions he agrees with.

Obama, who voted against Senator Dodd’s filibuster and for the FISA bill, said the bill “provides an important tool to fight the war on terrorism and provides for an Inspectors General report so that we can finally get to the bottom of the warrantless wiretapping program and how it undermined our civil liberties.”

My prediction is that the report to congress required by this legislation will trigger a new round of public debate on the subject, this time under a new president who might feel less inclined to defend business as usual and a little tired at having to continuously defend it in the face of continuing public pressure.

Posted in Conspiracies, Free speech, Homeland Security. Comments Off on Text of FISA constituent letter from Senator Dick Durbin

Should all liberals and/or conservatives be killed? Take the quiz before you buy the ammo.

“We are all liberals. We are all conservatives.”

So spoke the preacher last Sunday at the Knoxville church where a shooter opened fire on a children’s theater performance last week and killed two people at random after leaving a note that said he was mad at liberals.

If you are thinking of shooting up a church full of children, don’t leave a lame note like the Knoxville guy did.  Get your act together first with these handy tools.

Via Spark a Synapse, now you can take one of those innumerable quizzes to find out what kind of liberal and/or conservative you are.  With only eight questions, like “If you could pile any three people into a naked pyramid, who would you choose?” you can zero in on your political identity.  And here is your guide to liberal breeds and your guide to conservative breeds.  Don’t forget to check out the random insult generators that can generate 27,000 possible insults: conservative insult generator|here| and liberal insult generator |here|. With the almost infinite capability of hurling such insults as “arrogant race-card-playing racists”, you won’t be needing a gun any more.

As a bonus chuckle, here is a political video. Extra credit if you can identify the political breed.

Posted in Homeland Security, Religion. Comments Off on Should all liberals and/or conservatives be killed? Take the quiz before you buy the ammo.

Post-FISA paranoia

Since the passage of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 last week, it is now legal for the government to listen in on any American citizen without a search warrant as long as they say they are trying to find a terrorist. Then they have to apply for a certification.  If the government doesn’t get the certification after 67 days, they are supposed to just stop listening. Of course the government was spying on citizens before the law was passed, but that’s another topic.

The passage of the FISA amendment is not the only example of our eroding privacy. In a court ruling last week YouTube was ordered to turn over customer records about viewing habits to a court in order to prove something about a commercial marketing concern. Even though the Video Privacy Protection Act forbids revealing video materials requested by customers, it was not clear if YouTube would be permitted to provide the information with the identities concealed.

So what does that mean in the life of someone who, say, gets a new computer, to take a hypothetical case? Suppose someone buys a computer from Dell.  Sometime after powering up their new computer for the first time they would see the following popup asking for permission to monitor their viewing habits:

Please indicate your preferences below and click next to continue.

Dell offers a suite of technical support tools designed to provide you with customized technical content and maintenance tools information that are specific to your computer.  To provide this support to you, Dell needs to collect your computer’s Service Tag and, on an ongoing basis, information about your system configuration( the hardware and software installed on your computer) and Dell support tool use data.  Aside from your Service Tag, none of the system configuration or use data can be used to identify you.

Customer privacy is of the utmost concern to Dell.  Dell will not collect any computer use information outside of the Dell support tools, such as Internet use or personal files.  Moreover, we will not sell any information we collect in connection with the Dell support tools or otherwise disclose the information for commercial purposes.  Dell’s Privacy Policy applies to information collected by Dell support tools.  Click here to see Dell’s Privacy Policy.

You will enjoy a variety of personalized benefits if you allow Dell to collect the information described above.  For example:

  • your navigation of the Dell Support Center suite of tools will be easy and intuitive.
  • Drivers and download pages will offer solutions and updates that are specific to the hardware and software on your system.
  • Dell can send customized list of diagnostics and error fixes directly to your system.
  • Dell can send you proactive technical support alerts that are relevant to your computer.

How reassuring.  Somehow I don’t feel very reassured, though, especially  since reading the text of the FISA amendment.

But what about the privacy statement? Maybe it has something reassuring.

Here it is, under the heading “Disclosing Personal Information”:

We may disclose your personal information in connection with law enforcement, fraud prevention, or other legal action as required by law or regulation, or if Dell reasonably believes it is necessary to protect Dell, its customers or the public.

At least they tell you.

Not cooperating with the government’s unconstitutional spying would certainly leave the company unprotected.  I mean, look at Qwest, that told the government they wouldn’t do anything illegal…  Isn’t their CEO sitting in jail right now under some murky insider trading conviction?

I suppose my neighbors–and my old roommate–would tell me “you better HOPE they are listening in so they can catch any terrorists.” And the liberal bloggers who are now in an Obama lovefest/feeding frenzy would say “shut up, we have to elect Obama.” Or maybe the more pragmatic ones would point to the WordPress ban in Turkey or the cooperation of American companies with Chinese government censorship–this is pretty small potatoes compared to what happens in other countries.  Yes, it is.  And I have lived in those other countries and been glad for the presumed surveillance.  But this is MY country .  It just doesn’t feel right.

What does it matter anyway if some pimply-faced kid is sitting in a room full of optical cables munching on a donut and checking out my browsing habits, or whatever it is they do.  I mean, it’s not like I use the internet to look at porn or research explosives or mount Denial Of Service attacks on anyone who publishes cartoons I don’t like. And I don’t receive emails from the Middle East all that often.

Well, I just don’t like it, that’s what.

I was always taught that reading someone else’s mail is rude and unthinkable, that privacy is important, and that respecting other peoples possessions is the grease that keeps our culture turning.

When I was in high school back in the dark ages, I used to have a Peanuts cartoon taped to my notebook–inside so no one in authority could see it.  The comic was Peppermint Patty sitting outside the principal’s office after coming up against the Dress Code.  Yes, in those days we had a rule against female students wearing slacks in our school, even in the winter when it was forty below. And as far as wearing a black armband on moratorium day, or a headband, or moccasins, don’t even ask. Peppermint Patty’s problem was her sandals.  In the first frame Patty sits on a chair outside the principal’s office looking at her feet and saying, “These are nice sneakers, but I miss my sandals.”  In the next frame, the bubble over Patty’s head says “snif”. In the last frame, Charlie Brown says, “All I know is any rule that makes a little girl cry has to be a bad rule.”

For years and years and years, humans have lived and breathed and used computers without the manufacturers of those computers having identifying information about them.  I don’t think the world will come to an end if users don’t sign up for Dell’s program.  These days, there’s too many new bad rules out there.

I realize this isn’t a grand marshalling of reasons against FISA that would move anyone who isn’t moved against FISA already. It’s more a quesiton of how I feel.  But feelings have always been my first line of protection.  How to spell a word–does it look right? Nine time out of ten, my feeling about a word will tell me if it’s mispelled.  Change your answer on a test?–don’t do it!  For me at least, my first gut reaction is always right. Got creepy feeling about a guy?  Don’t date him, don’t be alone with him, don’t even get on an elevator with him. Cross the street, get out of his range of consciousness. Those nonverbal signals may be hard to explain, but they’re there for a reason.  Don’t ignore your spider sense.

My favorite Chinese curse is , “may you live in interesting times.”  These time are way too interesting.  Oh, I know it’s all unconstitutional, things have shifted before like this during the Civil War, habeas corpus suspended and so forth, and they always shift back when the military threat is over.  But something in the back of my mind keeps saying, this time what if, what if…”we have always been at war with….”

Posted in Conspiracies, Free speech, Homeland Security. Comments Off on Post-FISA paranoia

What to do if your religion is disrespected: Sing or Riot?

Last Sunday at the Green convention I was trying to find the breakout group about Iran. Since the website with the convention schedule had mysteriously disappeared from the blogosphere, I relied on memory to tell me which room it was in.

As I slipped into the back of one room, the speaker was saying, “That’s the right thing to do and that is what history will respect..” Then the speaker started talking about how his group had offered to pay the $1500 fine if only the municipality would perform marriages….oopsie, wrong room, isn’t that the LGBT agenda? Later the same guy told me a heckler had started an outburst in the session and I had missed the fireworks.

Must be something going around. It seems last Sunday the world’s only openly gay Episcopalian bishop was heckled in England, where he is traveling in spite of C of E’s having misplaced his invitation to their big fancy bishop convention they have every ten years. (Do they really think those stories about vengeful Fairy Godmothers are for children?)

How did the Episcopalians treat the intruder? They listened for about two minutes, then as the heckler started shouting “repent, repent,” they sang. They sang a famous, and in my opinion not very rousing Episcopalian hymn that I have never heard of: “Thine Be The Glory, Risen, Conquering Son.”

But maybe rioting is a more effective means of dealing with information you don’t want to process, at least in the long run. The Anglicans seem to be dying out as a breed (as an anti-gay Anglican publication says pointedly), while the Muslim population is increasing. Oh I know I’ve ignored a few minor points here, like not all Episcopalians support their church’s decisions to accept gay bishops, or for that matter, female bishops as they did in 1992, and the fact that not all Moslems riot and burn embassies. But if you see a bunch of people burning an embassy and waving a flag, chances are it won’t be an Episcopalian flag.

But in Asia, the Christians are finally starting to catch on. Last Sunday, at the same time as the dwindling Episcopalians were singing their forgettable hymn, Christians across Asia were rioting at newspaper offices that had published an image of Jesus with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other. Yes, I’m predicting a resurgence of Christianity in Asia.

Posted in Homeland Security, Religion. Comments Off on What to do if your religion is disrespected: Sing or Riot?

Your privacy just became “speculative”

How would you change your internet browsing habits if you knew someone–the CIA, your boss, your mother, anyone–was looking over your shoulder watching every Google search you did, every website you browsed, and every YouTube video you watched? Well, they are–at least the part about YouTube.

The internet giant Google is being forced to hand over the personal information of every person who has ever watched a video on the YouTube website as part of a billion-dollar court case in the US.

A judge in New York has ordered that Google, which owns YouTube, must pass on the details of more than 100 million people – many of them in the UK – to Viacom, the US broadcasting company which owns channels including MTV and Nickelodeon.

The data will include unique internet addresses, email accounts and the history of every video watched on the website, giving Viacom’s experts the ability to conduct a detailed examination of the viewing habits of millions of people around the world.

The information is being sought in relation to a copyright lawsuit, but Google says they want to anonymize the data–strip it of personally identifying information–before turning it over to the courts.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation agrees, pointing out that the Video Privacy Protection Act protects “personally identifiable information,” which is defined to include “information which identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific video materials or services.”

What can you do? The second most frequent search item on YouTube right now is how to clear your viewing history. You can sign up for Google and its sister entity YouTube using the throwaway registration website (WordPress blogs won’t let you do that), but it looks to me like you can’t change your email address once you have it. You can clear your geographical information, except for the country. But using a pseudonym on YouTube may not be enough to protect your privacy. The AOL search fiasco proved that users could be identified just by the information they searched for.

In the meantime. the ruling opens up any number of possibilities of how your credit card information, telephone bills, electronic tolls or subway tickets, and what diseases or fetishes you search for on the internet can be made public.

But why? Whatever is the court thinking of?

U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton dismissed privacy arguments as speculative.

Back in the golden age of the 60’s, when every university rule from no alcohol to required chapel attendance to required English 101 courses was being challenged, a certain university decided to have a rule that if you lived in a dorm and you had a visitor of the opposite sex, the door to your room had to be open at a 45 degree angle. Students were not pleased. In the middle of the night, they managed to remove the front door of the college president, who lived in a small mansion on campus. “Let’s see how HE likes not having any privacy”, the students said later. The rule was rescinded.

I sincerely hope that this very moment someone is speculatively taking the front door off of judge Louis L. Stanton’s life.

President signs FISA–gag me

For anyone who was hoping for a presidential veto of the FISA Amendments Act, it didn’t happen.

Our impetuous president wasted no time in the signing the bill today, only a day after the bill’s passage, in a Rose Garden ceremony. He even gave a speech:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Welcome to the Rose Garden. Today I’m pleased to sign landmark legislation that is vital to the security of our people. The bill will allow our intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the communications of terrorists abroad while respecting the liberties of Americans here at home. The bill I sign today will help us meet our most solemn responsibility: to stop new attacks and to protect our people.

Members of my administration have made a vigorous case for this important law. I want to thank them and I also want to thanks the members of the House and the Senate who’ve worked incredibly hard to get this legislation done. Mr. Vice President, welcome.

Respect the members of the Senate and the House who’ve joined us — Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl; John Boehner, House Republican Leader; Roy Blunt, House Republican Whip. I do want to pay special tribute to Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader, for his hard work on this bill. I thank so very much Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Kit Bond, Vice Chairman, for joining us. I appreciate the hard work of Congressman Silvestre Reyes, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Ranking Member. I also welcome Congressman Lamar Smith, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary. I thank all the other members of the House and Senate who have joined us. I appreciate your very good work.

I welcome Attorney General Michael Mukasey, as well as Admiral Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence. I appreciate other members of the administration who have joined us. I want to thank the congressional staff who are here, and all the supporters of this piece of legislation.

Almost seven years have passed since that September morning when nearly 3,000 men, women and children were murdered in our midst. The attack changed our country forever. We realized America was a nation at war against a ruthless and persistent enemy. We realized that these violent extremists would spare no effort to kill again. And in the aftermath of 9/11, few would have imagined that we would be standing here seven years later without another attack on American soil.

The fact that the terrorists have failed to strike our shores again does not mean that our enemies have given up. To the contrary, since 9/11 they’ve plotted a number of attacks on our homeland. I can remember standing up here — I receive briefings on the very real and very dangerous threats that America continues to face.

One of the important lessons learned after 9/11 was that America’s intelligence professionals lacked some of the tools they needed to monitor the communications of terrorists abroad. It is essential that our intelligence community know who our enemies are talking to, what they’re saying, and what they’re planning. Last year Congress passed temporary legislation that helped our intelligence community monitor these communications.

The legislation I am signing today will ensure that our intelligence community professionals have the tools they need to protect our country in the years to come. The DNI and the Attorney General both report that, once enacted, this law will provide vital assistance to our intelligence officials in their work to thwart terrorist plots. This law will ensure that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will themselves be protected from lawsuits from past or future cooperation with the government. This law will protect the liberties of our citizens while maintaining the vital flow of intelligence. This law will play a critical role in helping to prevent another attack on our soil.

Protecting America from another attack is the most important responsibility of the federal government — the most solemn obligation that a President undertakes. When I first addressed the Congress after 9/11, I carried a badge by the mother of a police officer who died in the World Trade Center. I pledged to her, to the families of the victims, and to the American people that I would never forget the wound that was inflicted on our country. I vowed to do everything in my power to prevent another attack on our nation. I believe this legislation is going to help keep that promise. And I thank the members who have joined us. And now it’s my honor to sign the bill.


Present at the Rose Garden signing were:

Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.; Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.; U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Director of National Intelligence Admiral Michael McConnell; Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.; Rep.Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Vice President Dick Cheney; Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman; Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, Rep. John Boehner, R- Ohio; Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R- Mich.; Missouri Senator Kit Bond, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas; Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas; and West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Word count:







Posted in Conspiracies, Free speech, Homeland Security. Tags: , . Comments Off on President signs FISA–gag me

Stop FISA secret domestic spying bill HR 6304–call your senator now

Stop FISA. Call your senator now.

The senate switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Ask for your senator by name and they will connect you.

Or you can look up your senator’s direct number |here|.

For up to the minute info on opposition to FISA, check Electronic Frontier Foundation. They were the first to publish the text of the secret FISA amendment compromise. Last week they had current info on every House member’s position on the bill. This week they will link you to your senator’s info as well as collecting information about what your senator’s office tells you when you do make that phone call.

Easter Sunrise Service Fashion Statement in Chicago’s Daley Plaza–Lime Green Jersey Barriers

The Easter 2008 sunrise service in Chicago’s Daley Plaza might have been drab except for the lime green plastic jersey barriers cleverly utilized as a wind break from the fierce Lake Michigan winds that rage down Washington Avenue in March.


Posted in Curiosities, Homeland Security, Humor, Illinois, Terrorism. Comments Off on Easter Sunrise Service Fashion Statement in Chicago’s Daley Plaza–Lime Green Jersey Barriers

Senator Dodd says no to FISA Act shenanigans–take action now

Senator Chris Dodd has declared a “stop” on the latest Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) revision. The latest compromise worked out in a secret session of the intelligence committee would make warrantless wiretapping legal and retroactively make the telecommunications companies that participated in it immune from prosecution.

Dodd’s presidential campaign website says:

The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.

No more.

You go, Senator.

If anyone still has doubts that the FISA act was enacted for reasons that had anything to do with national security, it was recently revealed that communications companies had been asked to turn over customer information to the government in February 2001, seven months before the 9/11 attacks.
Here’s what you can do right now:

1. Call the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at 202-224-3542 and tell him to support Chris Dodd’s hold — Reid’s wavering. Tell them you are against wiretapping without a warrant.  [Note: Senator Reid’s Washington office voice mail is full. If you can get through, try to talk to his staff (press1) , they may be keeping a tally. Now call his regional office in Carson City at 775-882-7343 instead. Fill that voice mail too, or tell his staff your concerns about wiretapping without a warrant.]

2. Call your own two Senators and tell them exactly the same thing.

3. Make a contribution to Senator Dodd’s campaign, so he can continue to speak out.

4. Write a message on your own blog. Ask people to take these 4 steps.

Posted in Government, Homeland Security. Comments Off on Senator Dodd says no to FISA Act shenanigans–take action now