Saturday, January 29, 2005

Unmarked Helicopters, Hovering 

GORE VIDAL, The Independent: This is simply a Bush war. It has nothing to do with the American people. And we were not in danger from weapons of mass destruction. The danger is an Administration that has fallen in love with war because of the special powers war gives the Administration to rid itself of the Bill of Rights and lock up dissenters. We've had some scary times in the past but nothing to compare with this. So what do we have to look forward to?

JO BEST, Silicon.com: Passport? Check. Insurance? Check. RFID chip?

The US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] tags in an effort to make sure only the right sort of people get across US borders . . . .

The testing phase will continue until the spring of next year. The exact way RFID will be used with the travellers is not yet known.

RFID chips will be used to track both pedestrians and vehicles entering the US to automatically record when the visitors arrive and leave in the country.

So far, over 400 people have been turned away from the country or arrested as a result of US-VISIT checks.

RFID TAG (from the RFID Journal Glossary): A microchip attached to an antenna that is packaged in a way that it can be applied to an object. The tag picks up signals from and sends signals to a reader. The tag contains a unique serial number, but may have other information, such as a customers' account number. Tags come in many forms, such smart labels that can have a barcode printed on it, or the tag can simply be mounted inside a carton or embedded in plastic. RFID tags can be active, passive or semi-passive.

MARY CATHERINE O'CONNOR, RFID Journal: Each RFID tag will carry a unique serial ID number that links to the visitor's digital fingerprints and photos and other personal information in the US VISIT database. No personal information will be stored on the chips. When an RFID tag is issued to a person, that tag will be assigned a unique ID number that can not be altered. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will read the tags over secure communication paths to ensure that unauthorized devices cannot read the tags' unique ID. These measures are being enforced to secure the RFID tags and address possible privacy concerns among visitors to whom they are issued. The tags are passive, meaning they do not actively transmit information, and will not be linked to Global Positioning Satellite devices or other tracking schemes that would allow visitors to be tracked beyond a U.S. border.

Visitors enroll in the US-VISIT program when they apply for a U.S. visa. At a visa-issuing site overseas, a State Department official records a visa applicant's biographic information, takes a digital photo of the applicant and uses a scanner to capture the digital fingerprints of the applicant's right and left index fingers. Upon the visitor's arrival in the United States, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer also takes a digital photo of the visitor and uses a scanner to electronically capture the fingerprints of the same two fingers. The officer compares the visitor's biographic and digital fingerprints and photo with those captured by the State Department at the time the visa was issued to confirm that the visitor is the same person who received the visa.

So far the US-VISIT program has collected biographic and biometric information from more than 17.5 million foreign visitors who have passed through the 50 busiest land ports of entry, 115 airports and 15 seaports.

DEREK ROSE, N.Y. Daily News: Cops without a warrant can secretly attach Global Positioning System devices to a suspect's vehicle, according to a federal judge - who said using the gadgets is virtually the same thing as following a car along a road.

The decision handed down by U.S. Judge David Hurd in upstate Utica last week could give law enforcement officials another high-tech weapon to catch criminals, but is troubling to privacy advocates.

Hurd ruled that Robert (Bugsy) Moran, a Hell's Angels member and defense attorney accused of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, had "no expectation of privacy in the whereabouts of his vehicle on a public roadway" . . . .

Miniature GPS receivers are now available for about $1,000 and can be affixed to the undercarriage of vehicles in minutes.

NICK TURSE, TomDispatch: If you're reading this on the Internet, the FBI may be spying on you at this very moment.

Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the Department of Justice has been collecting e-mail and IP (a computer's unique numeric identifier) addresses, without a warrant, using trap-and-trace surveillance devices ("pen-traps"). Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice's principle investigative arm, may be monitoring the web-surfacing habits of Internet users -- also without a search warrant -- that is, spying on you with no probable cause whatsoever . . . .

A host of disturbing and mutually-reinforcing patterns have emerged in the resulting new Homeland Security State -- among them: a virtually unopposed increase in the intrusion of military, intelligence, and "security" agencies into the civilian sector of American society; federal abridgment of basic rights; denials of civil liberties on flimsy or previously illegal premises; warrant-less sneak-and-peak searches; the wholesale undermining of privacy safeguards (including government access to library circulation records, bank records, and records of internet activity); the greater empowerment of secret intelligence courts (like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court) that threaten civil liberties; and heavy-handed federal and local law enforcement tactics designed to chill, squelch, or silence dissent.

While it's true that most Americans have yet to feel the brunt of such policies, select groups, including Muslims, Arab immigrants, Arab-Americans, and anti-war protesters, have served as test subjects for a potential Homeland Security juggernaut that, if not stopped, will only expand.

VIDAL: Here we are headed for absolute disaster, yet the American public has no weapons left, legally. If an American citizen were really in trouble - I ask in all seriousness - to whom would he turn? He can't go to his Congressman, because he's helping out GM or whoever paid for his election. He can't turn to the executive branch, because they now run concentration camps and don't like dissent. The courts are pretty expensive and the higher courts are, shall we say, not on our side.

(Links courtesy of our assiduous colleagues at Cursor and the All Spin Zone.)

| | Technorati Links | to Del.icio.us