Monthly Archives: November 2008

White House pushes for local schools to drug test students

By Jill Bryce (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

— The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is hoping to convince local school districts and educators to randomly drug test students.

It’s a movement that is sweeping the country and gaining support in many states, and advocates say it provides students a “credible reason to say no to drug use.”

David Murray, chief scientist for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said at a summit today at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Albany that random drug testing achieves a healthier and more productive school environment. He also said it’s a powerful prevention and intervention tool for schools.

Murray said it is a misconception is that it’s a way to punish students who use drugs.

“This is non-punitive. We are doing it to identify students who need help,’ said Murray.

In fact, Murray said, it’s a way to prevent adolescents from using drugs in the first place. He said substance abuse leads to violence, school failure, sexually abusive behavior, disrupts classrooms and is self-destructive.

“It’s crucial to address drug use among adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18,” said Murray. “The earlier drug use starts, the deeper the dependence on the drug later in life.”

About 100 people attended the summit, including representatives from several local school districts, including Albany and North Colonie, as well as educators from the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.

Opponents, including the Drug Policy Alliance, voiced concern and said studies have shown that drug testing is ineffective in deterring drug use.

“Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust,” said Jennifer Kern, youth policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Kern said all credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools, not creating them.

Other opponents say random drug testing is a violation of an individual’s personal rights. Murray said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that drug testing is not a violation but must be done confidentially.

More than 4,000 schools in the country have already begun their own random testing program.

Murray said the outcome of the presidential election will not have much affect on the push for student drug testing.

“My impression is that this is a movement that has lifted above partisanship,” he said.

State launches food-tracking system

by Carolyn Lucas
Stephens Media

Published: Monday, October 27, 2008 9:29 AM HST

When the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers nationwide in June to not eat three popular types of tomatoes because of a salmonellosis outbreak, restaurants, distributors and grocery stores were forced to throw away hundreds of tomatoes by the crate at an estimated cost of $100 million to $250 million.

Later, the FDA was less sure about the source of the outbreak in 42 states, adding raw jalapeno and serrano peppers as suspects. Still concern spread and the tomato industry, under the heaviest suspicion, suffered, including in Hawaii, a state not associated with this outbreak.

Could this have been avoided? Absolutely, if the suspicious produce had been identifiable, traceable and containable, said John Ryan, Quality Assurance Division administrator for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

The state agency has launched a pilot project, expected to cost about $1.6 million over a three-year period, that uses Radio Frequency Identification Devices, or RFIDs, to track local food “from farm to fork.” A $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense was given to start the program, which is voluntary and free, said Susan Matsushima, program manager of the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii.

Hawaii farmers are slow in embracing the voluntary food safety guidelines now being adopted, sought after and even required by a growing number of produce purchasers, such as wholesalers, grocers and supermarkets. Only 24 farmers statewide have undergone an agricultural audit and certified for “good agricultural practices,” or GAP. It seems the word “audit” deters people, Matsushima said. Nevertheless GAP certification is encouraged. Officials called the program helpful, realize that most farms will be on the edge of compliance and maintained its hope of having at least 100 local operations certified in the next year.

Prior to participation in the RFID system, farms must undergo a risk assessment, consisting of a visual walk-through inspection with a Quality Assurance certification auditor who is looking for GAP, as well as a collection of water and produce samples for laboratory analysis. Samples must be free of harmful biological and chemical contaminants, Ryan said.

The Department of Agriculture is looking for cheaper and faster ways to analyze samples. It is working with the University of Hawaii in developing a portable bio-sensor that can test for contaminants, such as E. coli and salmonella. Currently testing takes at least 24 to 48 hours for water samples and up to two months for soil samples, Ryan said.

Farmers, distributors, processors, retailers and restaurants are assigned a state identification number. Boxes or pallets of produce are tagged with labels, each possessing microchips with paper-thin antennas that emit radio waves when scanned, Ryan said.

Food is traced as it moves through the supply chain. Automatically entered into an online database is the product identity, time and the location where its label was scanned by handheld or fixed RFID readers, costing between $2,700 and $4,000. However, the growers with Internet-capable computers can manually log when a crop was planted, harvested, the pesticides used and left the farm, as well as other information. Besides the government, all system members will be able to see in real time where produce went, including the cooler. Eventually the technology will be able to track temperature and humidity information to determine if products were transported and stored under appropriate conditions, as well as make alerts, Ryan said.

The RFID system improves traceability and consumer safety by enabling growers and government officials to quickly cite the origin of a food product in question. It also allows for expeditious inspections and avoidance of unnecessary suspects in such investigations, Ryan said.

If a farm has passed the risk assessment and is satisfactorily participating in the traceability, the operation can request for a full certification audit, conducted by certified personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PRIMUS or the state Quality Assurance Division. Investigator record findings on an extensive checklist, which is submitted to the state for approval. Those accepted will be able to use their certification as a tool to increase or improve marketability. The goal is to have all of the state’s 5,000 farms, big and small, using the system, Ryan said.

In the event of another food recall or regional disaster, Hawaii must be prepared to protect the health of its citizens and the integrity of its agricultural supply chain. While the “buy local” movement is taking off, the state is still highly dependent on imported food and has less than a 7-day supply of food in stores at any given time. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, barges were not allowed to come into Honolulu for 15 days because of security reasons and, when the produce the ship carried finally arrived, most of it was rotten or inedible, Matsushima said.

At an informational meeting Thursday, two residents criticized the Department of Agriculture for coordinating and developing this pilot program. Instead they claimed the state agency should be expanding local markets, education the public about the importance of buying local, stocking store shelves with products that are not from overseas, encouraging more people to do branding, preventing the commingling of local products with their mainland and overseas counterparts, focusing on the Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, mandate, which took effect Sept. 30, and hiring more inspectors.

The Quality Assurance Division’s main priority is enforcing compliance. Instead of food safety, the FDA has spent most of its funds in grading and appearing over the past 100 years. The two FDA-paid, COOL-certified inspectors currently investigate about 10 agricultural segments a day, Ryan said.

“We can’t enforce safety or quality,” he said. “That has to come from the people.”

CNN Beams Star Wars Technology for Election Night

Obama's Ahead in Tatooine?

Obama’s Ahead in Tatooine?

Are you ready for this? Next Tuesday, at CNN’s Election Center in New York, an Obama campaign strategist will be in the studio to comment on the incoming voting results. Only he’ll be … (wait for it) in 3-D! As a hologram!

Instead of the normal flat-screen version of talking heads, the Obama spokesperson’s image will be projected from Chicago and into the New York studio — in a 360 view. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer will essentially be talking to the strategist just like when Princess Leia sent Obi-Wan Kenobi a hologram message that he was her only hope. Only there will be talk about Ohio, rather than Alderaan.

USA Today has the story and they say CNN also plans to conduct similar holographic interviews with McCain representatives in Phoenix.

How will it work? CNN will be shooting with 44 cameras at each location simultaneously (so they can capture their subject at every angle). Twenty computers at the site, combined with the New York office’s hardware, will process and project the image in the studio. The subjects will see Mr. Blitzer and other CNN-ers on TVs at the locations so they can communicate with them properly.

CNN has been on top of their gadget game for the election. The New York Times had this story in April about their enormous, nifty touch-sensitive map that allowed CNN political reporter John King to zoom in on specific cities and towns to display election and polling results. They finally found a way to give the ol’ numbers story some visual spunk.

Now they’re getting into the 3-D realm. The guy behind it is David Bohrman, CNN senior vice president:

‘Everyone is doing something virtual this election year,’ says CNN Senior Vice President David Bohrman, the guy who pushed the technology. But Bohrman believes CNN is going where no network has gone before by employing Hollywood-style effects. ‘Virtual elements in a real set look so much better than a real person in a virtual set,’ he says.

Election night is like the Summer Olympics and Super Bowl for network news divisions, and each is carting out eye-popping technical toys to draw viewers.

‘For the big game, you see all the bells and whistles. The real challenge this year is new stuff that will travel easily on multiplatforms,’ says Andrew Tyndall, publisher of, which monitors television network news. ‘Not only must this look good on TV, but on portable devices like cellphones.’

The USA Today story also has updates on some of the things other networks are doing (including lots of HD content and touch-screen maps). But if election night is the Super Bowl, CNN certainly has the Prince halftime show performance this year.

Air Cars: A New Wind for America’s Roads?

by Jim Ostroff
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Courtesy of MDI

A new carmaker has a plan for cheap, environmentally friendly cars to be built all over the country

An air-powered car? It may be available sooner than you think at a price tag that will hardly be a budget buster. The vehicle may not run like a speed racer on back road highways, but developer Zero Pollution Motors is betting consumers will be willing to fork over $20,000 for a vehicle that can motor around all day on nothing but air and a splash of salad oil, alcohol or possibly a pint of gasoline.

The expertise needed to build a compressed air car, or CAV, is not rocket science, either. Years-old, off-the-shelf technology uses compressed air to drive old-fashioned car engine pistons instead of combusting gas or diesel fuel to create a burst of air to do the same thing. Indian carmaker Tata has no qualms about the technology. It has already bought the rights to make the car for the huge Indian market.

The air car can tool along at a top speed of 35 mph for some 60 miles or so on a tank of compressed air, a sufficient distance for 80% of consumers to commute to work and back and complete daily chores.

Courtesy of MDI

On highways, the CAV can cruise at interstate speeds for nearly 800 miles with a small motor that compresses outside air to keep the tank filled. The motor isn’t finicky about fuel. It will burn gasoline or diesel as well as biodiesel, ethanol or vegetable oil.

This car leaves the highest-mpg vehicles you can buy right now in the dust. Even if it used only regular gasoline, the air car would average 106 mpg, more than double today’s fuel sipping champ, the Toyota Prius. The air tank also can be refilled when it’s not in use by being plugged into a wall socket and recharged with electricity as the motor compresses air.

Automakers aren’t quite ready yet to gear up huge assembly line operations churning out air cars or set up glitzy dealer showrooms where you can ooh and aah over the color or style. But the vehicles will be built in factories that will make up to 8,000 vehicles a year, likely starting in 2011, and be sold directly to consumers.

There will be plants in nearly every state, based on the number of drivers in the state. California will have as many as 17 air car manufacturing plants, and there’ll be around 12 in Florida, eight in New York, four in Georgia, while two in Connecticut will serve that state and Rhode Island.

The technology goes back decades, but is coming together courtesy of two converging forces. First, new laws are likely to be enacted in a few years that will limit carbon dioxide emissions and force automakers to develop ultra-high mileage cars and those that emit minuscule amounts of or no gases linked with global warming. Plug-in electric hybrids will slash these emissions, but they’ll be pricey at around $40,000 each and require some changes in infrastructure — such as widespread recharge stations — to be practical. Fuel cells that burn hydrogen to produce only water vapor still face daunting technical challenges.

Second, the relatively high cost of gas has expedited the air car’s development. Yes, pump prices have plunged since July from record levels, but remain way higher than just a few years ago and continue to take a bite out of disposable income. Refiners will face carbon emission restraints, too, and steeply higher costs will be passed along at the pump.

Zero Pollution Motors doesn’t plan to produce the cars in the U.S. Instead, it plans to charge $15 million for the rights to the technology, a fully built turnkey auto assembly plant, tools, machinery, training and rights to use trademarks.

The CAV has a big hurdle: proving it can pass federal crash tests. Shiva Vencat, president and CEO of Zero Pollution Motors, says he’s not worried. “The requirements can be modeled [on a computer] before anything is built and adjusted to ensure that the cars will pass” the crash tests. Vencat also is a vice president of MDI Inc., a French company that developed the air car.

The inventor of this technology is Mr. Guy Negre, who is the founder and CEO of MDI SA, a company headquartered in Luxembourg with its R and D in Nice, France

New footage of Building 7 demolition!!!

Big brother in the postal service

GIS Gives United States Postal Service A Crime-Fighting Edge
by Staff Writers
Redlands CA (SPX) Nov 07, 2008

The United States Postal Service (USPS) Bank Service Act (BSA) Compliance Office is taking advantage of geographic information system (GIS) technology from ESRI to effectively detect suspicious activity, using sophisticated analysis and mapping to monitor millions of money order transactions across the United States.

GIS maps show where suspicious activities may be occurring and link transactional data to reveal potential criminal patterns. Mapping and analysis also help USPS managers make sense of extensive transactional databases and millions of bits of data to ensure they comply with regulations.

“There are a number of federal anti-money-laundering laws and regulations that directly impact the Postal Service as an issuer of money orders,” says Al Gillum, subject matter expert for the United States Postal Service BSA Compliance Office.

“We have responsibilities to monitor transactions and identify potentially suspicious activity through postal money orders. We recognized GIS as a powerful tool to look at all our data. We can use it to bring data together, analyze it, and share it with others. We can then make decisions that are based on good intelligence.”

The USPS BSA Compliance Office launched a pilot project to test a Web-based GIS application, which proved to be a success, and the department began using GIS full-time in 2006.

The agency deploys Information Builders’ enterprise business intelligence system, WebFOCUS, which uses ESRI’s ArcIMS technology for its GIS functionality. WebFOCUS integrates a wide variety of data from diverse operational databases throughout USPS. It provides Web-based geoanalysis and reporting tools that the USPS BSA Compliance Office uses to carry out tasks in a fast and efficient manner.

The BSA Compliance Office can identify a post office or series of offices that have an unusually high number of suspicious money orders over a certain time period; view money orders that look suspicious, such as a large number of sequentially numbered money orders; or see where unusual money order transactions have occurred.

The office can also determine whether a number of money orders have been purchased from numerous locations and have been cashed at a single location. The data is used not only to investigate suspicious activity and apprehend suspects but also to prosecute criminals.

The USPS BSA Compliance Office is looking at ways to further extend its GIS capabilities. It is contemplating integrating the technology into its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) compliance programs and considering how the technology can be used to detect the fraudulent use of debit cards at post offices.

Space-Based Domestic Spying: Kicking Civil Liberties to the Curb

by Tom Burghardt

Last month, I reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) space-based domestic spy program run by that agency’s National Applications Office (NAO) had gone live October 1.

Federal Computer Week reports that Charles Allen, DHS’ Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis, told the 5th annual GEOINT Symposium on geospatial intelligence in Nashville late last month that, “DHS’ imagery requirements are significantly greater, in number and scope, than they were at the department’s creation, and will continue to grow at an accelerating rate as the department’s mission-space evolves.”

Indeed during Hurricane Ike, U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the first time flew the Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle in “support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s relief efforts,” the insider tech publication reported.

As readers are well aware, the Predator B carries out “targeted assassinations” of “terrorist suspects” across Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The deployment of the robotic killing machines in the United States for “disaster management” is troubling to say the least and a harbinger of things to come.

Despite objections by Congress and civil liberties groups DHS, in close collaboration with the ultra-spooky National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency that develops and maintains America’s fleet of military spy satellites, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) that analyzes military imagery and generates mapping tools, are proceeding with the first phase of the controversial domestic spying program.

NAO will coordinate how domestic law enforcement and “disaster relief” agencies such as FEMA will use satellite imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by military spy satellites. As I wrote earlier this year, unlike commercial satellites, their military cousins are far more flexible, have greater resolution and therefore possess more power to monitor human activity.

Testifying before the House Homeland Security committee in September, Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project, called for a moratorium on the domestic use of military spy satellites until key questions were answered. Steinhardt said, “Congress needs to act before this potentially powerful surveillance tool is turned inward upon the American people. The domestic use of spy satellites represents a potential monster in the making, and we need to put some restraints in place before it grows into something that will trample Americans’ privacy rights.”

Needless to say, a feckless Congress has done virtually nothing to halt the program. As The Wall Street Journal reported in early October, Congress’ “partial funding” of the office “in a little debated $634 billion spending measure,” means that NAO is now providing federal, state and local officials “with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery.”

Allen told the GEOINT Symposium that while “geospatial efforts are being coordinated across agencies,” technical hurdles must be overcome in order to improve geospatial IT applications. Federal Computer Week avers,

For developing future satellite imagery capabilities, Allen recommended diversity, availability, survivability and flexibility for future systems in a satellite and modular payload system similar to what was advised by the Marino Report in July 2007 to the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.

“It describes an architecture that allows for short time between launch as well as an option for variable modalities. This kind of diversity is what I believe will be necessary to assure adequate collection of a wide array of targets,” Allen said. (Alice Lipowicz, “Geospatial Intelligence Use Grows at DHS, Official Says,” Federal Computer Week, October 30, 2008)

What those “variable modalities” are were not spelled out by Federal Computer Week. However, the Marino Report was released by Chesapeake Analytics Corporation, an under-the-radar Arlington, Virginia-based private defense contractor that describes itself “as a ’boutique’ consulting firm” for senior executives “in the geospatial technology sector.” The report itself was written by Defense Group Inc. (DGI), a spooky Falls Church, Virginia defense contractor for NRO and NGA. According to their website, DGI “customers” include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and “numerous Intelligence Agencies.”

As we have seen however, the use of satellite imagery during “national security events” such as last summer’s political conventions in Denver and St. Paul may have aided FBI and local law enforcement in their preemptive raids on protest organizers and subsequent squelching of dissent. One wonders if this is what DGI refers to when they write that the company “performs work in the national interest, advancing public safety and national security through innovative research, analysis and applied technology”?

NAO’s launch is all the more troubling since an independent review of the program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the department has been less than forthcoming that NAO complies with privacy laws and doesn’t violate the Posse Comitatus Act.

The 1878 law prohibits the military from playing a role in domestic law enforcement. Since the 1990s however, Posse Comitatus has been eroded significantly by both Democratic and Republican administrations, primarily in the areas of “drug interdiction,” “border security” as well as “Continuity of Government” planning by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

Despite objections by GAO auditors DHS securocrats held up the release of their 60-page report, citing its “sensitive nature.” The September 15, 2008 report, entitled “National Applications Office. Certification of Compliance With Legal, Privacy, and Civil Liberties Standards Needs to Be More Fully Justified,” is now in the public domain and was finally released November 6, two days after American national elections.

It makes for a very troubling read. In their November 6 cover letter to congressional committees, the GAO writes:

Citing a growing need to use classified satellite information for civil or domestic purposes, in 2005, an independent study group reviewed the future role of the CAC [Civil Applications Committee] and concluded that although the civil domestic users were well supported through the CAC, homeland security and law enforcement users lacked a coherent, organized, and focused process to access classified satellite information. (GAO, “National Applications Office Certification Review,” GAO-09-105R, November 6, 2008)

However, the “independent study group” cited by GAO was either independent nor predisposed towards limiting the deployment of military spy satellites for domestic “missions.” Indeed that report, “Independent Study Group, Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study,” (September 2005), was the product of a panel comprised solely of securocrats and defense and security contractors who stand to make a bundle on NAO. As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed last year, the intelligence-sharing system to be managed by NAO,

…will rely heavily on private contractors including Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). These companies already provide technology and personnel to U.S. agencies involved in foreign intelligence, and the NAO greatly expands their markets. Indeed, at an intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the titans of the industry were actively lobbying intelligence officials to buy products specifically designed for domestic surveillance. (“Domestic Spying, Inc.” CorpWatch, November 27, 2007)

Indeed, the “independent study group” was appointed by Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence who himself was a senior vice president for ten years with the spooky Booz Allen Hamilton corporation. McConnell oversaw that firm’s extensive contracts in military intelligence and information operations for the Pentagon, Shorrock reported in March 2008.

GAO investigators have determined that while DHS “has established procedures for legal review, it has not yet fully addressed all outstanding issues regarding how the planned operations of the NAO, as described in the department’s certification documents, are to comply with legal requirements. Specifically, DHS has not resolved legal and policy issues associated with NAO support for law enforcement.” As investigators outlined:

DHS originally did not fulfill agency requirements to identify privacy risks and control mechanisms but recently has taken steps to do so. At the time of NAO certification, DHS did not fully explain how the office would comply with widely accepted privacy standards, such as the need for personally identifiable information to be accurate, secure, and used only for limited purposes. Specifically, the NAO’s original privacy assessment did not identify or analyze the risks that NAO operations might not meet these standards, nor did it specify measures to mitigate such risks. In response to discussions with us regarding these shortcomings, the Privacy Office developed a revised assessment that represented a substantial improvement in identifying privacy risks and mitigating controls to address them, such as providing appropriate oversight and building a process to identify and correct inaccurate information. However, differences between the review procedures outlined in the revised privacy impact assessment and those in the standard operating procedures raise questions about whether the specifics of the NAO’s privacy protection controls have been clearly established. (GAO, op. cit. p. 4)

While paltry recommendations towards mitigating potential civil liberties’ and privacy abuses by NAO were submitted to the DHS Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis (Charles Allen), GAO found that “specific measures have not yet been developed to address the potential for improper use or retention of information provided by the NAO and the potential for impermissible requests to be accepted as a result of a reliance on broad annual memorandums as justifications.” In other words at NAO, as at other intelligence agencies across the war on terror’s domestic “battlespace,” it’s business as usual.

Three categories of classified satellite information are to be provided law enforcement by the National Applications Office:

* Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT)–GEOINT is defined as “the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. Geospatial intelligence consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information.”

* Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT)–MASINT is defined as intelligence “derived from measurements of physical phenomena intrinsic to an object or event.” These phenomena can include the following types:” electro-optical, infrared, laser, spectral, radar, polarimetric, high-power or unintentional radio frequency emanations, geophysical, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear.”

* Electronic intelligence (ELINT)–ELINT is defined as “technical and geolocation intelligence derived from non-communications electromagnetic radiations emanating from other than nuclear detonations or radioactive sources. It does not include oral or written communications.” Thus, ELINT could include intelligence based on signals from machines, such as computers, but not telephone conversations or other communications between individuals. (GAO, op. cit., p. 25)

While DHS has yet to resolve legal and policy issues associated with NAO support for law enforcement operations, the Office still continues to identify such support as a key element of its “mission.” Indeed, DHS’ Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office did not resolve how NAO will comply with the applicability of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, Posse Comitatus and the Reagan-era Executive Order 12333 that limits how federal intelligence agencies collect information on U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Citing lax standards in NAO’s legal review process, GAO found that “the process for developing and approving annual memorandums for MASINT and ELINT has not been delineated. Such procedures are an important control in assuring that access, retention, and sharing of information is properly constrained.”

However, as the eight long years of the Bush administration have demonstrated, any and all measures to “constrain” out of control federal spy agencies and their privatized assets in the corporate world have been rebuffed. Indeed, congressional oversight of the “intelligence community” and the Executive Branch is a joke–at the expense of an informed citizenry and democratic institutions accountable to the American people.

While DHS claims that data gathered for law enforcement purposes will be “in compliance with privacy and civil liberties laws and policies of the United States,” the GAO found that “by broadly sharing information with non-federal users, who are not bound by the Privacy Act, personal information could be at risk of being used in ways not specified when it was originally collected.” Considering that some 70% of U.S. intelligence assets are employees of private security and defense contractors, NAO is a civil liberties disaster waiting to happen.

GAO identified four key areas where privacy risks have been identified:

1. An individual may be unaware that personally identifiable information will be collected about him or her in response to a request processed by the NAO.

2. Personally identifiable information may be collected, analyzed, or disseminated in a manner that makes the information inaccurate.

3. Personally identifiable information may be misused by a requestor.

4. Associated technology may improve so dramatically that qualitatively new capabilities will enable the gathering of personally identifiable information in ways that are impossible today, thus creating new potential privacy risks. (GAO, op. cit., p. 44)

DHS claims these issues will be mitigated by “providing appropriate oversight” and by “building a process to identify and correct inaccurate information, and ensuring that the DHS Privacy Office and DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties remain critical components of all review processes as new and improved technology is developed.”

In other words, we’re to rely on DHS to police itself and that agencies critical to Office operations such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will simply hand over America’s most closely-guarded intelligence secrets to federal civil rights attorneys for appropriate “oversight.” Talk about a blind leap into the darkness!

Let’s be clear here and shed whatever illusions one may have about the outcome of last Tuesday’s election. Despite the overwhelming rejection of the Bush administration and their surrogates by the American people, the incoming Obama administration will pay lip-service to civil liberties and the rule of law. This however, will amount to no more than a better public relations campaign, image management and product roll-out. America rebranded.

But as we have seen throughout the unfolding disaster that is the “war on terror,” the Democrats have been fully complicit with the crimes of the Bush regime. From the USA Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, immunity for criminal telecoms, “preemptive policing,” torture, financial fraud and the looting of the economy by capitalist grifters, not to mention the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, threats against Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela–indeed any nation that doesn’t toe the imperialist line–the Democrats have been Bush’s most faithful and reliable partners.

While the GAO’s report is a welcome addition to the already voluminous catalogue of Bushist horrors, one can expect that NAO’s law enforcement “mission” will quickly–and quietly–come on line. After all there’s bundles of cash, courtesy of the American people, that need to be spread far and wide!

Prescription Drugs Kill 300 Percent More Americans than Illegal Drugs

NaturalNews) A report by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission has concluded that prescription drugs have outstripped illegal drugs as a cause of death.

An analysis of 168,900 autopsies conducted in Florida in 2007 found that three times as many people were killed by legal drugs as by cocaine, heroin and all methamphetamines put together. According to state law enforcement officials, this is a sign of a burgeoning prescription drug abuse problem.

“The abuse has reached epidemic proportions,” said Lisa McElhaney, a sergeant in the pharmaceutical drug diversion unit of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s just explosive.”

In 2007, cocaine was responsible for 843 deaths, heroin for 121, methamphetamines for 25 and marijuana for zero, for a total of 989 deaths. In contrast, 2,328 people were killed by opioid painkillers, including Vicodin and Oxycontin, and 743 were killed by drugs containing benzodiazepine, including the depressants Valium and Xanax.

Alcohol directly caused 466 deaths, but was found in the bodies of 4,179 cadavers in all.

While the number of dead bodies containing heroin jumped 14 percent from the prior year, to a total of 110, the number of deaths influenced by the painkiller oxycodone increased by 36 percent, to a total of 1,253.

Across the country, prescription drugs have become an increasingly popular alternative to the more difficult to acquire illegal drugs. Even as illegal drug use among teenagers have fallen, prescription drug abuse has increased. For example, while 4 percent of U.S. 12th graders were using Oxycontin in 2002, by 2005 that number had increased to 5.5 percent.

It’s not hard for teens to come by prescription drugs, according to Sgt. Tracy Busby, supervisor of the Calaveras County, Calif., Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit.

“You go to every medicine cabinet in the county, and I bet you’re going to find some sort of prescription medicine in 95 percent of them,” he said.

Adults can acquire prescriptions by faking injuries, or by visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies for the same health complaint. Some people get more drugs than they expect to need, then sell the extras.

“You have health care providers involved, you have doctor shoppers, and then there are crimes like robbing drug shipments,” said Jeff Beasley of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “There is a multitude of ways to get these drugs, and that’s what makes things complicated.”

And while some people may believe that the medicines’ legality makes them less dangerous than illegal drugs, Tuolumne County, Calif., Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dan Crow warns that this is not the case. Because everybody reacts differently to foreign chemicals, there is no way of predicting the exact response anyone will have to a given dosage. That is why prescription drugs are supposed to be taken under a doctor’s supervision.

“All this stuff is poison,” Crow said. “Your body will fight all of this stuff.”
Tuolumne County Health Officer Todd Stolp agreed. A prescription drug taken recreationally is “much like a firearm in the hands of someone who’s not trained to use them,” he said.

While anyone taking a prescription medicine runs a risk of negative effects, the drugs are even more dangerous when abused. For example, many painkillers are designed to have a delayed effect that fades out over time. This can lead recreational users to take more drugs before the old ones are out of their system, placing them at risk of an overdose. Likewise, the common practice of grinding pills up causes a large dose of drugs to hit the body all at once, with potentially dangerous consequences.

“A medication that was meant to be distributed over 24 hours has immediate effect,” Stolp said.

Even more dangerous is the trend of mixing drugs with alcohol, which, like most popularly abused drugs, is a depressant.

“In the case of alcohol and drugs, one plus one equals more than two,” said Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Dan Bressler.

Florida pays careful attention to drug-related deaths, and as such has significantly better data on the problem than any other state. But a recent study conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) suggests that the problem is indeed national. According to the DEA, the number of people abusing prescription drugs in the United States has jumped 80 percent in six years to seven million, or more than those abusing cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin, hallucinogens an inhalants put together.

Not surprisingly, there has been a corresponding increase in deaths. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, the number of emergency room visits related to painkillers has increased by 153 percent since 1995. And a 2007 report by the Justice Department National Intelligence Drug Center found that deaths related to the opioid methadone jumped from 786 in 1999 to 3,849 in 2004 – an increase of 390 percent.

Many experts attribute the trend to the increasing popularity among doctors of prescribing painkillers, combined with a leap in direct-to-consumer marketing by drug companies. For example, promotional spending on Oxycontin increased threefold between 1996 and 2001, to $30 million per year.

Sonora, Calif., pharmacist Eddie Howard reports that he’s seen painkiller prescriptions jump dramatically in the last five years.

“I don’t know that there is that much pain out there to demand such an increase,” he said.
The trend concerns Howard, and he tries to keep an eye out for patients who are coming in too frequently. But he admits that there is little he can do about the problem.

“When you have a lot of people waiting for prescriptions, it’s hard to find time to play detective,” he said.

Still, the situation makes Howard uncomfortable.

“It almost makes me a legalized drug dealer, and that’s not a good position to be in,” he said.

Secret order lets U.S. raid Al Qaeda around the world

The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President George W. Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.

In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.

Some of the military missions have been conducted in close coordination with the CIA, according to senior American officials, who said that in others, like the Special Operations raid in Syria on Oct. 26 of this year, the military commandos acted in support of CIA-directed operations.

But as many as a dozen additional operations have been canceled in the past four years, often to the dismay of military commanders, senior military officials said. They said senior administration officials had decided in these cases that the missions were too risky, were too diplomatically explosive or relied on insufficient evidence.

More than a half-dozen officials, including current and former military and intelligence officials as well as senior Bush administration policy makers, described details of the 2004 military order on the condition of anonymity because of its politically delicate nature. Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the military declined to comment.

Apart from the 2006 raid into Pakistan, the American officials refused to describe in detail what they said had been nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks, except to say they had been carried out in Syria, Pakistan and other countries. They made clear that there had been no raids into Iran using that authority, but they suggested that American forces had carried out reconnaissance missions in Iran using other classified directives.

According to a senior administration official, the new authority was spelled out in a classified document called “Al Qaeda Network Exord,” or execute order, that streamlined the approval process for the military to act outside officially declared war zones. Where in the past the Pentagon needed to get approval for missions on a case-by-case basis, which could take days when there were only hours to act, the new order specified a way for Pentagon planners to get the green light for a mission far more quickly, the official said.

It also allowed senior officials to think through how the United States would respond if a mission went badly. “If that helicopter goes down in Syria en route to a target,” the official said, “the American response would not have to be worked out on the fly.”

The 2004 order was a step marking the evolution of how the American government sought to kill or capture Qaeda terrorists around the world. It was issued after the Bush administration had already granted America’s intelligence agencies sweeping power to secretly detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in overseas prisons and to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on telephone and electronic communications.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush issued a classified order authorizing the CIA to kill or capture Qaeda militants around the globe. By 2003, American intelligence agencies and the military had developed a much deeper understanding of Al Qaeda’s extensive global network, and Rumsfeld pressed hard to unleash the military’s vast firepower against militants outside the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 2004 order identifies 15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf states, where Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, a senior administration official said.

Even with the order, each specific mission requires high-level government approval. Targets in Somalia, for instance, need at least the approval of the defense secretary, the administration official said, while targets in a handful of countries, including Pakistan and Syria, require presidential approval.

The Pentagon has exercised its authority frequently, dispatching commandos to countries including Pakistan and Somalia. Details of a few of these strikes have previously been reported.

For example, shortly after Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia in late 2006 to dislodge an Islamist regime in Mogadishu, the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command quietly sent operatives and AC-130 gunships to an airstrip near the Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. From there, members of a classified unit called Task Force 88 crossed repeatedly into Somalia to hunt senior members of a Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

At the time, American officials said Special Operations troops were operating under a classified directive authorizing the military to kill or capture Qaeda operatives if failure to act quickly would mean the United States had lost a “fleeting opportunity” to neutralize the enemy.

Occasionally, the officials said, Special Operations troops would land in Somalia to assess the strikes’ results. On Jan. 7, 2007, an AC-130 struck an isolated fishing village near the Kenyan border, and within hours, American commandos and Ethiopian troops were examining the rubble to determine whether any Qaeda operatives had been killed.

But even with the new authority, proposed Pentagon missions were sometimes scrubbed because of bad intelligence or bureaucratic entanglements, senior administration officials said.

The details of one of those aborted operations, in early 2005, were reported by The New York Times last June. In that case, an operation to send a team of Navy Seals and Army Rangers into Pakistan to capture Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, was aborted at the last minute.

Zawahri was believed by intelligence officials to be attending a meeting in Bajaur, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command hastily put together a plan to capture him. There were strong disagreements inside the Pentagon and the CIA about the quality of the intelligence, however, and some in the military expressed concern that the mission was unnecessarily risky.

Porter Goss, the CIA director at the time, urged the military to carry out the mission, and some in the CIA even wanted to execute it without informing Ryan Crocker, then the American ambassador to Pakistan. Rumsfeld ultimately refused to authorize the mission.

Former military and intelligence officials said that Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, who recently completed his tour as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, had pressed for years to win approval for commando missions into Pakistan. But the missions were frequently rejected because officials in Washington determined that the risks to American troops and the alliance with Pakistan were too great.

Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for General McChrystal, who is now director of the military’s Joint Staff, declined to comment.

The recent raid into Syria was not the first time that Special Operations forces had operated in that country, according to a senior military official and an outside adviser to the Pentagon.

Since the Iraq war began, the official and the outside adviser said, Special Operations forces have several times made cross-border raids aimed at militants and infrastructure aiding the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The raid in late October, however, was much more noticeable than the previous raids, military officials said, which helps explain why it drew a sharp protest from the Syrian government.

Negotiations to hammer out the 2004 order took place over nearly a year and involved wrangling between the Pentagon and the CIA and the State Department about the military’s proper role around the world, several administration officials said.

American officials said there had been debate over whether to include Iran in the 2004 order, but ultimately Iran was set aside, possibly to be dealt with under a separate authorization.

Senior officials of the State Department and the CIA voiced fears that military commandos would encroach on their turf, conducting operations that historically the CIA had carried out, and running missions without an ambassador’s knowledge or approval.

Rumsfeld had pushed in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks to expand the mission of Special Operations troops to include intelligence gathering and counterterrorism operations in countries where American commandos had not operated before.

Bush administration officials have shown a determination to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a legal rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries’ consent.

Several officials said the negotiations over the 2004 order resulted in closer coordination among the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, and set a very high standard for the quality of intelligence necessary to gain approval for an attack.

The 2004 order also provided a foundation for the orders that Bush approved in July allowing the military to conduct raids into the Pakistani tribal areas, including the Sept. 3 operation by Special Operations forces that killed about 20 militants, American officials said.

Administration officials said that Bush’s approval had paved the way for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to sign an order — separate from the 2004 order — that specifically directed the military to plan a series of operations, in cooperation with the CIA, on the Qaeda network and other militant groups linked to it in Pakistan.

Unlike the 2004 order, in which Special Operations commanders nominated targets for approval by senior government officials, the order in July was more of a top-down approach, directing the military to work with the CIA to find targets in the tribal areas, administration officials said. They said each target still needed to be approved by the group of Bush’s top national security and foreign policy advisers, called the Principals Committee.

Warnings from world leaders all within 72 hours

Australian PM Kevin Rudd – “Nuke strike would make 9/11 insignificant” and other weird warnings”

“Over the last 72 hours there has been a strange melange of cryptic messages leaked from world political leaders about what could be in store for America over the next few months.

These predictions of impending doom come from England, France, Australia and the United States.

Biden told the top Democratic donors that a “generated crisis” will develop within six months and Barak Obama will need the help of community leaders to control the population as unpopular decisions are made and Americans resist.

Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
—Daniel 7:23

Biden speaking at the fundraiser, “I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate, And he’s gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you – not financially to help him – we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”

Biden’s ominous language at the Seattle Sheraton are followed with statements by long time establishment insiders Colin Powell and Madeline Albright both say there is a massive crisis on the horizon and Biden was simply making a “statement in fact.”

“The problems will always be there and there’s going to be a crisis which will come along on the 21st, 22nd of January that we don’t even know about right now.” Powell told Meet the Press.

Lord West, adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown on national security says, “There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring. It dipped slightly and is now rising again within the context of severe. The threat is huge. We have done all the things that we need to do, but the threat is building – the complex plots are building,”

Across the channel from England you have the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warning the press that he believes Israel will strike Iran before they can develope nuclear weapons completley ignoring the fact that the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBradei, said that Iran lacks the key components to produce an atomic weapon.

“The devastation that could be wreaked by one major nuclear weapons incident alone puts 9/11 and almost everything else [in] to the category of the insignificant,” Rudd said.

Why are there so many high level politicians around the world in a seemingly coordinated effort warning of huge threats and developing crisis’ that may include a nuclear device? Are they preparing the masses for an event or series of events that have been in the making for some time? Is the public being prepared for new and forming enemies with a potential to plunge the entire world into war?
—-end quote—

A number of notable public figures, to be sure; Biden, Rudd, Colin Powell, Matelaine Albright, Lord West and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Taken alone there are plenty of ready explanations, but within 72hrs.?

Are there any more recent examples out there?

(Daily News Caster)

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