TSA Struggles and More Wiretapping Info

Recently the TSA has been under fire after it was reported that 3 very busy international airports were still struggling on detecting simulated explosives and bomb parts hidden in various items and places. Information on the latest misadventures of the TSA and the Illegal Wiretapping saga as well as a few other tidbits can be found below.

A classified report obtained by USA Today reveals that two of this countries busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers…in one case 60 percent of the time, and in the worst case, 75 percent of the time.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners at Los Angeles International Airport reportedly missed about 75 percent of simulated explosives and bomb parts hidden in their clothes or carry-on bags at check points by TSA testers.

TSA screeners at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport missed about 60 percent of hidden bomb materials packed in carry-ons, toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. Private airport screeners at San Francisco International Airport missed about 20 percent of the bombs.

70 tests were run in Los Angeles, 75 in Chicago and 145 in San Francisco. For some reason, the reports only look at those three airports, using them as case studies to understand how well the rest of the U.S. screening system is working according to the USA Today article.

Tests run every day at every airport

Ellen Howe, TSA spokeswomen said in the past year the TSA has adopted a more aggressive approach in attempts to keep screeners attentive by running covert tests every day at every U.S. airport. According to Howe, screeners who miss the simulated bomb parts get remedial training.

According to Howe, the failure rates at Los Angeles and Chicago are “somewhat misleading” because they don’t reflect screeners’ improved ability to find bombs.

Kip Hawley, TSA chief recently told a House hearing that high failure rates stem from increasingly difficult covert tests requiring screeners to find bomb parts the size of a pen cap. The TSA moved testing of completely assembled bombs to the smaller component parts.

According to the TSA report San Francisco screeners face constant covert tests and are more suspicious.

Links to More Information

More information on the continuing illegal wiretapping saga (aka the further adventures of both Congressional and Bush Administration corruption) as well as a few other miscellaneous tidbits can be found below:

Bush Family Planning Appointee Called Contraceptives Part Of The ‘Culture Of Death’ article from Think Progress

White House Spy Docs Show Surveillance Was Illegal, Senator Feingold Charges article from Wired.com:

“Senator Russell Feingold, (D-Wisconsin), who cast the only Senate vote against the Patriot Act and now sits on the Select Intelligence committee, seems to have looked at secret spying documents given by the White House to that committee and found that they do not exonerate the government’s secret spying programs or the phone and internet companies that secretly aided them.

According to a press release:

When the Committee considers this legislation today, I will also fight to reject immunity for anyone alleged to have cooperated with the Administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. The documents made available by the White House for the first time this week only further demonstrate that the program was illegal and that there is no basis for granting retroactive immunity to those who allegedly cooperated. The one silver lining of the flawed FISA bill passed in August was that it had a 6-month expiration date. It would be shameful to miss this opportunity to fix the law.”

Bush gives Senate Democrats access to NSA surveillance docs article from Politico.com

Senator Dodd Announces He Will Stop Telecom Immunity Bill – Updated article from Wired.com:

“From Dodd’s site:

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

No more.

I have decided to place a “hold” on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President’s assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.”

Judge may order White House to recover ‘lost’ e-mails article from Raw Story

Democratic Lawmaker Pushing Immunity Is Newly Flush With Telco Cash article from Wired.com:

“Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) is reportedly steering the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee to give retroactive immunity to telecoms that helped the government secretly spy on Americans.

He has also recently benefited from some interesting political contributions.

Top Verizon executives, including CEO Ivan Seidenberg and President Dennis Strigl, wrote personal checks to Rockefeller totaling $23,500 in March, 2007. Prior to that apparently coordinated flurry of 29 donations, only one of those executives had ever donated to Rockefeller (at least while working for Verizon).

In fact, prior to 2007, contributions to Rockefeller from company executives at AT&T and Verizon were mostly non-existent.”

Harry Reid works to ensure telecom amnesty, warrantless surveillance article from Salon News:

“I wrote about many of yesterday’s developments concerning telecom amnesty and warrantless surveillance in this morning’s post, but I want separately to highlight one critical fact. Citing various media reports, Jane Hamsher last night noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — in violation of all Senate customs and rules — apparently intends, in essence, simply to ignore the “hold” placed on the FISA bill by Chris Dodd and bring the bill to the floor for a vote (and certain passage).

I was somewhat skeptical of that interpretation. The one “principle” which all Senators share is the sacred holiness of their customs and institutional prerogatives. As Jane notes, Reid has never dishonored a “hold” before from his own caucus, and virtually never dishonors “holds” even when placed by the most far-right Republicans Senators. It seemed inconceivable that he would simply refuse to recognize a “hold” by one of the Senate’s most senior members on a bill of this importance, and the media accounts seemed vague on that score.”

AT&T, other telecoms, buy victory in lawsuits article from Salon News:

“Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government’s domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources. . . .

The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee’s chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush’s director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants. Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that lacked this provision.

So AT&T and other telecoms went to Washington and — led by Bush 41 Attorney General (and now Verizon General Counsel) William Barr, and in cooperation with their former colleague, Mike McConnell — began paying former government officials such as Dan Coats and Jamie Gorelick to convince political officials to whom they give money, such as Jay Rockefeller, to pass a law declaring them the victors in these lawsuits and be relieved of all liability — all based on assertions that a court of law has already rejected. They are literally buying a judicial victory in Congress — just like Carothers warned that third-world countries must avoid if they want to become functioning democracies under the “rule of law” (“Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering with judicial decision-making”).”

Bush Has the Nerve to Say He Found Inner Peace on Iraq article from AlterNet

The Real Reason Dennis Hastert Is Retiring Early article from AlterNet:

“Prostitutes, a disloyal nephew, subpoenas refused by bribe-taking members of Congress… Brent Wilkes’ trial is a peek inside the way the Republicans ran the United States government for the first 6 years of the Bush Regime. And the mundane details are sickening in as much as they point to untold millions– perhaps more– being distributed among GOP fat-cats in return for… a chance to win at poker and a little nooky. In the end Cunningham helped Wilkes get nearly $100 million worth of government contracts for around $700,000 in bribes. What a deal!”

Fox News Immediately Begins Smear Campaign Against Al Gore, Nobel Prize article from AlterNet

Criminal probe under way into construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq article from Yahoo! News

The spy who came in from the boardroom article from Salon News:

“Jan. 8, 2007 | The Bush administration’s choice last week of J. Michael McConnell to be director of national intelligence is a major blunder — and not just because the man who will be overseeing 16 different spy agencies, including the CIA, took the job after a “personal approach” from an old friend named Dick Cheney.

The problem is with McConnell’s résumé. At present, U.S. intelligence is more dependent on private contractors than it has ever been. About half of the rapidly expanding annual intelligence budget, or more than $20 billion, now goes to outside firms. The work those private contractors perform has been slammed repeatedly for mismanagement, privacy violations and bias — and yet the would-be head of the nation’s intelligence effort is a top executive at one of the worst offenders. McConnell, a retired vice admiral and former director of the National Security Agency, is the current director of defense programs at Booz Allen Hamilton.

With revenues of $3.7 billion in 2005, Booz Allen is one of the nation’s biggest defense and intelligence contractors. Under McConnell’s watch, Booz Allen has been deeply involved in some of the most controversial counterterrorism programs the Bush administration has run, including the infamous Total Information Awareness data-mining scheme. As a key contractor and advisor to the NSA, Booz Allen is almost certainly participating in the agency’s warrantless surveillance of the telephone calls and e-mails of American citizens.”

U.S. lawmakers apologize to Canadian torture victim article from Reuters

Comcast’s law enforcement handbook leaked, could teach telecoms a thing or two article from ArsTechnica

You’ve Heard it Before: Military Claims Al Qaeda is ‘On the Run’ in Iraq article from Body Politik

Top Air Force Official Dies in Apparent Suicide article from The New York Times

There’s a Fly in the Ointment, and his name is Vladimir Putin article from OpEdNews:

“By now, I’m sure the Bush administration – and especially Vice-President Dick Cheney, are huddled in meetings, discussing Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, and how his unexpected visit to Iran has complicated their plans to deal with Iran. The White House is still stating that “all options are on the table”, including military intervention if Iran doesn’t comply with IAEE guidelines – however, now that Putin has made an unprecedented visit to Iran and reasserted Russia’s tacit support of Iran, America’s war planners and Israel now face even more obstacles in finalizing any scenario that involves alleged plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear and military facilities.

What isn’t mentioned in our Mainstream News Media is that the French predicted that an attack could come as early as October the 15th, and it’s extremely coincidental that President Putin chose this specific time frame to visit Iran and warn that “any use of military force in the Caspian region was unacceptable, amid some speculation that the United States might be tempted to use military force against Iran if sanctions failed to persuade it to rein in its suspected nuclear ambitions.”

TSA Laptops With Hazmat Driver Info Stolen article from Dark Reading

Iraqi Writer Butheina Al-Nasiri on American Killings in Iraq article from AfterDowningStreet:

“Of course, calling the Iraqi resistance Al Qaeda fits well with the permanent “war on terror”. Bush can now have his “legal” justification for the war on Iraq: it is part of his war on terror.

The recent slaughter of innocents is not the first. It has become a pattern.

The US army is becoming more dependant on air strikes–massive airstrikes on civilians–as part of an intimidation campaign.

Last week, they slaughtered from the air a large group of men and children who gathered one Ramadan (the Fasting month in Islam) evening to play a traditional game which needs two groups of men sitting facing each other. A ring is hidden in the hand of a member of one group, the others in the facing group have to guess where the ring is hidden. Usually this game attracts bystanders.

The US Army said, of course, that they had killed Al Qaeda terrorists.”

Watchdog chucks life raft to White House backup tapes article from The UK Register:

“A government watchdog group that alleges the Bush Administration has illegally failed to maintain more than 5 million emails has filed a temporary restraining order that would require administrators to preserve all remaining backup tapes.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed the motion on Thursday, two weeks after suing the Executive Office of the President and related groups over their admission that millions of emails were missing from White House servers. Federal law requires that electronic messages and other communications be preserved. A White House spokeswoman has said the email probably exists on backup tapes.”

Investigators find secret White House email accounts article from The Register:

“The Committee of Oversight and Government Reform has released its initial findings after investigating the use of parallel email accounts by officials in Bush’s White House.

According to the Presidential Records Act, White House officials are obliged to keep and preserve all communications which they send on official government business. But some 88 Bush officials ignored this law. Instead, they used addresses supplied by the Republican National Committee (RNC), which raises funds and promotes the Republican Party.

It also appears that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales knew officials were using these accounts for official communications but did nothing about it.”

The Press Proved Sanchez’s Point article from Yahoo! News:

“All the news organizations which covered his speech emphasized the caustic things he had to say about the Bush administration.

But LtGen. Sanchez was as critical of Congress and the State Department as he was of Bush administration appointees:

“The administration, Congress, the entire interagency, especially the State Department must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure, and the American people must hold them accountable,” he said. Only Josh White of the Washington Post mentioned this prominently.

“Your profession has…allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on tv, what they read in our newspapers and what they see on the Web,” he said. “For some of you, just like for some of our politicians, the truth is of little or no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases and agendas… As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled.”

Behind The Sanchez Rant article from OpEdNews:

“Noteworthy in Sanchez’s speech is his broad carpet-bombing attack on the entire civilian Bush Administration, the State Department, the Congress, both political parties, and the media while saying very little about the Pentagon’s role in the war that he never criticized once. This is cause for pause because the very tone of Sanchez’s speech and the kind of language used reveals an even more sinister undertone. Here is what he said in criticizing the conduct of the Iraq war and the present state of affairs:

“Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leaders involved in the management this war? They have unquestionably been derelict in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these types of leaders would immediately be relieved or court-martialed.”

Such strong language, although it appears to be based on a righteous indignation of a legitimate situation could easily go unnoticed. But clearing away the emotions reveal the bitter, hard bent of a man whose words could easily be interpreted as obliquely calling for a coup d’etat because the only section of the American ruling class with the capability of running both the nation and waging war is the top brass of the United States military. And this is all the more alarming given the increased role that the military now plays in every day American life and its ever-growing importance in civilian matters under the Bush Administration.”

Legally Questionable FBI Requests for Calling Circle Info More Widespread than Previously Known article from Wired.com:

“Just over a month ago, the New York Times reported that when the FBI issued emergency letters with sworn false statements to telcoms to get Americans’ phone records without a judge’s approval, they also asked for information on the target or targets’ “community of interest,” something that is not even mentioned in the statute for legally issued letters.

Though no one outside the telecom industry seems to know exactly what that meant, according to the Times report, community of interest data “might include an analysis of which people the targets called most frequently, how long they generally talked and at what times of day, sudden fluctuations in activity, geographic regions that were called, and other data.”

Specifically Verizon told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that in addition to receiving emergency letters with these requests, the company also “received subpoenas and National Security Letters containing ‘boilerplate’ language directing us, for instance, to ‘Identify a ‘calling circle’ for the foregoing telephone numbers based on a two-generation community of interest; provide related subscriber information.”

Also, though Verizon fails to mention it in their otherwise detailed letter to Congress, both Verizon and AT&T are paid $1.8 million each every year by the FBI unit responsible for the false, exigent letters to store phone records in a database that makes it easier for the government to get years of calling records.”

FBI Seeking to Pay Telecoms to Store Records for Years and Provide Instant Access article from Wired.com

AT&T, Verizon: We Obeyed FBI “Emergency” Requests – 739 of Them article from Wired.com:

“As information about the FBI’s national security letter snooping program continues to surface, one of the more troubling details has been the bureau’s cozy relationship with AT&T and Verizon, both of which companies entered into contracts with the government that made it disturbingly easy for the FBI to obtain call records on any citizen it wanted.

In fact, it was as easy as faxing a form letter. A recent report by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General found that in dealing with three different phone companies from 2003 to 2005 (MCI was the third) the FBI used a special “exigent letter” that circumvented the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. A national security letter carries subpoena power. An exigent letter only promises that a subpoena is on its way and is intended for emergency situations when information is needed quickly.

Do AT&T and Verizon truly believe that 739 similar emergencies took place from 2003 to 2005? If so, there are a lot of paranoiacs manning the switchboards.”

FBI Confirms Contracts with AT&T, Verizon and MCI article from Wired.com:

“The FBI’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, testified today on Capitol Hill that the FBI entered into contracts with AT&T, Verizon and MCI to harvest phone records on American citizens under a national security letter program that has come under fire from Congress and the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General for circumventing privacy laws.

Caproni confirmed during a House Judiciary hearing that AT&T and Verizon, which bought MCI in 2005, had and continue to have contracts with the FBI that compensate phone companies for turning over the toll records of customers connected to counterterroism investigations. The telecoms entered into the contracts in May 2003, according to the report issued last week by the DoJ Inspector General.”

Telcos Respond to Spying Questions; AT&T Says Blame the Government article from Wired.com

Rogue FBI Letters Hint at Phone Companies’ Own Data Mining Programs – Updated article from Wired.com:

“An FBI office under criminal investigation for sending emergency phone record requests to phone companies that included knowingly false statement also included requests for the phone companies to identify the “community of interest” for the targeted phone numbers, according to documents acquired through a government sunshine lawsuit.

Those mysterious requests, first revealed by Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times on Sunday, suggest that the phone companies may be doing their own data mining and profiling on behalf of the United States government.”

FBI Office Under Investigation Involved in Secret Spying Controversy – Updated article from Wired.com:

“One of the unresolved mysteries in the March 10 2004 Intensive Care Showdown over the government’s secret wiretapping and data-mining programs is why FBI Director Robert Mueller plays a central role. The spying operation has long been attributed to the National Security Agency, while the legal sign-off came from attorneys at the Justice Department.

Ostensibly the spying operation was focused on external threats to the country, so the spying information should have been mostly funneled to the CIA. But new FBI documents released today by Congress hint that a controversial FBI office that is already under legal scrutiny may have been involved (SEE UPDATE that questions this conclusion).”

FBI Misuses, Underreports Patriot Act Power: Audit article from Wired.com:

“The FBI evaded limits on, and sometimes illegally issued, orders for phone, email and financial information on American citizens and underreported the use of these self-issued orders to Congress, according to an internal audit by the Justice Department released Friday. The DOJ Inspector General reported that the FBI used self-issued subpoenas, known as National Security Letters, to get information on at least 143,074 targets.

The audit found that 60% of a sample of these subpoenas did not conform to the rules, and another 22% contained unreported possible violations of the authorizing statute, including improper requests and unauthorized collections of information..

Additionally, the report faulted the FBI for sloppy record keeping, and found that, in one sample, the number of targets was 22% higher than was reported, meaning that the full extent of the use of the power was unknown.”

89 House Members Tell Bush: No More Money for Occupation article from The Nation:

“The occupation in Iraq will begin to end on the day that Democrats — and responsible Republicans — in Congress decide to stop meeting the demands of the Bush-Cheney administration for more money to fund their imperial endeavor along with the massive war-profiteering by administration-linked firms such as Halliburton and Blackwater.

This is a simple reality. But it remains one that most members of Congress, including many Democrats who should know better, fail to recognize.

Perhaps most importantly, the time has come to ask whether those who fail to recognize the necessity of standing up to this administration — unequivocally, consistently and without political calculation — understand that their duty is to serve their constituents, their country and its Constitution — as opposed to the mad whims of George Bush and Dick Cheney.”

All the president’s PR men: Raw Story investigation reveals revolving door on Iraq PR article from Raw Story

Move over, Halliburton: Sara Lee, Perdue targeted over Iraq contracts article from Raw Story

Crack Users Do More Time Than People Convicted of Manslaughter article from AlterNet:

“When crack cocaine possession means 24 years in prison and manslaughter means only 3, you know something is seriously wrong with the U.S. criminal justice system.”

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