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The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the suspect-wears-a-funny-hat dept.

United States 224

Advocatus Diaboli sends this report: The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither "concrete facts" nor "irrefutable evidence" to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. ...The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. "All executive departments and agencies," the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standard—"reasonable suspicion"—for placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on "Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria"—even the title is hard to digest—the key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity.

Ars Editor Learns Feds Have His Old IP Addresses, Full Credit Card Numbers

samzenpus posted 4 days ago | from the no-stone-left-unturned dept.

United States 209

mpicpp writes with the ultimate results of Ars's senior business editor Cyrus Farivar's FOIA request. In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked. But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.

The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain: The IP address that I used to buy the ticket, my credit card number (in full), the language I used, and notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change.

EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the one-new-member-of-the-x-men-per-100,000-normals dept.

Power 230

mdsolar sends this news from Forbes: Both proponents and opponents of nuclear power expect the Environmental Protection Agency in coming months to relax its rules restricting radiation emissions from reactors and other nuclear facilities. EPA officials say they have no such intention, but they are willing to reconsider the method they use to limit public exposure—and the public's level of risk.

At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."

World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the WHO-already-dismissed-by-old-people-as-being-a-bunch-of-potheads dept.

Crime 472

An anonymous reader writes: We've known for a while: the War on Drugs isn't working. Scientists, journalists, economists, and politicians have all argued against continuing the expensive and ineffective fight. Now, the World Health Organization has said flat out that nations should work to decriminalize the use of drugs. The recommendations came as part of a report released this month focusing on the prevention and treatment of HIV. "The WHO's unambiguous recommendation is clearly grounded in concerns for public health and human rights. Whilst the call is made in the context of the policy response to HIV specifically, it clearly has broader ramifications, specifically including drug use other than injecting. In the report, the WHO says: 'Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration. ...Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs." The bottom line is that the criminalization of drug use comes with substantial costs, while providing no substantial benefit.

Chicago Red Light Cameras Issue Thousands of Bogus Tickets

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the it's-not-a-bug,-it's-a-funding-mechanism dept.

Transportation 228

mpicpp points out a report in the Chicago Tribune saying that thousands of the city's drivers have been wrongfully ticketed for red light violations because of "faulty equipment, human tinkering, or both." The Tribune's investigation uncovered the bogus tickets by analyzing the data from over 4 million tickets issued in the past seven years. Cameras that for years generated just a few tickets daily suddenly caught dozens of drivers a day. One camera near the United Center rocketed from generating one ticket per day to 56 per day for a two-week period last summer before mysteriously dropping back to normal. Tickets for so-called rolling right turns on red shot up during some of the most dramatic spikes, suggesting an unannounced change in enforcement. One North Side camera generated only a dozen tickets for rolling rights out of 100 total tickets in the entire second half of 2011. Then, over a 12-day spike, it spewed 563 tickets — 560 of them for rolling rights. Many of the spikes were marked by periods immediately before or after when no tickets were issued — downtimes suggesting human intervention that should have been documented. City officials said they cannot explain the absence of such records.

Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the you-keep-it dept.

Earth 288

schwit1 notes that the Australian government has repealed a controversial carbon tax. After almost a decade of heated political debate, Australia has become the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. In a vote that could highlight the difficulty in implementing additional measures to reduce carbon emissions ahead of global climate talks next year in Paris, Australia's Senate on Wednesday voted 39-32 to repeal a politically divisive carbon emissions price that contributed to the fall from power of three Australian leaders since it was first suggested in 2007.

UN Report Finds NSA Mass Surveillance Likely Violated Human Rights

Unknown Lamer posted about a week ago | from the silly-human-rights-are-for-robots dept.

Privacy 261

An anonymous reader writes A top United Nations human rights official released a report Wednesday that blasts the United States' mass surveillance programs for potentially violating human rights on a worldwide scale. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also praised whistleblower Edward Snowden and condemned U.S. efforts to prosecute him. "Those who disclose human rights violations should be protected," she said. "We need them." In particular, the surveillance programs violate Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

French Blogger Fined For Negative Restaurant Review

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the enjoy-your-streisand-effect dept.

The Internet 424

An anonymous reader sends an article about another case in which a business who received a negative review online decided to retaliate with legal complaints. In August of last year, a French food blogger posted a review of an Italian restaurant called Il Giardino. The restaurant owners responded with legal threats based on the claim that they lost business from search results which included the review. The blogger deleted the post, but that wasn't enough. She was brought to court, and a fine of €1,500 ($2,040) was imposed. She also had to pay court costs, which added another €1,000 ($1,360). The blogger said, "Recently several writers in France were sentenced in similar proceedings for defamation, invasion of privacy, and so on. ... I don't see the point of criticism if it's only positive. It's clear that online, people are suspicious of places that only get positive reviews."

Pseudonyms Now Allowed On Google+

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the finally-batman-can-set-up-a-profile dept.

Social Networks 237

An anonymous reader writes When Google+ launched, it received criticism across the internet for requiring that users register with their real names. Now, Google has finally relented and removed all restrictions on what usernames people are allowed to use. The company said, "We know you've been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be."

Obama Administration Says the World's Servers Are Ours

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the all-your-data-are-belong-to-us dept.

United States 749

An anonymous reader points out this story about the U.S. Justice Department's claim that companies served with valid warrants for data must produce that data even if the data is not stored in the U.S. Global governments, the tech sector, and scholars are closely following a legal flap in which the US Justice Department claims that Microsoft must hand over e-mail stored in Dublin, Ireland. In essence, President Barack Obama's administration claims that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, even if the content is stored overseas. It's a position Microsoft and companies like Apple say is wrong, arguing that the enforcement of US law stops at the border. A magistrate judge has already sided with the government's position, ruling in April that "the basic principle that an entity lawfully obligated to produce information must do so regardless of the location of that information." Microsoft appealed to a federal judge, and the case is set to be heard on July 31.

Economist: File Sharing's Impact On Movies Is Modest At Most

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the boosting-sales dept.

Movies 214

First time accepted submitter SillyBoy123 writes What is the impact of file sharing releases on the movie industry? Ask the studios and they will say billions. An economist named Koleman Strumph is presenting a paper at the National Bureau of Economics this week that tries to estimate the crowd out from these releases. His conclusion: "I find that file sharing has only a modest impact on box office revenue." In fact, Strumph finds that file sharing before the official release of a movie can actually be beneficial to revenues: "One consistent result is that file sharing arrivals shortly before the theatrical opening have a modest positive effect on box office revenue. One explanation is that such releases create greater awareness of the film. This is also the period of heaviest advertising. In conjunction with the main estimates, this suggests that free and potentially degraded goods such as the lower quality movies available on file sharing networks can have some beneficial effects on intellectual property."

NSA Says Snowden Emails Exempt From Public Disclosure

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the for-our-eyes-only dept.

United States 231

AHuxley (892839) writes "The Desk reports on a FOIA request covering "... all e-mails sent by Edward Snowden" and the NSA's refusal to release all documents. "The National Security Agency has acknowledged it retains a record of e-mail communications from former contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but says those records are exempt from public disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act. In a letter responding to a June 27 FOIA request from The Desk, the NSA’s chief FOIA officer Pamela Phillips wrote that while the agency has retained records related to Snowden’s employment as a contractor, they are being withheld from public examination because, among other things, releasing the records 'could interfere with law enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures.' Other records are being withheld because those documents were 'also found to be currently and properly classifiedand remains classified TOP SECRET, SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL.' The letter marks the first time the NSA has publicly acknowledged retaining communication and employment records related to Snowden’s time as a contractor."

The Least They Could Do: Amazon Charges 1 Cent To Meet French Free Shipping Ban

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the not-a-sou-more dept.

Books 308

Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article: This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.

William Binney: NSA Records and Stores 80% of All US Audio Calls

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the must-use-a-good-compression-algorithm dept.

Privacy 278

stephendavion sends a report at The Guardian about remarks from whistleblower William Binney, who left the NSA after its move toward overreaching surveillance following the September 11th attacks. Binney says, "At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the U.S. The NSA lies about what it stores." He added, "The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control, but I’m a little optimistic with some recent Supreme Court decisions, such as law enforcement mostly now needing a warrant before searching a smartphone." One of Binney's biggest concerns about government-led surveillance is its lack of oversight: "The FISA court has only the government’s point of view. There are no other views for the judges to consider. There have been at least 15-20 trillion constitutional violations for U.S. domestic audiences and you can double that globally."

After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the wir-werden-wissen dept.

Government 219

The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."

Police Recording Confirms NYPD Flew At a Drone and Never Feared Crashing

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the where-is-your-flightplan? dept.

Crime 310

Jason Koebler (3528235) writes An air traffic control recording confirms that a New York Police Department helicopter flew at a drone hovering near the George Washington Bridge earlier this week—not the other way around. What's more, police had no idea what to charge the drone pilots with, and never appeared to fear a crash with the drone.
Two men were arrested Monday on felony reckless endangerment charges after the NYPD said the two flew their drone "very close" to a law enforcement chopper, causing the police helicopter to take evasive maneuvers. Air traffic control recordings suggest that only happened after the chopper pilot decided to chase the drone.

Today In Year-based Computer Errors: Draft Notices Sent To Men Born In the 1800s

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the pa-dmv-never-did-me-any-favors-either dept.

Bug 205

sandbagger (654585) writes with word of a Y2K-style bug showing up in Y2K14: "The glitch originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles during an automated data transfer of nearly 400,000 records. The records of males born between 1993 and 1997 were mixed with those of men born a century earlier. The federal agency didn't know it because the state uses a two-digit code to indicate birth year." I wonder where else two-digit years are causing problems; I still see lots of paper forms that haven't made the leap yet to four digits.

The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the flights-of-fancy dept.

The Military 364

schwit1 writes with an update on the U.S. government's troubled F-35 program, the cost of which keeps rising while the planes themselves are grounded. A fire in late June caused officials to halt flights for the entire fleet of $112 million vehicles last week. Despite this, Congress is still anxious to push the program forward, and Foreign Policy explains why: Part of that protection comes from the jaw-dropping amounts of money at stake. The Pentagon intends to spend roughly $399 billion to develop and buy 2,443 of the planes. However, over the course of the aircrafts' lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion. Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place. "An upfront question with any program now is: How many congressional districts is it in?" said Thomas Christie, a former senior Pentagon acquisitions official. Counting all of its suppliers and subcontractors, parts of the program are spread out across at least 45 states. That's why there's no doubt lawmakers will continue to fund the program even though this is the third time in 17 months that the entire fleet has been grounded due to engine problems."

Tor Project Sued Over a Revenge Porn Business That Used Its Service

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the tor-is-a-series-of-eeeeevil-tubes dept.

The Courts 311

redletterdave writes: The Tor Project has been sued in the state of Texas over a revenge porn website that used its free encrypted communications service. The plaintiff in the case — Shelby Conklin, a criminal justice major at the University of North Texas — alleges a revenge porn site called Pinkmeth "gained unauthorized access to nude photographs" she owned and posted them to the internet. She also said Tor, which The Economist once called "a dark corner of the web," was involved in an active "civil conspiracy" with Pinkmeth because the revenge porn website used the anonymous communications service to prevent others from tracking its location.

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the electric-eye dept.

Privacy 223

Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans — including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers — under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies. From the article: "The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called 'FISA recap.' Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also 'are or may be' engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens. ... The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press. Some have even climbed the ranks of the U.S. national security and foreign policy establishments."

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