Pascal Abidor, an American PhD candidate in Islamic Studies at McGill, who was detained and interrogated last year crossing from Montreal to New York because of his choice of academic study and his travels overseas to Jordan and Lebanon. This is your read of the day.
Recently released documents reveal that the Department of Homeland Security is keeping tabs on us via our social networks.
According to an internal DHS document released by theElectronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the department and/or a DHS subcontractor is searching social networks like Facebook and Twitter for all kinds of keywords, which are then made into reports about “items of interest” (IOI). The list of terms is HUGE, and according to the blog Animal New York, ”the DHS can also add additional search terms circumstantially as deemed necessary.”
(link via mohandasgandhi)
At a Congressional hearing this morning that veered into contentious arguments and cringe-worthy moments, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spilled the beans on their social media monitoring project.
DHS Chief Privacy Office Mary Ellen Callahan and Director of Operations Coordination and Planning Richard Chavez appeared to be deliberately stonewalling Congress on the depth, ubiquity, goals, and technical capabilities of the agency’s social media surveillance. At other times, they appeared to be themselves unsure about their own project’s ultimate goals and uses. But one thing is for sure: If you’re the first person to tweet about a news story, or if you’re a community activist who makes public Facebook posts—DHS will have your personal information.
The hearing, which was held by the Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Intelligence headed by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), was highly unusual. Hacktivist collective Anonymous (or at least the @AnonyOps Twitter feed) sent a sympathizer to the visitor gallery to liveblog the proceedings under the #spyback hashtag.
Homeland Security hasn’t made us safer Hardly anyone has seriously scrutinized either the priorities or the spending patterns of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its junior partner, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), since their hurried creation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Sure, they get criticized plenty. But year in, year out, they continue to grow faster and cost more — presumably because Americans think they are being protected from terrorism by all that spending. Yet there is no evidence whatsoever that the agencies are making Americans any safer.
DHS serves only one clear purpose: to provide unimaginable bonanzas for favored congressional districts around the United States, most of which face no statistically significant security threat at all. One thinks of the $436,504 that the Blackfeet Nation of Montana received in fiscal 2010 “to help strengthen the nation against risks associated with potential terrorist attacks”; the $1,000,000 that the village of Poynette, Wisconsin (pop. 2,266) received in fiscal 2009 for an “emergency operations center”; or the $67,000 worth of surveillance equipment purchased by Marin County, California, and discovered, still in its original packaging, four years later. And indeed, every U.S. state, no matter how landlocked or underpopulated, receives, by law, a fixed percentage of homeland security spending every year.
As for the TSA, I am not aware of a single bomber or bomb plot stopped by its time-wasting procedures. In fact, TSA screeners consistently fail to spot the majority of fake “bombs” and bomb parts the agency periodically plants to test their skills. In Los Angeles, whose airport was targeted by the “millennium plot” on New Year’s 2000, screeners failed some 75 percent of these tests.