Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday 06-24-13

Privacy and security on the internet – What you need to know to thwart big brother spying

by Sam
lock Privacy and security on the internet   What you need to know to thwart big brother spyingPrivacy and security are both important aspects of being safe on the Internet. In some ways the two overlap but they are actually different concepts.
Internet security is about preventing access to your network, computers and data by unwanted people. You don’t want to give hackers, be they government-sponsored or freelancers, access to your system or your personal information. In these cases, you’re dealing with someone who may actively try to access your information without your knowledge and without your permission. One might ask why some government or freelance hacker located on the other side of the world would be interested in their computer. There are two reasons. Your computer could contain a lot of personal information such as credit card, bank account or social security numbers.
If you do your tax returns on your computer, your entire return (with everything one needs to accomplish identify theft) is right there. Getting access to that information is worth money to these people. Another reason is to gain control of your machine. If a hacker can gain control of your machine, they can use it to do things on the internet and make it look like as though it’s coming from your location. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why some hacker somewhere in the world would find that to be a really useful thing. This sort of thing happens every day to a lot of people and, in most cases, they don’t even realize that it’s happening.
Internet privacy is about protecting your personal information, your interests and habits from being recorded by people and web sites that you visit or have to interact with. They are not hacking your network or computer to get this info you’ve laid it right out in front of them, with your online actions.
Many will say, “Who cares? I have nothing to hide.” But it’s not quite that simple. Most people, if they were told that every telephone conversation they had would be monitored and recorded by multiple individuals, would not tolerate such an invasion of privacy. So why are internet discussions and habits any different than phone conversations?
However, the most important concept that makes the “I have nothing to hide” logic faulty is that you really don’t know what you have to hide. Things that you think of as being trivial today could become crimes at some future date. Everyone is currently freaking out about how 30-round magazines may soon become illegal even though they are perfectly legal now. Is it so unreasonable to believe that things you discuss with others via email, discussion groups and forums or web sites which you visit today may become illegal in future times? So why would you want anyone to have a permanent record of this to possibly use against you?
And don’t think that there won’t be a record as there already is. Search engine companies such as Google and Microsoft / Yahoo are all about capturing and indexing every bit of information they can. This information is worth immense sums of money. Web site owners, and especially social sites like Facebook, are equally adept at gathering and indexing every piece of information they can get about you. Email services all keep records of your emails for years even after you delete the emails from your account. The only person who no longer has access to one of your deleted emails is you. You see, once Pandora’s box opens, you cannot put it all back in. You potentially have a great deal to lose by letting your information out.
So I suppose the better question is what negative could there possibly be in protecting your personal information today so that you never have to worry about it later? That way, someday, when your friends are devastated and thinking “how could this have happened?” you’ll be breathing a sigh of relief that at least you took actions to protect yourself.
Now that we’ve defined the terms, let’s talk about internet security. Common sense is the first line of defense. Going to sites known for seedy activities is just plain not a good idea. Opening up emails that have attachments, from people you don’t know, is also not a good idea. Most of us already know this.
Home wireless connection: When using a wireless connection at your house, be sure to enable WPA2 encryption with a strong key. Strong keys are long and random. The key dfh&hBNfp%2#hjfdow1ZR is an example of a strong key. The key passw0rd is not. Many people like to replace the letter O with the number 0 in words or similar substitutions thinking that this is somehow going to fool a hacker.
Do not use WEP because anyone capable of a Google search can learn how to break it.
All of this is important for two reasons. First, if someone connects from the outside to your wireless network, they are that much closer to your computer. They don’t have to attack from the Internet since they are on your local, trusted network. The second reason is that you don’t want your neighbor or someone parked outside of your house using your wireless and doing something criminal on it. The knock on the door by law enforcement isn’t something you need to hear when they track the crime back to your IP address.
Public Networks: If you use public networks, it’s important to understand that everyone on that network can see everyone else’s traffic. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to sit back at a coffee shop or hotel lobby and sniff the network for all the data passing through it. Using a VPN to encrypt and tunnel your connection is essential if you value your security and privacy. It will protect your data from being seen and will protect your computer from a direct attack.
Software updates: Always make sure your computer is up to date on its security patches. Bugs, and ways to exploit them, are found every day. An otherwise well protected system can easily be compromised because a new bug was not patched. However, this approach is not without privacy risks. As the operating system manufacturers add more and more features to their software, some of which could track your activities and behavior, the updates will increase security but could decrease privacy.
Hackers: There are a couple of basic ways that a hacker can get to your system and information. The first is by attacking your network directly. Your network, via its IP address, is constantly targeted by people trying to see if there is a way in. With some malware prevention programs, you’ll often see messages saying “such and such IP address has been successfully blocked”. What that’s telling you is that an attack was sensed and was blocked. Oftentimes, these IP addresses originate in China but they happen from all over the world. The people running these scans are looking for weak spots and have racks of computers, running 24/7, scouting for openings.
The first line of defense against this type of attack is your computer’s firewall. All modern operating systems, whether Mac or Windows, have a standard firewall included with their systems. At the very least, this firewall has to be able to prevent outside access to your computer unless the contact has been initiated from within. For example, if you get on your browser and go to a web site, you want that web site to send back the information you requested. However, you don’t want some random web site or computer to be able to send your computer anything if you haven’t initiated the connection.
Firewalls included with your operating system are fairly good these days and, unless you need to do a lot of tweaking to allow various ports and protocols (which is beyond the scope of this article), you don’t really need an aftermarket version, although many antivirus suites include a firewall with the application.
The second way an attacker may try to compromise your system is by placing malware on your computer. There are an unlimited number of viruses, Trojans and bots out there and new ones are written every day. Some are written by freelance hackers, others are written by government-employed hackers. It doesn’t really matter where they originate. Some of this malware is designed to cause havoc on your computer just for the fun of doing so. But most of it has a specific purpose as described earlier.
Antivirus: Everyone knows that antivirus and antimalware software are essential to combat these threats. There is a lot of such software on the market and most of it is decent. Both Avast and Webroot offer really good software, either free or at a very low price. There are others out there that are good as well.
Regardless of what antivirus software you choose, you also need dedicated, anti-malware software. The best here is Malwarebytes. It’s the go-to solution for most severe malware infections and having it running on your computer will go a long way. And it’s well worth the small price of the paid version to have it running 24/7, as opposed to the free version.
For the average person, doing all of the above will protect you from random attacks both over the network and from malware-filled web sites and emails. Obviously, if you are a high-profile individual at very high risk of intrusion, more needs to be done. But that level of firewalling and protection is beyond the scope of this article.
Web habits: There are many ways to enhance your Internet privacy. A lot of it depends on what you do on the Internet. If you are posting your life story and all your family pictures on Facebook, then you simply have no privacy and you are giving Facebook or similar sites unlimited access to all of this material. With the popularity of sites like Facebook, it’s clear that most people don’t care. Some believe that if they keep their profiles private then they are safe. But since Facebook owns everything you post on their site (and will keep it forever) you can bet they will use it to make money.
Perhaps people should think about their children whose photos and stories are being posted there. Does it occur to them that perhaps that child may not want to be an open book when he or she grows up? Ever think that the cute picture of your little boy, dressed in camouflage and holding his favorite toy gun, could be grounds for child abuse charges at some future time? Or perhaps your discussion about how you eat at fast food joints every day or ride your dirt bike on weekends turns into grounds for denial of life insurance coverage? In any case, if one’s Internet activity revolves around social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google +1, then no amount of privacy protection procedures can do anything for you.
If you are one of the relative few that care about their privacy, there are a number of ways to enhance it yet still remain online. We hear about OPSEC all the time in article after article related to survival activities. It’s recommended not to let others know how much food you have, what kind of survival plans you have and how many guns and how much ammo you have. The idea is that you don’t want to be targeted when the day comes. When you visit blogs, forums, firearms sites and prepper supply sites from your home internet connection, you are violating this golden rule.
Your ISP knows all the sites you went to. If you used Google to search for them, Google knows all the sites you went to. Even if you didn’t use Google directly but the web site you went to had a Google analytics link embedded in it, they still would know. Both your ISP and Google see this information as a money-making opportunity because they can sell it to someone down the road. I’m sure everyone has heard of the newspaper that published the names of all the CCW holders a few weeks ago. What’s to stop a similar paper or web site from buying a ‘Prepper’ list compiled from all of this data and publishing that?
And let’s not forget — the government knows all the sites you went to. You may ask how the government knows. It’s because they have systems installed at every ISP and monitor all the traffic. I know you may think that the government has neither the time/resources to monitor everything nor the desire to do so. You couldn’t be more wrong. They have more than enough computing power to monitor everything happening anywhere and anytime. To believe otherwise is naive and wishful thinking. They are expanding their spy networks at an unbelievable pace and it grows more powerful every day.
In any case, there are a lot of people who could potentially know about your survivalist plans and preparations. Some will argue that an IP address does not reveal ones identity. While at a simplistic level that is true, it is not true in the world of massive databases which record everything. Coupled with powerful computers, your IP address can easily be data mined and your identity determined pretty easily. And, of course, your ISP knows exactly who you are as does the government who has their systems collocated at the ISP.
Staying Private: So let’s look at a few ways to stay as private and anonymous as possible.
Changing your IP address by using a VPN to hide your traffic from your ISP and your IP form web sites is a very big first step.
Then, you need to secure your browser to prevent it from sending out information. This was discussed a little while back here so I will not repeat it again.
Assuming you have your browser properly configured and are closing it down and deleting all the cookies and history every time, consider installing a cleaning program on your computer — and use it, often. For Windows, CCleaner is great. For Mac, try Mac Cleanse. These programs will delete old information from your machine and clear all the caches when they are run. They can also be run to clear out all the free space on your hard drive to permanently erase all the “deleted” data which is not really gone but just marked as deleted.
I recommend using or as your go-to search engine and relegate Google and Bing to the bench, to be used only when absolutely needed. Both or search engines claim that they do not track you or your searches. I would support them in their effort by using them.
If you log into a web site that requires a log-in, always close out the browser after each use. When signing up for such a web site, use an alias if possible and provide a throw away email address. Obviously, you can’t do this for shopping sites where you must provide a credit card. But there are a lot of sites that require you to sign on in order to access otherwise free content. They don’t need to know who you are or what your real IP address is. You might also consider a throw away email address even for sites you shop with. That way, after a few months when they have sold your email to everyone, you can just change it and move on, reducing spam significantly.
If you buy a lot of goods online, you might want to use an offshore email address that doesn’t save your emails. Although the shopping site knows who you are and what you bought, as well as your credit card company, there is no need for your email provider to know by scanning the email.
If you log into a web site where you have to provide your real contact info, such as a shopping site, be sure to close the browser after the session in order to delete all the history and cookies. This will prevent the next site (or even Google) from following your path across the net.
When using your VPN, it’s also good to change your computer’s clock to match the location of the VPN. While not a really big deal, it won’t raise any questions if you seem to be coming from a different country if your computer’s time also concurs with that same country.
One final note, which while not directly related to Internet security it is still a good thing to do, is to secure your computer’s drive by fully encrypting it. A great program for this, which is public domain, is TrueCrypt. It is very easy to use and encrypts your entire hard drive to government, top secret-level encryption standards. If you do your part by picking a long passphrase and making sure to maximize the randomness of the key generation, it will be impossible to break. Within the encrypted hard drive, you might also want to create a small virtual encrypted drive that does not open when you start your system.
In this drive you would place all of your personal information such as credit card numbers, tax returns, bank accounts etc. Since you only open this drive when needed and close it right after use, it might prevent your information being stolen (in a situation where your computer is hacked) because it won’t be accessible to the malware or the hacker. I would not trust encryption software provided with your operating system. There have been rumors that this software includes ‘back doors’ to allow government agency access. Because much of this software is not public and the source code is not available to the public, nobody really knows. While there is no absolute guarantee that software such as TrueCrypt or OpenPGP are not also compromised, the fact that the source code is open for review and compilation makes it unlikely.
To sum up privacy and anonymity online, it boils down to providing as little real information as possible and as much disinformation as possible. Recognize how easy it is for companies with massive databases to take small pieces of info and stitch them together. Then it will become crystal clear why providing the smallest amount of information possible is absolutely critical to maintaining your privacy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday 06-21-13

I know there is a lot of news worth putting up, but I thought today I would post something more important. More important because you can not do much about the news, it will help you be more aware, but the articles today ( got one from an email and one from Survival Blog notes) but only if you actual put it into practice.
Alimentary, My Dear
Ready, Set, Go!
The Birth of the Bug‑Out Box
Horn of Plenty
By Tamia June 18, 2013 Cooking is a dying art. As people spend more time in their cars, driving ever greater distances to and from their jobs (at every slower speeds), there aren't many hours left for making meals. Which means that — on most days, at any rate — harried moms and dads pop precooked frozen dinners into the microwave and then sit down to eat a hasty meal, one eye always on the clock. Maybe they'll watch a celebrity chef on the TV while they're scraping the last crumb of Yummy Lasagna from its plastic‑lined tray, but that's pretty much it for home cooking. Things were different when I was growing up. Even though I appeared on the scene when the post‑World War II baby boom was already fizzling out, families still made meals the old‑fashioned way. They cooked from scratch. Few mothers worked full‑time jobs, and many people lived within walking distance of their workplaces. Even the little farm town where I spent much of my childhood had two large, private employers: a seed plant and a hospital. Both have since shut their doors, however, and in the early morning hours local roads now resemble the opening lap of the Daytona 500, as commuting couples start their engines in preparation for the hour‑long drive to the nearest city. This will come as no surprise to most readers, of course. Similar stories could be told about rural communities across America. Times change, and we change with them. What choice do we have, after all? But growing up as I did, when I did, I learned the art of cooking from women (and men) who were superb cooks, with an appreciation of good food that was sharpened by memories of the Great Depression. Convenience foods were few and far between back then (even popcorn had to be made from scratch), everyday meals were important family occasions, and "good plain cooks" enjoyed the same measure of respect as that now accorded financial planners and personal trainers. My nascent interest in cooking even survived several years of forced labor — this was how it seemed to me at the time, at any rate — in my parents' roadside restaurant, when I was still in my early teens. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a slave to nostalgia. A lot of things have changed for the better in the last half‑century. Nor am I ready to heap scorn on the ever‑growing number of shelf‑stable, easy‑to‑prepare meals. Shopping for backcountry trips used to be a complicated exercise, and if you wanted the lightest pack possible, you had to send away to specialty outfitters for costly freeze‑dried entrées. Worse yet, what you got for your dollars wasn't always edible, let alone tasty. Farwell speaks feelingly about a week spent hillwalking with nothing to eat but a prepackaged Norwegian touring ration. He says it nearly put him off eating altogether. Nowadays, of course, it's a lot easier to shop for a trip, whether you're going out for a weekend or a month. You can probably find everything you'll need at your local HyperMart. And much of it — if not exactly gourmet fare — will be at least as good as the meals eaten at home by most of us, most of the time. The cost? Higher than meals made from scratch, to be sure, but a lot easier to prepare, and nowhere near as dear as the freeze‑dried mystery meals of old. "Man cooks" and minimalists can now eat very well indeed. There's also another benefit to be had from the ready‑meal revolution. It's easy to lay in a stock of portable food "just in case." I'm not talking zombie apocalypse here. I'm thinking of spur‑of‑the‑moment getaways: the trips we take when a window in an otherwise busy week suddenly and unexpectedly opens. How can it happen? Let me count the ways. A business meeting is rescheduled. A project deadline is extended — just as you were rolling down your sleeves and congratulating yourself on a job well done. A workshop (that you really didn't want to go to) is cancelled. A medical appointment proves unnecessary. The result? You're suddenly and unexpectedly set free — free for a day, or even a long weekend. And your thoughts turn immediately to a nearby river, lake, or seacoast. There's no time for shopping, let alone menu planning. If you're ready to go right then and there, your passport's made, and you'll make the most of your accidental holiday. But if you're not ready, it's "Sorry, Charlie" time. You've lost your chance. "Fortune," an old proverb reminds us, "favors the prepared mind." Or as Baden‑Powell put it, in succinct imperative mode: Be Prepared! This came naturally to the children and grandchildren of the Depression. Even city apartments had pantries in the '50s and '60s, and other things were sacrificed to keep those pantries well‑stocked with staple foods. But today — notwithstanding the imminent threat of the aforementioned zombie apocalypse — such prudence is often condemned. If you keep any food in the house beyond that needed for the next week's meals, you risk being branded a "hoarder." The label isn't intended as a compliment. At the same time, though, various government entities enjoin us to keep an emergency stock of food and water in our homes, "in case of a disaster." I guess this is the sort of thing Emerson was alluding to when he wrote that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Well, I'll risk being outed as a hoarder. I keep enough food in the house to survive for several months. I've had reason to be glad I do, and my hoarding habit has a welcome offshoot: I'm always ready to take advantage of any opportunity for a short getaway. It's paid off again and again. Two days exploring a chain of beaver ponds may not give you bragging rights on Facebook, and the video you shot of the beaver family at play probably won't make you a YouTube millionaire, but your short break will do a lot to lighten the next week at work. It might even make the hours you spend stuck in traffic a little more bearable. Readiness is all, of course. Which is yet another way of saying "Be prepared." And here's what's involved in … Keeping a Supply of Camp Food at the Ready I make it as easy as I can, collecting suitable staples and easy‑to‑prepare entrées in a large cardboard carton I call my bug‑out box. When it's full, it holds several weeks' worth of food for the two of us. That's more than enough for casual getaways. And I can see what's available in an instant, just by glancing down. (Someday, I suppose I'll replace the rather tottery box with a plastic bin, but my hoarding instinct extends to discarded boxes, as well. Cardboard does the job. That's all I ask — or need.) My Master Menu guides me in stocking the bug‑out box, and it helps me decide what to take from it when I light out for the territories, too. In other words, the Master Menu serves as both shopping list and meal planner. Of course, not every staple foodstuff lends itself to storage in the bug‑out box. Some small items (e.g., spices, herbs, and nuts) have permanent berths in my kitchen cabinets, while others (fresh fruit and starchy vegetables) wait patiently on pantry shelves, and a few perishables (Hundred‑Mile Plus Oatmeal Bars and a variety of other portable rations, along with store‑bought mini‑bagels and hearty breads, plus cheeses of every description) chill out in the freezer or fridge. No matter. Grabbing what I need from these dispersed stores is the work of a New York minute, and bagging it all up takes only a little longer. Any frozen items will be thawed by the time I cycle to the put‑in. Now let's return to the bug‑out box. Here's what it looks like:
Box Set
It was somewhat depleted when I shot this photo: Spring brings more opportunities for getaways, and I often go several weeks between restocks. (This is one of the advantages of "hoarding." You don't have to devote a good part of every weekend to shopping.) But the diminished contents of the bug‑out box are still representative. They include packaged entrées — Rice‑a‑Roni, Near East Couscous, Knorr Pasta Sides — as well as instant oatmeal, fig bars, noodles, dried potatoes, and imitation bacon bits. There's also a box of ziplock bags for easy repackaging. (Any boxed entrée selected for a trip is immediately transfered to doubled bags, along with the cooking instructions, if necessary.) Just out of the shot — either on nearby shelves or hidden under the top tier of bug‑out items — are other staples: pasta, rice, couscous, bulk oats, dried milk, canned chicken, single‑serving packets of condiments, instant cocoa, tea, coffee, dried soups, dried fruit, chocolate, and the like. Taken all together, they're a moveable feast in the making. Such a motley collection doesn't assemble itself, of course. So let's take a closer look at … The Care and Feeding of a Bug‑Out Box It begins with a list. As I've already mentioned, I use my Master Menu as my guide. Since I prepare much of what we eat at home from scratch, I make only limited us of prepackaged meals in the ordinary course of day‑to‑day life. But staple foods are just that: staples. And on the rare occasions when their use‑by date approaches, these get pulled from the bug‑out box and transfered to my kitchen shelves. In many instances, I avoid the need for such sleight of hand altogether, by the simple expedient of taking staples directly from my kitchen stores, as and when needed. The subject of stock rotation deserves a few more words, however. I use older items first, never losing sight of the fact that a bug‑out box is like a checking account: any withdrawals must be offset by timely deposits. At one time, I kept detailed notes of each item I removed and then used this as a shopping list. Now I find that I can keep track of the balance in my head. I make it a point to replace withdrawals within a couple of weeks, though. This makes it less likely that I'll forget anything when the time comes to hit the HyperMart. That said, I don't rely entirely on my (demonstrably fallible) memory. At least twice a year — usually in early spring and late fall — I conduct a comprehensive stock‑taking, inventorying not just the contents of the bug‑out box, but all the staple foodstuffs in the house. Any item that's not likely to make it through the coming season without spoiling is immediately tagged for current consumption. I take pride in throwing out very little food of any description. Waste not, want not, after all. This was the rule that my grandparents lived by, and I see no reason to reject it now. I make only one exception: If I have cause to doubt the safety of any food, I toss it out. (This is the Nelson Corollary to Fletcher's Law: If in doubt, doubt. Then throw it out.) But there's the reverse of the coin to consider, too. No matter how seductive the packaging, no new item goes into the bug‑out box before it's been subjected to a full Test Kitchen trial. A backcountry trip is a bad time to experiment with untried or unfamiliar foods. Farwell will long remember paddling through the James Bay Lowlands with a large, covered cooking pot under his seat in lieu of a ship's head, a martyr to his own haphazard meal‑planning. He's become a much more cautious eater ever since.
The moral of the foregoing paragraphs? In the words of a 19th‑century publisher's blurb, a bug‑out box should contain "nothing that is superfluous, and all things that are useful." That's your passport to a speedy getaway.
Boiling the Kettle
Making the most of unexpected holidays is one of life's happier challenges, and none of us likes to see golden opportunities lost for want of preparation. Which is where the getaway pack comes in. Yet it's not the whole solution to the problem. Paddlers, like soldiers, travel on their stomachs, and good meals are pleasant interludes in camp life. That's why I've assembled a bug‑out box of ready‑to‑go entrées and staples. I haven't patented the idea, though. You can have one, too. All it takes is an old cardboard box and a little planning. Then it's ready, set, go. You're off! Do you have a better idea, or another way of doing the same thing? Don't keep it to yourself. I'd love to hear from you. And with your permission, I'll pass the word along to others, as well.

Head Strap Flashlight

Site Member       
Is your emergency kit complete?You need head strap flashlights in any kit that includes a flashlight. Every car should have one. I think every member of the family should. have used these for years I didn't realize there was Head Strap Flashlight "divide." Some people don't have them because they look goofy. Once you use them in a real world situation, you'll be a convert.The primary factor is "hand free" lighting. You often don't realize how much holding a light gets in the way of accomplishing tasks and compromising your safety.A tire change or any other car repair in the dark is far easier with both hands.Walking down flights of stairs or using a ladder in the dark is safer with both hands.When walking through the woods at night you are less likely to get injured with both hands available to balance yourself or break a fall. There are version that clips to the brim of your cap if you wear a ball cap.There are some good features to look for.Multiple brightness settings. Red lights for preserving night vision or not attracting bugs. Flashing lights to make you more visible.Some are powered with the over-sized watch batteries. The advantage is that they are compact. The disadvantage is that the replacement battery costs almost as much as the unit. Use the "AAA" version if you use them more often than emergencies. If you can try some varieties out, take the opportunity. Some are poorly angled and cause glare.There are two drawbacks. The normal LED draws in bugs, right to your face. You have to get used to not looking at who you are talking to. Get hands free lighting for your emergency kits and cars.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday 06-20-13

The don't use drones on Ameicain soil, now we do use drones but we dont have guidelines for the use of drones yet, but they do have guidelines for how many times an employee can go to the bathroom


Mueller: FBI uses drones for surveillance

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI uses drones for surveillance of stationary subjects, and the privacy implications of such operations are "worthy of debate," FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.
He said the law enforcement agency very seldom uses drones now, but is developing guidelines that will shape how unmanned aerial vehicles are to be used.
There will be a number of issues regarding drones "as they become more omnipresent, not the least of which is the drones in airspace and also the threat on privacy," Mueller said in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"We already have, to a certain extent, a body of law that relates to aerial surveillance and privacy relating to helicopters and small aircraft ... which could well be adapted to the use of drones," Mueller said. "It's still in its nascent stages ... but it's worthy of debate and perhaps legislation down the road."
Drones "allow us to learn critical information that otherwise would be difficult to obtain without introducing serious risk to law enforcement personnel," the FBI said in a statement following Mueller's comments at the Senate hearing.
The FBI used drones at night during a six-day hostage standoff in Alabama earlier this year. The standoff ended when members of an FBI rescue team stormed an underground bunker, killing gunman Jimmy Lee Dykes before he could harm a 5-year-old boy held hostage.
The FBI said its unmanned aerial vehicles are used only to conduct surveillance operations on stationary subjects. In each instance, the FBI first must obtain the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration to use the aircraft in a very confined geographic area.
The aerospace industry forecasts a worldwide deployment of almost 30,000 drones by 2018, with the United States accounting for half of them.

Noonan: Privacy Isn't All We're Losing

The surveillance state threatens Americans' love of country.

The U.S. surveillance state as outlined and explained by Edward Snowden is not worth the price. Its size, scope and intrusiveness, its ability to target and monitor American citizens, its essential unaccountability—all these things are extreme.

The purpose of the surveillance is enhanced security, a necessary goal to say the least. The price is a now formal and agreed-upon acceptance of the end of the last vestiges of Americans' sense of individual distance and privacy from the government. The price too is a knowledge, based on human experience and held by all but fools and children, that the gleanings of the surveillance state will eventually be used by the mischievous, the malicious and the ignorant in ways the creators of the system did not intend.

For all we know that's already happened. But of course we don't know: It's secret. Only the intelligence officials know, and they say everything's A-OK. The end of human confidence in a zone of individual privacy from the government, plus the very real presence of a system that can harm, harass or invade the everyday liberties of Americans. This is a recipe for democratic disaster.

If—again, if—what Mr. Snowden says is substantially true, the surveillance state will in time encourage an air of subtle oppression, and encourage too a sense of paranoia that may in time—not next week, but in time, as the years unfold—loosen and disrupt the ties the people of America feel to our country. "They spy on you here and will abuse the information they get from spying on you here. I don't like 'here.' "

Trust in government, historically, ebbs and flows, and currently, because of the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, Benghazi, etc.—and the growing evidence that the executive agencies have been reduced to mere political tools—is at an ebb that may not be fully reversible anytime soon. It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.

But again, you can always, or every four years, hire a new president. The ties you feel to your country are altogether more consequential, more crucial. And this is something we have to watch out for, and it has to do with the word "extreme," more on which in a moment.

How did we get here? You know. In the days after 9/11 all the clamor was for safety. Improve intelligence, find the bad guys, heighten surveillance. The government went to work. It is important to remember that 9/11 coincided almost exactly with the Internet revolution. They happened at pretty much the same time.

In the past 10 years technology sped up, could do more and more—big data, metadata. Capabilities became massive, and menacing.

Our government is not totalitarian. Our leaders, even the worst of them, are not totalitarian. But our technology is totalitarian, or rather it is there and can be used and abused by those whose impulses tend, even unconsciously or unthinkingly, in that direction.

So what's needed? We must realize this is a crucial moment: We either go forward with these programs now or we stop, and think. Some call for a conversation, but what we really need is a debate—a real argument. It will require a new candor from the government as to what the National Security Agency does and doesn't do. We need a new rigor in the areas of oversight and accountability—including explicit limits on what can and should be allowed, accompanied by explicit and even harsh penalties for violations. This debate will also require information that is reliable—that is, true—from the government about what past terrorist attempts have been slowed or stopped by the surveillance state.

Closing thoughts.

The NSA is only one of many recent revelations and events that have the ability to damage the ties Americans feel toward their country. It's not only big stories like the IRS, but stories that have flown mostly below the media's interest. Here is one: There was a doctor in Philadelphia who routinely killed full-term babies for years, and no one wanted to stop him for years. It got out of hand—he was collecting body parts in jars—and he was finally arrested, tried, sent to prison. People who are not extreme—people, forgive me, who are normal—who followed the story watched in a horrified, traumatized wonder. "They have places where they kill kids in America now, and it's kind of accepted." Those who watch closely say there are more such clinics, still up and operating. There's a bill in Congress now to limit abortions after the fifth month, the age at which hospitals can keep babies alive. It's not an extreme proposal, not in the least, but it's probably going nowhere. It's been called anti-woman.

I feel that almost everyone who talks about America for a living—politicians and journalists and even historians—is missing a huge and essential story: that too many things are happening that are making a lot of Americans feel a new distance from, a frayed affiliation with, the country they have loved for half a century and more, the country they loved without every having to think about it, so natural was it.

This isn't the kind of thing that can be quantified in polls—it's barely the kind of thing people admit to themselves. But talk to older Americans—they feel they barely know this country anymore. In governance it's crucial to stay within parameters, it's important not to strain ties, push too far, be extreme. And if you think this does not carry implications for down the road, for our healthy continuance as a nation, you are mistaken. Love keeps great nations going.

Some of the reaction to the NSA story is said to be generational. The young are said not to fear losing privacy, because they never knew it. The middle-aged, who grew up in peace and have families, want safety first, whatever it takes, even excess. Lately for wisdom I've been looking to the old. Go to somebody who's 75 and ask, "So if it turns out the U.S. government is really spying on American citizens and tracking everything they do, is that OK with you?" They'll likely say no, that's not what we do in America.

The other day on Fox News Channel I saw 79-year-old Eugene Cernan, an Apollo astronaut. Mr. Cernan's indignation about the state of things was so sincere, so there. China had just blasted into space, bringing its pride and sense of nationhood with it. America doesn't do that anymore, said Mr. Cernan, we're not achieving big things. Now we go nowhere.

The interviewer, Neil Cavuto, threw in a question about the spying.

Yes, we're under attack, said Mr. Cernan, but "we can handle it," we can go after "the bad guys" without hurting "the good guys," you can't give up your own liberty and your own freedom.

Exactly how a lot of us feel about it, rocket man.

Walmart's White Cloud toilet paper is tops

White Cloud Ultra toilet paper (Photo:
You're standing before a wall of white in the toilet paper aisle of your local retailer, thinking: How much difference can there really be between brands X,Y and Z? So you go with the cheapest, or the one you know best, only to be reminded later that, actually there's a big difference between good and bad TP. That's plain to see in Consumer Reports' toilet paper Ratings, where fifty points separate our first and last-place products. So before restocking your supply, be sure to check the results.

We test toilet paper on four key criteria, using a combination of machinery and sensory panelists. Strength is measured by an apparatus called an Instron, which pushes a steel ball through stacked sheets of paper. The same machine also evaluates tearing ease. All-important softness is determined by panelists, who gently caress each toilet paper. Disintegration, indicating how well paper will move through your home's plumbing, involves a water-filled beaker, a 20-inch stirring rod, and a vibrating plate.
The tough tests turn up quite a few stinkers. Take our bottom-rated CVS Earth Essentials, which received subpar scores for both strength and softness. Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value and Walgreens' Big Roll performed only slightly better. These toilet papers are almost sure to disappoint.
Great Value Ultra Strong toilet paper from Wal-Mart(Photo:
Out of the two dozen-plus products we tested, five performed well enough to make our winner's circle. Three are Walmart exclusives, including a pair of White Cloud products and Great Value Ultra Strong. Softness is superb with all three toilet papers, though only the top-rated White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra Soft and Thick combines softness with superior strength and disintegration. As a result, it was tops in our tests by a wide margin.
If you're not a Walmart shopper, consider our picks from Quilted Northern or CVS.
(See also: Is Starbucks really the best coffee?)
Looking for a green toilet paper? The most eco-friendly options are made from fibers recovered from paper that would otherwise end up in a landfill or incinerator, as opposed to trees from responsibly managed forests. Seventh Generation meets that claim, and it was quite soft in our tests, though not as strong as models that make our recommended list.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday 06-19-13

After an Easy Hearing, the NSA and FBI are Ready for a Drink

If you were wondering how the NSA and FBI felt about the very friendly hearing the House Intelligence Committee invited them to today, a hot mic has your answer. "Tell your boss," NSA Director Keith Alexander told the FBI deputy director, "I owe him another friggin' beer."
Ben Doernberg caught the exchange, which we've clipped below. Alexander, being photographed at bottom center, is speaking with FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, to his left.
Throughout the hearing the two worked together, with Alexander frequently setting up topics upon which Joyce expounded. When Alexander said that the government's surveillance tools had stopped over 50 terror attacks, Joyce described four of them. And so on. Over the course of three hours, the two faced little in the way of critique.
Nonetheless, they were ready for a brew. Their more informal exchange came after Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan banged the gavel.

Alexander: Thank you, Sean.

Joyce: Good to see you.

Alexander: Tell your boss … tell your boss I owe him another friggin' beer.

Joyce: Him?

Alexander: Yeah.

Joyce: Tell him to give it to me.

Alexander: (laughs) You want him to give it to you?

Joyce: Alright?
After today's performance, we're pretty sure that either Rogers — or Obama — would be happy to buy a round for all three.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday 06-18-13

Why exclude what is obliviously the hot bed areas, unless...

Obama's Snooping Excludes Mosques, Missed Boston Bombers

Homeland Insecurity: The White House assures that tracking our every phone call and keystroke is to stop terrorists, and yet it won't snoop in mosques, where the terrorists are.
That's right, the government's sweeping surveillance of our most private communications excludes the jihad factories where homegrown terrorists are radicalized.
Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee.
Who makes up this body, and how do they decide requests? Nobody knows; the names of the chairman, members and staff are kept secret.
We do know the panel was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel's formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.
Before mosques were excluded from the otherwise wide domestic spy net the administration has cast, the FBI launched dozens of successful sting operations against homegrown jihadists — inside mosques — and disrupted dozens of plots against the homeland.
If only they were allowed to continue, perhaps the many victims of the Boston Marathon bombings would not have lost their lives and limbs. The FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15 attacks, and it did not check out the radical Boston mosque where the Muslim bombers worshipped.
The bureau didn't even contact mosque leaders for help in identifying their images after those images were captured on closed-circuit TV cameras and cellphones.
One of the Muslim bombers made extremist outbursts during worship, yet because the mosque wasn't monitored, red flags didn't go off inside the FBI about his increasing radicalization before the attacks.
This is particularly disturbing in light of recent independent surveys of American mosques, which reveal some 80% of them preach violent jihad or distribute violent literature to worshippers.
What other five-alarm jihadists are counterterrorism officials missing right now, thanks to restrictions on monitoring the one area they should be monitoring?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday 06-17-13

A lot of bad stuff still going on in the world, I figured I would take a break from that with todays post

91-Year-Old Sets Bench Press World Record

Comeback stories are common in the world of sports. We hear about players coming back from torn ACLs, broken bones and even personal trauma.

Rarely, however, do we hear about an athlete returning from pacemaker surgery.

That's what 91-year-old Sy Perlis overcame to set a new world record in the 90-and-over weightlifting class. The Surprise, Ariz., native recently competed at the National Push-Pull Bench Press and Dead Lift Championships, and his final hoist of 187.5-pounds was good for the record books.

Perlis, a World War II veteran who didn't start lifting until he was 60, dominated the 85-to-90 age group before transitioning into the 90-and-over class. He had to sit out last year after surgery to fix a hernia and implant a pacemaker. Now he works out five days a week.

“It gave me the opportunity to do something to test myself for one thing, and I didn’t have to run around to do it, as you would in some other sports,” Perlis told the Arizona Republic of weightlifting. "I got a lot of satisfaction out of it, and it made me feel good, and it was good for me."

Perlis' hobby hasn't just been beneficial for him, it's also motivated his wife.

"I always say if it weren't for my husband, I’d be at home watching TV and eating bonbons,” Joan Perlis, 69, told the Arizona Republic. “He’s my motivator. He makes me work out, too."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday 06-13-13

Is This the REAL Reason for the Government Spying On Americans?

To understand the scope, extent and reason that the government spies on all Americans, you have to understand what has happened to our Constitutional form of government since 9/11.

State of Emergency

The United States has been in a declared state of emergency from September 2001, to the present. Specifically, on September 11, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:

A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001 . . .

That declared state of emergency has continued in full force and effect from 9/11 to the present. President Bush kept it in place, and President Obama has also.

For example, on September 9, 2011, President Obama declared:

Notice of President of the United States, dated Sept. 9, 2011, 76 F.R. 56633, provided:
Consistent with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency previously declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, and the continuing and immediate threat of
further attacks on the United States.

Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2011. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency that was declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and
transmitted to the Congress.

The Washington Times wrote on September 18, 2001:

Simply by proclaiming a national emergency on Friday, President Bush activated some 500 dormant legal provisions, including those allowing him to impose censorship and martial law.

The White House has kept substantial information concerning its presidential proclamations and directives hidden from Congress. For example, according to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy:

Of the 54 National Security Presidential Directives issued by the [George W.] Bush Administration to date, the titles of only about half have been publicly identified. There is descriptive material or actual text in the public domain for only about a third. In other words, there are dozens of undisclosed Presidential directives that define U.S. national security policy and task government agencies, but whose substance is unknown either to the public or, as a rule, to Congress.

Continuity of Government

Continuity of Government (“COG”) measures were implemented on 9/11. For example, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, at page 38:

At 9:59, an Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the White House Military Office joined the conference and stated he had just talked to Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. The White House requested (1) the implementation of continuity of government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, D.C.

Likewise, page 326 of the Report states:

The secretary of defense directed the nation’s armed forces to Defense Condition 3, an increased state of military readiness. For the first time in history, all nonemergency civilian aircraft in the United States were grounded, stranding tens of thousands of passengers across the country. Contingency plans for the continuity of government and the evacuation of leaders had been implemented.

The Washington Post notes that Vice President Dick Cheney initiated the COG plan on 9/11:

From the bunker, Cheney officially implemented the emergency continuity of government orders . . .

(See also footnotes cited therein and this webpage.)

CNN reported that – 6 months later – the plans were still in place:

Because Bush has decided to leave the operation in place, agencies including the White House and top civilian Cabinet departments have rotated personnel involved, and are discussing ways to staff such a contingency operation under the assumption it will be in place indefinitely, this official said.

Similarly, the Washington Post reported in March 2002 that “the shadow government has evolved into an indefinite precaution.” The same article goes on to state:

Assessment of terrorist risks persuaded the White House to remake the program as a permanent feature of ‘the new reality, based on what the threat looks like,’ a senior decisionmaker said.

As CBS pointed out, virtually none of the Congressional leadership knew that the COG had been implemented or was still in existence as of March 2002:

Key congressional leaders say they didn’t know President Bush had established a “shadow government,” moving dozens of senior civilian managers to secret underground locations outside Washington to ensure that the federal government could survive a devastating terrorist attack on the nation’s capital, The Washington Post says in its Saturday editions.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) told the Post he had not been informed by the White House about the role, location or even the existence of the shadow government that the administration began to deploy the morning of the Sept. 11 hijackings.
An aide to House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said he was also unaware of the administration’s move.
Among Congress’s GOP leadership, aides to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), second in line to succeed the president if he became incapacitated, and to Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) said they were not sure whether they knew.
Aides to Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said he had not been told. As Senate president pro tempore, he is in line to become president after the House speaker.

Similarly, the above-cited CNN article states:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said Friday he can’t say much about the plan.
“We have not been informed at all about the role of the shadow government or its whereabouts or what particular responsibilities they have and when they would kick in, but we look forward to work with the administration to get additional information on that.”

Indeed, the White House has specifically refused to share information about Continuity of Government plans with the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress, even though that Committee has proper security clearance to hear the full details of all COG plans.

Specifically, in the summer 2007, Congressman Peter DeFazio, on the Homeland Security Committee (and so with proper security access to be briefed on COG issues), inquired about continuity of government plans, and was refused access. Indeed, DeFazio told Congress that the entire Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress has been denied access to the plans by the White House.


(Or here is the transcript).

The Homeland Security Committee has full clearance to view all information about COG plans.

DeFazio concluded: “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right”.

University of California Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott points out that – whether or not COG plans are still in effect – the refusal of the executive branch to disclose their details to Congress means that the Constitutional system of checks and balances has already been gravely injured:

If members of the Homeland Security Committee cannot enforce their right to read secret plans of the Executive Branch, then the systems of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution would seem to be failing.
To put it another way, if the White House is successful in frustrating DeFazio, then Continuity of Government planning has arguably already superseded the Constitution as a higher authority.

Indeed, continuity of government plans are specifically defined to do the following:

  • Top leaders of the “new government” called for in the COG would entirely or largely go into hiding, and would govern in hidden locations

  • Those within the new government would know what was going on. But those in the “old government” – that is, the one created by the framers of the Constitution – would not necessarily know the details of what was happening

  • Normal laws and legal processes might largely be suspended, or superseded by secretive judicial forums

  • The media might be ordered by strict laws – punishable by treason – to only promote stories authorized by the new government

See this, this and this.

Could the White House have maintained COG operations to the present day?

I don’t know, but the following section from the above-cited CNN article is not very reassuring:

Bush triggered the precautions in the hours after the September 11 strikes, and has left them in place because of continuing U.S. intelligence suggesting a possible threat.
Concerns that al Qaeda could have gained access to a crude nuclear device “were a major factor” in the president’s decision, the official said. “The threat of some form of catastrophic event is the trigger,” this official said.
This same official went on to say that the U.S. had no confirmation — “and no solid evidence” — that al Qaeda had such a nuclear device and also acknowledged that the “consensus” among top U.S. officials was that the prospect was “quite low.”
Still, the officials said Bush and other top White House officials including Cheney were adamant that the government take precautions designed to make sure government functions ranging from civil defense to transportation and agricultural production could be managed in the event Washington was the target of a major strike.

As is apparent from a brief review of the news, the government has, since 9/11, continuously stated that there is a terrorist threat of a nuclear device or dirty bomb. That alone infers that COG plans could, hypothetically, still be in effect, just like the state of emergency is still in effect and has never been listed.

Indeed,  President Bush said on December 17, 2005, 4 years after 9/11:

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after Sept. 11 helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.
The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time.
And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.
During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation’s top legal officials, including the attorney general and the counsel to the president.
I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks [45 days times 30 equals approximately 4 years] and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from Al Qaeda and related groups.
The N.S.A.’s activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and N.S.A.’s top legal officials, including N.S.A.’s general counsel and inspector general.

In other words, it appears that as of December 2005, COG plans had never been rescincded, but had been continously renewed every 45 days, and .

In 2008, Tim Shorrock wrote at Salon:

A contemporary version of the Continuity of Government program was put into play in the hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Vice President Cheney and senior members of Congress were dispersed to “undisclosed locations” to maintain government functions. It was during this emergency period, Hamilton and other former government officials believe, that President Bush may have authorized the NSA to begin actively using the Main Core database for domestic surveillance [more on Main Core below]. One indicator they cite is a statement by Bush in December 2005, after the New York Times had revealed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, in which he made a rare reference to the emergency program: The Justice Department’s legal reviews of the NSA activity, Bush said, were based on “fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government.”

In 2007, President Bush issued Presidential Directive NSPD-51, which purported to change Continuity of Government plans. NSPD51 is odd because:

Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the President may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack, or to any ‘other condition.’ Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new Presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate.

  • As a reporter for Slate concluded after analyzing NSPD-51:

I see nothing in the [COG document entitled presidential directive NSPD51] to prevent even a “localized” forest fire or hurricane from giving the president the right to throw long-established constitutional government out the window

  • White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that “because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the American public needs no explanation of [Continuity of Government] plans”

This is all the more bizarre when you realize that COG plans were originally created solely to respond to a decapitating nuclear strike which killed our civilian leaders.   (It was subsequently expanded decades before 9/11 into a multi-purpose plan by our good friends Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. See this, this and this.)

Does COG Explain the Pervasive Spying on Americans?

5 years ago, investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham disclosed the spying which was confirmed last week by  whistleblower Edward Snowden:

The following information seems to be fair game for collection without a warrant: the e-mail addresses you send to and receive from, and the subject lines of those messages; the phone numbers you dial, the numbers that dial in to your line, and the durations of the calls; the Internet sites you visit and the keywords in your Web searches; the destinations of the airline tickets you buy; the amounts and locations of your ATM withdrawals; and the goods and services you purchase on credit cards. All of this information is archived on government supercomputers and, according to sources, also fed into the Main Core database.

Given that Ketcham was proven right, let’s see what else he reported:

Given that Ketcham was right about the basics, let’s hear what else the outstanding investigative journalist said in 2008:

There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.” He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.”
According to one news report, even “national opposition to U.S. military invasion abroad” could be a trigger [for martial law ].
When COG plans are shrouded in extreme secrecy, effectively unregulated by Congress or the courts, and married to an overreaching surveillance state—as seems to be the case with Main Core—even sober observers must weigh whether the protections put in place by the federal government are becoming more dangerous to America than any outside threat.
Another well-informed source—a former military operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community—says this particular program has roots going back at least to the 1980s and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has been told that the program utilizes software that makes predictive judgments of targets’ behavior and tracks their circle of associations with “social network analysis” and artificial intelligence modeling tools.
A former NSA officer tells Radar that the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, using an electronic-funds transfer surveillance program, also contributes data to Main Core, as does a Pentagon program that was created in 2002 to monitor antiwar protesters and environmental activists such as Greenpeace.
If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people.
A veteran CIA intelligence analyst who maintains active high-level clearances and serves as an advisor to the Department of Defense in the field of emerging technology tells Radar that during the 2004 hospital room drama, [current nominee to head the FBI, and former Deputy Attorney General] James Comey expressed concern over how this secret database was being used “to accumulate otherwise private data on non-targeted U.S. citizens for use at a future time.” [Snowden and high-level NSA whistleblower William Binney have since confirmed this] …. A source regularly briefed by people inside the intelligence community adds: “Comey had discovered that President Bush had authorized NSA to use a highly classified and compartmentalized Continuity of Government database on Americans in computerized searches of its domestic intercepts. [Comey] had concluded that the use of that ‘Main Core’ database compromised the legality of the overall NSA domestic surveillance project.”
The veteran CIA intelligence analyst notes that Comey’s suggestion that the offending elements of the program were dropped could be misleading: “Bush [may have gone ahead and] signed it as a National Intelligence Finding anyway.” But even if we never face a national emergency, the mere existence of the database is a matter of concern. “The capacity for future use of this information against the American people is so great as to be virtually unfathomable,” the senior government official says.
In any case, mass watch lists of domestic citizens may do nothing to make us safer from terrorism. Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM, a world-renowned expert in data mining, contends that such efforts won’t prevent terrorist conspiracies. “Because there is so little historical terrorist event data,” Jonas tells Radar, “there is not enough volume to create precise predictions.”
[J. Edgar Hoover's] FBI “security index” was allegedly maintained and updated into the 1980s, when it was reportedly transferred to the control of none other than FEMA (though the FBI denied this at the time).
FEMA, however—then known as the Federal Preparedness Agency—already had its own domestic surveillance system in place, according to a 1975 investigation by Senator John V. Tunney of California. Tunney, the son of heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney and the inspiration for Robert Redford’s character in the film The Candidate, found that the agency maintained electronic dossiers on at least 100,000 Americans that contained information gleaned from wide-ranging computerized surveillance. The database was located in the agency’s secret underground city at Mount Weather, near the town of Bluemont, Virginia. [One of the main headquarter of COG operations.] The senator’s findings were confirmed in a 1976 investigation by the Progressive magazine, which found that the Mount Weather computers “can obtain millions of pieces [of] information on the personal lives of American citizens by tapping the data stored at any of the 96 Federal Relocation Centers”—a reference to other classified facilities. According to the Progressive, Mount Weather’s databases were run “without any set of stated rules or regulations. Its surveillance program remains secret even from the leaders of the House and the Senate.”
Wired magazine turned up additional damaging information, revealing in 1993 that [Oliver] North, operating from a secure White House site, allegedly employed a software database program called PROMIS (ostensibly as part of the REX 84 plan). PROMIS, which has a strange and controversial history, was designed to track individuals—prisoners, for example—by pulling together information from disparate databases into a single record. According to Wired, “Using the computers in his command center, North tracked dissidents and potential troublemakers within the United States. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s enemies list or Senator Joe McCarthy’s blacklist look downright crude.” Sources have suggested to Radar that government databases tracking Americans today, including Main Core, could still have PROMIS-based legacy code from the days when North was running his programs.
Marty Lederman, a high-level official at the Department of Justice under Clinton, writing on a law blog last year, wondered, “How extreme were the programs they implemented [after 9/11]? How egregious was the lawbreaking?” Congress has tried, and mostly failed, to find out.
We are at the edge of a cliff and we’re about to fall off,” says constitutional lawyer and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein. “To a national emergency planner, everybody looks like a danger to stability. There’s no doubt that Congress would have the authority to denounce all this—for example, to refuse to appropriate money for the preparation of a list of U.S. citizens to be detained in the event of martial law. But Congress is the invertebrate branch.
UPDATE [from Ketcham]: Since this article went to press, several documents have emerged to suggest the story has longer legs than we thought. Most troubling among these is an October 2001 Justice Department memo that detailed the extra-constitutional powers the U.S. military might invoke during domestic operations following a terrorist attack. In the memo, John Yoo, then deputy assistant attorney general, “concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.” (Yoo, as most readers know, is author of the infamous Torture Memo that, in bizarro fashion, rejiggers the definition of “legal” torture to allow pretty much anything short of murder.) In the October 2001 memo, Yoo refers to a classified DOJ document titled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.” According to the Associated Press, “Exactly what domestic military action was covered by the October memo is unclear. But federal documents indicate that the memo relates to the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Attorney General John Mukasey last month refused to clarify before Congress whether the Yoo memo was still in force.

Americans have the right to know whether a COG program is  still in effect, and whether the spying on our phone calls and Internet usage stems from such COG plans. Indeed, 9/11 was a horrible blow, but it was not a decapitating nuclear strike on our leaders … so COG and the state of emergency should be lifted.

If COG plans are not still in effect, we have the right to demand that “enemies lists” and spying capabilities developed  for the purpose of responding to a nuclear war be discarded , as we have not been hit by nuclear weapons … and our civilian leaders – on Capital Hill, the White House, and the judiciary – are still alive and able to govern.