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January 31, 2007
Czechs give go-ahead for US 'son of star wars' base
"The Czech government has announced that it wants to host a large US military site for the Pentagon's much-criticised missile shield system, confirming for the first time that Washington had asked Prague for permission to build a radar site for the national missile defence programme.
The US has been quietly negotiating with the Czechs and the Poles for four years, while scouting Poland and areas east of the Czech capital, Prague, for suitable missile defence sites. Both centre-right governments in Prague and Warsaw are pro-American. If the US plan gets a green light, the spending on the Polish and Czech projects is likely to total $1.6bn (£810m) with the bases built by 2011."
Outcry as US targets City firms over online gambling (UK)
"Subpoenas have been issued by the Southern District Court of New York to at least 16 banks, including HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. The official demands for e-mails, telephone records and other documents form part of a controversial push by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to build cases against individuals and companies who profited from online gaming in the US."
U.S. NETeller arrests deal blow to Net gambling
"U.S. prosecutors have delivered a severe blow to online gambling companies that are flouting a U.S. ban on Internet gambling by arresting two founders of payment processor NETeller.
Britain's NETeller closed its U.S. Internet gambling services on Thursday, wiping out over 65 percent of its business, after two of its founders were arrested there this week."
Secret Court to Govern Wiretapping Plan
"The Justice Department, easing a Bush administration policy, said Wednesday it has decided to give an independent body authority to monitor the government's controversial domestic spying program."
Justice wants spying lawsuit dropped
"The Bush administration sought on Thursday to drop its appeal of a federal court ruling that concluded the government's domestic spying program is unconstitutional, saying the entire issue is moot since the surveillance now is monitored by a secret court."
U.S. civilians can face military trials
"A last-minute addition to a federal spending bill at the end of the last U.S. Congress now makes civilians eligible for military courts-martial.
With the addition of just five words, the provision sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was signed into law by President Bush, and makes civilian government employees and journalists eligible for prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Washington Post reported Monday."
Thousands may be involuntarily called for tours
"Hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members previously mobilized for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed anew to involuntary call-up under a policy change unveiled with President Bush's plan to 'surge' forces into Baghdad."
Gonzales says the Constitution doesn't guarantee habeas corpus
"'The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas,' Gonzales told Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 17.
Gonzales acknowledged that the Constitution declares 'habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless ... in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.' But he insisted that 'there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.'"
Not exactly reassuring - being expected to play children's games with Miniluv...
No-Fly List Checked for Accuracy, Cut
"Hawley was questioned by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., about the lack of screening for passengers on private aircraft, which Rockefeller called 'very disturbing.'
Hawley said there are many security measures in place on the ground around general aviation terminals, but that the department is considering the longer-term issue of whether such private flight passengers should be subjected to individual screening.
Senators also asked Hawley about a provision recommended by the 9/11 Commission, and passed by the House last week, that would require 100 percent physical inspection of all air cargo loaded onto passenger planes. The Senate has yet to act on the measure."
Maine revolts against digital U.S. ID card
"Maine lawmakers on Thursday became the first in the nation to demand repeal of a federal law tightening identification requirements for drivers' licenses, a post-September 11 security measure that states say will cost them billions of dollars to administer.
Maine lawmakers passed a resolution urging repeal of the Real ID Act, which would create a national digital identification system by 2008. The lawmakers said it would cost Maine about $185 million, fail to boost security and put people at greater risk of identity theft."
Potshot at Guantanamo lawyers backfires
"Two weeks after a senior Pentagon official suggested that corporations should pressure their law firms to stop assisting detainees at Guantanamo Bay, major companies have turned the tables on the Pentagon and issued statements supporting the law firms' work on behalf of terrorism suspects.
That support is not what Stimson predicted when he gave a radio interview Jan. 11, the fifth anniversary of the day the detainees were brought to the base.
Stimson told the Washington-based Federal News Radio that the cause of detainees was 'not popular' with the American people and that the list of major law firms representing the detainees was 'shocking.'"
FBI turns to broad new wiretap method
"The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.
Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords."
Russia media scorns massive 'terror' alert
"Russian newspapers have poured scorn on a vast anti-terrorism operation launched nationwide the previous day, asking whether the whole scare was just an exercise or even a politically motivated trick."
Prison ships to ease overcrowding (UK)
Taxman grounds US space tripper
"A US man who won a free trip to outer space in an online competition has had to cancel it, after realising he would have to pay tax on his prize."
Web giants ask for feds' help on censorship
"Google, Yahoo and Microsoft representatives on Tuesday implored the U.S. government to help set ground rules for complying with demands by foreign law enforcement agencies for user records or censorship."
Google Kills Bush's Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs
"After just over two years, Google has finally defused the 'Google Bomb' that has returned US President George W. Bush at the top of its results in a search on miserable failure. The move wasn't a post-State Of The Union Address gift for Bush. Instead, it's part of an overall algorithm change designed to stop such mass link pranks from working."
January 16, 2007
Marines' Photos Provide Graphic Evidence in Haditha Probe
"The images are contained in thousands of pages of NCIS investigative documents obtained by The Washington Post. Post editors decided that most of the images are too graphic to publish."
U.S. says Somalia must not become terror haven
"The United States said on Tuesday it was very concerned over the presence of al Qaeda 'terrorists' in Somalia, where local officials say the U.S. launched air strikes killing more than 20 people this week."
US strikes on al-Qa'ida chiefs kill nomads
"Oxfam yesterday confirmed at least 70 nomads in the Afmadow district near the border with Kenya had been killed. The nomads were bombed at night and during the day while searching for water sources. Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Kenya has acknowledged that the onslaught on Islamist fighters failed to kill any of the three prime targets wanted for their alleged role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Yesterday the Americans had boots on the ground for the first time since a 1993 mission backfired and led to a humiliating withdrawal from Somalia. According to The Washington Post, a small number of US military personnel are in southern Somalia trying to determine exactly who was killed in the raids by an AC-130 gunship."
Taxman to get bugging and phone-tap powers (UK)
"Tax inspectors are to be given new powers allowing them to tap taxpayers’ telephones and plant bugs inside their homes and offices.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says its inspectors need such covert surveillance to tackle the growing threat from organised and white-collar crime."
US 'licence to snoop' on British air travellers
"Britons flying to America could have their credit card and email accounts inspected by the United States authorities following a deal struck by Brussels and Washington.
By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account.
The extent of the demands were disclosed in 'undertakings' given by the US Department of Homeland Security to the European Union and published by the Department for Transport after a Freedom of Information request."
Evidence shows Milan CIA chief opposed cleric's kidnapping
"After simmering for nearly three years, the unparalleled investigation is about to come to a rolling boil here in the massive Tribunale di Milano, the first case in anyone's memory in which CIA operatives have been charged with non-espionage-related crimes.
The evidence that will be laid out in the preliminary hearing is more than the story of the CIA's lax 'tradecraft' in abducting Abu Omar in February 2003, a remarkable degree of sloppiness that allowed the Milan police to unravel an operation costing hundreds of thousands of U.S. taxpayer dollars."
Chavez: Will Nationalize Telecoms, Power
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced plans Monday to nationalize the country's electrical and telecommunications companies, calling them 'strategic sectors' that should be in the hands of the nation."
EPIC's 2006 privacy year in review
"Here are the Top Ten Privacy Stories of 2006 and Ten Privacy Issues to Watch in 2007 from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)"
Anti-terrorism program mines IRS' records
"To help the IRS increase its ability to organize and share sensitive financial information, the agency's law enforcement arm began in 2002 building a sophisticated data-mining system it named Reveal. Current and former IRS officials say this system has been invaluable in building cases against suspected terrorists and money launderers.
One of the IRS databases mined by Reveal includes tax returns for nonprofit organizations and charities, according to government documents. Some attachments on these returns include lists of major donors.
Reveal also searches IRS databases of individual and corporate tax returns, and the records of financial institutions, accountants, banks and casinos, all of which are required to file reports with the Treasury Department and the IRS.
The system uses a powerful software program that allows investigators to combine at least 16 Treasury and IRS databases with counterterrorism information, according to public documents. One unpublished government description of Reveal claims it also searches personal information the agency buys from data aggregators ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis."
Pentagon abandons active-duty time limit
"The Pentagon also announced it is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.
Until now, the Pentagon's policy on the Guard or Reserve was that members' cumulative time on active duty for the Iraq or Afghan wars could not exceed 24 months. That cumulative limit is now lifted; the remaining limit is on the length of any single mobilization, which may not exceed 24 consecutive months, Pace said."
Guantánamo inmates ‘driven insane’
"Prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba are being driven insane by a tightening of conditions and the situation of their indefinite detention without trial, according to lawyers and rights activists involved with the US camp."
Official Attacks Top Law Firms Over Detainees
"The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation's top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms' corporate clients should consider ending their business ties."
White House defends signing statement attached to postal reform bill
"The White House has defended President Bush's attachment of a signing statement to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, dismissing arguments that the statement changes administration policy on when mail can be opened without a warrant. Bush signed the law in late December and attached a statement, which said in part:
The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection."
ACLU Seeks Answers and Congressional Oversight on President Bush’s Snooping Authority
"The American Civil Liberties Union today said that it plans to file a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information about President Bush’s statement that he is authorized to open people’s mail without a warrant in emergency conditions."
Pentagon Viewing Americans' Bank Records
"The Pentagon and to a lesser extent the CIA have been using a little-known power to look at the banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage within the United States, officials said Saturday."
Pentagon, students settle privacy case
"The Pentagon has agreed to new limits on the use of student information contained in a massive database used for military recruiting.
The rule changes, reported in the Federal Register yesterday, settle a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five high school students who said the database violated their privacy rights.
The database, known as JAMRS for Joint Advertising and Market Research Studies, contains some 40 million names culled from various sources, including lists purchased from marketing firms."
Privacy Rights Advocates Wary of Justice Department’s Online Surveillance Plans
"According to a report from McClatchy News, the U.S. Justice Department is currently in negotiations with large Internet service providers (ISPs) in the hopes of improving their ability to monitor online traffic.
The report says that the Justice Department is seeking new guidelines that would allow federal officials to track website traffic for domestic online users."
Boston to press U.S. Congress for tougher gun laws
Toyota Developing Drunken Driving System
"Toyota Motor Corp. is developing a fail-safe system for cars that detects drunken drivers and automatically shuts the vehicle down if sensors pick up signs of excessive alcohol consumption, a news report said Wednesday.
Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, according to a report carried by the mass-circulation daily, Asahi Shimbun."
Atlanta cops take down a jaywalking professor
"A distinguished British historian who tried to cross a road in Atlanta, Georgia, has complained of being wrestled to the ground, pinioned by five police officers and imprisoned.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, 56, visiting professor of global environmental history at the University of London, was at the conference of the American Historical Association when he was caught jaywalking.
'I didn't appreciate the gravity of the offence,' Professor Fernandez-Armesto said. 'And I didn't recognise him as a policeman. He was wearing ... a bomber jacket, like a jerkin.'
The officer asked the professor for identification. The professor asked the officer for identification. Officer Leonpacher then told him he was under arrest and subjected him to 'terrible, terrible violence', the professor said.
'This young man kicked my legs from under me, wrenched me round, pinned me to the ground, wrenched my arms behind my back, handcuffed me.' The officer sought help and 'I had five burly policemen pinioning me to the ground'. "
Tax Forms Mailed With Social Security Numbers
"Wisconsin's revenue agency said Friday that it sent as many as 170,000 forms to taxpayers with mailing labels mistakenly printed with their Social Security numbers."
Proposed health care plan seeks to insure all Californians
"A proposed solution for improving California's health care system presented by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week would, if put into effect, become one of the nation's most sweeping strategies to battle rising medical bills by extending health insurance coverage to all state residents.
The governor's proposal calls for employers, doctors, hospitals, insurance providers, and federal and state governments to shoulder the weight of providing the insurance - a concept he dubbed Jan. 8 as 'shared responsibility'."
France to create 'legal right' to housing
Bangor Makes It Illegal to Smoke in Cars (US)
"The Bangor City Council approved a measure Monday that prohibits people from smoking in vehicles when children are present.
When the law goes into effect next week, Bangor will become the first municipality in Maine to have such a law. Similar statewide measures have been adopted in Arkansas and Louisiana and are under consideration in several other states."
Terrorists 'use Google maps to hit UK troops'