Watching How We Are Watched

The Wrong Way To Carry Out Video Surveillance in D.C.

For more than five years, security experts and privacy advocates have praised the public video surveillance network operated by the D.C. police department as the model of a well-balanced system. The department has adopted a set of common-sense regulations for its 91 cameras that give police access to footage when they need it while protecting the privacy rights of the millions who live or work in Washington.

We were greatly disappointed, then, to hear Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Darrell Darnell, director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, announce plans this month [front page, April 10] to centralize monitoring of more than 5,000 cameras, including those in and around our schools, public housing and residential neighborhoods. Even worse, it appears that Darnell’s office has no plans to apply the D.C. police department’s best-in-the-nation safeguards.

In February, the D.C. police released a report evaluating the successes and failures of the video surveillance system. The report concluded that since the network was expanded into residential areas, some types of crime have declined in those neighborhoods. The department was applauded for undertaking an examination of its own system: A public account of how a video surveillance system affects the lives of a city’s residents promotes accountability. Sadly, the reporting requirement is one that may be scrapped as the D.C. police department loses control of the network.

Unchecked video surveillance invades individual privacy rights. People in public spaces routinely engage in activities that they expect and desire to keep private. For example, consider attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or seeking treatment at a fertility clinic — legal and private activities — while faceless individuals track your movements. This is an area in which the law has not kept pace with rapidly changing technology. We need well-reasoned guidelines to protect the privacy rights of individuals in the face of emerging surveillance tools.

Read moreWatching How We Are Watched

Chicago Police to use M4 carbines

CHICAGO — Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis has plans to equip the department’s officers with M4 carbines to match the firepower of the street gangs they have to face to stop the wave of shootings in the city.

Weis’ decision to arm and train his 13,500 officers with more powerful weapons was disclosed Friday.

Chicago Police SWAT teams are already equipped with M4 carbines, but rank-and-file officers are currently only allowed to carry handguns.

The M4 is a short assault rifle used by the Marine Corps, and it fires more shots in less time than most handguns. The fully automatic version can fire up to 1,000 rounds a minute, although the magazines only hold from 20 to 30 shots.

Chicago police spokeswoman Antoinette Ursitti had no further details about the plan Saturday.

Published April 26, 2008

Source: fortmilltimes

National “DNA warehouse” bill passes

Passing the House of Representatives on a voice vote, S. 1858 has been sent to President Bush for signature. The Newborn Genetic Screening bill was passed by the Senate last December.

The bill violates the U.S. Constitution and the Nuremberg Code, writes Twila Brase, president of the Citizen’s Council on Health Care (CCHC). “The DNA taken at birth from every citizen is essentially owned by the government, and every citizen becomes a potential subject of government-sponsored genetic research,” she states. “It does not require consent and there are no requirements to inform parents about the warehousing of their child’s DNA for the purpose of genetic research. Already, in Minnesota, the state health department reports that 42,210 children of the 780,000 whose DNA is housed in the Minnesota ‘DNA warehouse’ have been subjected to genetic research without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”

The federal government lacks the Constitutional authority as well as the competence to develop a newborn screening program, states Rep. Ron Paul, M.D. (R-TX). He states that all hospitals will probably scrap their own newborn testing program and adopt the federal model, whatever its flaws, to avoid the loss of federal funding.

“Drafters of the legislation made no effort to ensure that these newborn screening programs do not violate the privacy rights of parents and children,” Dr. Paul noted.

Ms. Brase has called on President Bush to veto the bill.

Additional information:

Source: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

US navy fires at Iranian boats as tension rises in the Gulf

The United States navy fired warning shots at two Iranian boats in the Gulf yesterday in the worst confrontation yet in the world’s busiest oil shipping lanes.

A US forces security team on a chartered transport ship used loudhailers, radios and flares to warn off two small Iranian boats acting in an “unclear” manner.

But the boats ignored the warning and the Americans opened fire, unleashing several bursts of live ammunition. The incident took place in the early morning near the international boundary in an area designated by the US navy as the Central Arabian Gulf.

Read moreUS navy fires at Iranian boats as tension rises in the Gulf

Rationing of rice hits Britain’s Chinese and curry restaurants

Rice is being rationed in Britain as shopkeepers limit supplies to their customers to prevent hoarding. Restrictions on sales in Asian neighbourhoods are reported as emergency measures are taken by governments worldwide to combat the soaring cost of rice and prevent outbreaks of food rioting.

Tilda, the biggest importer of basmati rice, said that its buyers had resorted to restricting their customers to two bags per person.

“It is happening in the cash and carries,” said Jona-than Calland, of Tilda.

“It’s to stop people from hoarding. I heard from our salesforce that one lady went into a cash and carry and tried to buy eight 20kg bags.”

Read moreRationing of rice hits Britain’s Chinese and curry restaurants

UN secretary-general calls food price rise a global crisis

VIENNA, Austria – A sharp rise in food prices has developed into a global crisis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

Ban said the U.N and all members of the international community were very concerned and immediate action was needed.

He spoke to reporters at U.N. offices in Austria, where he was meeting with the nation’s top leaders for talks on how the United Nations and European Union can forge closer ties.

“This steeply rising price of food — it has developed into a real global crisis,” Ban said, adding that the World Food Program has made an urgent appeal for additional $755 million.

“The United Nations is very much concerned, as (are) all other members of the international community,” Ban said. “We must take immediate action in a concerted way.”

Ban urged leaders of the international community to sit down together on an “urgent basis” to discuss how to improve economic distribution systems and promote the production of agricultural products.

An estimated 40 percent increase in food prices since last year has sparked violent protests in the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia.

On Thursday, U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization chief Jacques Diouf said immediate efforts should focus on helping farmers in developing countries grow more crops.

Josette Sheeran, the World Food Program’s executive director, has likened the price increases to a “silent tsunami,” and said requests for food aid are coming in from countries unable to cope with the rising prices.

She noted that the price of rice has more than doubled since March. The World Bank estimates that food prices have increased by 83 percent in three years.

By VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press WriterFri Apr 25, 12:44 PM ET

Source: AP

Joint Chiefs of Staff: US prepping military options against Iran

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon is planning “potential” military actions against Iran, reports The Washington Post.

Mullen criticized Iran’s “‘increasingly lethal and malign influence’ in Iraq,” writes Ann Scott Tyson for the Post.

Addressing concerns about the US military’s capability of dealing with yet another conflict at a time when forces are purportedly stretched thin, Mullen said war with Iran “would be ‘extremely stressing’ but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force,” Tyson notes.

“It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” she quotes the U.S.’s top military leader at a Pentagon news conference.

Mullen’s assertion comes a day after American forces reportedly fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats in the Persian Gulf, a confrontation that Iran denies took place.

A prior incident involving U.S. forces in the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian speedboats in January of this year–which Republican White House candidates used (with the notable exception of Ron Paul) as a saber-rattling opportunity during a nationally-televised debate–was later discredited as a virtual fabrication.

Excerpts from the Post article, available in full here, follow…

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…Mullen made clear that he prefers a diplomatic solution to the tensions with Iran and does not foresee any imminent military action. “I have no expectations that we’re going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future,” he said.

Mullen’s statements and others by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently signal a new rhetorical onslaught by the Bush administration against Iran, amid what officials say is increased Iranian provision of weapons, training and financing to Iraqi groups that are attacking and killing Americans.

In a speech Monday at West Point, Gates said Iran “is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” He said a war with Iran would be “disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat.”

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who was nominated this week to head all U.S. forces in the Middle East, is preparing a briefing soon to lay out detailed evidence of increased Iranian involvement in Iraq, Mullen said. The briefing will detail, for example, the discovery in Iraq of weapons that were very recently manufactured in Iran, he said.

Source: The Raw Story