What’s Up with the Secret Cybersecurity Plans, Senators Ask DHS

The government’s new cyber-security “Manhattan Project” is so secretive that a key Senate oversight panel has been reduced to writing a letter to beg for answers to the most basic questions, such as what’s going on, what’s the point and what about privacy laws.

The Senate Homeland Security committee wants to know, for example, what is the goal of Homeland Security’s new National Cyber Security Center. They also want to know why it is that in March, DHS announced that Silicon Valley evangelist and security novice Rod Beckstrom would direct the center, when up to that point DHS said the mere existence of the center was classified.

Those are just two sub-questions out of a list of 17 multi-part questions centrist Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent to DHS in a letter Friday.

In fact, although the two say they asked for a briefing five months ago on what the center does, DHS has yet to explain its latest acronym.

The panel, noted it was pleased with the new focus on cyber security, but questioned Homeland Security’s request to triple the center’s cyber-security budget to about $200 million.
They cited concerns about the secrecy around the project, its reliance on contractors for the operation of the center and lack of dialogue with private companies that specialize in internet security.

That center is just one small part of the government’s new found interest in computer security, a project dubbed the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which has been rumored to eventually get some $30 billion in funding.

Little is known about the initiative since it was created via a secret presidential order in January, though the Washington Post reports that portions of it may be made public soon.

Read moreWhat’s Up with the Secret Cybersecurity Plans, Senators Ask DHS

Defense Industry Consolidation in the USA

The US GAO’s 2008 Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs is proving to have a longer tail than usual. Booz Allen Hamilton is a strategic/ I.T/ program assistance consultancy with strong representation in the government and defense sectors. This May Day, we refer readers to the recent Washington Post article “One-Stop Defense Shopping,” wherein Booz Allen Hamilton VPs Dov S. Zakheim and Ronald T. Kadish discuss the state of competition in the American defense industry, and some of its consequences:

“The GAO report lays bare a festering problem in our nation’s military procurement system: Competition barely exists in the defense industry and is growing weaker by the day.

It was a different story just two decades ago. In the 1980s, 20 or more prime contractors competed for most defense contracts. Today, the Pentagon relies primarily on six main contractors to build our nation’s aircraft, missiles, ships and other weapons systems. It is a system that largely forgoes competition on price, delivery and performance and replaces it with a kind of “design bureau” competition, similar to what the Soviet Union used—hardly a recipe for success….”

America is certainly not the only country facing these pressures: Britain is even farther down this road, and Europe is aggressively moving to restructure its own industry into a very few global competitors. Ultimately, the policy implications described here will be played out on a near-global basis, with the possible exception of China.

30-Apr-2008 18:27 EDT

Source: Defense Industry Daily

Homeland Security Update: Chertoff Says New Laws Needed

At a speech before the Heritage Foundation this week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the U.S. needs to have a “nonpoliticized, serious discussion” while writing new laws to define the best way to combat terrorism.

Chertoff said that once laws are written, the public should not second-guess government actions and claim that federal officials are overstepping their authority. He decried critics who make such accusations, despite the widespread pubic calls after the September 11, 2001 attacks for the U.S. government to do more to protect the country. Chertoff further said U.S. society needs to come to a determination as to what are acceptable authorities for the U.S. government versus what violates people’s rights.

If the public limits what the government can do, it must accept that the risk of terrorist attacks may increase, he said. If the public gives the government greater authorities, it should not criticize the government for using those authorities at a later date.

Chertoff called U.S. laws “woefully inadequate” in the context of current technology. He said the most significant step American society needs to take is adapting laws to the 21st Century challenge of fighting terrorism. Changes in technology have created unique challenges for the government when it comes to intercepting communications, as well as collecting and analyzing information found in the public domain according to Chertoff.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Source: Helicopter Association International

Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security. – Benjamin Franklin

Making a killing from hunger

We need to overturn food policy, now!

GRAIN

For some time now the rising cost of food all over the world has taken households, governments and the media by storm. The price of wheat has gone up by 130% over the last year.[1] Rice has doubled in price in Asia in the first three months of 2008 alone,[2] and just last week it hit record highs on the Chicago futures market.[3] For most of 2007 the spiralling cost of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, as well as of dairy and meat, led to a fall in the consumption of these items. From Haiti to Cameroon to Bangladesh, people have been taking to the streets in anger at being unable to afford the food they need. In fear of political turmoil, world leaders have been calling for more food aid, as well as for more funds and technology to boost agricultural production. Cereal exporting countries, meanwhile, are closing their borders to protect their domestic markets, while other countries have been forced into panic buying. Is this a price blip? No. A food shortage? Not that either. We are in a structural meltdown, the direct result of three decades of neoliberal globalisation.

Farmers across the world produced a record 2.3 billion tons of grain in 2007, up 4% on the previous year. Since 1961 the world’s cereal output has tripled, while the population has doubled. Stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s true,[4] but the bottom line is that there is enough food produced in the world to feed the population. The problem is that it doesn’t get to all of those who need it. Less than half of the world’s grain production is directly eaten by people. Most goes into animal feed and, increasingly, biofuels – massive inflexible industrial chains. In fact, once you look behind the cold curtain of statistics, you realise that something is fundamentally wrong with our food system. We have allowed food to be transformed from something that nourishes people and provides them with secure livelihoods into a commodity for speculation and bargaining. The perverse logic of this system has come to a head. Today it is staring us in the face that this system puts the profits of investors before the food needs of people.

Read moreMaking a killing from hunger

GLOBAL ELITE GATHER IN D.C.

Trilateral Commission members want suffering U.S. taxpayers to shell out even more money

The Trilateral Commission-one of the three most powerful globalist groups in the world-held closed-door meetings right here in Washington, D.C. from April 25 to 28. True to form, those members of the media who knew about the meeting-or were themselves participants in the proceedings-refused to discuss what went on inside or report on the attendees. Luckily, AFP’s own editor, Jim Tucker, was on the scene to bust this clandestine confabulation wide open.By James P. Tucker Jr.

Luminaries at the Trilateral Commission meeting in Washington expressed confidence that they own all three major presidential candidates, who, despite political posturing, will support sovereignty-surrendering measures such as NAFTA and the “North American Union.”

“John has always supported free trade, even while campaigning before union leaders,” said one. “Hil and Barack are pretending to be unhappy about some things, but that’s merely political posturing. They’re solidly in support.”

He was referring to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Mrs. Clinton, they noted, held strategy sessions as first lady on how to get Congress to approve NAFTA “without changes.” As president, they agreed, she would do no more than “dot an i or cross a t.”

Candidate Obama has not denied news reports in Canada that his top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, assured Canadian diplomats that the senator would keep NAFTA intact and his anti-trade talk is just “campaign rhetoric.”

PETRIFIED ABOUT PAUL

While they are confident they can deal with any “potential president,” the Trilateralists paid huge tribute to Ron Paul in an equally large twist of irony, by expressing alarm that he is causing “significant future damage.”

They expressed concern that Paul’s rallies have attracted multitudes of young people who are getting “their political education.” They want Republicans to pressure Paul to drop out now and stop his education rallies. This assignment was given to Thomas Foley, former U.S. House speaker.

The reasons Paul’s “education campaign” strikes fear into Trilateral hearts are obvious. Paul would refuse to surrender an ounce of U.S. sovereignty to an international organization and TC wants world government.

Paul would immediately bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, Afghanistan and from 130 UN “peacekeeping” missions around the globe. TC wants to enjoy war profiteering and global power. Paul would abolish the federal income tax while the TC wants to pile on a global tax payable to the UN.

The formal agenda was loaded with everything Paul and American patriots detest: higher taxes, more foreign giveaways, more immigration, both legal and illegal, into the United States and “engaging Iran,” among others.

Read moreGLOBAL ELITE GATHER IN D.C.

IBM joins Lockheed on FBI identification contract

IBM Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. have agreed to work together on the $1 billion contract to develop and maintain the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, IBM said today. Federal, state and local authorities will use the new multimodal biometrics system.

Lockheed Martin won the 10-year contract in February, but IBM lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office and work was held up. Big Blue’s announcement that it is joining Lockheed Martin’s team as a subcontractor made no mention of the protest.

As the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin will provide program management and oversight in addition to biometric and large-systems development and integration expertise, the news release said. As a subcontractor, IBM will provide some information technology services in addition to specific software and hardware to be used in the NGI system.

NGI is an upgrade to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which collects and stores fingerprints related to law enforcement investigations.

The system will expand fingerprint processing capacity and also include palm prints and iris- and facial-recognition capabilities. The system requires a significant degree of technical flexibility to accommodate other biometric modalities that may mature and become important to law enforcement efforts in the future.

When completed, the system will double the FBI’s IAFIS capabilities. The Clarksburg, W.Va., facility houses the largest collection of its kind in the world — more than 46 million sets of digitized fingerprints. Searches require only a matter of minutes.

In addition to IBM, the Lockheed Martin team includes Accenture Ltd, BAE Systems Information Technology Inc., Global Science and Technology Inc., Innovative Management and Technology Services LLC, Platinum Solutions Inc. and the National Center for State Courts.

05/02/08 — 04:17 PM
By David Hubler

Source: Washington Technology

Your personal data just got permanently cached at the US border

Now that US customs agents have unfettered access to laptops and other electronic devices at borders, a coalition of travel groups, civil liberties advocates and technologists is calling on Congress to rein in the Department of Homeland Security’s search and seizure practices. They’re also providing practical advice on how to prevent trade secrets and other sensitive data from being breached.

In a letter dated Thursday, the group, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union and the Business Travel Coalition, called on the House Committee on Homeland Security to ensure searches aren’t arbitrary or overly invasive. They also urged the passage of legislation outlawing abusive searches.

The letter comes 10 days after a US appeals court ruled Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have the right to rummage through electronic devices even if they have no reason to suspect the hardware holds illegal contents. Not only are they free to view the files during passage; they are also permitted to copy the entire contents of a device. There are no stated policies about what can and can’t be done with the data.

Over the past few months, several news reports have raised eyebrows after detailing border searches that involved electronic devices. The best known of them is this story from The Washington Post, which recounted the experiences of individuals who were forced to reveal data on cell phones and laptop devices when passing through US borders. One individual even reported some of the call history on her cell phone had been deleted.

“The Fourth Amendment protects us all against unreasonable government intrusions,” the letter, which was also signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology and security expert Bruce Schneier, states. “But this guarantee means nothing if CBP can arbitrarily search and seize our digital information at the border and indefinitely store and reuse it.”

Several of the groups are also providing advice to US-bound travelers carrying electronic devices. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives is encouraging members to remove photos, financial information and other personal data before leaving home. This is good advice even if you’re not traveling to the US. There is no reason to store five years worth of email on a portable machine.

In this posting, the EFF agrees that laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other gizmos should be cleaned of any sensitive information. Then, after passing through customs, travelers can download the data they need, work on it, transmit it back and then digitally destroy the files before returning.

The post also urges the use of strong encryption to scramble sensitive data, although it warns this approach is by no means perfect. For one thing, CBP agents are free to deny entry to travelers who refuse to divulge their passwords. They may also be able to seize the laptop.

If it sounds like a lot of work, consider this: so far, the federal government has refused to reveal any information about border searches, including what it does with the electronic data it seizes. Under the circumstances, there’s no way of knowing what will happen to, say, source code or company memos that may get confiscated. Or the email sent to your lawyer.

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
Published Thursday 1st May 2008 21:11 GMT

Source: The Register

FLDS RAID: DANGEROUS LEGAL PRECEDENT

I waited a week to comment on the Texas case, separating 437 children from their FLDS parents, to see if any substantive evidence of abuse would emerge. It hasn’t. Even if it had, those could have been handled individually. But no, Texas plans instead to make every member of the group pay the supreme price: to strip away their beloved children. This case is about group punishment. In spite of a search warrant tainted by a false witness (the “Sarah” who doesn’t exist), no actual specific evidence of abuse, or any unwilling participants in this polygamous compound, a self-righteous Texas judge had decreed that all 400 + children will not be returned to the custody of their parents. Texas has gone too far to rid itself of this awkward religious sect that built the “Yearning for Zion” (YFZ) ranch in order to evade persecution in Utah and Arizona.

As this tyrannical order clearly meant separating even nursing children from their mothers, a wave of outrage began to sweep the nation. The media-savvy judge immediately changed her order (allowing children under 1 year if age to be nursed) in order to keep the tide of public relations on the side of the authorities. But this should not deter the nation from realizing the danger of the tenuous legal proposition that mere membership in a group (that may have isolated examples of marrying underage girls) makes all unworthy of possessing any children at all–ever. That is wrong, especially when legal remedies exist to prosecute specific wrongdoers.

The local sheriff admitted on television that he had an “informant” on the inside for over 4 years. That was probably a disgruntled member of the group who decided to stay on to build up a case against his fellow church members. If a case can’t be built after four years of informing, and authorities have to rely on a false abuse phone call to justify this invasion, what does that say about the State’s case?

Read moreFLDS RAID: DANGEROUS LEGAL PRECEDENT

Japan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

MARIKO Watanabe admits she could have chosen a better time to take up baking. This week, when the Tokyo housewife visited her local Ito-Yokado supermarket to buy butter to make a cake, she found the shelves bare.

“I went to another supermarket, and then another, and there was no butter at those either. Everywhere I went there were notices saying Japan has run out of butter. I couldn’t believe it – this is the first time in my life I’ve wanted to try baking cakes and I can’t get any butter,” said the frustrated cook.

Japan’s acute butter shortage, which has confounded bakeries, restaurants and now families across the country, is the latest unforeseen result of the global agricultural commodities crisis.

A sharp increase in the cost of imported cattle feed and a decline in milk imports, both of which are typically provided in large part by Australia, have prevented dairy farmers from keeping pace with demand.

While soaring food prices have triggered rioting among the starving millions of the third world, in wealthy Japan they have forced a pampered population to contemplate the shocking possibility of a long-term – perhaps permanent – reduction in the quality and quantity of its food.

A 130% rise in the global cost of wheat in the past year, caused partly by surging demand from China and India and a huge injection of speculative funds into wheat futures, has forced the Government to hit flour millers with three rounds of stiff mark-ups. The latest – a 30% increase this month – has given rise to speculation that Japan, which relies on imports for 90% of its annual wheat consumption, is no longer on the brink of a food crisis, but has fallen off the cliff.

According to one government poll, 80% of Japanese are frightened about what the future holds for their food supply.

Last week, as the prices of wheat and barley continued their relentless climb, the Japanese Government discovered it had exhausted its ¥230 billion ($A2.37 billion) budget for the grains with two months remaining. It was forced to call on an emergency ¥55 billion reserve to ensure it could continue feeding the nation.

“This was the first time the Government has had to take such drastic action since the war,” said Akio Shibata, an expert on food imports, who warned the Agriculture Ministry two years ago that Japan would have to cut back drastically on its sophisticated diet if it did not become more self-sufficient.In the wake of the decision this week by Kazakhstan, the world’s fifth biggest wheat exporter, to join Russia, Ukraine and Argentina in stopping exports to satisfy domestic demand, the situation in Japan is expected to worsen.

Read moreJapan’s Hunger Becomes a Dire Warning for Other Nations

Border Agents Can Search Laptops Without Cause

Federal agents at the border do not need any reason to search through travelers’ laptops, cell phones or digital cameras for evidence of crimes, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, extending the government’s power to look through belongings like suitcases at the border to electronics.

The unanimous three-judge decision reverses a lower court finding that digital devices were “an extension of our own memory” and thus too personal to allow the government to search them without cause. Instead, the earlier ruling said, Customs agents would need some reasonable and articulable suspicion a crime had occurred in order to search a traveler’s laptop.

On appeal, the government argued that was too high a standard, infringing upon its right to keep the country safe and enforce laws. Civil rights groups, joined by business traveler groups, weighed in, defending the lower court ruling.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, finding that the so-called border exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches applied not just to suitcases and papers, but also to electronics.

Read moreBorder Agents Can Search Laptops Without Cause