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American spies don't need new powers to catch terrorists, they just have to start doing their jobs

In an excellent, well-argued editorial, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen eviscerates the claim that the NSA's total, global surveillance is necessary for preventing 9/11-style attacks. Bergen shows how the US intelligence agencies' own auditors concluded that pre-PATRIOT Act surveillance powers were more than sufficient to have predicted and prevented the 9/11 attack, and many attacks since, including the 2008 Mumbai attack, which was planned in Chicago; Maj. Nidal Hasan's 2009 shooting spree at Ford Hood; the 2009 shooting of a soldier in Little Rock, Arkansas; Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab's failed underwear bomb attack in 2009. All attacks for which America's spies had advance warning and did nothing or not enough.

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Arapahoe teacher on survival and resilience

For several years, I've conducted an annual Skype session with the students at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, who read my novel Little Brother as a jumping-off point for a wide-ranging, critical discussion of the Internet and politics. Arapahoe has been much in the news lately, for sad reasons: a student brought a gun to school, shot and wounded two of his fellow students, and then killed himself. Kristin Leclaire teaches Language Arts at Arapahoe, who was living in New York on September 11th, 2001, and she has written a sad, smart, important essay on her experience, called Scar Tissue . My thoughts are with my friends at Arapahoe.

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How cartographers helped clean up after 9/11

This image, made using a laser mapping technology called LIDAR, was taken on September 17, 2001. It shows a 3-D model of the rubble left behind in lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Minnesota Public Radio's Paul Tosto has a really interesting peek into the way mapping techniques like LIDAR were used to help rescuers and clean-up crew understand the extent of the damage, look for survivors, and rehabilitate the area around the disaster zone.

The Library of Congress work also includes data from a a thermal sensor flown at 5,000 feet over Ground Zero that provided images to track underground fires that burned for weeks at the site.

It's worth remembering that Google Earth didn't exist back then. The ancient science of cartography has been reborn with the technology of the last decade. Let's hope it's not called on again to map destruction.

See more at the MPR News Cut blog

Via Peter Aldhous

TSA screeners in LA ran drug ring, took narco bribes


Photo: Reuters. A man is screened with a backscatter x-ray machine at an LAX TSA checkpoint.

Four present and past security screeners at LAX took 22 payments of up to $2400 each to let large shipments of coke, meth, and pot slip through baggage X-ray machines. Oh, we are so very, very shocked.

In one incident detailed in the 40-page indictment (Link), screeners plotted to allow eight pounds of crystal meth to get through—then one of them ducked into an airport men's room where he was handed $600, the second payment for that delivery.

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Who did the TSA terrorize today? A 4-year-old girl. Why? She hugged her grandma.

PHOTO: Snapshot by Lori Croft of her 4-year-old granddaughter Isabella Brademeyer, in Wichita, Kan., where she was a flower girl at her uncle’s wedding. The child was harassed by TSA goons on the way back from that family event, for the crime of hugging her granny.


Earlier this week on Boing Boing, Cory blogged about a 95-year-old Air Force veteran who was robbed of $300 at a TSA checkpoint. After picking on the elderly, today the TSA is bullying children. A 4-year-old girl who was upset during a TSA screening at the Wichita, KS airport was forced to undergo a manual pat-down after hugging her grandmother. Agents yelled at the child, and called her an uncooperative suspect.

Nope, we're not making this up.

The child's mom, Michelle Brademeyer of Montana, shared the incident in a public Facebook post last week, and the story has since spread widely.

“They didn’t explain anything and she did not know what was going on,” the grandmother told the Associated Press. “She saw people grabbing at her and raising their voices. To her, someone was trying to kidnap her or harm her in some way.”

Think the TSA has apologized? Nah. The agency is defending its agents, despite promised changes in operational standards to "reduce pat-downs of children."

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Awlaki's 16-year-old son killed by US drone

Glenn Greenwald rounds up a number of reports related to the killing of al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son by an unmanned aerial drone from the US:

Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people.

Initial US reports stated he was 21, but a birth certificate obtained by The Washington Post shows that he was born 16 years ago in Denver. According to the boy's grandfather, he and his cousin were at a barbecue and preparing to eat when they were killed.

(thanks, @ioerror)

A thermite reaction on 9/11?

Still think that something other than a mere plane crash brought down the World Trade Center towers? According to a Norwegian materials expert, you may be right. Just ... you know ... not in the way most Truthers probably expect.

Christian Simensen thinks the Twin Towers were ultimately felled by a thermite reaction.

"If my theory is correct, tonnes of aluminium ran down through the towers, where the smelt came into contact with a few hundred litres of water," Christian Simensen, a scientist at SINTEF, an independent technology research institute based in Norway, said in a statement released Wednesday.

"From other disasters and experiments carried out by the aluminium industry, we know that reactions of this sort lead to violent explosions."

Given the quantities of the molten metal involved, the blasts would have been powerful enough to blow out an entire section of each building, he said. This, in turn, would lead to the top section of each tower to fall down on the sections below.

The sheer weight of the top floors would be enough to crush the lower part of the building like a house of card, he said.

I honestly don't know how plausible an idea this is. It sounds reasonable to a layperson, but I'm curious what those of you with more engineering expertise think.

The AFP has a write-up about the theory. There's also a more-detailed explanation on the website of SINTEF, the Norwegian research lab where Simensen works. Finally, this appeared in the trade journal Aluminum International Today, and they've got an email address where you can request a copy of the story.

Internet Archive's cache of 24/7 TV footage from 9/11 and beyond

Rick Prelinger sez, "Internet Archive has launched 'Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive,' an online library of 24/7 TV news broadcasts from 20 worldwide channels over the week starting 9/11/2001. Originally introduced on October 11, 2001, it's now back with a striking interface that shows 20 channels of each day's news on a single page, with framegrabs that link to streamable segments. TV is still the world's primary medium of information, entertainment and persuasion, but it isn't yet a medium of record. Most television gets saved in bits and pieces, if at all. 'Understanding 9/11' is designed to make television's 'eternal present' available to scholars, journalists and the public, not only to demonstrate how TV covered this story, but how it was also itself the story."
The 9/11 Television News Archive is a library of news coverage of the events of 9/11/2001 and their aftermath as presented by U.S. and international broadcasters. A resource for scholars, journalists, and the public, it presents one week of news broadcasts for study, research and analysis.

Television is our pre-eminent medium of information, entertainment and persuasion, but until now it has not been a medium of record. This Archive attempts to address this gap by making TV news coverage of this critical week in September 2001 available to those studying these events and their treatment in the media.

The events of September 11th, 2001 affected the entire world. (Thanks, Rick!)