Boing Boing 

The Homeland Directive: taut technothriller for the paranoid era

Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston's stand-alone graphic novel The Homeland Directive is a tight, suspenseful technothriller (in Bruce Sterling's definition of the term: "a science fiction story with the president in it"). Mysterious government spooks are hunting a pair of CDC epidemiologists. One is murdered, the other, Dr Laura Regan, is framed for a variety of crimes and barely escapes in the company of rogue spooks who spirit her away to a safe house. The story that unfolds -- a plot to terrorize America into accepting an otherwise unthinkable authoritarian rule in the name of fighting terrorism -- is taut, filled with great spycraft and action sequences. A great, paranoid read for the modern age.

ACLU: FBI practicing racial profiling on an "industrial scale"

The ACLU has sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder documenting its disturbing research into the use of racial profiling in the FBI's anti-terrorism efforts. According to the ACLU, the FBI practices "racial profiling on an industrial scale," targetting people of Muslim faith on the basis of their religion rather than any violent tendencies or beliefs.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has filed numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests – some backed up with lawsuits – to find out how the FBI is using racial and ethnic data as part of its investigations.

“The documents we have started to receive confirm our worst fears,” ACLU officials wrote to Attorney General Holder. “Although often heavily redacted, these documents, obtained from a number of different field offices, demonstrate that FBI analysts are using improper and crude racial stereotypes regarding the types of crimes committed by different racial and ethnic groups and then collecting demographic data to map where people of those racial or ethnic groups live.”

The result, charges the ACLU, has been “racial profiling on an industrial scale.”

The FBI and the War On Us: Racial profiling on an "industrial scale"

Justin Elliott in Salon: "New documents obtained by the ACLU show that the FBI has for years been using Census data to “map” ethnic and religious groups suspected of being likely to commit certain types of crimes."

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)

Canadian government advice defines abortionists as terrorists

From the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, a helpful banker's guide to spotting "single-issue terrorists," which includes (apparently) abortionists and ecological extremists. It also groups attacks on property with attacks on people, and sales of books and literature with sales of false identification documents.

Counter-terrorism specialists define single-issue or special interest terrorist groups as being motivated by political and social issues and as using violence and criminal activities to further their agendas. Single-issue terrorists may include militant minority rights activists, abortionists, animal rights activists and ecological/environmental extremists. They believe that their legitimate cause morally justifies their extremist violent behavior in opposition to government action or inaction. Terrorist attacks include the use of bombs, such as mail and car bombs. Their targets are often research laboratories, clinics and individuals' property. Single-issue terrorist groups function domestically but have an international scope.

European Freedom Not Fear demonstration in Brussels this Saturday

Europeans: this Saturday marks the fifth annual Freedom Not Fear day, when Europeans take to the streets to ask their governments to respond to extremists and terror attacks by affirming the values of a free society, not by taking them away. This year, activists are converging on Brussels to ask the EU to stop pretending that you can keep a society safe by taking away its liberties.
As the world reflects on the decade following September 11th, Freedom not Fear protesters are attempting to reverse the unfortunate post-911 legacy of online anti-privacy measures. In the wake of 9/11, international government responses had significant impact on Internet privacy. The “war on terror” rhetoric enabled one of the most effective international policy laundering campaigns to quickly enact unpopular and often covert policies with minimal fanfare. Within 45 days of 9/11, then-president George W. Bush already sent his much-wanted surveillance wish list to the European Union. In a letter to the European Commission President in Brussels, the United States sets out a blueprint for privacy erosions the EU could undertake that have sacrificed privacy for little gain in the struggle against terrorism.

The letter called on the EU to eliminate existing privacy protections so that online companies would be free to retain their customers’ online activities: “[r]evise draft privacy directives that call for mandatory destruction to permit the retention of critical data for a reasonable period.” What did this proposed revision mean? One of the key European privacy protections is the data minimization principle. This provision compels companies to limit their collection of personal information to a specific purpose [e.g., billing], and keep their data for only a specific period of time before destroying or irreversibly anonymizing it. This helps prevent online companies from developing sweeping databases on their customers’ activities, while the U.S. Government wished to encourage retention of everyone’s data, whether innocent or not, so investigators will have access to it

Freedom Not Fear: Ending A Decade Long Legacy of International Privacy Erosion

How paid FBI anti-terror informants lead "terrorist attacks" that the FBI foils

Michael from Mother Jones sez, "This yearlong investigation by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC-Berkeley explores the network of thousands of informants the FBI employs in its domestic counter-terrorism program, operating in gray area where the snitches don't merely observe and report, but actively push their targets (in many cases hapless losers who never would have acted otherwise) to pursue their darkest fantasies. In the process, MoJo created a searchable database of 508 terror prosecutions."
Here's how it works: Informants report to their handlers on people who have, say, made statements sympathizing with terrorists. Those names are then cross-referenced with existing intelligence data, such as immigration and criminal records. FBI agents may then assign an undercover operative to approach the target by posing as a radical. Sometimes the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there's an arrest—and a press conference announcing another foiled plot.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because such sting operations are a fixture in the headlines. Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.

Over the past year, Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley have examined prosecutions of 508 defendants in terrorism-related cases, as defined by the Department of Justice.

Terrorists for the FBI Exclusive | Mother Jones (Image: Jeffrey Smith)

"Probability neglect": why policy-makers are constitutionally incapable of formulating evidence-based anti-terrorism policy


A Policy Maker's Dilemma: Preventing Terrorism or Preventing Blame (PDF), a study in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, argues that counterterrorism policy fails to address real terrorist threats because politicians and bureaucrats perceive more risk from being punished by voters if they preside over an attack than they do in attacks arising from actual, probable sources.
Although anti-terrorism policy should be based on a normative treatment of risk that incorporates like- lihoods of attack, policy makers’ anti-terror decisions may be influenced by the blame they expect from failing to prevent attacks. We show that people’s anti-terror budget priorities before a perceived attack and blame judgments after a perceived attack are associated with the attack’s severity and how upsetting it is but largely independent of its likelihood. We also show that anti-terror budget priorities are influ- enced by directly highlighting the likelihood of the attack, but because of outcome biases, highlighting the attack’s prior likelihood has no influence on judgments of blame, severity, or emotion after an attack is perceived to have occurred. Thus, because of accountability effects, we propose policy makers face a dilemma: prevent terrorism using normative methods that incorporate the likelihood of attack or prevent blame by preventing terrorist attacks the public find most blameworthy.

A Policy Maker's Dilemma: Preventing Terrorism or Preventing Blame (PDF) (via Schneier)

(Image: Border Patrol Checkpoint in *New Hampshire* - 2, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from chrisdag's photostream)

Long Beach Police Chief: we detain photographers, and I don't have any guidelines for that policy, photography is classed with attempts to acquire weaponized smallpox

The Police Chief of Long Beach has confirmed that his department's policy is to detain photographers who do nothing more than take pictures in public places, and that he neither has, nor plans to implement, any guidelines for these detentions. He classes photography with other "suspicious activity" such as "attempts to acquire illegal or illicit biological agent (anthrax, ricin, Eboli, smallpox, etc.)" and "In possession, or utilizes, explosives (for illegal purposes)."
"If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery," says McDonnell, "it is incumbent upon the officer to make contact with the individual." McDonnell went on to say that whether said contact becomes detainment depends on the circumstances the officer encounters.

McDonnell says that while there is no police training specific to determining whether a photographer's subject has "apparent esthetic value," officers make such judgments "based on their overall training and experience" and will generally approach photographers not engaging in "regular tourist behavior."

This policy apparently falls under the rubric of compiling Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) as outlined in the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Order No. 11, a March 2008 statement of the LAPD's "policy … to make every effort to accurately and appropriately gather, record and analyze information, of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism."

Police Chief Confirms Detaining Photographers Within Departmental Policy

(Image: Perfection, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from omaromar's photostream)