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Author Topic: Libertarian themes  (Read 65697 times)
DougMacG
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« Reply #100 on: July 07, 2007, 11:06:00 AM »

VDH wrote about the threat to civil liberties this past week.  Always a worthwhile read IMO.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/07/the_real_threat_to_civil_liber.html
July 02, 2007
The Real Threat to Civil Liberties
By Victor Davis Hanson

A common liberal complaint against the Bush administration is its supposed trampling of civil liberties. The Patriot Act, wiretaps, and Guantanamo supposedly have undermined our freedoms--or so we are warned ad nauseam by liberal watchdogs.

True, we have not received any detailed analysis or cost/benefit ratios of how many deadly terrorist plots have been circumvented by these new controversial measures. The administration's past defense of tough interrogations abroad of suspected terrorists sounded to many a lot like an endorsement of torture-light. In any case, as the danger of another 9/11 fades after almost six years, the public seems to be backing off from such anti-terrorism measures--at least until another such mass murder takes place on our shores.

But at least the Patriot Act passed both houses of Congress with wide public support. In contrast, there are a variety of other assaults on personal freedoms, due process, and the sanctity of the law that leftwing moralists not only ignore, but often seem to endorse--as if the liberal ends should justify illiberal means.

First, take illegal immigration. Not only have we neglected to enforce federal immigration statutes, but also local communities, due to pressures from Hispanic lobbyists and tacit approval from employers, have passed local codes barring arrests of suspected illegal aliens.

Tens of thousands of regional and local government officials, along with law enforcements, have taken the law into their own hands by simply deciding not to enforce it.

Both employers and aliens--the former for profit, the latter with the expectation of ethnic solidarity and support--have simply flaunted the law with impunity. We don't talk about massive fraud in our Social Security system due to false names and numbers used by illegal aliens, but only in pragmatic terms of whether such flagrant disregard ultimately puts more into the system than it takes out.

The result is one of the most grievous examples of civil disobedience in our nation's history--with 12 million de facto exempt from the law. In fact, we haven't seen state and local government defy federal laws in such blatant fashion since the Jim Crow days when the states of the Old Confederacy were openly insurrectionist.

Second, every bit as dangerous as wiretaps are prosecutors who manipulate the law, either for personal, ideological or political reasons. And here too reappears a pattern in which perceived political liberalism seems to trump adherence to the spirit of the law.

In the so-called Duke rape case, now disbarred District Attorney Michael Nifong withheld evidence in his holy crusade to convict three innocent Duke Lacrosse players--in hopes of appeasing the lynch mob of local black activists and self-righteous university professors. But even before evidence was adduced--all exculpatory to the defendants--liberal forces had tried and convicted the falsely accused in the media in furtherance of their own leftwing race, class, and gender agendas.

In the case of Valerie Plame, a special prosecutor was selected to find out who outed supposedly covert status at the CIA. The common liberal allegation was that administration lackies had stooped to hound a CIA employee for the anti-war politicking of her husband Joe Wilson.

But very early on in Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's investigation, two inconvenient truths emerged. Ms. Plame was not a covert agent as envisioned by the original mandate of the special prosecutor. And second, the culprit who disseminated knowledge of her employment in with the CIA was almost immediately revealed--former State Department official Richard Armitage.

But no matter. Armitage was out of office and had voiced misgivings about the Iraq war. Thus his early conviction would have earned little public attention, but might instead have ended the investigation before it could snowball in the daily press.

So Fitzgerald barreled ahead anyway on a new mission to satisfy the partisan lust for high-value scalps--hoping to find some top administration official guilty of something else in the growing labyrinth of competing testimonies.

Presto! Scooter Libby, Chief of the Vice President's staff was found to have offered contradictory evidence, and thus convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. We tend to think of smooth Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald as far more professional than the buffoonish Nifong. Maybe. But as was true of Nifong in the Duke rape case, Fitzgerald knew of information that might be fatal to his case--that early on Richard Armitage confessed to the leak--and yet neither apprised the public nor shut down his investigation.

Prosecutors pick and choose what charges to bring. When they either act unprofessionally or beyond their mandates, they have enormous, unchecked powers to undermine the very legal system that employs them.

Everyone has their own particular complaint about the modern Supreme Court's propensity to legislate new rather than interpret existing laws. But two years ago this June, they dismantled much of the constitutional protections of the right to hold private property.

In the Susette Kelo case, the court gave state and local officials unchecked rights of eminent domain to expropriate her house. The property was not condemned for a necessary bridge or public highway. Instead it was seized for "urban redevelopment"--even when the property in question was not blighted, and the urban renewal project was of questionable viability.

City officials were delighted. Their stock and trade have been to confiscate properties, sell them in sweet heart deals to wealthy insider developers--and paper over the entire shanigan with utopian rhetoric about helping the underclass.

Fourth, most recently Democrats have discussed reinstating some sort of "fairness" doctrine aimed at regulating talk radio. They are furious that the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Bill Bennett, Michael Savage, and a host of other conservatives dominate the AM airwaves--while Air America, Jerry Brown, Jim Hightower, Mario Cuomo, and other liberals have failed utterly to carve out a comparable audience in the marketplace of ideas and entertainment.

Once again, liberal civil libertarians are not so liberal about free speech when it is a matter of the public not buying into their own progressive agendas. We should remember that the public is free to choose--and advertisers respond accordingly--about what they wish to hear. Apparently, whiny sermons by nasal-droning elites about the illiberal nature of the yokel middle class is exactly what most on their way to work do not wish to endure.

Of course, conservatives likewise lament the imbalance of left-leaning public radio and television, the major networks such as NBC and CBS, the predominantly liberal print media, universities, the entertainment industry, and foundations. But the difference is that for the most part they are not calling for the government to mandate "fairness" by empowering federal bureaucrats to curb the liberal biases of these institutions.

It is stereotypically easy to identify authoritarians who seek restrict civil liberties during war in the name of "national security." But it is much harder to take on crusading special interest groups, district attorneys, court justices, and liberal Senators who ignore, twist, or subvert our constitutional freedoms under the liberal clarion call of helping minorities, stopping the war, or championing the underclass.

If we are to lose our civil liberties, it won't be all of sudden due to Patriot-Act zealots in sunglasses and flattops, but rather insidiously and incrementally by egalitarian professors, moral crusaders, muckraking journalists, and government utopians all unhappy that constitutional justice is too little and too late for their ever impatient desire to ensure heaven on earth.
Victor Davis Hanson
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #101 on: August 17, 2007, 09:56:31 AM »

NY Times:

Liberties Advocates Fear Abuse of Satellite Images
 
By ERIC SCHMITT
Published: August 17, 2007
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 — For years, a handful of civilian agencies have used limited images from the nation’s constellation of spy satellites to track hurricane damage, monitor climate change and create topographical maps.

But a new plan to allow emergency response, border control and, eventually, law enforcement agencies greater access to sophisticated satellites and other sensors that monitor American territory has drawn sharp criticism from civil liberties advocates who say the government is overstepping the use of military technology for domestic surveillance.

“It potentially marks a transformation of American political culture toward a surveillance state in which the entire public domain is subject to official monitoring,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.

At issue is a newly disclosed plan that Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, approved in May in a memorandum to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, which puts some of the nation’s most powerful intelligence-gathering tools at the disposal of domestic security officials as early as this fall.

The uses include enhancing seaport and land-border security, improving planning to mitigate natural disasters, and determining how best to secure major events, like the Super Bowl or national political conventions. Eventually, state and local law enforcement officials could be allowed to tap into the technology on a case-by-case basis, once legal guidelines are worked out, administration officials said.

Spy satellites, which provide higher-resolution photographs than commercial satellite imagery, and in real time, have traditionally been used overseas to monitor terrorist movements and nuclear tests. Their expanded use in domestic surveillance marks a new era in intelligence gathering, conjures up images of “Big Brother in the sky,” and raises civil liberties concerns.

“This touches so many Americans, it can’t be allowed to be discussed behind closed doors,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The new data sharing comes as Congress passed legislation this month that broadened the Bush administration’s authority to eavesdrop without warrants on some Americans’ international communications.

Administration officials say that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the government has been looking for ways to use spy satellites and other sensors to strengthen the nation’s defenses against terrorism.

“The view after Sept. 11 was that we ought to move this to homeland security and broaden the domain,” Charles E. Allen, the Department of Homeland Security’s top intelligence officer, said Thursday in a telephone interview. “We obviously believe this is a good expansion.”

The new plan largely follows recommendations included in a 2005 independent study group led by Keith R. Hall, a former head of the National Reconnaissance Office who is a vice president of the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

“Today, policies and practices governing the use of I.C. capabilities, many of which predate 9/11, discourage rather than encourage use by domestic users especially law enforcement,” the report said. The abbreviation I.C. refers to the intelligence community.

“The ultimate effect is missed opportunities to collect, exploit and disseminate domestic information critical to fighting the war on terrorism, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters natural and man-made,” the report said.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the active-duty military forces from conducting law enforcement missions on American soil, and Mr. Allen underscored that the new information-sharing would not violate that ban.

Mr. Allen said that the new program would be especially useful for disaster planning, and for policing land and seaports. He said the effort might eventually share information with domestic law enforcement officials but only after a careful review that would take several months.

“We are not going to be penetrating buildings, bunkers or people’s homes with this,” Mr. Allen said. “I view that as absurd. My view is that no American should be concerned.”

A new office within the Homeland Security Department, called the National Applications Office, will be responsible beginning in October for coordinating requests from civilian agencies for spy satellite information.

The Homeland Security Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be responsible for overseeing the program. Reviews would be conducted by agency lawyers, inspectors general and privacy officers.

Civil liberties advocates complained that the agencies could not be trusted to supervise themselves, and that Congress needed to play a larger oversight role.

An official with the House Intelligence Committee said the panel had been notified of the program last spring but had not been given details of the data-sharing, and would ask for a full briefing when lawmakers returned in September from their summer recess.

“Crystal-clear rules on the use of such information are needed to protect the privacy of the American people,” said Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat who heads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #102 on: October 18, 2007, 03:19:50 PM »

An interesting piece from the Boston Globe this week that I think marks the memory of Hong Kong as a free colony. Amazing that we saw in our lifetime this little island of liberty exist within Communist China and then be given back to China.

Hong Kong's heyday

By H.D.S. Greenway  |  October 16, 2007

HONG KONG
FORTY YEARS ago I came to live here with my family, landing on a heart-stopping thumb of land sticking out in the harbor that served as a runway, where the landing wheels seemed about to snatch the laundry off the clotheslines of Kowloon.
 
Hong Kong was then what they called a British Crown Colony, with most of it on a 99-year lease - "on borrowed time in a borrowed place."

China was in the grip of the Cultural Revolution, with unimagined excesses going on just across the border, which Americans were forbidden to cross. Some of it spilled into the colony with Red Guards going around waving the little red books of Chairman Mao's sayings, and bombs that would occasionally kill. Bodies would sometimes float down the Pearl River from Canton, some of them having been tied up and tortured.

And all around the restless rim of Asia there was trouble. The Vietnam War, for which I was headed, raged. Indonesia had recently experienced mass killings of astonishing scale. Singapore and Malaysia's future could not be assured. Thailand faced a Communist insurgency on its northeast frontier, and Laos, "the landlocked kingdom" of newspaper headlines, seemed always to be "teetering on the brink."

Hong Kong was the oasis then, despite the occasional disturbance. My favorite image of those years was watching cricket players on their downtown pitch with the Bank of China in the background draped in huge red Mao banners.

Refugees, as they always had when China was in trouble, tried to sneak or swim into British territory.

The rules were that you would be stopped and turned back if caught. But if you made it you would not be deported.

Britain ran its colony in the most laissez-faire way possible, with few rules on its unfettered capitalism, in stark contrast to the nanny state that was pre-Thatcherite Britain.

As the last governor, Christopher Patten, would write: "Hong Kong's special fortune was to be blessed with a small team of colonial administrators eccentric enough to believe in free markets and cussed enough to stick to their guns. . ." While the home country flirted with "nationalization, high taxation, rigid labor markets, excessive social spending, it allowed its colonial dependency to practice the ancient economic virtues with conspicuous success."

There was poverty, of course, extreme by British standards, but everyone felt better off than their neighbors on the mainland.

There were courts of law with bewigged judges, but just across the way Red Guards trampled laws and Chinese traditions in their political frenzy.

Everyone knew that China could take Hong Kong anytime it wanted. A British general, briefing the press on the colony's defenses, was incredulously asked: "You are not implying that you could actually defend this place from the People's Liberation Army, are you?"

"Perhaps not," the general answered, "but we would give them an interesting afternoon." Despite the turmoil, the Chinese leadership kept its hands off Hong Kong, their invaluable window to the West.

Hong Kong became one of the wealthiest places on earth in the following years. It was a front-page story when the number of registered Rolls Royces passed the number of registered rickshaws.

In time, of course, the borrowed time was up and the borrowed place had to be given back. The idea of "one country, two systems" was a masterpiece of political compromise, allowing Hong Kong, in theory, to run its own show for 50 years.

Ten years ago, when the British flag was being lowered for the last time over its last big - in population anyway - colonial possession, I came back to watch the empire end, Christopher Patten and Prince Charles sail away on the royal yacht, and the Chinese Army rumble in on a monsoon rain.

Today, Hong Kong's spectacular skyline continues to grow ever higher, even as its storied harbor shrinks before ever- increasing landfills. If democracy has not advanced as much as Patten had hoped, neither has totalitarianism as many of us feared.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #103 on: February 05, 2008, 08:11:45 AM »

http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/02/04/f...ics/index.html

The Next generation of Identification:
I'd expect to see this kind on Alex Jones.
Anyone who is "OK" with this should consider the implications of more weapon bans and domestic spying in tandem with this kind of stuff.
Reads just like "1984".

CLARKSBURG, West Virginia (CNN) -- The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people's physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.

But it's an issue that raises major privacy concerns -- what one civil liberties expert says should concern all Americans.
The bureau is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.
Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in."
But it's unnerving to privacy experts.

"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project.

The FBI already has 55 million sets of fingerprints on file. In coming years, the bureau wants to compare palm prints, scars and tattoos, iris eye patterns, and facial shapes. The idea is to combine various pieces of biometric information to positively identify a potential suspect.

A lot will depend on how quickly technology is perfected, according to Thomas Bush, the FBI official in charge of the Clarksburg, West Virginia, facility where the FBI houses its current fingerprint database. Watch what the FBI hopes to gain »

"Fingerprints will still be the big player," Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, told CNN.
But he added, "Whatever the biometric that comes down the road, we need to be able to plug that in and play."
First up, he said, are palm prints. The FBI has already begun collecting images and hopes to soon use these as an additional means of making identifications. Countries that are already using such images find 20 percent of their positive matches come from latent palm prints left at crime scenes, the FBI's Bush said.

The FBI has also started collecting mug shots and pictures of scars and tattoos. These images are being stored for now as the technology is fine-tuned. All of the FBI's biometric data is stored on computers 30-feet underground in the Clarksburg facility.

In addition, the FBI could soon start comparing people's eyes -- specifically the iris, or the colored part of an eye -- as part of its new biometrics program called Next Generation Identification.
Nearby, at West Virginia University's Center for Identification Technology Research, researchers are already testing some of these technologies that will ultimately be used by the FBI.

"The best increase in accuracy will come from fusing different biometrics together," said Bojan Cukic, the co-director of the center.
But while law enforcement officials are excited about the possibilities of these new technologies, privacy advocates are upset the FBI will be collecting so much personal information.

"People who don't think mistakes are going to be made I don't think fly enough," said Steinhardt.
He said thousands of mistakes have been made with the use of the so-called no-fly lists at airports -- and that giving law enforcement widespread data collection techniques should cause major privacy alarms.
"There are real consequences to people," Steinhardt said. Watch concerns over more data collection »
You don't have to be a criminal or a terrorist to be checked against the database. More than 55 percent of the checks the FBI runs involve criminal background checks for people applying for sensitive jobs in government or jobs working with vulnerable people such as children and the elderly, according to the FBI.
The FBI says it hasn't been saving the fingerprints for those checks, but that may change. The FBI plans a so-called "rap-back" service in which an employer could ask the FBI to keep the prints for an employee on file and let the employer know if the person ever has a brush with the law. The FBI says it will first have to clear hurdles with state privacy laws, and people would have to sign waivers allowing their information to be kept.
Critics say people are being forced to give up too much personal information. But Lawrence Hornak, the co-director of the research center at West Virginia University, said it could actually enhance people's privacy.
"It allows you to project your identity as being you," said Hornak. "And it allows people to avoid identity theft, things of that nature." Watch Hornak describe why he thinks it's a "privacy enhancer" »

There remains the question of how reliable these new biometric technologies will be. A 2006 German study looking at facial recognition in a crowded train station found successful matches could be made 60 percent of the time during the day. But when lighting conditions worsened at night, the results shrank to a success rate of 10 to 20 percent.
As work on these technologies continues, researchers are quick to admit what's proven to be the most accurate so far. "Iris technology is perceived today, together with fingerprints, to be the most accurate," said Cukic.

But in the future all kinds of methods may be employed. Some researchers are looking at the way people walk as a possible additional means of identification.

The FBI says it will protect all this personal data and only collect information on criminals and those seeking sensitive jobs.

The ACLU's Steinhardt doesn't believe it will stop there.
"This had started out being a program to track or identify criminals," he said. "Now we're talking about large swaths of the population -- workers, volunteers in youth programs. Eventually, it's going to be everybody."
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #104 on: June 10, 2008, 07:51:20 PM »

http://blog.heritage.org/2008/06/09/...rint-registry/

Housing Bill Creates National Fingerprint Registry
Posted June 9th, 2008 at 12.40pm in Entrepreneurship.
Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) authored a bill (with 11 co-sponsors, including Sen. Barack Obama) that was incorporated into a housing bill passed by the Senate Banking Committee 19-2 before the Memorial Day recess — a bill that creates a national fingerprint registry.

According to a Martinez press release, the language merely “create national licensing and oversight standards for residential mortgage originators.”

One of the standards, John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says, may “require thousands of individuals working even tangentially in the mortgage and real estate industries — and not suspected of anything — to send their prints to the feds.”
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G M
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« Reply #105 on: June 10, 2008, 10:48:55 PM »

Domestic spying? Puh-leeze.....  rolleyes
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #106 on: June 11, 2008, 06:53:12 AM »

Well, what's the point of the fingerprinting?

Do you favor EVERYONE being fingerprinted?

Why?
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G M
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« Reply #107 on: June 11, 2008, 09:52:43 AM »

Aside from those whose biometrics are recorded as part of a booking process, everyone else that is fingerprinted/has other biometrics recorded is doing so voluntarily. Why shouldn't law enforcement use modern technology to record other biometrics when it records fingerprints?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #108 on: June 11, 2008, 05:12:02 PM »

For residential mortgage originators???

How do you feel about these pictures?
http://warriortalk.com/showthread.php?t=40694
« Last Edit: June 11, 2008, 05:14:59 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
G M
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« Reply #109 on: June 11, 2008, 05:26:39 PM »

....When they came for the residential mortgage originators, I said nothing.....

Seriously, mortgage fraud has become a staple for organized crime. Part of the housing crisis today is related to fraud. It's a serious crime with a serious financial impact on all of us.


http://www.fbi.gov/publications/financial/fcs_report2006/financial_crime_2006.htm
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G M
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« Reply #110 on: June 11, 2008, 05:36:05 PM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/25/us/25fraud.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

December 25, 2007
Officials Falling Behind on Mortgage Fraud Cases

By JOHN LELAND
The number of mortgage fraud cases has grown so fast that government agencies that investigate and prosecute them cannot keep up, lenders and law enforcement officials have said.

Reports of suspected mortgage fraud have doubled since 2005 and increased eightfold since 2002. Banks filed 47,717 reports this year, up from 21,994 two years ago, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Treasury Department. In 2002, banks filed 5,623 reports.

“I don’t think any law enforcement agency can keep up with mortgage fraud, because it’s such a growth industry,” said Chuck Cross, vice president of mortgage regulatory policy for the conference of state bank supervisors, an organization of regulators and bankers. “There’s too many cases, not enough agents.”

Mortgage fraud covers crimes like false statements on mortgage applications and elaborate “flipping” schemes that involve multiple properties and corrupt appraisers, title companies and straw buyers.

In one common flipping plot, someone buys a house, has it appraised for more than its true value and sells it to a straw buyer for the inflated price, pocketing the difference. The straw buyer lets the house fall into foreclosure, leaving the bank with the loss.

The cases coming into view reflect the recent boom in mortgages with limited borrower documentation and lax scrutiny.

Law enforcement agencies say they are overwhelmed, especially because investigating and prosecuting fraud can be complex and time consuming. The officials say career criminals and organized-crime rings have increasingly turned from other crimes to mortgage fraud because it offers lower risks and high profits.

“I could hire a dozen investigators and a dozen prosecutors and only scratch the surface,” said David McLaughlin, a senior assistant attorney general in Georgia who coordinates prosecutions of mortgage fraud.

Losses involving federally insured banks totaled $813 million in the 2007 fiscal year, more than double the $293 million lost in the 2002 fiscal year.

These figures most likely represent “the tip of the iceberg,” said the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry group, because they do not cover mortgage brokers, who arrange more than half of new mortgages. The industry estimates the total loss this year at $4 billion.

Mortgage fraud can damage whole neighborhoods. Derrick Duckworth, a real estate broker in southwestern Atlanta, has watched “about 40 percent” of the houses in his neighborhood, Adair, become vacant as a result of mortgage fraud. The remaining residents cannot sell their houses because of the abandoned buildings and the neighborhood’s reputation for fraud, he said.

“The other day, someone broke into my neighbor’s crawl space and stole her copper plumbing,” he said. “Last week, we had an 18-year-old shot on the street.”

Fraud is especially common with subprime mortgages, the high-price loans for borrowers with poor credit. Lenders and investigators trace part of the foreclosure crisis to mortgage fraud.

For local law enforcement agencies, fraud is increasing as regulatory budgets are tight and other crimes seem more pressing, said Tom Levanti, a fraud investigator in New York.

“You only have a certain amount of resources,” Mr. Levanti said, “and in New York, you need to spend them on counterterrorism, protecting citizens, reducing violent crime. Mortgage fraud cases are long and time consuming, and the victims are usually financial institutions that can write off the loss. So as a police department, return on investment has to be thought about.”

Lenders say they have good relationships with investigating and prosecuting agencies.

“But law enforcement is just absolutely overwhelmed,” said Corey Carlisle, senior director for government affairs for the Mortgage Bankers Association, which has lobbied for more money to fight fraud. “Lenders say they have to market their cases to law enforcement,” meaning showing extraordinarily high sums or multiple criminals.

John Arterberry, executive deputy chief of the fraud section in the Justice Department, said federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. had made progress on mortgage fraud. Mr. Arterberry cited sweeps in 2004 and 2005 that resulted in more than 150 defendants charged in each sweep.

The bureau has 1,210 open mortgage fraud inquiries, up from 436 in 2003. Last year, those cases led to 204 convictions.

“We have limited resources and have to put them where they do the most good,” Mr. Arterberry said. “We’re able to zero in on hot spots and organized efforts.”

This progress is too slow for Kristine Baugh, who said her neighborhood in Dallas had not recovered from a mortgage fraud that left in six vacant houses on her block. Ms. Baugh, a real estate broker, said she discovered what she believed was a fraud scheme in 2005, when six properties sold for far more than she felt they were worth and remained vacant until being foreclosed.

Suspecting fraudulent appraisals, she gathered documents on the sales and took them to the F.B.I., the district attorney and local officials. With neighbors, she sued an investor who she said was behind the fraud.

Years later, there have been no arrests in the case. The residents ran out of money and dropped their civil suit after the investor filed a countersuit. “Our neighborhood is still in shambles,” Ms. Baugh said. “The properties deteriorated and have to be kept up by the city. They’re a health hazard.”

The swimming pools at the vacant sites are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and potential West Nile virus sources, she said.

Such cases are likely to multiply, said Constance Wilson, executive vice president of Interthinx, which develops fraud detection tools for the lending industry.

“The cases we’re seeing today are from 18, 24, 36 months ago, when the market was still good,” Ms. Wilson said. “Now we’re going to see an increase in mortgage fraud, because all those loan officers, brokers and appraisers who were making six-figure incomes, now their back is against the wall. If that loan doesn’t close, they can’t make their home payment.

“So you have a desperation cycle,” she said. “There’s a lot of push for them originate volume.

“The consequences are that people are getting away with it. It’s damaging the entire real estate market. It’s devastating to victims. Not just lenders but consumers. It’s devastating to entire communities.

“When it’s this prolific,” she said, “we just don’t have enough law enforcement or enough prosecutors for all the cases out there.”
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #111 on: June 11, 2008, 05:39:58 PM »

OK, and how will fingerprints solve this?
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G M
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« Reply #112 on: June 11, 2008, 06:01:20 PM »

If you use it as part of a licensing process, then you can deny for a prior criminal history. If the applicant is a "cleanskin" (meaning no prior criminal history) you use it to identify them should they commit a crime or crimes and attempt to disappear.
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G M
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« Reply #113 on: June 11, 2008, 06:05:53 PM »

In reference to the "scary" photos from europe. What's the difference between a cop on the beat in a public place and a cop watching a video feed from a camera in a public place? What's the objection to police wearing riot gear? Even weird european riot gear?
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G M
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« Reply #114 on: June 11, 2008, 06:11:57 PM »


London bombers staged 'dummy run'

Newly released CCTV footage shows the 7 July London bombers staged a practice run nine days before the attack.
Detectives reconstructed the bombers' movements after studying thousands of hours of film as part of the probe into the blasts which killed 52 people.

CCTV images show three of the bombers entering Luton station, before travelling to King's Cross station where they are also pictured.

Officers are keen to find out if the men met anyone else on the day.

Intensive probe

The three, Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Germaine Lindsay, were conducting a carefully planned reconnaissance exercise, police said.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch, said: "What we want to know is where else they went and did they meet anybody else while they were in London?

"If any member of the public thinks that they know something about the movement of these men on that day, they should call us on the anti-terrorist hotline."

He added that it was "part of a terrorist's methodology" to check timings, lay-out and security precautions.

Police traced the movements after recovering tickets and receipts from houses connected to the bombers which pointed to their trip.

Mr Clarke said the investigation would carry on for months. More than 3,000 plus witness statements had been gathered and 80,000 CCTV tapes analysed.

Police revealed that two bombs were found in a car left by the attackers at Luton train station on 7 July.

It has also emerged that a landfill site in Skelton Grange, West Yorkshire, is being searched in a bid to uncover more clues.

DUMMY RUN DETAILS
Sidique Khan and Tanweer meet Lindsay at Luton station around 0810 BST
The trio buy tickets and catch a train to King's Cross
The men arrive at King's Cross at 0855 BST and are also seen at Baker Street at midday
The bombers leave King's Cross at 1250 BST and arrive back in Luton at 1340 BST

A dozen officers in fluorescent jackets could be seen on Tuesday afternoon working on the site.

The men, who were wearing overalls under their jackets and white safety hats, appeared to be systematically searching a small area of the rubbish heap helped by two mechanical diggers.

One local resident said: "They've been here for weeks, dozens of them.

"They've been searching the same bit of rubbish every day it seems.

"The diggers skim off a layer at a time and then they move in and search it quite painstakingly."

Detectives believe the site could be connected to the apparent "bomb factory" at a flat in Alexander Grove in Leeds.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda has said for the first time the group carried out the attacks.

In a videotaped message aired on Arab television station al-Jazeera, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri said the group had the "honour" of carrying out the attacks.

The 7 July bomb attacks killed 56 people - including the four bombers - and injured more than 700.

Tube theory

Three bombs were detonated on underground trains just outside Liverpool Street and Edgware Road stations, and on another travelling between King's Cross and Russell Square.

The fourth explosion took place on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, not far from King's Cross.

Evidence of a reconnaissance mission supports the theory that all four had planned to detonate their rucksack bombs on the Underground system.

It is believed that the bus bomber, Hasib Hussain, was prevented from getting onto the Northern Line on the day of the attacks because the service had been disrupted.

The other bombers - Tanweer, Lindsay and Sidique Khan - detonated their devices almost simultaneously.

Anyone with information in connection with the London bombings should ring the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800789321 .

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/4263176.stm

Published: 2005/09/20 17:19:35 GMT
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« Reply #115 on: June 11, 2008, 06:25:00 PM »

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33335.pdf

Transnational organized crime brief
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« Reply #116 on: June 11, 2008, 07:10:00 PM »

GM:

Of course you make good points, but viscerally does the idea of always being watched everywhere you go feel right to you?
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« Reply #117 on: June 11, 2008, 07:33:15 PM »

Are we not watched everywhere we go where there are other humans? Do the cameras at ATMs and gas stations make you feel oppressed?
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« Reply #118 on: June 11, 2008, 07:54:55 PM »

http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC88.pdf

Note the potential use of camera footage in the above investigations.
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« Reply #119 on: June 11, 2008, 10:09:08 PM »

The private sector cameras at gas stations etc are not part of an ever expanding web of omnipresent surveillance by the State. 

I agree that you can cite many cases where such a capability can be put to the good, but is not omnipotent State destined to become a totalitarian one?
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« Reply #120 on: June 11, 2008, 10:23:05 PM »

I can assure you that today, the USG and other levels of government in the US are far from omnipotent. I'm willing to bet that private marketing firms know much more about you than any governmental entity does.
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« Reply #121 on: June 12, 2008, 01:54:06 AM »

Interesting discussion regarding cameras, surveillance and privacy.  There is quite a balancing act between privacy and security that is hard to sort out. I value both to an extreme and of course they are in conflict.  We have a certain privacy at home being one of only two homes on a hidden dead end street.  In twenty two years I have never so much as had a pizza delivered so as to not let strangers discover our little piece of paradise.  But then the neighbor tore down and rebuilt their house and perhaps two hundred workmen traipsed through, trespassed, worked loud equipment, checked out our things and blocked our driveway  over a long period of time.  I felt extremely violated.

OTOH, I have faced four, near death, criminal victim experiences, two for myself and two for my young daughter, and in all cases would be thrilled to discover camera footage that could help identify perps and prosecute the crimes.

Leaving my personal stories aside, I'll tell this one about a friend.  He was boating on the lake and was apprehended at a checkpoint under a bridge that was the only way home for him.  He refused the alcohol test out of stubbornness and the fact that he had drinks earlier that day.  Refusing the test puts him with the maximum charge.  Since the checkpoint was controversial, there was also a television news camera filming the scene.  Officers made (false) claims about his behavior to justify the demand for the alcohol test and subsequent charges.  He subpoenaed the news camera footage which revealed their lies.  The judge saw the third party camera footage and dismissed the charges.

Part of the cameras-everywhere world to remember is that they are largely unattended cameras.  No one is likely interested in my movements near the drycleaners but the information could become helpful later for reasons not known at the time, as it was with the subway bombers.
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« Reply #122 on: June 12, 2008, 07:39:31 AM »

I too am glad that we are discussing this.

"I can assure you that today, the USG and other levels of government in the US are far from omnipotent. I'm willing to bet that private marketing firms know much more about you than any governmental entity does."

As someone who has kept a bit of an eye on the trends in technological capabilities, I have a strong sense that they are evolving very, very quickly and will accelerate as time goes by.

While I certainly agree that our government is inherently incompetent in many things, what concerns me here is what happens to the citizen who presents a problem to the interests in power in government and what can be brought to bear against him.  The politics of personal destruction has cost we the American people many fine people who otherwise would have run and has brought down many a whistle blower.

Private marketing firms may know quite a bit about you and me (and I do my best to keep that as little as possible) but they do not have the motive or power to cause me damage should I be a threat to vested interests.
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« Reply #123 on: June 12, 2008, 08:41:25 AM »

I would argue that technological sophistication actually tend to protect civil rights more than threatening them. Corrupt 3rd. world cops need no technology to arrest or murder dissidents or shake down merchants. I came into law enforcement post-Rodney King. It was emphasized in the academy "Don't do or say anything you wouldn't want your family to see on CNN".

Mao, Stalin and Hitler didn't have video cameras or computer databases and created totalitarian nightmares just fine without them.
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« Reply #124 on: June 15, 2008, 11:39:11 AM »

And how much worse would it have been had they had them?

GM, you continue to give good examples of how these technologies can be used to the good, but for me the profound concern raises when the State thinks to use them for control and oppression , , , AND for there is something viscerally creepy about having your everymove watched and recorded.
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« Reply #125 on: June 15, 2008, 05:35:45 PM »

I'm not sure what the answer is to your concerns. I'll note that the SCOTUS just wrapped the jihadist illegal combatants in GITMO in the same constitutional protections you and I enjoy. We live in a technology driven society, why should law enforcement not use technology commonly in use in other areas of the public and private sector? Do you avoid Las Vegas casinos because of the surveillance technology? I assure you the private security entities in the average strip casino use technology outside the wildest dreams of most anyone in law enforcement. Why is state of the art video and pattern recognition software good in the Bellagio and lowest bidder, outdated tech in the hands of cops have us on the cusp of 1984?
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« Reply #126 on: June 15, 2008, 05:48:11 PM »

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fbi10-2008jun10,0,3189496.story

FBI background checks for immigrants are far behind, audit says
Inspector General Glenn Fine reports a backlog years long in some cases. He says the National Name Check Program has outdated technology, poorly trained personnel and overworked supervisors.
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 10, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The FBI system for performing background checks on immigrants has become so overloaded since the Sept. 11 attacks that thousands of legal immigrants are waiting years to get into the United States or obtain citizenship, according to findings from an internal investigation released Monday.

The Justice Department's inspector general concluded that the FBI's National Name Check Program is working with outdated technology, and that poorly trained personnel and overworked supervisors are falling far behind. As of March, there was a backlog of 327,000 requests for names to be validated, some of which had been pending for up to three years.

The report also said the breakdown in the name checks means that potentially thousands of criminals are slipping through the system.

"The name-check process can result in lengthy delays and the risk of inaccurate information," said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He warned that improvements to the system, particularly with the government's ongoing effort to search for potential terrorists in this country, should be "a priority."

The FBI must vet all immigrants before they can get citizenship or a green card. The bureau has been criticized by lawmakers and immigration rights groups for slowing the immigration process.

John Miller, the FBI's head of public affairs, said in a statement that the inspector general's recommendations are being implemented, and that FBI officials will work hard to catch up.

He noted that more than 4 million name-check requests from various law enforcement agencies were made in the 2007 fiscal year alone, and that about 86% were processed within 60 days. The FBI is making 77,000 name checks a week -- completing nearly 97% of all requests submitted in the last five years, he said.

Nevertheless, Miller acknowledged that the 2001 terrorist strikes jammed the system, especially when federal immigration officials asked the bureau to rerun 2.7 million names for more thorough reviews after the attacks on New York and Washington.

"This unexpected deluge of immigration-related name checks overwhelmed existing resources," Miller said. "As a result, the NNCP was not able to address the increasing demand."

In his report, Fine acknowledged the extra burden posed after Sept. 11. Before the terrorist attacks, the system only searched the FBI's main files to see if individuals might be connected to criminal activities. After the attacks, the searches were broadened to encompass information from all sorts of law enforcement databases, adding to the time required for each background check.

"This change was designed to detect derogatory information about individuals who may not have been identified as the direct subject of an FBI investigation, but who are connected to subjects with criminal and investigative histories," Fine said.

The name-check program and its FBI fingerprint database are the largest in the world, containing prints and background histories on more than 50 million people.

The system was taxed all the more after Sept. 11, and the inspector general's investigation turned up processes that are "inefficient and untimely, rely on outdated technology and provide little assurance that pertinent and derogatory information is being retrieved and transmitted."

As of March, 371 employees were working on name checks, an increase of 30% since November. By the end of this fiscal year 300 employees more will be assigned to the system.

But Fine worried that without improvements, "limited training, supervision and quality control measures may result in a higher potential for name-matching errors."

richard.serrano@latimes.com
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« Reply #127 on: June 15, 2008, 05:56:52 PM »

http://www.govtech.com/gt/print_article.php?id=90777

Merry CRISmas

Jul 9, 2004, By Jim McKay

If the primary reason to collect crash data is to save lives on the road, evaluating that data more than two years later is counterproductive. But because of outdated technology, those charged with safeguarding Texas roadways have been forced to operate that way for years.

Texas law enforcement, transportation officials and highway engineers will unwrap a big gift from the state Legislature this Christmas that could well solve the problem and save lives -- a built-from-the-ground-up Crash Records Information System (CRIS) to capture, manage and deliver timely and accurate crash data so law enforcement can target areas to patrol, transportation officials can determine the state's most dangerous roadways and engineers can fix them.


Two Years in the Basement
Two years worth of written crash data currently sits in a basement at the Texas Department of Public Safety. The backlog built up because department staff must sift through the paper documents by hand.

"In many cases, the data didn't exist electronically at all. If it did, it was in disparate databases, not one common location where it could be accessed and analyzed," said Amy Thomas-Gerling, an associate partner at IBM Business Consulting Services. "Timely and accurate information is needed to address a lot of the issues Texas and other states are looking at, such as where to put their money for highway improvement projects."

The new system, scheduled to go live in December, will feature electronic data collection, GIS mapping of accidents and a new Web portal to make the information available to officials and citizens immediately. The system will also use a "microstrategy tool" to make sense of all the data, and help officials and engineers develop strategies to make roadways safer.

CRIS should be a vast improvement from the way the data is currently handled. Now, an officer at an accident scene creates a handwritten report that includes time of day, type of vehicle and number of occupants, among other details, and mails it to the Department of Public Safety headquarters -- along with the other 850,000 reports the department receives annually.

One of 96 employees in charge of handling incoming reports processes the report manually and sends it to another group of employees who key the data into the system. The current system is a flat file system, which lacks the hierarchical organization used by most operating systems today, so for instance, there is no "folder" for 2003 crash data. All the crash data that has built up for decades is stored in one repository without categorization.

"You walk in and it's like something from the 1960s," said Catherine Cioffi, CRIS project manager for the Texas Department of Public Safety. "It's really a result of aging technology, the increase in population in Texas, the changes in the roads over the years and the changes in technology that finally got us to the point where we had to upgrade."

Other states have similar problems with crash data and have implemented some of the functions that will be included in this system.

"The crash data is used for a variety of things," Cioffi said. "In the Department of Public Safety, it's used for defining target areas for enhanced law enforcement and the Department of Transportation uses the crash data for prioritization and identification of road projects."

CRIS will be unique in that it will be a complete, enterprisewide system built largely with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, according to IBM's Thomas-Gerling.

"We looked at everything from when you received a crash report from the officer, to when it was needed for federal reports to determine areas that needed specific attention," she said. "We looked at the entire process from the onset and the best way to configure COTS products to address those needs.

"Many states have the GIS mapping component, or they may have the data warehouse or the ability to capture crash records electronically," she added. "But if you looked across all states, very few will have a solution from beginning to end, which is what we're providing."

The Texas Legislature appropriated the money for the IBM contract, which is worth nearly $10 million.


Safety First
That beginning-to-end solution will provide a smooth transition from one process to another, not to mention overhauling some badly outdated individual processes.

Mapping is an example. Engineers currently have access to paper maps only, and the most up-to-date maps come from 1992. The new system will give engineers online maps showing where all crashes have occurred.

"They'll be looking at a screen and seeing all this visually, and be able to have the most recent road information and the tools at hand to do something in seconds that currently takes a manual process that can be very lengthy," Thomas-Gerling said.

All crash data dating back 10 years will be converted for use in the new system -- not to mention the last two-plus years' worth of reports still in paper form down in the basement.

"The system is a major overhaul, but the COTS products allow flexibility as well," Cioffi said. "We want to eliminate all this paper, but we want to be flexible enough so smaller cities that have a couple accidents a month can submit paper if they want and it will be scanned into the system. What we wanted to do with CRIS was to enable the large cities to submit the data to us electronically -- which they can't do today -- or to go onto the Web and enter that data electronically."

The result should provide officials with timely, accurate information that could save lives.

"You're looking at two-year-old data [now]," Cioffi said. "It's difficult to be proactive. If you need to straighten out a curve, you don't know for two years that you need to straighten that curve."

The primary objective of the system is to improve safety on Texas roadways, but it may give the state a leg up on more federal funding. States receive funds based on the crash data they submit, and it won't hurt to have more accurate, up-to-date data, Cioffi said.

"This is something I'm very cautious about because it's one of those unknowns and is unknowable. We can't really put a number on it if there have been losses in construction money, but with the new data, there is the potential for increase."
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« Reply #128 on: June 15, 2008, 06:04:37 PM »

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/21/earlyshow/printable681949.shtml

'The CSI Effect'
LOS ANGELES, March 21, 2005
(CBS) Call it "The CSI Effect." It seems the popular CBS TV show on crime scene investigators is having an effect on real-life jurors. They want a clear trail of evidence, or they won't vote "guilty."

The latest example: the Robert Blake murder trial, reports The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman.

She notes that, despite more than one witness testifying Blake had asked them to kill his wife, the jurors wanted more than that. They wanted the razzle-dazzle of "CSI."

Every week, Kauffman explains, stars on the show solve crimes based on intricate analysis of forensic evidence. And that kind of evidence just wasn't available in the Blake case.

"They couldn't put the gun in his hand. …There was no blood spatter. They had nothing," jury foreman Thomas Nicholson said after the trial ended.

It was prosecutor Shellie Samuels' first loss in 50 murder cases. Though she presented more than 70 witnesses against Blake, she couldn't show the jury blood evidence, or conclusive gun-shot residue.

"If she would have had all that information," juror Lori Moore said later, "that would have meant that he was guilty."

More than 60 million people watch the "CSI" shows every week, which means a lot of potential jurors now have high expectations of forensic evidence. "The CSI Effect" is being felt in courtrooms from coast to coast, Kauffman points out.

"Jurors now expect us to have a DNA test for just about every case," laments Oregon District Attorney Josh Marquis. "They expect us to have the most advanced technology possible, and they expect it to look like it does on television."

Trouble is, Kauffman notes, this district attorney works in the small Oregon town of Astoria. The nearest forensic lab is hours away.

Beth Carpenter, who's with the Oregon Crime Lab, says there are expectations well beyond what the reality is, and that has increased the workload quite a bit.

And in a big city like Baltimore, prosecutors blamed "The CSI Effect" when jurors acquitted a man of murder, even though were two eyewitnesses.

"Not even first degree, second degree, third degree, nothing, and they shot my husband," cried Patricia Peterson, the victim's wife.

Even the producers of "CSI" have been surprised at how jurors want to judge fact from their fictional creation.

"CSI" creator Anthony E. Zuiker observes, " 'The CSI Effect' is, in my opinion, the most amazing thing that has ever come out of the series. For the first time in American history, you're not allowed to fool the jury anymore."

In fact, Kauffman adds, at least half the jurors selected for the Blake case say they watch such shows regularly.

"The prosecutor took the approach of, 'We don't need the DNA, we don't need the eyewitness, we've got the big picture here, and if you look at the big picture, who had the motive, who had the opportunity, who acted strangely, who wanted his wife dead -- it was Robert Blake,' " says Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levensen, a former federal prosecutor.

But clearly, the jury wanted the evidence they see on "CSI" each week.

It may be ironic that a man who made his fame on a TV crime show, "Baretta," was acquitted thanks, in part, to a TV crime show.

Former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, a CBS News consultant, says "The CSI Effect" is real, and an impediment: "When 'CSI' trumps common sense, then you have a systemic problem. The National District Attorneys Association is deeply concerned about the effect of 'CSI.' "

Murphy points out, "This has been a bit of a problem even before the onset of DNA, and shows like 'CSI.' You get jurors who don't have a lot of brain cells asking questions after the case is over about why there weren't any fingerprints on the pillow case. Of course, that makes no sense.

"But once you get the influence of 'CSI,' what they start to expect is not only a lot of forensic evidence, but that this one missing piece would have told them the truth. That's just not reality.

"Most murder cases have a little forensic evidence, but it doesn't really tell the whole story.

"I actually think one of the problems is we're not screening out these jurors who are way too much under the influence of these pop culture programs. They shouldn't be allowed to sit in judgment, frankly."

Defense attorney and CBS News consultant Mickey Sherman disagrees, saying jurors are "a little more educated now, maybe too educated. …If they believe the person committed the crime, forensics or not, they're gonna find him guilty."

The two squared off about the role, if any, of "The CSI Effect" in the Scott Peterson and Blake cases.
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« Reply #129 on: June 15, 2008, 07:43:31 PM »

"I'm not sure what the answer is to your concerns. , , , We live in a technology driven society, why should law enforcement not use technology commonly in use in other areas of the public and private sector? Do you avoid Las Vegas casinos because of the surveillance technology? I assure you the private security entities in the average strip casino use technology outside the wildest dreams of most anyone in law enforcement. Why is state of the art video and pattern recognition software good in the Bellagio and lowest bidder, outdated tech in the hands of cops have us on the cusp of 1984?"

Actually I don't go to Vegas-- it is a voluntary tax upon the mathematically impaired  cheesy 

A big part of what concerns me with all this is not where we are, but where we are going.  The logic you use and the technology coming down the pike combine to something that can pretty much keep track of where we go and what we do.  Amongst various negatives, this make really deter anyone with a colorful, adventurous life, or simply a sense of privacy, from wanting to go into politics or take on governmental misdeeds.
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« Reply #130 on: June 15, 2008, 07:53:02 PM »

Technology will continue to advance. If there is an answer to your concerns, it's from legislation. What legislation do you suggest that will protect your privacy? Would this legislation cover both gov't and private entities? What technology should law enforcement be allowed to use, if any?
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« Reply #131 on: June 15, 2008, 08:28:23 PM »

**Loss of freedom? Or rational policy post-9/11?**

EXCLUSIVE: Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants
Posted 12/22/05
By David E. Kaplan

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

Federal officials familiar with the program maintain that warrants are unneeded for the kind of radiation sampling the operation entails, but some legal scholars disagree. News of the program comes in the wake of revelations last week that, after 9/11, the Bush White House approved electronic surveillance of U.S. targets by the National Security Agency without court orders. These and other developments suggest that the federal government's domestic spying programs since 9/11 have been far broader than previously thought.

The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.

FBI officials expressed concern that discussion of the program would expose sensitive methods used in counterterrorism. Although NEST staffers have demonstrated their techniques on national television as recently as October, U.S. News has omitted details of how the monitoring is conducted. Officials from four different agencies declined to respond on the record about the classified program: the FBI, Energy Department, Justice Department, and National Security Council. "We don't ever comment on deployments," said Bryan Wilkes, a spokesman for DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages NEST.

In Washington, the sites monitored have included prominent mosques and office buildings in suburban Maryland and Virginia. One source close to the program said that participants "were tasked on a daily and nightly basis," and that FBI and Energy Department officials held regular meetings to update the monitoring list. "The targets were almost all U.S. citizens," says the source. "A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal."

The question of search warrants is controversial, however. To ensure accurate readings, in up to 15 percent of the cases the monitoring needed to take place on private property, sources say, such as on mosque parking lots and private driveways. Government officials familiar with the program insist it is legal; warrants are unneeded for monitoring from public property, they say, as well as from publicly accessible driveways and parking lots. "If a delivery man can access it, so can we," says one.

Georgetown University Professor David Cole, a constitutional law expert, disagrees. Surveillance of public spaces such as mosques or public businesses might well be allowable without a court order, he argues, but not private offices or homes: "They don't need a warrant to drive onto the property -- the issue isn't where they are, but whether they're using a tactic to intrude on privacy. It seems to me that they are, and that they would need a warrant or probable cause."

Cole points to a 2001 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs. Kyllo, which looked at police use -- without a search warrant -- of thermal imaging technology to search for marijuana-growing lamps in a home. The court, in a ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that authorities did in fact need a warrant -- that the heat sensors violated the Fourth Amendment's clause against unreasonable search and seizure. But officials familiar with the FBI/NEST program say the radiation sensors are different and are only sampling the surrounding air. "This kind of program only detects particles in the air, it's non directional," says one knowledgeable official. "It's not a whole lot different from smelling marijuana."

Officials also reject any notion that the program specifically has targeted Muslims. "We categorically do not target places of worship or entities solely based on ethnicity or religious affiliation," says one. "Our investigations are intelligence driven and based on a criminal predicate."

Among those said to be briefed on the monitoring program were Vice President Richard Cheney; Michael Brown, then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration; and Richard Clarke, then a top counterterrorism official at the National Security Council. After 9/11, top officials grew increasingly concerned over the prospect of nuclear terrorism. Just weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, a dubious informant named Dragonfire warned that al Qaeda had smuggled a nuclear device into New York City; NEST teams swept the city and found nothing. But as evidence seized from Afghan camps confirmed al Qaeda's interest in nuclear technology, radiation detectors were temporarily installed along Washington, D.C., highways and the Muslim monitoring program began.

Most staff for the monitoring came from NEST, which draws from nearly 1,000 nuclear scientists and technicians based largely at the country's national laboratories. For 30 years, NEST undercover teams have combed suspected sites looking for radioactive material, using high-tech detection gear fitted onto various aircraft, vehicles, and even backpacks and attaché cases. No dirty bombs or nuclear devices have ever been found - and that includes the post-9/11 program. "There were a lot of false positives, and one or two were alarming," says one source. "But in the end we found nothing."
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« Reply #132 on: June 16, 2008, 11:03:35 AM »

"Technology will continue to advance. If there is an answer to your concerns, it's from legislation. What legislation do you suggest that will protect your privacy? Would this legislation cover both gov't and private entities? What technology should law enforcement be allowed to use, if any?"

Good and fair questions-- and I readily admit to not having answers to them worked out.  I do think though that as a society we had really better get to it though, before it is too late to stop things from going too far.

I will say that I have no problem with monitoring radiation as discussed in your previous post  cheesy
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« Reply #133 on: June 17, 2008, 08:55:50 AM »

"Technology will continue to advance. If there is an answer to your concerns, it's from legislation. What legislation do you suggest that will protect your privacy? Would this legislation cover both gov't and private entities? What technology should law enforcement be allowed to use, if any?"

Good and fair questions-- and I readily admit to not having answers to them worked out.  I do think though that as a society we had really better get to it though, before it is too late to stop things from going too far.

I will say that I have no problem with monitoring radiation as discussed in your previous post  cheesy

** "A policeman's lot is not a happy one...." Yeah, in general the public shares your ambiguity towards law enforcement. We should be omnipresent and all powerful when needed and invisible all other times. We are heroes only when our loved ones get a folded flag as bagpipes play "Amazing Grace" and donut eating, racist, bullies when we win the fight and face the monday morning quarterbacking, IAs and state and federal prosecution.**
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« Reply #134 on: June 17, 2008, 09:41:10 AM »

Ummm, , , is that aimed at me?  If so, I don't deserve it.
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« Reply #135 on: June 17, 2008, 10:28:22 AM »

CD,

No, it's more generalized towards what law enforcement generally faces from a percentage of the population. What percentage exactly, I don't know, but it's often verbalized under the guise of "civil liberties" or "libertarianism". I've never seen you bash police officers and the part about "donut eating, racist, bullies" was not aimed at you at all. My apologies for my poor articulation of my frustration.

I had a long night at work and was multitasking multiple sites and was viewing www.odmp.org and http://www.sacbee.com/photos/gallery/1017048.html and was in overwrought rant mode.

No disrespect intended towards you.


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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #136 on: June 17, 2008, 10:40:04 AM »

GM:

No worries!

May I suggest using this moment as an opportunity to reconsider the concerns that others and I express-- disconnected from the guises and disguises of those who take similar positions for other reasons?
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« Reply #137 on: June 17, 2008, 11:00:51 AM »

In the US, we (meaning law enforcement, in it's various versions at the local, state and federal level) work for you (meaning the citizenry as a whole). I would not want it any other way. In most states, the county Sheriff is an elected position and especially in the western US the Sheriff has a very powerful role in shaping local level law enforcement. The US is the only nation in the world with elected law enforcement officials. Something I take pride in. Every other law enforcement executive answers to an elected official or officials and every act a law enforcement officer does in this country faces multiple levels of review and potential legal jeopardy for everything we do or don't do. I knowing accept this burden as does everyone else that goes through the laborious process of becoming a law enforcement officer in this country.

I understand that an inherent skepticism of gov't is a part of the core values our nation was founded on. My frustration is when it isn't rational skepticism but something irrational.
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« Reply #138 on: June 17, 2008, 11:17:23 AM »

Would it be rational to be concerned about a Governor such as Eliot Spitzer using police intel capabilities for personal political reasons?
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« Reply #139 on: June 17, 2008, 11:30:29 AM »

Absolutely. As long as there is police power, there is the potential for the abuse of the police power. Is the answer then to not have police? That would ensure there were no abuses of police power. There are certainly those who call themselves libertarians that advocate such a position. I think a cost/benefit analysis is a better method of examining the issue.
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« Reply #140 on: June 17, 2008, 12:16:58 PM »

http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts224.html

I'd cite the above as a good example of what I was talking about.
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« Reply #141 on: June 17, 2008, 05:03:35 PM »

"As long as there is police power, there is the potential for the abuse of the police power. Is the answer then to not have police? That would ensure there were no abuses of police power. There are certainly those who call themselves libertarians that advocate such a position. I think a cost/benefit analysis is a better method of examining the issue."

Exactly.  So what is the cost/benefit of the government being able to keep track of everyone's comings and goings?
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G M
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« Reply #142 on: June 17, 2008, 07:08:48 PM »

Depends on how the gov't is doing it. If it required a bar code tattoo and rectally implanted GPS tracking device for everyone, then the price would be too high. Certainly that's not even on the distant horizon.
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« Reply #143 on: June 17, 2008, 07:27:50 PM »

Well, the GPS device is already mandated in everyone's cell phone, and in this thread we have seen networks of cameras covering everyone's comings and goings.
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« Reply #144 on: June 17, 2008, 11:04:45 PM »

You are free to not have a cell phone, in addition there are ways around the cell phone issue. As far as cameras, do you think they are readily searchable in most cases?
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« Reply #145 on: June 17, 2008, 11:49:49 PM »

You said that we were a long way from having a GPS on everyone, and I pointed out that in point of fact they already do have a GPS on most people, so it is rather non-responsive to say that one can avoid it by handicapping oneself in the efficiency of daily communication.

As for the ease of searching the database of camera networks, I agree that at present it is a tedious thing to do, but the tedium and the load on the system of doing so in diminishing with extraordinary rapidity.  I offer for your consideration that your logic is like the frog in the pot who does not notice until too late that the temperature is heading for boiling.  Once the network are in place, do you think it possible to draw some sort of bright line based upon processing speed?
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« Reply #146 on: June 18, 2008, 09:05:01 AM »

There is a profound difference between a dystopian system that mandates physically implanted GPS tracking on everyone vs. a free market where you freely chose to purchase technology and carry it. There are people that live in part, or totally "off the grid". Like any choice, it has it's pluses and minuses. As new technology comes on line, it's subject to the same legal scrutiny when used by law enforcement as in decades past. The same standards of "reasonable expectation of privacy" apply as much today as they did 50 years ago. As you are focused on cameras, I would remind you that long ago the courts have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you are in a public place or public building. Private entities are free to video record their premises at will as well.
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« Reply #147 on: June 18, 2008, 09:11:59 AM »

When cell phones first came out, they did not have GPS.  Then the State mandated that they do so.  Why should I have to allow the State to track me in order to use the telephone?!?

I appreciate the point about no reasonable expectation of privacy in public places, but when developed that doctrine did not have to address as we do now the matter of having all of one's comings and goings tracked. 

Private entities are limited to their space, and cannot bring the power of the State to bear on whom they observe; contast Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
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« Reply #148 on: June 18, 2008, 10:41:19 AM »

And you are free to use an older cell phone without GPS capacity, given that you'll find a provider that wishes to work with the older phone. I'm sure there is a technical solution to disable GPS. You have the option of buying a prepay wireless phone you buy using cash from a cameraless retailer that would be difficult, if not impossible to trace to you, depending on your use.

Today, just as long ago, the only way to track an individual's movement is by direct surveillance, just like 19th century gumshoes.

Corrupt politicians using their power for corrupt ends are nothing new, like Tammany Hall or the teapot dome scandal.
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« Reply #149 on: June 23, 2008, 02:56:57 PM »

Congress's Fingerprint Fine Print
By JOHN BERLAU
June 23, 2008; Page A17

Fingerprints have long been considered to be among the most personal of information. Proposals for creating fingerprint databases are usually controversial and often lead to a spirited public debate. Even when a fingerprint registry will likely help fight terrorism or crime, many still fear it will lead to a surveillance state.

Yet this week a measure creating a federal fingerprint registry totally unrelated to national security or violent crime may clear the Senate with little debate. The legislation would require thousands of individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing to send their prints to the feds.

What issue is so important that it warrants creating a fingerprint database without public debate? Believe it or not, the housing slowdown. The database and fingerprint mandates are contained in the housing bailout bill that will likely come to a vote on Tuesday.

Tucked into a broad, 537-page bill (not counting tax provisions yet to be added) mostly concerned with government backing of mortgage modifications is a requirement for a registration of "loan originators." The provision says that "an individual may not engage in the business of a loan originator without first . . . obtaining a unique identifier." To obtain this "identifier," an individual is required to "furnish" to the newly created Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry "information concerning the applicant's identity, including fingerprints," that will be sent to the FBI and other government agencies.

The bill's definition of "loan originator" could cover a broad swath of employees working for mortgage lenders and brokers and real estate firms, including clerical employees, part-time and seasonal workers. An "originator" is defined as anyone who "takes a residential loan application; and offers or negotiates terms of a residential mortgage loan for compensation or gain." Real estate agents are also covered if they receive any type of compensation from "originators."

The rationale for this new fingerprint registry is thin. Were a significant number of bad loans made by ex-convicts? And how would the targeting of lower-level employees – rather than executives like Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo – stem the creation of problematic mortgages?

But one searches the Congressional Record in vain for any justification. As tech-policy columnist Declan McCullagh recently wrote in CNET.com, "What's a little odd is the lack of public discussion about this new fingerprint database." The fingerprinting requirements are not mentioned in bill summaries and press releases, or even in the table of contents of the Senate bill. Queries to the Senate Banking Committee and various senators haven't been answered.

What is clear is that many senators who fancy themselves champions of civil liberties on national security aren't as troubled in this case. The fingerprint provisions were originally contained in the Senate's S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act introduced in February. Among the 14 sponsors are two Republicans – Mel Martinez of Florida and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina – and 12 Democrats. Among the Democratic co-sponsors are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

There were also few objections when Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) folded this legislation into the bill that cleared the committee in May. That bill, with the fingerprint provisions, was voted out 19-2, without a single Democrat voting "nay." Perhaps most of the senators haven't read the fingerprint provisions. But if so, what kind of example is that for the lenders and borrowers they are supposedly trying to encourage to use due diligence?

Meanwhile, the free-market activist group FreedomWorks points to a provision of the Senate's housing tax package that would require payment settlement entities, such as eBay and Amazon, to report customer transactions over a certain threshold to the IRS. This would be done as an offset to pay for the housing tax breaks. The Center for Democracy and Technology, a liberal policy group, has testified that a similar proposal "raises serious privacy and data security concerns that are especially significant in the small business context."

As word about these provisions has spread, so has bipartisan outrage. When I wrote on the fingerprint mandate for the Competitive Enterprise Institute-affiliated blog site OpenMarket.org in late May, the post received almost 400 comments. Thom Hartmann, one of the premiere talk radio hosts of the left, has also blasted the database proposal.

But will this outrage be heard by members of Congress hell-bent on "doing something" – anything – on housing? The perverse lesson of these provisions may be that the more trivial the justification for legislation compromising privacy, the easier it is to get through.

Mr. Berlau is director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
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