Tag Archives | Homeland Security

Homeland Security Study Proves You Can Find Weapons If You Believe in Them

Cyriaque Lamar writes on io9.com:

Looking for something you’re sure you won’t find? Even if the item you seek is close by, a doubtful attitude reduces your chances of finding it, claims a new study funded by the US Department of Homeland Security.BagScanResearchers simulated the conditions of an airport security checkpoint and instructed subjects to search for weapons. LiveScience reports that the monotony of the searches and increasing rarity of the weapons decreased subjects’ attention spans:

They asked subjects in the lab to look at X-ray scans of checked baggage, as if they were airport screeners. In one trial, 50 percent of the scans showed a gun or knife in the bag. In this test, subjects did fairly well, only missing the weapons about 7 percent of the time.

In another trial, the guns and knives appeared much more infrequently — in only 2 percent of bags. This time, subjects missed the weapon 30 percent of the time.

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Mikey Hicks, 8 Years Old, Permanent Fixture On U.S. “Selectee” Terrorist Watch List

Every now and then the Gray Lady actually comes up with a story that makes it worth reading, such as this one detailing the Orwellian comedy surrounding poor little Mikey Hicks and his long-suffering family:

The Transportation Security Administration, under scrutiny after last month’s bombing attempt, has on its Web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public.

Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.

Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

“Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.”

Michael Winston Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled.

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Oops: Backscatter X-Ray Machines “Tear Apart DNA”

At Yahoo Tech:

The latest airport security trend is the backscatter x-ray machine, touted as a powerful way to virtually frisk a traveler for contraband without the embarassment of a strip search.

Though touted as completely safe because the level of radiation is so low, travelers have been nervous about the devices — and not just because it shows off a nice outline of their privates to the people manning the machines — but because they remain scared of the health problems they might propose.

Looks like a little healthy paranoia might have been a good thing. While the conventional wisdom has held that so-called “terahertz radiation,” upon which backscatter x-ray machines are based, is harmless because it doesn’t carry enough energy to do cellular or genetic damage, new research suggests that may be completely wrong.

Specifically, researchers have found that terahertz radiation may interfere directly with DNA. Although the force generated is small, the waves have been found to “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”

I’m not a doctor, but that just doesn’t sound good…

[continues at Yahoo Tech]

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‘Don’t Daze Me, Bro!’ Meet A Non-Lethal Weapon from Homeland Security

So as the court system starts to regulate more and more the use of tasers by police, I have a feeling these "non-lethal" options will come into more widespread use. Here's a video from some folks who made of a version of the Dazzler. The clip from the Homeland Security conference is pretty astounding:
Our first open source Homeland Security non-lethal weapon project — The "THE BEDAZZLER: A Do-it-yourself Handheld LED-Incapacitator". After attending a conference where the $1 million "sea-sick flashlight" (named "THE DAZZLER") was demonstrated by the US Dept. of Homeland Security, we decided to create our own version. For under $250, you can build your own dazzler... Yes this project does indeed cause: Nausea, dizziness, headache, flashblindness, eye pain and (occasional?) vomiting! So don't use it on your friends or pets...
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Are Photo IDs a Waste of Time?

Security expert Bruce Schneier argues that checking photo IDs at the airport is a waste of time. “If you think about it, everybody has a photo ID. All the 9/11 terrorists had a photo ID. The Unabomber had one. Timothy McVeigh had one… We pretend there’s this big master list of bad guys and if we look you up against the list, we’ll know if you’re a bad guy and we won’t let you on the plane. It’s completely absurd. We have no such list!”

“The no-fly list we have is full of innocent people. It catches nobody who’s guilty and everybody’s who’s innocent…”

He argues that except hardening the cockpit doors, nothing else done since September 11 has increased security. “Everything else is window dressing – security theater. It’s all been a waste of money and time….”

“The way to spend money on security – airport security, and security in general – is intelligence investigation and emergency response.… Read the rest

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Domestic Espionage Alert: Spy Drone Discovered

From News Junkie Post:
KPRC news in Houston recently filmed a secret experiment by law enforcement agencies including the Dept. of Homeland Security of a drone intended to spy on Americans. The drone uncovered during this investigation are not like the large, expensive models used by the military for targeted strikes on militants half a world away. These are manufactured by Insitu out of Bingen, Washington (corporate offices located in Australia), only weigh about 40 pounds (18.1 kg) before monitoring equipment is installed. This model has the capacity to stay airborne for up to a day. The Houston Police Department responded with the following statement, “Potential public safety applications include mobility, evacuations, homeland security, search and rescue, as well as tactical.”...
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What’s Wrong With Full Body Scans?

Lots of stories similar to the one below from Bloomberg News are appearing in the media. I’ll be on a long distance flight tomorrow and if the TSA screeners at JFK want to see a full body scan of me I’ll have no problem with it in terms of their being able to see a virtually naked image, although if there are health issues from the scan (are there?) then I won’t be so happy.

Is it just me, or are the “invasion of privacy” knee-jerk reactions from the ACLU and others faintly ridiculous? Not that I think these scans are necessarily the answer to airline security…

A suspected terrorist’s attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner may override privacy concerns and intensify a push for full-body scanning equipment at airports.

U.S. officials charged a 23-year-old Nigerian man with trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 as it prepared to land in Detroit on Christmas Day.

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New TSA Security Regulations in Light of Christmas-Time Double-Header Scare

AirTerrorJeffrey Goldberg writes on the Atlantic:

Sometimes the stupidity is too much to bear. From the new guidelines for international air travel:

U.S.-bound passengers aboard international flights must undergo a “thorough pat-down” at boarding gates, focused on the upper legs and torso.

Thanks for letting us know, TSA, that the search should be focused on the upper legs and torso. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, pat-downs that ignore the crotch and the ass are useless. We recently saw in Saudi Arabia the detonation of a rectal bomb, so it really doesn’t take much creativity to imagine that terrorists will be taping explosives to their scrotums. Of course, TSA is not going to be feeling-up people’s scrotums anytime soon, so the question remains: Why does our government continue to make believe that it can stop terrorists from boarding civilian planes when anyone with half-a-brain and a spare two minutes can think up a dozen ways to bypass the symbolic security measures at our airports?

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TSA To Save Print Media? No Electronics On International Flights? What A Joke.

I wholeheartedly agree with MG Siegler’s comments at Techcrunch:

Before I begin, let me just state that TSA has yet to confirm any of this on its website, so the details aren’t entirely clear at the moment. That said, there are several indications that orders have been issued to cease the use of electronics during international flights. Yes, that means no laptops, no iPods, no Kindles, no CD players, no portable DVD players, no Nintendo DSes — nothing that requires any sort of power on these flights. If this is true, it’s absolutely awful news.

Obviously, this is all in reaction to the Nigerian man who attempted to bring down a plane coming into the U.S. And the TSA is going to do whatever it thinks is necessary to prevent further attacks of a similar nature. But the simple fact is that if the TSA was really this seriously worried about electronic devices, they could have banned them anytime since the attacks on September 11, 2001.

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The Man Who Conned The Pentagon

Playboy doing what it does best: publishing stories that more respectable publications won’t touch:

The weeks before Christmas brought no hint of terror. But by the afternoon of December 21, 2003, police stood guard in heavy assault gear on the streets of Manhattan. Fighter jets patrolled the skies. When a gift box was left on Fifth Avenue, it was labeled a suspicious package and 5,000 people in the Metropolitan Museum of Art were herded into the cold.

It was Code Orange. Americans first heard of it at a Sunday press conference in Washington, D.C. Weekend assignment editors sent their crews up Nebraska Avenue to the new Homeland Security offices, where DHS secretary Tom Ridge announced the terror alert. “There’s continued discussion,” he told reporters, “these are from credible sources—about near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experienced on September 11.” The New York Times reported that intelligence sources warned “about some unspecified but spectacular attack.”

The financial markets trembled.

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