Friday, October 2, 2009
"You start with health-care workers but then expand that umbrella to make it mandatory for everybody," said Lori Price of Citizens for Legitimate Government, a Bristol, Conn.-based group that opposes government expansion. "It's all part of an encroachment on our liberties."
Hundreds of thousands of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers are being ordered to become vaccinated as the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic spreads this fall.
The trend is fueling rumors that the H1N1 vaccine may become mandatory for everyone, said Lori Price of Citizens for Legitimate Government, a Connecticut-based group that opposes government expans
"It's all part of an encroachment on our liberties," Price told The Wall Street Journal in a story published Saturday.
Hospital Corp. of America, with clinics and hospitals in 20 states, is requiring its 120,000 employees to be vaccinated and the state of New York is requiring all healthcare workers to get both seasonal and H1N1 flu shots.
Mandatory vaccination diverts attention from more effective infection-control methods, such as state-of-the-art masks, said Bill Borwegen, a occupational health and safety director of the Service Employees International Union. (c) UPI
And remember how much I love you people....
HELENA, Mont. — If Montana has its way in a lawsuit filed Thursday, there will be far less federal gun control in the state.
The state's libertarian streak — which has spawned efforts to buck the federal Real ID Act and sparked widespread contempt for the Patriot Act — is now triggering a fight over whether Montana should have sovereignty over made-in-Montana guns and equipment.
Environmental Protections jeopardized by GOP amendments
New efforts by Republican lawmakers to bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border could undermine the Department of Homeland Security's plans to mitigate environmental damage from the 700-mile fence authorized by Congress to stem the tide of illegal immigration and drugs from Mexico, critics of the fence project say.
One new provision, included in last week's Interior spending bill passed by the Senate, would prohibit federal funding for projects that "impede, prohibit or restrict" activities related to the operational control of the border.
Environmental groups see the language, attached as an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), as potentially detrimental to efforts by DHS to carry out projects that would reduce the border fence's environmental impacts.
Right wing talk stirs immigration debate discussion of immigration policy
c/o David Frum, NewMajority.com
Yes, Senate Dems do want illegal alien Obamacare coverage.
Now let me stipulate: I speak here as someone who favored national photo ID before national photo ID was cool. I argued for just such a thing in the book I coauthored with Richard Perle way back in 2003.
If conservatives and Republicans have come around to accept this view, that would be a happy day. But I fear as I listen that the debate only confirms that conservatives these days just don’t think before they talk.
Follow the reasoning here:
1) It’s impossible to write a law that says that immigrants and only immigrants must show ID. How would that work?
“Excuse me ma’am, are you an immigrant? If so, may I see your ID?”
“No, no señor! I’m a member of the DAR!”
Obviously if we are going to enforce a legals-only rule for health insurance, everybody will have to show ID.
2) But what ID? Unfortunately, driver’s licenses do not prove legal residency. Even if the REAL ID Act goes into effect as currently scheduled in 2017 – not an outcome to bet money on - driver’s licenses will remain an uncertain proof of legal residency status.
Conversely, there are many legal residents who lack licenses. They are too old, or they drove drunk, or they are legally blind, or they just never got around to acquiring one. What are they supposed to do?
If we’re going to require people to prove their residency status before enrolling in a health exchange, we’re going to need a reliable system of national identification that enrolls everybody, drivers and non-drivers.
3) Again: I’m all for this! But can you imagine what the right blogosophere and talk radio would say if the Obama administration proposed a national identity card? That would be the final proof of the president’s Hitlerite intentions!
The Grassley debate is a good debate to have. And I do share Malkin’s suspicions that this administration would like to extend subsidized health coverage to illegals – although probably via an amnesty that ended their illegality.
But if this debate is to yield any useful result, conservatives need to be ready to answer the obvious questions: What kind of card? How would it work? What’s our plan? We need to think before we emote.
Former Darpa director Tony Tether is joining a Washington-area lobbying firm best known for its influence on Capitol Hill. But Tether — who served for more than seven years as the head of the Pentagon’s premiere research arm — says he won’t be doing any lobbying in his new role.
“I won’t be going to the Hill or otherwise,” he tells Danger Room. Instead, Tether says he’ll serve as a part-time technical consultant and “strategic advisor” for the influencers at The Livingston Group.
Earlier in September, Tether joined an advisory panel of Scientific Systems Company, Inc., which works on robotics projects for the Pentagon. In June, he joined the board of Aurora Flight Sciences, Inc., developers of military unmanned aircraft.
The company was founded by Republican Congressman Bob Livingston in 1999, after he stepped down as Speaker-elect of the House following his admission of marital infidelity. Today, the company “has an extensive network of over 60 principals and consultants” and “over 50 domestic and international clients,” the firm’s website notes. Those clients include defense contractors like Northrop Grumman, CACI International, Raytheon, and Accenture, according to SourceWatch. The Republic of Turkey, the Cayman Islands, and the Council for a Democratic Iran have also enlisted The Livingston Group’s services.
“What TLG (and their clients) need is someone to assess technology solutions that the clients are usually sure is the best thing since sliced bread,” Tether e-mails. “This gives the TLG folks a better idea what the client has and therefore who might be interested, and what the issues are if any. It also helps the clients re-set their expectations (upward or downward).”
Joining Tether at TLG is former Darpa program manager Art Bruckheim. “Our clients will benefit from their knowledge and expertise,” Livingston says in a statement.
Net neutrality sounds like a good idea. After all, it’s the internet’s openness to any and all users, applications and content that gave it such a resounding victory over closed networks like AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy. And there’s no question that as a general business and networking principle, “anything goes” is both desirable and beneficial, to users and network operators alike. Over the long run, the most open networks attract the most customers and will be the most successful — and the most profitable.
But somewhere along the way, this principle of good network architecture turned into a political tenet that, according to some true believers, is almost equivalent to the Bill of Rights in importance.
The argument goes like this: Internet service providers have such strong motivations to restrict access to content or applications that they don’t like that the government needs to step in to ensure a level playing field. For net neutrality’s true believers, Comcast and Verizon no longer get to decide how best to configure the networks they spent billions building: Their networks are so ubiquitous, and so critical to the common good, that the government has a responsibility to ensure they are managed fairly.
It’s easy to see the merits of the argument, and when we’re talking about ISPs that are near-monopolies built in large part on the basis of government subsidy or exclusive federal licensing, it seems downright un-American to argue against net neutrality.
Unfortunately, there are at least three big problems with making net neutrality a federal mandate.
First is that bandwidth is not, in fact, unlimited, especially in the wireless world. One reason ISPs are averse to neutrality regulation, they say, is that they need the flexibility to ban or mitigate high-bandwidth uses of their network, like BitTorrent and Hulu.com, which would otherwise run amok. Take away their ability to prioritize traffic, the ISPs say, and overall service will suffer.
“As long as there have been networks, people have had to engineer them to ensure that congestion doesn’t occur,” Carnegie Mellon professor and telecom expert David Farber said Monday (he’s the co-author of a cautious anti-net neutrality opinion piece published in 2007). Farber is especially concerned about the impact of the FCC’s position on wireless networks, where bandwidth is already very limited. “When you’re operating that close to capacity, you have to do a very tricky job of managing your spectrum. If you have unconstrained loads being dumped on you, something’s going to have to give.”
Case in point: AT&T has repeatedly stumbled in its ability to provide 3G wireless capacity, thanks to the unexpected popularity of the iPhone. Those difficulties lend credence to AT&T’s (and Apple’s) reluctance to allow apps like Skype and Slingplayer unfettered access to the 3G network: If the network can barely keep up with ordinary demand, just imagine what would happen if we were all live-streaming the Emmy Awards over our iPhones at the same time.
Take away ISPs’ ability to shape or restrict traffic, and you’ll see many carriers running into AT&T-like capacity problems. Their response will almost certainly be to make consumers pay for what they’re actually using. Want to BitTorrent all 6.7GB of the uncompressed Beatles catalog via 3G? Fine, but you’ll have to pay for the bandwidth you’re taking away from your neighbor.
Second, enforcement of neutrality regulations is going to be difficult. Comcast may not be able to block Skype traffic altogether, but what’s to prevent the company from slowing it down relative to other traffic it carries? Such preferential “packet shaping” is easy to turn off and on, as network demands ebb and flow. By contrast, proving such infractions of neutrality will be complex, slow and difficult. It sets up a classic “nimble, resourceful criminal versus slow-footed, underequipped cop” scenario.
Third, the new regulations create an additional layer of government bureaucracy where the free market has already proven its effectiveness. The reason you’re not using AOL to read this right now isn’t because the government mandated AOL’s closed network out of existence: It’s because free and open networks triumphed, and that’s because they were good business.
Now the FCC is proposing taking a free market that works, and adding another layer of innovation-stifling regulations on top of that? This may please the net neutrality advocates who helped elect the current administration, but it doesn’t add up.
Net neutrality regulations make sense in closed, monopolistic situations. But outside of small, rural markets, most of the U.S. offers a high level of competitive choice. Don’t like Comcast cable internet? Switch to SpeakEasy, Astound or SBC, or look into satellite internet. Don’t care for AT&T’s spotty 3G wireless network? Try T-Mobile or Verizon. Need help finding an alternative? Check Broadband Reports’ interactive ISP finder.
hat’s why the FCC should take a very cautious, careful approach to implementing its brave, new principles. Free, unfettered innovation has been the secret to the internet’s explosive growth over the past two decades. Let’s not let a well-meaning attempt to preserve that innovation wind up doing exactly the opposite.
As Farber says, “Whatever you do, you don’t want to stifle innovation.”
National ID bashing with Cato's, Jim Harper
June 14, 2007
by Jim Harper
Immigration reform is now in limbo, perhaps to return to the Senate floor for a vote, perhaps not. The debate so far — over 'amnesty,' border control, and guest workers—has assumed that "workplace enforcement" is a good thing. But verifying workers' employment eligibility, as called for in the Senate immigration bill, is not such a good idea. It would revive the failing national ID plan in the REAL ID Act, create a mission-creepy surveillance system, and subject every American worker to a bureaucratic gauntlet akin to the Department of Homeland Security's embarrassing "no-fly" list.
The overall purpose of immigration law reform is salutary. Aligning immigration law with the nation's strong economic demand for new workers would foster lawful behavior among migrant workers, immigrants, and employers. But by establishing an "electronic employment verification system" tied to the infamous REAL ID card, the immigration bill in the Senate would promote surveillance and tracking of every American, native-born and immigrant alike.
Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 introduced the I-9 form and criminalized hiring illegal immigrants, many have come to accept that Americans' ability to work should depend on being eligible under federal law and doing the paperwork to prove it. Employment eligibility verification has not reduced illegal immigration, though, so immigration reform is back on Congress's agenda.
When a policy is failing, Congress has a choice: scrap it, or strengthen it. The option that increases federal spending and federal control is almost always the one that carries the day in the federal city. Despite its failure, the march to strengthen workplace enforcement continues.
The groundwork for the current push was laid in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. It required the Immigration and Naturalization Service to commence electronic verification of employees' work eligibility, a program called "Basic Pilot." In Basic Pilot, employers enter the information supplied on workers I-9 forms into a government website. It is compared with information held by the Social Security Administration and DHS to determine whether the employee is work-eligible.
When the system cannot confirm a worker's eligibility, it issues the employer a "tentative nonconfirmation." The employer must notify the affected worker, and the worker has the right to contest his or her tentative nonconfirmation within eight working days by contacting SSA or the Customs and Immigration Service. When a worker does not contest his or her tentative nonconfirmation quickly enough, the Basic Pilot program issues a final nonconfirmation and the employer is required to either immediately terminate the worker or notify DHS of its continued employment of the worker.
Title III of the Senate immigration bill would expand this program to all employers and workers within three years. This is much more easily said than done. It is unlikely to have the effects its proponents want. And it would be costly in both dollars and privacy.
Most people are familiar with the agonizing lines, the random screenings, and the Kafkaesque "suspect" treatment some get at airports. Title III would bring this state of affairs to the employment process. Last December, the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General estimated that the SSA's "Numident" file — the data against which Basic Pilot checks worker information — has an error rate of 4.1%. All of the cases it analyzed resulted in Basic Pilot providing incorrect results. At this rate, one in every 25 new hires would receive a tentative nonconfirmation. That would leave millions of American workers to engage with government bureaucracy seeking permission to hold a job — most likely during hours they are supposed to be at work.
The dollar costs of a nationwide electronic verification system would be high. In December 2005, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the costs of the electronic employment verification system in H.R. 4437, an immigration reform bill in the 109th Congress. CBO estimated $100 million in short-run costs for upgrading software, hardware, databases, and other technology. To handle queries about tentative nonconfirmations, DHS and SSA would have had to spend about $100 million per year on new personnel. This is to say nothing of the costs to employers and workers, especially those denied permission to work. These costs would fall on U.S. taxpayers — not illegal immigrants.
Electronic verification would have far greater privacy consequences than the current system — consequences that would also fall on American citizens. Unlike paper records, when an employer enters I-9 information into a web form and sends it to the SSA and DHS, that information becomes very easy for those entities to access, copy, or use. It is combined with "meta-data" — information about when the information was collected, from whom, and so on. The process gives the government access to a wealth of data about every American's working situation. It can easily be correlated with tax records at the IRS, education loan records in the Department of Education, health records at the Department of Health and Human Services, and so on. Title III specifically requires the IRS to share taxpayer data with DHS. Electronic employment eligibility verification will unravel the privacy of law-abiding American citizens.
Disclosure to the government is not the only privacy-related concern with an electronic employment verification system. Data security is an issue as well. We have seen massive data breaches from government agencies in the recent past, and from private entities too. Watch for identity theft to rise if there is electronic employment eligibility verification.
Illegal workers will need new name and Social Security number pairs to use against the system. The very best source will be the system itself — the SSA and DHS databases, the offices where "tentative nonconfirmations" are processed, the people that process them, and the communications links that connect all these elements. Any electronic employment verification system will be a target for hackers, a data breach waiting to happen, and a threat to the identity system we rely on today. Electronic employment verification would put Americans' sensitive personal information at risk. The best security against data breach is not collecting information in the first place.
This Byzantine verification system is built on an attempt to revive the collapsing REAL ID Act, the national ID law that has already beenrejected by sixteen [now 24]of the states on which it relies for implementation. Title III requires every American to have a REAL ID compliant card by 2013 if they want to get federal approval for working, and the bill would spend $300 million trying to get states to implement the REAL ID Act. This is a paltry sum, given the more than $10 billion DHS' own estimates say states would have to spend. That $300 million shouldn't be spent on a national surveillance system at all; it should be returned to taxpayers. The DHS should not resurrect the failed national ID system through the immigration reform plan. Law-abiding, native-born Americans should be able to work without carrying a national ID.
Bringing immigration law in line with the wants and needs of American citizens and immigrants will do more for the rule of law than the "workplace enforcement" provisions in the immigration bill ever could. Title III is not only unnecessary, but also expensive and invasive. When immigration law reform comes back, lawmakers should closely consider whether surveillance of American workers is something they support, no matter what their positions on other immigration issues.
Jim Harper is the director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. To subscribe, or see a list of all previous TechKnowledge articles, visit www.cato.org/tech/tk-index.html.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
San Francisco - A judge ordered the government Thursday to release more records about the lobbying campaign to provide immunity to the telecommunications giants that participated in the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ordered the records be provided to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) by October 9, 2009.
The decision is part of EFF's long-running battle to gather information about telecommunications lobbying conducted as Congress considered granting immunity to companies that participated in illegal government electronic surveillance. Telecom immunity was eventually passed as part of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008, but a bill that would repeal the immunity -- called the JUSTICE Act -- was introduced in the Senate last week.
"Today's ruling is a major victory for government transparency," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "As the court recognized, it was unlawful for the government to deny Americans access to this information in the midst of the debate over telecom immunity last year. We're pleased these records will now be available to the public as Congress considers the JUSTICE Act."
EFF has been seeking information about the telecom lobbying campaign under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) since 2007, as news reports detailed an extensive and expensive lobbying campaign seeking immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in unlawful surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. Officials at the Bush Administration's Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) were vocal supporters of the immunity proposals, working closely with telecoms. Using the FOIA, EFF asked the DOJ and the ODNI for any communications between the agencies, members of Congress, and telecom companies related to lobbying for telecom immunity.
The DOJ and ODNI argued that the records requested by EFF were protected by FOIA exemptions covering agency deliberations and other privileged communications. But in today's order, the judge ruled that as the communications were with Congress and lobbyists, the exemptions did not apply. The judge also found that the identities of telecom representatives who lobbied for immunity could not be kept from the public on privacy grounds.
"Today's ruling shows that aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act is necessary to challenge government secrecy," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "We cannot allow the government to drag its feet in making relevant information available to the American public."
EFF also represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecom of violating their rights by illegally assisting in widespread domestic surveillance. In June of 2009, a federal judge dismissed Hepting and dozens of other lawsuits against telecoms, ruling that the companies had immunity from liability under the FAA. EFF is appealing the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, primarily arguing that the FAA's immunity provision is unconstitutional in granting the president broad discretion to block the courts from considering the core constitutional privacy claims of millions of Americans.
For the full order:
For more on the litigation:
For more on the JUSTICE Act:
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Some state governments have claimed that a pending compliance deadline for REAL ID requires them to tighten up their driver’s licensing procedures consistent with the 2005 national ID law. (But see this.)
In fact, REAL ID is dead and the deadline is fake. More than a dozen states have statutorily barred themselves from complying, and in a rule published Monday the Department of Homeland Security extended the deadline again. This is the same thing it did last May and could easily do indefinitely.
The republic survives, and will survive quite nicely without this or any national ID law.______________________
BTC Commentary - We addressed this topic lightly in our editorialized piece Kick the Can, Anyone? Anyone?
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR STATE BUDGET FOR COMPLIANCE... The best you can do is check in with your local governor's office. An extension is a procrastinatory note; it's not a budget or widgets sold. Real ID is considered dead. One course of action for pragmatic States is to roll over and do nothing. A State government who wants to play paper wall ball with DHS; you will fill out some sheets of paper that kick the can down the road. This creates another deadline until the federal government has decided what to do about the tarbaby a.k.a. the Real ID Act.
There are two paths with the same result.
The Homeland Security Department is pushing back the deadline by six weeks for states to request an extension to comply with the REAL ID program.
DHS in its January 2008 final rule set an Oct. 11, 2009 target for states request extra time. States now have until Dec. 1 to request more time to comply with the law.
"All states timely filed the required request for extensions and were granted an extension of the compliance date," DHS states in a Federal Register notice issued today. "DHS has determined that additional time is warranted for states to submit a request for an additional extension."
States that do not request an extension still must meet the Jan. 1, 2010 deadline to begin issuing driver's licenses or other identification cards to issue documents, driver's licenses or other identification cards that meet the security requirements outlined in the REAL ID Act of 2005.
Congress is considering legislation to change REAL ID to PASS ID, which would reduce the cost and to states. The National Governors Association and others have estimated implementing REAL ID could cost as much as $4 billion.
The Senate's version of the law passed the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but the House legislation has not gotten out of the Homeland Security Committee.
PASS ID would:
- Amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to prohibit agencies from accepting state-issued driver's licenses and personal identification cards unless the state issues such licenses and cards that are materially compliant with the minimum standards of this act;
- Prohibit persons from being denied boarding a commercial aircraft solely because of failure to present a driver's license or identification card issued pursuant to this act;
- Specify a minimum document requirements and issuance standards for such licenses and cards;
- Direct the DHS secretary to enter into the appropriate aviation security screening database information on persons who have been convicted of using a false driver's license at an airport; and to establish a state-to-state one driver, one license demonstration program;
- Establish a State Driver's License Enhancement Grant Program;
- Make it unlawful for a person knowingly and without lawful authority to copy or resell information from a driver's license or identification card.
The Department of Homeland Security has released to Congress a report detailing its privacy activities from 2008 through 2009, offering a glimpse into the department's work on a variety of privacy fronts, including the searches of laptops and other electronics devices and the government's gradual embrace of social media.
The 99-page report (PDF available here) reads as a laundry list of DHS privacy initiatives during the past year and a half, containing a helpful appendix of three pages of acronyms.
In the area of border security, the department defended its use of RFID technology in developing enhanced drivers licenses to facilitate border crossings under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit has come under fire from civil liberties groups for searching the contents travelers' electronic devices, particularly laptops.
The new report downplays the frequency of this practice. From Oct. 1, 2008 through May 5, 2009, for instance, DHS reported that of the 144.4 million travelers CBP authorities encountered at U.S. ports of entry, just 2.2 percent (or 3.1 million) were subject to a secondary search. Of those, just 1,947 were forced to submit their electronic devices to search.
In some instances, those searches entailed nothing more than turning the device on to ensure that a cell phone is in fact a cell phone, a laptop a laptop, etc. (A handful of federal buildings in Washington, such as the Federal Communications Commission, maintain the same practice. The White House and the Capitol complex buildings do not.)
DHS reported that 696 travelers' laptops were subject to inspection from October through May, and of those, only 40 were put through an in-depth search that would inspect the content on the devices.
On the social media front, the DHS Privacy Office said that it had taken up President Obama's mandate to incorporate new technologies into the government's operations, but noted that it faced challenges addressing the tangle of privacy concerns that come in tow.
"Social networking tools are an effective means by which the federal government can communicate with the public, but the government use of the tools may raise a myriad of complex legal, security and privacy issues," the report said.
To get the ball rolling, DHS held a public workshop in June to serve as a forum for addressing the privacy concerns regarding social media in government.
DHS representatives also participated in a Web 2.0 subcommittee dispatched by the Federal CIO Council and convened several internal workshops to sort through the privacy issues associated with new media tools.
The department has posted a site documented its forays into the Web 2.0 world here.
Additionally, the report talked up DHS' role in working with the administration's team commissioned to review the federal government's cybersecurity apparatus and establish recommendations to balance the security of U.S. digital infrastructure with privacy protections.
"Suspicionless Surveillance" was developed by the Pentagon's controversial Total Information Awareness department, led by Adm. John Poindexter, the former national security adviser, who secretly sold weapons to Middle Eastern terrorists in the 1980s during the Iran-Contra affair and was convicted of a felony for lying to Congress and destroying evidence. The convictions were later overturned on appeal.
Report Critical of NSA Program
The unclassified report prepared by inspectors general of five federal agencies said George W. Bush justified his warrantless wiretapping by relying on Justice Department attorney John Yoo's theories of unlimited presidential wartime powers, and started the spying operation even before Yoo issued a formal opinion, a government investigation discovered.
Essentially, President Bush took it upon himself to ignore the clear requirement of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that all domestic intelligence-related electronic spying must have a warrant from a secret federal court, not just presidential approval. Illegal wiretapping is a felony under federal law. ::MORE HERE::