Saturday, August 30, 2003

Matrix, the privatized version of Poindexter's TIA 

Congress may have cut funding for and be on the verge of totally shutting down
John Poindexter's Total (later renamed Terrorism) Information Awareness (TIA) program, and the Iran-contra felon may have departed Donald Rumsfeld's War Department, but that hasn't stopped police in Florida from "creating a counterterrorism database designed to give law enforcement agencies around the country a powerful new tool to analyze billions of records about both criminals and ordinary Americans," according to the Washington Post.

Dubbed Matrix, which is short for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, the system "enables investigators to find patterns and links among people and events faster than ever before, combining police records with commercially available collections of personal information about most American adults. It would let authorities, for instance, instantly find the name and address of every brown-haired owner of a red Ford pickup truck in a 20-mile radius of a suspicious event."

Matrix was developed by Hank Asher, the Seisint Inc. of Boca Raton, Florida, who donated it to the state. The database, according to the Post, has been in operation for more than a year and some 135 state police departments have signed up for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's service. In addition, the Post reported, "At least a dozen states -- including Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan -- said they want to add their records."

Asher has an interesting history, according to the Post: "In 1999, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI suspended information service contracts with an earlier Asher-run company because of concerns about his past, according to law enforcement sources. The Chicago Tribune reported in 1987 that court documents in a federal drug case said defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey, who identified Asher as a pilot and onetime smuggler, offered him as an informant."

James "Tim" Moore, former Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner, told the Post that the department was aware of Asher's background, but "we were also aware he had never been arrested or charged."

Seisint's coffers will be swelled by $1.6 million from the Florida legislature. In addition, the US Justice Department has kicked in $4 million to expand Matrix nationally and the Department of Homeland Security has pledged $8 million to the project of tracking your every move.

Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who is seeking the Democrats' nomination for president, apparently backs the program. The Post reported that Graham, while chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, met several times with Matrix "organizers" to discuss "the system's development."

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Schwarzenegger still an Austrian 

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an Austrian citizen. The leading Republican candidate to replace California Gov. Gray Davis should Davis be recalled on October 7 holds dual Austrian-United States citizenship. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on August 18 that the bodybuilder engaged in the exercise of political string pulling to maintain his Austrian citizenship after becoming an American citizen. Austria generally does not allow dual citizenship, but Joseph Krainer, former governor of Styria, Schwarzeneggers home province, helped the celebrity retain his status as an Austrian.

"We would have been idiots if we had denied Schwarzenegger's express wish at the time to be allowed to keep his Austrian citizenship," the Chronicle quoted Krainer as saying, "After all, today Arnold is the best known Austrian in the world."

Dual citizenship may be fine for the average Tom, Dick, or Arnold. But shouldn't a governor of California owe his allegiance to only one country, ours?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Is Bush getting apocalyptic advice? 

That's the question Jeannette Wall Of MSNBC's The Scoop is asking.

In her Aug. 13 column, Wall wrote, "Is the Bush administration turning to a televangelist doomsayer for political predictions? Apocalyptic preacher Jack Van Impe is claiming that he was contacted by Condoleezza Rice's office and the White House Office of Public Liaison for an 'outline' of his take on world events."

The author of such books as “Israel's Final Holocaust” and “The Great Escape: Preparing for the Rapture, the Next Event on God's Prophetic Clock,” Van Impe, according to Wall, "has predicted that the end of the world will strike somewhere between 2003 and 2012 and one reviewer has called his TV preaching show with wife Rexella 'a fantastically loopy apocalyptic take on the week's news.'"

Wall said the disclosure of the alleged involvement between Van Impe and the Bushies came in a response to someone who asked on his website, "Do you think that President Bush, apparently a Christian man, believes and knows he is involved in prophetic events concerning the Middle East and final battle between good and evil?"

Van Impe reportedly responded, "I was contacted a few weeks ago by the Office of Public Liaison for the White House and by the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to make an outline. And I've spent hours preparing it. I will release this information to the public in September, but it's in his hands. He will know exactly what is going to happen in the Middle East and what part he will have under the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. So, it's a tremendous time to be alive."

Wall said NSC spokesman Sean McCormack contended his "investigation" into Van Impe's claim showed "that there's no truth to it, but I'm continuing to look into it."

It would behoove Wall to ask if McCormack's investigation showed there is no truth to it, what is he continuing to look into.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Which way to Brooklyn? 

That is what a New York City straphanger, who was planning to hoof it home during yesterday's power blackout, asked a CNN reporter.

Do we chalk this up to a failure of the schools to teach geography or the possibility that the underground tunnels suck all sense of direction out of subway riders?

If a New Yorker doesn't know where Brooklyn is in relationship to where he or she happens to be in Manhattan, how can we expect him or her to know where Iraq or North Korea or even Peoria is?

We once encountered a teacher who thought Chicago was a state, but that's another story -- a rather sad one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Bush Gestapo to human shields: Pay fines for going to Iraq or go to prison 

At Leona Helmsley's 1992 tax evasion trial, her housekeeper testified that Helmsley told her, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." While Helmsley drew a four-year prison sentence, one can almost hear the Bushies and their friends tittering, "Only the little people have to obey the law."

And a group of "little people," who put their lives on the line by going to Iraq to act as human shields in the effort to prevent George Dubya's illegal invasion and destruction of that country, are being told by the Bush Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to pay fines of $10,000 or face 10 years in prison for "violating U.S. sanctions that forbade most travel to Iraq and commerce with Saddam Hussein's regime," according to the Washington Post.

The Post doesn't mention whether Treasury spokesman Taylor Griffin had a straight face when he said that there is no political motivation in enforcing the "prewwar sanctions."

If trying to stop a criminal invasion of a sovereign country can get you a 10-year stay in a prison cell, what must George W., Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and the corporate crooks be facing for all ttheir crimes? Oops, only the little people have to obey the law.

Monday, August 11, 2003

A fairy tale from The Washington Times? 

After tucking her kids in bed, The Washington Times' Neil Doyle would have us believe that an American housewife and mother, known to her "spy masters only as 'Mrs. Galt,'" spends her nights traveling the "secret world of Internet chat rooms and Web sites populated by some of the most dangerous people on earth" to track down "al Qaeda and other terror groups."

If that isn't enough hyperbole for you, Doyle goes on to claim that "Mrs. Galt" (might she fantasize that she is the wife of John Galt from Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged?) "sweet-talks her interlocutors into revealing their plans, often with fatal consequences for the terrorists."

It gets better . . . or more bizarre, depending on your point of view: "They have no idea that their supportive new 'sister' is a terrorist hunter reporting every word they say to a variety of intelligence agencies," Doyle wrote.

"She is so trusted by her unsuspecting targets that they often send her pictures of themselves displaying heavy machine guns and other weapons. She has even been sent pictures of men proudly displaying severed human heads," said Doyle, who claims to have interviewed "Mrs. Galt," whose age he lists as 42, by email.

And would you believe that "Mrs. Galt" uses "a crib sheet" with "Islamic sayings and customs" to ingratiate herself with her targets and even flirt with them? Flirt with Muslim men whose religious beliefs place a heavy emphasis on modesty?

You have to admit this story gets better by the paragraph.

According to Doyle, this one woman CIA/FBI/MI6, "Over a period of weeks and even months, . . .slowly teases out details of coming operations, locations of bases and movements of personnel." Whee!

What does this spook extraordinaire do with all the information she allegedly extracts from the unsuspecting "terrorists?" Doyle claimed, "She reports to London-based private intelligence consultant Glen Jenvey, who makes his research available to government services, including the FBI and the military intelligence agencies of Russia and India."

This sounds like a plot from the old TV show, Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Do you suppose "Mrs. Galt" might resemble Kate Jackson who played "Mrs. King?"

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Playing the terrorism card 

The advocates of implanting radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in consumer products have come up with a new twist to force them on a reluctant public: get the Department of Homeland Security to mandate their use as "antiterrorism technology," according to Wired News.

Wire reported, " With Ridge's approval for RFID, the food and drug companies and retailers hope to win over a wary public. They also may get legal protection under the Safety Act of 2002 -- a tort-reform law that offers blanket lawsuit protections to makers of antiterrorism devices, should those devices fail during a terrorist attack."

The Auto-ID Center, an industry consortium, is hoping to recruit Sens. John McCain and Patrick Leahy, and Reps. Charles Dingell and Billy Tauzin to its cause.

"But not all legislators on Capitol Hill are buying into RFID tags, especially when they see companies playing the terrorism card to gain acceptance for the technology," Wired said.

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