Tag Archives: homeland security

SF Writer Beaten and Arrested at US Border

I say US border because it turns out, in Port Huron, one must go through a US checkpoint before the Canadian checkpoint when leaving the US. SF writer Dr. Peter Watts was beaten and arrested by US border guards this week when they stopped him to search his car and he asked them what was going on.

His belongings were seized (notepad, flashdrive, computer, rental car, coat) and he was released on foot after being arraigned and charged into Ontario’s winter snowstorm in nothing more than shirtsleeves. Luckily, he didn’t die of exposure. There have been cases of people picked up by police and then dropped off in extreme weather to then die of hypothermia. Frank Paul was one.

Thankfully Watts wasn’t tasered as the BC RCMP did to Robert Dziekanski. He will thus live and get a chance to refute the charge by the US Homeland Security office (a name that has always raised my hackles and reminds me of some Nazi-esque terminology) that could land him in a US prison for two years.

According to his words he didn’t resist and didn’t fight these border thugs but that didn’t stop them from asserting more power than was needed and abusing people because they feel they’re untouchable. I have never had problems with the Blaine border crossing except for one jerk (oops two) who were more interesting in threatening than in being reasonable and most border guards are people who just do their jobs. Some are friendlier and some of cold and efficient. And a few throughout the US and Canada take their power and push it like dictators.

Perhaps Peter Watts can get the appropriate minister or MP of the government of Canada to help him out. When you look at Canada’s record with Canadians stuck abroad, or, like Maher Arar, allowed to be taken to another country and tortured so that the US and Canada could pretend that they wanted torture, it’s not that good. Watts is white though and not Muslim so he might stand a better chance. Harper’s government isn’t exactly known for being compassionate towards those who are white.

He now faces a long and scary road through the US legal system and if it’s anything like here, the police or US guards are rarely found in wrongdoing. How many cases of people killed while in police custody have ever resulted in an officer being charged and the case not dismissed as accidental? Not many I tell you. Watts will probably have to spend more money than he has to try and save himself, and in the end, if he doesn’t serve time, he may still be blacklisted from ever entering the US. Good luck to him and I hope our government will intervene but we can’t count on that anymore.

Following are the articles at BoingBoing and Watts’ own blog:

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=932

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/12/11/dr-peter-watts-canad.html#more

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Big Brother IS Watching, You and You and Me

George Orwell, like a fair number of science fiction  writers (Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and others), visualized some aspect of a future world, perhaps an alternate world but created a story nonetheless that had some essence of things to come.

As Wikipedia says: The novel has become famous for its portrayal of pervasive government surveillance and control, and government’s increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication, many of its terms and concepts, such as “Big Brother“, “doublethink“, and “Newspeak” have entered the popular vernacular.

Indeed, the phrase “Big Brother is watching” is synonymous with too much government control, or the totalitarianism that Orwell feared. After 9/11 and the right-wing paranoia of the Bush administration we saw the rise of Homeland Security, where people’s rights were taken away. Some disappeared into Guantanamo without anyone knowing where they went, without any legal aid or advice. Others, while flying through the US, were shipped off to other countries for torture, regardless of what their citizenship was.  The phrase “Homeland Security” is reminiscent of the Fatherland (Hitler’s Third Reich) and the Motherland (Communist Russia). Though these last two are examples of extreme right wing and extreme left wing governments, they both encompass a totalitarianism and the circumventing of the rights of the individual, for the greater good, for the country.

It used to be that a camera trained on you and watching your every move was considered an invasion of privacy. Many years ago, before Homeland Security, my boyfriend had a friend in Calgary that worked for the local telecommunications company (at that time AGT–Alberta Government Telephones). He could not say what he did but it involved hidden cameras trained onto the streets outside the buildings. Every war commander knows that the way to break the enemy, to overcome them, is to either hinder or monitor their communications.  So every wise nation protects its communications and every ambitious or suspicious nation spies on its perceived enemies and communicates what it sees.

There are numerous instances of spy planes and spies. We accept that that is what countries do. There are cameras on you at the border or at your bank machine, to protect you. There are cameras on the roads now, webcams we call them, that show us the line-up at ferries, or freeways, or intersections, or borders. These are all informative pictures that we can use to plan around daily obstacles. But that is not their main purpose. They are surveillance methods to watch and control people, and to identify someone should there have been an accident, a murder, an escape.

There are those that argue that we need the greater security. We need protection from the evil terrorist/mugger/alien/your favorite bad guy. And yes, we do need some form of security, but there comes a time when government or police forces are also watching too much and our individual freedom is curtailed. I would say there is not one person who has not committed a small crime or infringement, whether it’s lying, cheating, jaywalking, running a yellow light, or drinking too much. Which means, that we’re all human and if allowed our little indiscretions, will most likely not make the bigger ones.

When I worked for Nokia, there were cameras everywhere. Corporate espionage is high. However, with all those cameras in the halls and the reception area, they were not allowed to train cameras on our workspaces, nor in the bathrooms. I’m not sure what the exact law it but watching someone 24/7 is not allowed. The head of security also told us that though they viewed all video footage they could not report on such things as two people having sex in the office. This video footage was only for such crimes as theft and breaking and entering.

Sarnia, Ontario is upset over a US surveillance balloon that watches over the river. The company claims it can be used for disaster planning, and other situations that arise. However, the mayor of Sarnia says that when the balloon (with camera inside that can see for 5 miles) first went up the company said it was for Homeland Security, but now they sing another song and say it’s not trained on Sarnia and it’s just research.

Google Earth has already heard concerns about their filming of much of the world, down to vans with cameras driving on the streets. And that many of these cameras take a picture of everything on the street, including you getting into your car, coming and going, and in some cases right into your windows to see what you’re up to. Sure, they claim it’s inadvertent but the pictures of us are showing up everywhere, even if we eliminate You Tube.

The 2010 Olympics will see a gigantic increase in security forces in and around Vancouver. They will be putting up many more cameras than are already up, by government and private businesses. After the Athens Olympics all extra cameras were supposed to come down. Instead the police turned them into citizen surveillance systems. Hello, Big Brother. BC’s privacy commissioner has promised that we won’t have the same situation.

Taken from A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada: “Despite the growth in CCTV, there is not convincing  research evidence that it aids in deterring, responding to and investigating crime.” That’s just one study but the Big Brother security folks want to sell cameras and keep their jobs and probably think we should live in a society that watches your every move and therefore you must behave. http://www.surveillanceproject.org/files/SCAN_Report_Phase1_Final_Jan_30_2009.pdf

There is a group counting the cameras in Greater Vancouver before the Olympics so that people can, in general be aware of how much surveillance there always is. But if you plan to come to the Olympics and actually venture anywhere public in Vancouver, you can bet that you’ll be filmed. In fact, there is probably not a street in any commercial area that doesn’t have one camera or another. It’s pretty impossible to remain invisible these days unless you’re in the boonies. Big Brother is here, and is watching all of us right now.  And maybe, just maybe, Big Brother likes to watch.

 

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Airport Security=Paranoia Keeps Them in Line

In the past year, I’ve flown to Ireland and to Kansas. Flying to the US took far more rigmarole, extra gates and scrutiny of bags and clothing than going through Scotland and on to Ireland.

For US flights, you have to cart your luggage along, to then eventually toss it on a conveyor belt. Why? God only knows. To humiliate I guess. And Canada and the US share a border, but you never know what we might infest the US with either: politeness?

As everyone who has flown since 9/11 knows, you must take off your shoes when you’re going through, because some idiot decided to try and bomb with his shoe. Even if you’re wearing flip flops, some airports are supper anally retentive on all shoes. And of course, you can’t take a sharp metal object: no knives and no metal utensils on the plane.

Then there were the guys trying to splash about some liquids to make bombs. Now you have to put everything in a separate bag, and have no more than a few ounces of any particular liquid. And even if you use the airport approved bag, you may still not be able to carry it on the plane as my sister found out, because the rules change from airport to airport.

So, what’s next? Someone who puts some form of bomb material into a tube of lipstick, a suppository or a fake tooth? We have to take off all metal bits going through a metal detector but as I found, a bra can now set off the super sensitized detectors. Watch out, everyone who has piercings. Soon you may have to take every piece out. There has already been one case of overzealous customs guards making a woman take out her nipple piercings.

How ridiculous and useful is this? Well sure they scan for certain chemicals on laptops, but what about PDAs and phones? If someone wanted to kill or hold someone hostage on a plane, there are a million ways. What about someone who holds a black belt? They can kill someone with their hands. “Excuse me, sir. We’re going to need you to check your hands.”

“I can’t check my hands. They’re part of me.” “Well then we’ll have to tie them behind your back.” “But what if I have to go?” “The attendant will assist you.” “What! One person can’t fit in those bathrooms, let alone two!” “We’ll give you a cup, no charge.”

Oh and hmmm, let’s see. Many of us wear shoes with laces, or belts. They all can be used to tie or strangle someone. “I”m sorry, ma’am, you’re going to have to check those laces. Oh and the strap to your shoulder bag. You’re not wearing thongs, are you?” Remember, just after 9/11 when they were taking people’s tweezers and knitting needles? They must have been afraid of bad eyebrow pluckings.

Be prepared to arrive a day earlier than your flight, where you will strip down and be given orange scrubs and cloth booties to go through on the flight. Your checked clothing will be returned to you on the other side. Oh and bring lube, but in less than 2 ounces, for your cavity search. You don’t mind a probe do you?

All this supposed airport security is really one giant smoke and mirrors game. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain because he’s not doing anything. The attitude of the US, which Canada and other nations have followed is to fake us out with this “great” measure being taken to “keep us safe.” Really. Yes, safe. Don’t you feel it? I don’t. I keep thinking that mass stupidity and paranoia is all that I’m seeing. I think this sentiment was best echoed by other Americans when we were in the line-up to get to our planes. All I heard them say was, “This is ridiculous. What a farce.”

Yep but if those governments think we think we’re being protected, well then, spending money on half-assed measures always works better.

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