In England, where full-body scanning has been declared mandatory (although it violates U.K. child pornography laws against the depiction of the genitals of underage children), opponents have declared the images so graphic that they amount to "virtual strip-searching." They called for more safeguards to protect passengers' privacy.
Paul Joseph Watson, a reporter for PrisonPlanet.com, said examples sent in by the website's readers confirmed that by simply inverting some of the pictures produced by body scanners, one can create a near-perfect replica of a naked body in full color. The inverting process, available in most image editing software, simply changes an indistinct negative image to a clear positive one. "Airport screeners will have access to huge HIGH DEFINITION [original emphasis] images that, once inverted, will allow them to see every minute detail of your body," noted Watson.
While TSA officials tried to assure the public that flyers' naked images will not be saved, printed, or transmitted, government documents obtained by the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) told a different story. The documents showed that the TSA specifies that body scanners must have the ability to store and send images when in "test mode." EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg said such a requirement makes it possible for the machines to be abused by TSA insiders and even hacked by outsiders. "I don't think the TSA has been forthcoming with the American public about the true capability of these devices," said Rotenberg. "They've done a bunch of very slick promotions where they show people— including journalists—going through the devices. And then they reassure people, based on the images that have been produced, that there's not any privacy concerns. But if you look at the actual technical specifications and you read the vendor contracts, you come to understand that these machines are capable of doing far more than the TSA has let on."
Official assurances that full-body scans would be seen only by the necessary airport authorities and quickly destroyed were shattered in February 2010 when the BBC revealed that Indian actor Shahrukh Khan had passed through a body scan and later had the image of his naked body printed out and circulated byfemale security staffers at Heathrow. "You walk into the machine and everything— the whole outline of your body—comes out," said Khan. "I was a little scared.. .and I came out. Then I saw these girls —they had these printouts. I looked at them. I thought they were some form you had to fill. I said 'give them to me'— and you could see everything inside. So I autographed them for them."
It is not just body-scanning machines that conjure up images of a 1984 Orwellian techno-society.
Although popular belief holds that those with Middle Eastern names are most susceptible to being detained by the government, the Secret Service considered Robert Lee "Bob on the Job" Lewis enough of a threat to arrest him on the basis of an offhand remark. Lewis is a fervent Christian who has spent decades researching government scandals and worked with airline lawyers during the investigation of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. In April 1998, Lewis was in a restaurant in Houston, Texas, regaling waiters with his knowledge of government skulduggery and little-reported information of former president George H. W. Bush. Lewis admitted he made a remark about Bush along the lines of "I'll have his ass."
Secret Service agent Tim Reilly was sitting in the restaurant near Lewis and promptly placed Lewis under arrest for threatening the former president. The next day, in a short hearing, federal magistrate Marcia Crone avoided any First Amendment issue and instead accepted the hearsay testimony of Agent Reilly. Because Lewis did not have enough money to post bail, he was held for nearly a year in federal custody. During this time, he was sent to the Fort Worth Federal Correctional Institution and was placed in the cell where Whitewater scandal figure James McDougal reportedly committed suicide. Lewis knew who McDougal had been and felt his placement there was a form of intimidation. Some months later, Lewis was transferred to a federal hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he was involuntarily drugged until letters from journalists and academic contacts protesting his drugging gained him a release. There was never a court trial or even an adversarial hearing in the case.
For anyone who thinks that the DHS's abuse of power might stop overtime, consider this 2006 story from Bethesda, Maryland: Two uniformed men wearing baseball caps with the words "Homeland Security" on them walked into the Little Falls Libraryand loudly announced that the viewing of pornography was forbidden. They then asked one library Internet user to step outside.
After complaints were lodged against the two "security" officers, Montgomery County chief administrative officer Bruce Romer stated that the two officers were members of the security division of Montgomery County's Homeland Security Department, an unarmed unit charged with patrolling about three hundred county buildings. He added that this group was not tasked with seeking out pornography and that the incident was "unfortunate" and "regrettable." Romer said the two officers had "overstepped their authority" and had been reassigned.
To illustrate the ease with which a TSA employee can impact a person's life, just consider the experience of Rebecca Solomon, a twenty-two-year-old University of Michigan student. On January 5, 2010, she was stopped in an airport bya TSA agent who pretended to find a bag of white powder in her carry-on computer bag. The man then demanded to know where she had gotten the powder and, as the student stood in shock, proceeded to wave the bag in front of her and said he was just kidding. "You should have seen the look on your face," the TSA man told her, laughing. When this incident was made public, the TSA said the agent was no longer with the agency. But if the TSA man had not admitted it was a joke, Solomon would still be behind bars somewhere. This small incident should be a sobering example to any thinking American of unwarranted and unsupervised power.
Such incidents, of course, illustrate the ease with which persons of authority can abuse that authority. It also begs the question of how many other HSD employees "overstep" theirauthorityand how many other such stories never make it to the public.
PHOTOGRAPHERS UNDER FIRE
Apparently even traditional Aiverican activities such as taking pictures around town are not exempt from the scrutiny of Homeland Security enforcers. Amateur photographer Mike Maginnis was intrigued by all the activity around Denver's Adams Mark Hotel in early December 2002, which was surrounded by Denver police, army rangers, and rooftop snipers. Maginnis, who works in information technology and frequently shoots photos of corporate buildings and communications equipment, took a few snapshots. He was then confronted bya Denver policeman who demanded his camera. When he refused to hand over his expensive Nikon F2, he was pushed to the ground and arrested.
After being held in a Denver police station, Maginnis was interrogated bya Secret Service agent. Maginnis learned that Vice President Cheney was staying in the area and that he was being charged as a terrorist under the PATRIOT Act. According to Maginnis, the agent tried to make him confess to being a terrorist and called him a "raghead collaborator" and "dirty pinko faggot."
After being held for several hours, Maginnis was released without explanation. When Maginnis's attorney contacted the Denver police for an explanation, they denied ever arresting Maginnis.
The website PhotographerNotaTerrorist.org proclaimed, "Photography is under attack. Across the country it seems that anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer. Not only is it corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording. This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery, not just photographers. We must work together now to stop this before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it."
In early 2009, David Proeber, photo editor for the central Illinois newspaper the Pantagraph, was stripped of his camera's memory card and threatened with arrest after he took a photo of the police in a shoot-out with a gunman. Proeber recovered the memory card more than three hours later after complaining to a sheriff's department supervisor who was an acquaintance. After the supervisor contacted the state police, Proeber's memory card was returned with apologies. His photo of the gunman was published on the Internet, garnering more than 1.2 million page views during the first thirty-two hours. However, Proeber later learned that the police had made a DVD of his photos, which he claimed they had no legal right to do.
In 2007, Carlos Miller, a Miami freelance photographer, was arrested, tried, and sentenced for photographing Miami police officers on a public street. Miller was found not guilty of disobeying a police officer and disorderly conduct but was convicted of resisting arrest. The prosecution recommended three months of probation, fifty hours of community service, anger management classes, and court costs. But the presiding judge, Jose Fernandez of Miami's county court, was apparently angered that Miller had documented his trial on an Internet blog and sentenced Miller to one year of probation, a hundred hours of community service, anger management classes, and more than $500 in court costs.
The severity of Miller's sentence upset the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), which had initially donated some funds for Miller's defense. In a news release, SPJ president Clint Brewer said, "The fact that Mr. Millerwas arrested for taking pictures in a public place was the first violation of his First Amendment rights. Those rights were violated again when Mr. Miller's statements in his blog became factors in Fernandez's sentence. The Society fully defends Mr. Miller's right to speak freely in his blog."
Even after leaving the scene of a photo opportunity, apparently photographers today are still susceptible to raids by the authorities. In September 2009, Laura Sennett, a photojournalist specializing in protests and demonstrations, filed a federal complaint stating that both the federal government and local law enforcement violated her rights under the First and Fourth Amendments after coming into her home and seizing computer hardware and data, digital cameras, memory cards, a still camera, digital storage devices, and a digital voice recorder along with other work materials and personal belongings. Only her son was home at the time of the raid.
According to Sennett, this happened because she photographed protesters at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund on April 12, 2008. In her complaint, Sennett claimed to have suffered extreme emotional and mental distress and humiliation. She sought an injunction ordering the DOJ to return her belongings plus pay$250,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. No criminal charges were filed against her.
Sennett named Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Prince William, the Police Department of Arlington Counties, and the Department of Justice in her complaint. Sennett says she was not a target of any criminal investigation and her work has been published by several media outlets, including CNN and the History Channel.
One of the long-standing tenets of journalism is that in reporting the news, both film, video, and still photographers have the right to shoot pictures, especially on public property. This right appears in grave danger as news reporting today already is limited to handouts from the authorities, reporters being held behind yellow tape blocks from the scene, and duplicate TV coverage on most channels coming from pool cameramen.
YOU'RE ON CAMERA
Its not just the photographers who are having concerns over cameras. Recently there has been an explosion in the number of surveillance cameras being used in cities small and large that perturbs libertarians.
Instead of a conventional welcome sign outside the small city of Medina, Washington, visitors today are greeted by one reading you are entering a 24-hour video surveillance area Police chief Jeffrey Chen declined to say how many cameras had been installed at intersections using "automatic license plate recognition" technology to record license numbers. Should a database search turn up an outstanding warrant, police immediately dispatch units to track the car. Chen said information gathered by the cameras is stored for sixty days, which allows police to keep searching if a crime occurs.
"These cameras provide us with intelligence," explained Chen. "It gets us in front of criminals. I don't like to be on a level playing field with criminals."
Chen told newsmen that in 2008 there were eleven burglaries in this town of thirty-one hundred, which boasts an average household income of more than $220,000. "Some people think [eleven burglaries] is tolerable. But even one crime is intolerable," Chen said.
Doug Honig, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, was troubled by the new surveillance system, saying it smacks of privacy violations. "Government shouldn't be keeping records of people's comings and goings when they haven't done anything wrong," he said. "By actions like this, we're moving closer and closer to a surveillance society."
Despite Honig's statements, many believe that intrusive measures are necessary today. Former Washington, D.C., mayor Anthony A. Williams is among the believers, and he warned his constituents when he was mayor that "We are in a new.. .really dangerous world now, and we have to maintain a higher level of security."
Williams planned to increase Washington, D.C., security by emulating cities like London and Sydney that have thousands of video cameras throughout the city linked to a central command office. England currently has more than two million cameras in airports, train stations, streets, and neighborhoods.
Asked if such a scheme would seriously impact individual civil rights, Williams admitted, "There will be trade-offs."
The United Kingdom is a great example of a modern surveillance society, where companies can thrive on a citizen's penchant for voyeurism. A new company called Internet Eyes offers up to 1,000 pounds to citizen volunteers who stay at home watching several video monitors connected to some of Britain's ubiquitous surveillance cameras. As part of this "instant event notification system," the viewers are to report any "alert"—a suspicious activity —which according to company literature most commonly includes shoplifting, burglary, vandalism, and "anti-social behavior." The alerts are passed to the camera owners, subscribers to the Internet Eyes service, who evaluate the alerts and decide who gets the reward money. Monitors cannot designate or control the video camera feeds nor are they allowed to know the location of the cameras.
How long will it be before some new terrorist threat, whether real, imagined, or fabricated, enlists well-meaning American television viewers to report anything they feel is suspicious behavior on the part of their neighbors? Don't think it cannot happen. It's already happening in what once was called "the Mother Country."
HOW TO FREE ZOMBIES: THE THREE BOXES OF FREEDOM
It does not take a majority to prevail...but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.
With the corporate mass media centering their news programs on stories of fires, wrecks, murder, mayhem, and scandals, one must ask: Is there any good news?
Yes, there is.
A few thoughtful people believe the United States is undergoing an exciting, if uncomfortable, maturation. Although they admit that growth and change may be unsettling, some Americans feel current advances in technology and environmentalism will eventually lead to a brighter and more harmonious future replete with alternative fuels, engines that run on water, and natural energy sources such as solar, tidal, and geothermal.
But the public must be cautious. They have been bamboozled for too long by the plutocrats who dominate finance, corporate life, and the mass media. For many years, authors, filmmakers, radio and TV commentators, and even some street corner speakers have warned of a coming New World Order, that socialist globalization desired by a small group of plutocrats and their hirelings centered within secretive societies. In the past, these same types of harbingers have warned that there was no "light at the end of the tunnel" in the Vietnam War, that Nixon was a crook and shouldn't serve out his term, that George H. W. Bush was lying when he said "Read my lips, no new taxes," and that the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco were not just attacks on cult members, but upon the rights of all Americans.
In hindsight, the harbingers were right.
Today, the American public hears of untested vaccines, corporate drug companies influencing government policy, totalitarian martial law, and restrictions to liberties promised by the Constitution.
Perhaps it is time for the public to listen to the "conspiracy theorists" and the youthful activists. Andrew Gavin Marshall, a research associate with Canada's Centre for Research on Globalization, asked, "In light of the ever-present and unyieldingly persistent exclamations of 'an end' to the recession, a 'solution' to the crisis, and a 'recovery of the economy, we must remember that we are being told this by the very same people and institutions which told us, in years past, that there was 'nothing to worry about,' that 'the fundamentals are fine,' and that there was 'no danger' of an economic crisis. Why do we continue to believe the same people that have, in both statements and choices, been nothing but wrong?" Marshall's question could be applied to many of the problems that exist in America. This, in turn, begs a larger question—why do we listen to anything these institutions say?
If America is to again experience the individual freedom and capitalist initiative that once brought this nation to new heights of technological and social success, it is obvious some things must change. Simply bouncing back and forth between conservative and liberal presidential administrations, both controlled from the shadows by the same globalists, will not do the job. Americans must unite, as during World War II.
But rather than uniting against a foreign enemy like Nazi Germany, today our enemy is domestic. This formidable enemy is one that tries to control the nation's federal government, the financial system, the education system, and even the lifestyles of America's citizens.
But the enemy force is few in number while Americans number nearly 304 million.
It is time for individual Americans to become proactive. It is time to remember the three boxes of freedom—the Soap Box, the Ballot Box, and the Ammo Box.
THE SOAP BOX
President John F. Kennedy once said, "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
Today, freedom of speech is under attack by political correctness and even so-called hate speech legislation. To protect against these attacks, we must ensure a free and investigative news media, one that truly serves as the public "watchdog."
AN UNFETTERED NEWS MEDIA
CORRUPTION AND TYRANNY HAVE pervaded human history.
In the United States, governmental and corporate avarice has been combated historically by a free-ranging and unfettered investigative news media—media that once were privately owned. Yet today, the mass media are controlled by only a handful of multinational corporations. Furthermore, the federal government has continuously impeded incisive journalism by operating under secrecy and disregarding the Freedom of Information Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 6, 1966. The purpose of the law is to declassify governmental documents. It is also the subject of ongoing conflicts between government officials and both news organizations and private citizens. Various administrations have differed in their interpretations of the law, which also contains several specific exemptions.
It is especially troubling that media ownership is so concentrated when one considers that more than 98 percent of Americans have a television. Of that 98 percent, 82 percent watch prime-time TV and 71 percent watch cable programming in an average week. Additionally, 84 percent of Americans listen to radio regularly, while 79 percent are newspaper readers. Nearly half of the American population has access to the Internet, and certain demographic groups reach close to 70 percent. These totals suggest that most of America spends an inordinate amount of time staring at a screen, which might be bad enough. But when one realizes that everything these citizens see and hear emanates from a mere five major media corporations, the threat of potential propagandizing and mind control becomes clear.
In addition to broadcasting watered-down content because of corporate ownership, staffers at the White House and Pentagon manipulate the media through "perception management." Although government propagandists cannot tell the audience how to think, they can tell them what to think about as they set the agenda and frame the arguments. They cleverly craft the perception. Too many news reporters simply regurgitate government press handouts. Washington-based investigative journalist Wayne Madsen pointed out that "It is not the job of a journalist to participate in propagandizing the news. Journalists report the basic facts of a story. The reality that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster is not the fault of the news media. The fact that the Iraq war has gone badly for the United States is news."
Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have permitted news reports from Iraq to be aired before being filtered by officials. Additionally, the government has forced the media to "embed" reporters within U.S. and Iraqi military units, limiting their view of the hostilities and forging personal relationships within their assigned units that cannot fail but tinge their reporting. The government has also employed contractors like the Lincoln Group and the San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) to place pro-U.S. propaganda in Iraqi newspapers. Additionally, the Pentagon gave SYColeman Inc. contracts to develop slogans, advertisements, newspaper articles, radio spots, and television programs to promote support for U.S. policies overseas. Naturally, the head of SYColeman is a retired general who at one point was a top official in the Defense Department agency that gave SAIC its Iraqi media contract.