Applicants will have their photograph taken at a local office and a digital copy will be submitted immediately to Springfield for comparison in a pool of several million digital photos, according to Jim Burns, inspector general for the secretary of state’s office.
“We have in Illinois one of the better facial recognition systems in the country,” he said.
Illinois is among 27 states either not in compliance or taking steps to comply with the Real ID Act. Under this act, stricter identification is required to pass through airport security and enter federal buildings. Homeland Security earlier this year postponed the deadline for states to comply to 2018.
Homeland Security also will accept the temporary paper document in conjunction with an old driver’s license or ID card to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail.
Congress passed the law in 2005 after a 9/11 Commission recommendation to take steps that would make it tougher to counterfeit government-issued IDs.
Critics of Real ID, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have complained that it is a blatant invasion of privacy and would make people vulnerable to identity theft.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications at American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he believes Illinois and other states have been doing a good job protecting peoples’ identities, and switching to a national identification card would do more harm than good.
“Congress ought to pull the plug on this,” he said. “It creates a national identification system that puts people at a greater risk of having their identity stolen.
“They talk about this in terms of it being for safety and security, but there is no evidence that it adds any of those things,” Yohnka said. “But what we do know is that it creates this powerful dynamic that can be used for surveillance.
“Once you have this national database, the only natural thing to do next is to take it and begin to use it to track people,” Yohnka said. “Then you are just creating a huge surveillance system, and that’s the real danger.”
Yohnka said if Real ID is developed, the government would have the potential to track what people buy and where they go.
Even with the new procedures, IL is still only 84% in compliance, whatever that really means. And by the way, for a state already in budgetary trouble, here’s an extra expense:
The system will cost the state an additional $8.3 million in vendor and postage costs a year, said Nathan Maddox, [ Illinois Secretary of State Jesse] White’s senior legal adviser. The state plans to use a fund dedicated to driver’s license upgrades to pay for the new system.
“We have been making steady progress in implementing Real ID,” Maddox said. “We’ve met approximately 84 percent of the requirements.”
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that his office is upgrading security features to the Driver’s License/ID card design and expanding the central issuance process for driver’s licenses and ID cards to all applicants. With implementation of these changes, Illinois has moved closer to achieving full REAL ID compliance, which is a federal mandate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). By the end of July, applicants visiting Driver Services facilities will no longer be issued a new permanent DL/ID card at the end of the application process. Instead, they will leave the facility with a temporary, secure paper driver’s license, which is valid for 45 days and will serve as their DL/ID for driving purposes and proof of identification. The temporary, secure paper driver’s license or ID card will contain a photo and the basic information that appears on the permanent driver’s license or ID card. In addition, the facility employee will return the old DL/ID card back to the applicant after punching a hole in it.
Meanwhile, the applicant’s information will be sent to a centralized, secure facility in Illinois. After fraud checks have been conducted to ensure the applicant’s identity, a higher quality, more secure DL/ID will be printed and sent via U.S. mail within 15 business days to the applicant’s address.
For purposes of air travel, DHS states that it will accept the temporary document in conjunction with the old DL/ID to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail. Illinois joins 39 other states that have moved to centralized production of DL/ID cards.
Illinois DL/IDs will continue to be accepted as primary forms of identification to board commercial airplanes for domestic travel until January 22, 2018.
Fine, whatever, as long as the damn thing doesn’t get lost in the maw of the unreliable Chicago mail – seriously, what percentage of these DL/ID cards will be left to burn under a dumpster?
What percent will be delivered to the wrong address? I’d estimate that our building gets several erroneously delivered pieces of mail a week. Often inconsequential direct mail, but often checks, invoices, utility bills, magazines, and so on. Let’s hope the Chicago branch of the USPS takes special care to deliver these new driver licenses…
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Asphalt, as a primary paving solution, has increasingly proven expensive and environmentally irresponsible because of its reliance on crude oil, poor durability, need for maintenance and pollution.
To respond to this need for a reliable, cost-effective and durable paving solution, LANDLOCK® has emerged as a respected, reliable international distributor of a patented paving technology that is among the most cost-effective, durable, strong, sustainable and easy to build. Most of all, it is superior to asphalt: less expensive, more durable, easier to install and more sustainable.
Environmentally, asphalt incurs a high cost because of the toxic footprint of the fuel-inefficient trucks that must drive back and forth to the plant; and because of the petroleum in asphalt that leaches into the groundwater and, when hot, pollutes the air, proving toxic for the workers laying the asphalt. Finally, the added cost of maintenance comes into play when inevitable erosion and potholes arise with time and changing climate patterns, necessitating frequent repeats to the whole expensive process.
I think we can all agree that the TSA should be abolished, sooner than later:
The TSA is hard to evaluate largely because it’s attempting to solve a non-problem. Despite some very notable cases, airplane hijackings and bombings are quite rare. There aren’t that many attempts, and there are even fewer successes. That makes it hard to judge if the TSA is working properly — if no one tries to do a liquid-based attack, then we don’t know if the 3-ounce liquid rule prevents such attacks.
So Homeland Security officials looking to evaluate the agency had a clever idea: They pretended to be terrorists, and tried to smuggle guns and bombs onto planes 70 different times. And 67 of those times, the Red Team succeeded. Their weapons and bombs were not confiscated, despite the TSA’s lengthy screening process. That’s a success rate of more than 95 percent.
It’s easy to make too much of high failure rates like that. As security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, such screenings don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough to make terrorists change their plans: “No terrorist is going to base his plot on getting a gun through airport security if there’s a decent chance of getting caught, because the consequences of getting caught are too great.”
But even Schneier says 95 percent was embarrassingly high, and probably not “good enough” for those purposes. If you’re a prospective terrorist looking at that stat, you might think smuggling a gun onto a plane is worth a shot.
Schneier isn’t a TSA defender by any means. He likes to note that there’s basically zero evidence the agency has prevented any attacks. The TSA claims it won’t provide examples of such cases due to national security, but given its history of bragging about lesser successes, that’s a little tough to believe. For instance, the agency bragged plenty about catching Kevin Brown, an Army vet who tried to check pipe bomb-making materials. Brown wasn’t going to blow up the plane — the unfinished materials were in his checked luggage — but if the TSA publicized that, why wouldn’t it publicize catching someone who was trying to blow up the plane?
People like Peter Thiel would be better served if they left the United States and started their own country somewhere else, leaving the rest of us normals alone:
Peter Thiel, foremost among Silicon Valley’s loopy libertarians and the first outside investor in Facebook, has written an essay declaring that the country went to hell as soon as women won the right to vote.
Thiel is the former CEO of PayPal who now runs the $2 billion hedge fund Clarium Capital and a venture-capital firm called the Founders Fund. His best-returning investment to date, though, has been Facebook. His $500,000 investment is now worth north of $100 million even by the most conservative valuations of the social network.
On the side, though, his pet passion is libertarianism and the fantasy that everything would be better in the world if government just quit nagging everybody. But, now he’s given up hope on achieving his vision through political means because, as he writes in Cato Unbound, a website run by the Cato Institute, all those voting females have wrecked things
I’d be very leery of doing business with Mr. Thiel, he seems like he could fly off the handle very easily, and hold a grudge about it for years. But you might never hear about it, because the media that covers Silicon Valley is more like a PR machine than journalistic:
I would like to think that I would know more about whether this sort of thing is typical of Thiel’s behavior because there would be enough evidence of it one way or the other in tech press. But I don’t think there would be. A lot of self-censoring happens in the tech industry because people fear blowback — and in a way that I haven’t experienced in finance or publishing. Entrepreneurs genuinely worry that capital markets won’t be accessible to them if they express any kind of criticism, or talk about the bad things that happen in the industry. (I am not of that opinion, obviously, but as the former CTO of a big tech co told me a couple of weeks ago with a bit of an eyeroll, “you’re not normal anyway, Spiers.”)
Another factor: I think Thiel aside, tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally. Journalists who haven’t worked in tech themselves are sometimes genuinely and sincerely enamored with the promise of what they’re looking at and are so dazzled that they fail to ask the questions they should. Some of them are lazy and it’s always easier as a journalist to write the glowing lightweight story, where no one’s going to press you to nail down the facts and you won’t get any blowback from sources or subjects. Ultimately, this has created a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they’re 100% accurate. And it’s never the media’s job to support the industry — that’s PR. It’s the media’s job to cover it, the good and the bad. But if you’re not used to being covered, and that would describe 99% of the tech industry, the scrutiny can be uncomfortable.
Does Donald Trump have a long history with the mob? David Jay Johnston thinks Trump might:
6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.
Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?
7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.
If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?
8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.
9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.
How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?
10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.
What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?
11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.
Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?
12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.
Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?
Inside Apple this idea is nicknamed, not affectionately, GovtOS. “We had long discussions about that internally, when they asked us,” Cook says. “Lots of people were involved. It wasn’t just me sitting in a room somewhere deciding that way, it was a labored decision. We thought about all the things you would think we would think about.” The decision, when it came, was no.
Cook actually thought that might be the end of it. It wasn’t: on Feb. 16 the FBI both escalated and went public, obtaining a court order from a federal judge that required Apple to create GovtOS under something called the All Writs Act. Cook took deep, Alabaman umbrage at the manner in which he learned about the court order, which was in the press: “If I’m working with you for several months on things, if I have a relationship with you, and I decide one day I’m going to sue you, I’m a country boy at the end of the day: I’m going to pick up the phone and tell you I’m going to sue you.”
It also wasn’t lost on Cook that the FBI chose not to file the order under seal: if Apple wasn’t going to help with a case of domestic terrorism, the FBI wanted Apple to do it under the full glare of public opinion.
The spectacle of Apple, the most admired company in the world, refusing to aid the FBI in a domestic-terrorism investigation has inflamed public passions in a way that, it’s safe to say, nothing involving encryption algorithms and the All Writs Act ever has before. Donald Trump asked, “Who do they think they are?” and called for a boycott of Apple. A Florida sheriff said he would “lock the rascal up,” the rascal meaning Cook. Even President Obama, whose relations with the technorati of Silicon Valley have historically been warm, spoke out about the issue at South by Southwest: “It’s fetishizing our phones above every other value. And that can’t be the right answer.”
As against that, Apple has been smothered in amicus briefs from technology firms supporting its position, including AT&T, Airbnb, eBay, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Square, Twitter, Cisco, Snapchat, WhatsApp and every one of its biggest, bitterest rivals: Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke out in Apple’s defense. So did retired general Michael Hayden, former head of both the NSA and the CIA. The notoriously hawkish Senator Lindsey Graham, who started out lambasting Apple, switched sides after a briefing on the matter. Steve Dowling, Apple’s vice president of communications, showed me a check for $100 that somebody sent to support the world’s most valuable technology company in its legal fight. (Apple didn’t cash it.)
The case seems weak, for a number of reasons (encryption is not bound by political boundaries; Apple shouldn’t be compelled to work for the government especially when they have done nothing wrong; the laws referred to as CALEA would seem to forbid the FBI’s approach; we don’t live in a police state; and so on), but you can’t assume that the judge in the case can be swayed by logic. I’d rather Tim Cook and Apple engineers were spending time improving iTunes, and fixing bugs in Mac OS X El Capitan instead of fighting government overreach, but you can’t control the universe, only react to its whims.
Only the Thought is Dark
I want to note another point, as discussed extensively by Jonathan Zdziarski: the idea of a warrant-proof zone. Doctor-patient privilege, diplomatic pouches, married couples, journalistic sources, these and other areas are also “dark” in the FBI parlance. Even in court, even in cases that inflame the public’s interest, even then, a lawyer cannot be compelled to reveal what their client told them.
There are other examples that could be mentioned, but the point is that our country recognizes many laws and international treaties that support the concept of warrant proof as a valid concept. It is not only well within Apple’s rights to produce a product that happens to be warrant-proof, but it’s actually Apple’s responsibility to create a product that’s capable of enforcing the highest level of security permitted by our country’s laws… not the lowest. Apple is well within not only their rights, but in practices that support and place appropriate locks consistent with the levels of privacy our country recognizes. These products protect everyone – diplomats, doctors, journalists, as well as all of us. Of course they should be this secure. If our own country recognizes warrant proof as a thing, of course our technology should too.
We, as everyday Americans, should also encourage the idea of warrant proof places. The DOJ believes, quite erroneously, that the Fourth Amendment gives them the right to any evidence or information they desire with a warrant. The Bill of Rights did not grant rights to the government; it protected the rights of Americans from the overreach that was expected to come from government. Our most intimate thoughts, our private conversations, our ideas, our -intent- are all things our phone tracks. These are concepts that must remain private (if we choose to protect them) for any functioning free society. In today’s technological landscape, we are no longer giving up just our current or future activity under warrant, but for the first time in history, making potentially years of our life retroactively searchable by law enforcement. Things are recorded in ways today that no one would have imagined, even when CALEA was passed. The capability that DOJ is asserting is that our very lives and identities – going back across years – are subject to search. The Constitution never permitted this.
The bottom line is this: Our country actually recognizes warrant proof data, and Apple has every right and ethical obligation to recognize it in the design of their products. As Americans, we should be demanding our thoughts, conversations, and identities be protected with the highest level of security. This isn’t just about credit cards.
Tim Cook, the C.E.O. of Apple, which has been ordered to help the F.B.I. get into the cell phone of the San Bernardino shooters, wrote in an angry open letter this week that “the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create.” The second part of that formulation has rightly received a great deal of attention: Should a back door be built into devices that are used for encrypted communications? Would that keep us safe from terrorists, or merely make everyone more vulnerable to hackers, as well as to mass government surveillance? But the first part is also potentially insidious, for reasons that go well beyond privacy rights.
The simple but strange question here is exactly the one that Cook formulates. What happens when the government goes to court to demand that you give it something that you do not have? No one has it, in fact, because it doesn’t exist. What if the government then proceeds to order you to construct, design, invent, or somehow conjure up the thing it wants? Must you?
I’d already asked and answered myself about the second part of the question – I’m strongly against the so-called back door being built into all devices – so for me, the first part of the question was by far the most interesting. The government can really force a company to create something just for the government’s purposes? How long can the task take before you are free? Years? Decades? What happened to Capitalism? Talk about feeling entitled, or as Ms. Davidson puts it:
And so Judge Sheri Pym, a California district-court magistrate, has ordered Apple to come up with a new software bundle that can be loaded onto the phone and, in effect, take over the operating system and tell it to let the F.B.I. in. (Apple will have a chance to object to the order in court.) As an added point of convenience, this bundle is also supposed to let the agents enter passcodes electronically, rather than tapping them in, which is one of the many points on which the government seems to have moved from asking for compliance with a subpoena to demanding full-scale customer service.
I don’t understand why this isn’t more troubling to people, especially to libertarian-leaning Republicans. The US government is asserting that if they ask, a company has to drop everything else and get working for the government or else you’ll be sent to the proverbial salt mines in Siberia. Why? Why? How dare you ask! Because War On Terra, that’s why! No wonder this is “what some law-enforcement officials privately describe as a nearly perfect test case.”
The unnamed FBI official who was boasting to WSJ journalists about the Farook case being “nearly perfect” as a test probably wishes that quote hadn’t been used now in light of this development:
[Apple said it] had been in regular discussions with the government since early January, and that it proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a backdoor. One of those methods would have involved connecting the iPhone to a known Wi-Fi network and triggering an iCloud backup that might provide the FBI with information stored to the device between the October 19th and the date of the incident.
Apple sent trusted engineers to try that method, the executives said, but they were unable to do it. It was then that they discovered that the Apple ID password associated with the iPhone had been changed. (The FBI claims this was done by someone at the San Bernardino Health Department.) Had that password not been changed, the executives said, the government would not need to demand the company create a “backdoor” to access the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook
Did you notice? The FBI had possession of Farook’s iPhone for over 24 hours, before some agent or other employee changed the Apple ID password. (!!!???!!!)
Changing the Apple ID password isn’t hard, but it isn’t something you do without meaning to. You’d have to log-in, give the old password, then create the new password, entering it twice. Presumedly, you’d either commit the password to memory, or WRITE IT DOWN.
Creating the backdoor access, the executives said, would put at risk the privacy of millions of users. It would not only serve to unlock one specific phone, they said, but create a sort of master key that could be used to access any number of devices. The government says the access being sought could only be used on this one phone, but Apple’s executives noted that there is widespread interest in an iPhone backdoor, noting that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Thursday that his office has 175 Apple devices he’d like cracked. They also claimed that no other government in the world has ever asked Apple for the sort of FBiOS the government is demanding that it build now.
Asked why the company is pushing back so hard against this particular FBI request when it has assisted the agency in the past, Apple executives noted that the San Bernadino case is fundamentally different from others in which it was involved. Apple has never before been asked to build an entirely new version of its iOS operating system designed to disable iPhone security measures.
The Apple senior executives also pushed back on the government’s arguments that Apple’s actions were a marketing ploy, saying they were instead based on their love for the country and desire not to see civil liberties tossed aside.
Apple must be prepared to defend their tool and methodology in court; no really, the defense / judge / even juries in CA will ask stupid questions such as, “why didn’t you do it this way”, or “is this jail breaking”, or “couldn’t you just jailbreak the phone?” (i was actually asked that by a juror in CA’s broken legal system that lets the jury ask questions). Apple has to invest resources in engineers who are intimately familiar with not only their code, but also why they chose the methodology they did as their best practices. If certain challenges don’t end well, future versions of the instrument may end up needing to incorporate changes at the request of FBI.
If evidence from a device ever leads to a case in a court room, the defense attorney will (and should) request a copy of the tool to have independent third party verification performed, at which point the software will need to be made to work on another set of test devices. Apple will need to work with defense experts to instruct them on how to use the tool to provide predictable and consistent results.
In the likely event that FBI compels the use of the tool for other devices, Apple will need to maintain engineering and legal staff to keep up to date on their knowledge of the tool, maintain the tool, and provide testimony as needed.
In other words, developing an instrument is far more involved than simply dumping a phone for FBI, which FBI could have ordered:
Developed to forensically sound standards
Validated and peer-reviewed
Be tested and run on numerous test devices
Accepted in court
Given to third party forensics experts (testing)
Given to defense experts (defense)
Stand up to challenges
Be explained on the stand
Possibly give source code if ordered
Maintain and report on issues
Defend lawsuits from those convicted
Legally pursue any agencies, forensics companies, or hackers that steal parts of the code.
Maintain legal and engineering staff to support it
On appeals, go through much of the process all over again
The risks are significant too:
Ingested by an agency, reverse engineered, then combined with in-house or purchased exploits to fill in the gap of code signing.
Ingested by private forensics companies, combined with other tools / exploits, then sold as a commercial product.
Leaked to criminal hackers, who reverse engineer and find ways to further exploit devices, steal personal data, or use it as an injection point for other ways to weaken the security of the device.
The PR nightmare from demonstrating in a very public venue how the company’s own products can be back doored.
The judicial precedents set to now allow virtually any agency to compel the software be used on any other device.
The international ramifications of other countries following in our footsteps; many countries of which have governments that oppress civil rights.
This far exceeds the realm of “reasonable assistance”, especially considering that Apple is not a professional forensics company and has no experience in designing forensic methodology, tools, or forensic validation. FBI could attempt to circumvent proper validation by issuing a deviation (as they had at one point with my own tools), however this runs the risk of causing the house of cards to collapse if challenged by a defense attorney.
Not something an Apple intern can do in an afternoon, in other words, but a significant task imposed on a private corporation by a government agency, in support of “what some law-enforcement officials privately describe as a nearly perfect test case.”
ABC News ran a sting against dirty TSA inspectors by leaving behind iPads (with tracking spyware) at ten airport checkpoints known for theft and following them electronically. One iPad, left at an Orlando checkpoint, moved 30 miles to the home of Andy Ramirez, a TSA inspector at the airport. Initially, he denied stealing the iPad, then he blamed his wife…Republicans have promised to fix this problem by firing the unionized federal workers and replacing them with private contractors. Because private contractors — not directly accountable to the government, insulated by layers of contractor/subcontractor relationships — would never, ever abuse their authority. Which is why mall security guards are the pinnacle of policing efficiency.
I don’t know about you, but when the government acts stupidly like this, I don’t like it. The list of “forbidden” words is so ridiculously broad so as to be meaningless. I don’t deny there are evil people in the world, and I expect my government to protect me from these criminals as best as a government can, but this is not the way. Monitoring conversations that contain “pork”? or the word, “cloud”? Defeats the purpose by purposely bringing in lots of non-relevant data.
By now you have likely seen reports that contain news of the list of terms the Department of Homeland Security searches for online, as it tracks what people are saying around the Internet. The list is extremely long, vague, and often quite humorous (even in the face of its importance).
As the Daily Mail notes, the Department of Homeland Security was forced to release the list, along with its entire Analyst’s Desktop Binder, following a Freedom of Information Act request. Essentially, the list is what the government is looking for online, hoping to spot threats, events, and other such things that would be of interest to the sprawling agency. The Mails report states that the Department has made the claim that the list is not used to search “the internet for disparaging remarks about the government [or] signs of general dissent.”
However, the list is worrisome all the same. The broadness of the terms that are being used as a starting point for tracking online communications is disconcerting; these are the words that could flag a person or conversation as potentially a threat to the United States. And thus, to have terms that come up in the daily news, and normal conversation, marked as worthy of tracking, is unsettling.
Therefore, anyone in the media, period, doesn’t have the right to have their private information kept secret by the Department of Homeland Security. Woah. Scarier is how broad this is – anyone who uses social media to update others, and is merely ‘known’ as perhaps being a ‘reporter’ has no right to their PII being kept secret. In other words, if you are online, and comment on the news to an audience, you are essentially absolving the Department of Homeland Security from the need of redacting your private information, including “1) full name; 2) affiliation; 3) position or title; and 3) publicly-available user ID.”
I’m certainly not trying to be overly paranoid or tin-hatted, but the rules on how PII can be distributed for the above listed groups sounds quite like this: ‘if you fall into any of these categories, we are going to use any information about you that we can in any level of government, foreign or domestic.’ And that, if you are but an active user of social media that happens to be talking about an issue that is on their list of terms, you just may fall into the group. Now, to the list.
The following list of terms is directly taken from the Binder. Again, I had to strip them out, clean the text, and them format it, so please just take the list. Don’t do all that tedious work all over again. This post is for anyone. Educate people. Here you go:
We are deprived of culture because of the morons in Washington, and their intricate, bureaucratic ballet supporting terrorism theatre. Many artists don’t even bother trying to come here anymore, it’s too costly, and too much of a hassle.
In the decade since the attacks on the twin towers, American visa procedures for foreign artists and performers have grown increasingly labyrinthine, expensive and arbitrary, arts presenters and immigration lawyers say, making the system a serious impediment to cultural exchanges with the rest of the world.
Some foreign performers and ensembles, like the Hallé orchestra from Britain, have decided that it is no longer worth their while to play in the United States. Others have been turned down flat, including a pair of bands invited to perform at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., last month, or have ended up canceling performances because of processing delays, as was the case last month with the Tantehorse theater troupe from the Czech Republic, which was booked to perform in suburban Washington.
Overall, according to Homeland Security Department records, requests for the standard foreign performer’s visa declined by almost 25 percent between 2006 and 2010, the most recent fiscal year for which statistics are available. During the same period the number of these visa petitions rejected, though small in absolute numbers, rose by more than two-thirds.
“Everything is much more difficult,” said Palma R. Yanni, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who also handles artists’ visas. “I didn’t think it could get worse than it was after 9/11, but the last couple of years have been terrible. It just seems like you have to fight for everything across the board, even for artists of renown. The standards have not changed, but the agency just keeps narrowing the criteria, raising the bar without notice or comment, reinterpreting things and just making everything more restrictive. We call it the culture of no.”
For example, earlier this year  the agency held up three applications for visiting musicians with the Chicago Opera Theater, requesting an unusual amount of evidence to corroborate the visa requirement that the artists have achieved sufficient renown. The company eventually went over its budget to hire an immigration lawyer, who got two of the musicians into the country at the 11th hour; the third had to be replaced, said Roger Weitz, the company’s general manager.
Many arts groups say that under Mr. Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant who was sworn in last August, their sometimes frosty relationship with Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun to thaw. Agency officials met with arts groups in April, and have recently begun soliciting comments about egregious experiences with the visa process.
Although the agency’s policies have not changed, some have been clarified for the benefit of visa applicants, and Mr. Mayorkas insisted that the commitment is genuine.
“When I make a commitment,” he said, “it is a benchmark that I am setting for our agency upon which the public should be able to rely.”
Artist representatives say that more work needs to be done to streamline the process. “This is a great start but not where we would like to see things end up,” said Tom Windish, a booking agent for independent rock bands.
And for fans, the bad news about cancellations is not likely to end anytime soon. On Thursday, for example, the reunited British ska band the Specials canceled its appearance next month at Central Park SummerStage. The reason: “visa issues.”
Even international icon Ibrahim Ferrer was denied travel to the US to accept accolades from the Grammys, a travesty especially since Mr. Ferrer died soon after…
2004, HAVANA – The United States refused to grant visas to world-renowned Cuban musicians who were invited to Sunday’s Grammy music awards, Cuban officials said.
Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club, seen here in 2003, was denied a visa by the US authorities. (AFP/DDP/File) Ibrahim Ferrer, the 76-year-old singer from the Grammy-nominated Buena Vista Social Club, was dumbfounded to learn that, according to the Cuban Music Institute, the United States invoked a law that applies to terrorists, drug dealers and dangerous criminals to deny him a visa.
“I don’t understand because I don’t feel I’m a terrorist. I am not, I can’t be,” he said at a news conference.
Ferrer has won three Grammys in recent years and has traveled to the United States in the past.
The other celebrated musicians who were denied visas were guitarist Manuel Galvan, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba, percussionist Amadito Valdes, lute player Barbarito Torres and singer Eugenio Rodriguez.
There really is no excuse the US Government can make, other than an increase in jingoism…
The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles had to cancel scheduled performances last year of an Argentine music group because California immigration officials challenged whether its fusion of Jewish klezmer music and tango met the requirement to be “culturally unique.”
In other cases, California officials also challenged visa petitions in the last year that aimed to bring in an Indian group to perform at a California festival honoring the Hindu goddess Durga, a Chicago opera company seeking to bring in a Spanish singer and an African musical group.
“In the past year and a half, what we’ve seen is petitions that previously and typically were approved are being denied,” said Heather Noonan of the League of American Orchestras. “It impacts the whole range of arts disciplines. The cumulative effect makes the process of engaging international talent very challenging.”
Slow processing times had been a major concern. Chad Smith, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s vice president of artistic planning, said the delays began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but had worsened in recent years, forcing his organization to pay an extra $1,000 per case for expedited visa processing.
“The need for premium processing greatly impacted our bottom line,” he said.
Immigration experts also questioned whether California officials were sufficiently trained to competently evaluate their visa petitions.
Barnett, for instance, said immigration officials have challenged visa petitions from his world-renowned organization by asking for proof that Scripps is an educational nonprofit organization.
“Twenty seconds on the Internet could have shown you that,” Barnett said. “Is this just ignorance?”
Immigration attorneys have also complained that they have been repeatedly asked to provide evidence to meet standards that are not required by law.
For example, California officials asked for proof that an Indian dance group had been together for at least a year and that an African musical group would perform only at “culturally unique” venues that did not include its scheduled appearances at universities, said Andi Floyd, a legal assistant who worked on the petitions for Virginia immigration attorney Jonathan Ginsburg. Attorneys had to point out that neither requirement was in the visa law; officials eventually approved the African petition but have not yet acted on the Indian one, Floyd said.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.
A National Academy of Sciences panel is six months into a two-year study that is taking samples at airport areas to try to pinpoint opportunities for infection.
With limited resources, airports and airlines have asked researchers to help figure out where best to target prevention, said Dr. Mark Gendreau of Boston’s Lahey Clinic Medical Center who is on the panel.
Check-in kiosks and baggage areas are other prime suspects in addition to security lines, he said.
what about a film plot that basically works off of this fact? Imagine – Christian evangelicals develop some deadly bacteria or virus, some variant of Ebola, for example, and these Christian End-of-Worlders smear their shoes, coats, and computers with it. When they take their shoes off and place them through the security line, the deadly toxins spread, and infect the next 200 people who go through this same security line. Can you just imagine if a whole plane full of people died mid-flight?
The hero could of course track the source back, but what then?
Immigration at Heathrow
Tangentially related, Charles Mann and Bruce Schneier think the TSA is a joke:
To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest. Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.) During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs. Still more were killed by driving their cars into deer. The best memorial to the victims of 9/11, in Schneier’s view, would be to forget most of the “lessons” of 9/11. “It’s infuriating,” he said, waving my fraudulent boarding pass to indicate the mass of waiting passengers, the humming X-ray machines, the piles of unloaded computers and cell phones on the conveyor belts, the uniformed T.S.A. officers instructing people to remove their shoes and take loose change from their pockets. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this—and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”
Photography is not a crime, part the 234,642nd. Kudos to the ACLU…
The ACLU of Southern California sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and several of its deputies Thursday alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places.
The federal lawsuit alleges the Sheriff’s Department and deputies “have repeatedly” subjected photographers “to detention, search and interrogation simply because they took pictures” from public streets of places such as Metro turnstiles, oil refineries or near a Long Beach courthouse.
“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected 1st Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “It violates the Constitution’s core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”
The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC) and the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP today sued the County of Los Angeles and individual Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies for detaining and searching photographers. The incidents of harassment occurred when photographers were taking pictures in public places where photography is not prohibited.
“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected First Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU/SC. “Sheriff’s deputies violate the Constitution’s core protections when they detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”
The complaint is filed on behalf of three plaintiffs, who between them have been detained or ordered not to photograph by Sheriff’s deputies on at least six occasions. The complaint details similar incidents involving others, from amateur photographers to veteran photojournalists.
Mixed feelings about this: the Federal Government probably should have some sort of cyber patrol to protect the nation’s infrastructure against attack, but am always skeptical that this isn’t just an excuse to legalize the spying upon citizens that has become the norm.
The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.
The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.
Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million
Can the CIA and its bosses get away with these travesties conducted in our name? Or will Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney finally be given the show trial in The Hague they deserve?
Bush-era CIA medical personnel conducted experiments on detainees in CIA custody to provide legal cover for torture as well as to justify and shape future torture techniques, a just-released report from the Physicians for Human Rights alleges.
“The CIA appears to have broken all accepted legal and ethical standards put in place since the Second World War to protect prisoners from being the subjects of experimentation,” said Frank Donaghue, the CEO of PHR, a nonprofit organization of health professionals.
According to PHR’s investigation, the CIA conducted experiments monitoring sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours and experimented with waterboarding by adding saline to water to avoid killing detainees or rendering them comatose.
“‘Waterboarding 2.0’ was the product of the CIA’s developing and field-testing an intentionally harmful practice, using systematic medical monitoring,” the report claims.
Its author, Nathanial A. Raymond, said that although such experimentation appears to have been essential for the CIA’s legal cover for torture, Justice Department lawyers seem never to have assessed the human subject research.
Josef Mengele (16 March 1911 – 7 February 1979), also known as the Angel of Death, was a German SS officer and a physician in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. He earned doctorates in anthropology from Munich University and in medicine from Frankfurt University. He initially gained notoriety for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, but is far more infamous for performing grisly human experiments on camp inmates, for which Mengele was called the “Angel of Death”.
In 1940, he was placed in the reserve medical corps, following which he served with the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking in the Eastern Front. In 1942, he was wounded at the Russian front and was pronounced medically unfit for combat, and was then promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) for saving the lives of two German soldiers. He survived the war, and after a period living incognito in Germany he fled to South America, where he evaded capture for the rest of his life despite being hunted as a Nazi war criminal.
The New York Times is its normal, understated self, discussing brutality over afternoon tea, but this is no laughing matter.
The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.
The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy.
To eavesdrop on the terrorism suspect who was added to the target list, the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen, intelligence agencies would have to get a court warrant. But designating him for death, as C.I.A. officials did early this year with the National Security Council’s approval, required no judicial review.
“Congress has protected Awlaki’s cellphone calls,” said Vicki Divoll, a former C.I.A. lawyer who now teaches at the United States Naval Academy. “But it has not provided any protections for his life. That makes no sense.”
But this is really about the power of the federal government to kill its own citizen without the messiness of a democratic society, and courts of law, and so on. Let it sink in for a second, the United States now claims the right to murder anyone it pleases, citizen or not, without oversight. How is this different than any totalitarian government or Banana Republic?
So who is this guy anyway?
But the disclosure last month by news organizations that Mr. Awlaki, 39, had been added to the C.I.A. kill list shifted the terms of the legal debate in several ways. He is located far from hostilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the perpetrators of 9/11 are believed to be hiding.
He is alleged to be affiliated with a Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. Intelligence analysts believe that only recently he began to help plot strikes, including the failed attempt to bomb an airliner on Dec. 25.
Most significantly, he is an American, born in New Mexico, arguably protected by the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee not to be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In a traditional war, anyone allied with the enemy, regardless of citizenship, is a legitimate target; German-Americans who fought with the Nazis in World War II were given no special treatment.
But Ms. Divoll, the former C.I.A. lawyer, said some judicial process should be required before the government kills an American away from a traditional battlefield. In addition, she offered a practical argument for a review outside the executive branch: avoiding mistakes.
She noted media reports that C.I.A. officers in 2004 seized a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, and held him in Afghanistan for months before acknowledging that they had grabbed the wrong man. “What if we had put him on the kill list?” she asked.
Another former C.I.A. lawyer, John Radsan, said prior judicial review of additions to the target list might be unconstitutional. “That sort of review goes to the core of presidential power,” he said. But Mr. Radsan, who teaches at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said every drone strike should be subject to rigorous internal checks to be “sure beyond a reasonable doubt” that the target is an enemy combatant.
As for the question of whether Mr. Awlaki is a legitimate target, Mr. Radsan said the cleric might not resemble an American fighting in a Nazi uniform. “But if you imagine him making radio speeches for the Germans in World War II, there’s certainly a parallel,” he said.