The US Is An “Endemic Surveillance Society”

According to Privacy International, the United States has dropped from Extensive to Endemic, now tied with China, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UK(with the UK being more-or-less the worst in the free world). But never fear! We are still number one in a few things. They are:
* Legal protections
* Privacy enforcement
* Use of identity cards and biometrics
* Visual surveillance
* Communications interception
* Workplace monitoring
* Medical, financial and movement surveillance
* Border and trans-border issues

By number one I, of course, mean we are the worst. Go America!

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You Don’t See This Happen Often

ABC News

Synopsis: A 16 year old Icelander decided to call the President; on the Number, supposedly secret. He doesn’t know how he got it, and he doesn’t know why it caused such a hubbub.

When Vífill Atlason, a 16-year-old high school student from Iceland, decided to call the White House, he could not imagine the kind of publicity it would bring.

Introducing himself as Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the actual president of Iceland, Atlason found what he believed to be President George W. Bush’s allegedly secret telephone number and phoned, requesting a private meeting with him.

“I just wanted to talk to him, have a chat, invite him to Iceland and see what he’d say,” Vífill told ABC News.

A White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore insisted to ABC News that the young man did not dial the private number but instead dialled 202-456-1414, the main switchboard for the West Wing. But that was not the case. The student gave ABC News the number. It is indeed an extention off the White House switchboard and goes to a security command post office in the building next door to the White House.

Vífill’s mother, Harpa Hreinsdottir, a teacher at the local high school, said her son did, in fact, get through to a private phone.

“This was not a switchboard number of any kind,” she told ABC News, “it was a secret number at the highest security level.”

Vífill claims he was passed on to several people, each of them quizzing him on President Grímsson’s date of birth, where he grew up, who his parents were and the date he entered office.

“It was like passing through checkpoints,” he said. “But I had Wikipedia and a few other sites open, so it was not so difficult really.”

When he finally got through to President Bush’s secretary, Vífill alleges he was told to expect a call back from Bush.

“She told me the president was not available at the time, but that she would mark it in his schedule to call me back on Monday evening,” he said.

Instead, the police showed up at his home in Akranes, a fishing town about 48 kilometers from Reykjavik, and took him to the local police station, where they questioned the 16-year-old for several hours.

“The police chief said they were under orders from U.S. officials to “find the leak” — that I had to tell them where I had found the number,” he said. “Otherwise, I would be banned from ever entering the United States.”

Vífill claims he cannot remember where he got the number.

“I just know I have had it for a few years,” he told ABC. “I must have gotten it from a friend when I was about 11 or 12.”

Atlason’s mother Harpa, who was not home at the time, said she was shocked to find her son had been taken away by the police but could not quite bring herself to be angry with her son.

“He’s very resourceful you know,” she said. “He has become a bit of a hero in Iceland. Bush is very unpopular here.”

Vífill was eventually released into his parent’s custody, and no charges have been brought against the high school student.

When ABC verified the number, it was the Secret Service Uniform Division, which handles security for the president.

“If the number were not top secret, why would the police have told me that I will be put on a no-fly list to America?” Vífill asked.

“I don’t see how calling the White House is a crime,” he added. “But obviously, they took it very seriously.”

The Secret Service told ABC News this was not its investigation.

US Claims Right To Kidnap Foriegners

London Times – AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.

Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects.

The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.

Legal experts confirmed this weekend that America viewed extradition as just one way of getting foreign suspects back to face trial. Rendition, or kidnapping, dates back to 19th-century bounty hunting and Washington believes it is still legitimate.

The US government’s view emerged during a hearing involving Stanley Tollman, a former director of Chelsea football club and a friend of Baroness Thatcher, and his wife Beatrice.

The Tollmans, who control the Red Carnation hotel group and are resident in London, are wanted in America for bank fraud and tax evasion. They have been fighting extradition through the British courts.

During a hearing last month Lord Justice Moses, one of the Court of Appeal judges, asked Alun Jones QC, representing the US government, about its treatment of Gavin, Tollman’s nephew. Gavin Tollman was the subject of an attempted abduction during a visit to Canada in 2005.

Jones replied that it was acceptable under American law to kidnap people if they were wanted for offenses in America. “The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared,” he said.

He said that if a person was kidnapped by the US authorities in another country and was brought back to face charges in America, no US court could rule that the abduction was illegal and free him: “If you kidnap a person outside the United States and you bring him there, the court has no jurisdiction to refuse – it goes back to bounty hunting days in the 1860s.”

Mr Justice Ouseley, a second judge, challenged Jones to be “honest about [his] position”.

Jones replied: “That is United States law.”

He cited the case of Humberto Alvarez Machain, a suspect who was abducted by the US government at his medical office in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1990. He was flown by Drug Enforcement Administration agents to Texas for criminal prosecution.

Although there was an extradition treaty in place between America and Mexico at the time – as there currently is between the United States and Britain – the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that the Mexican had no legal remedy because of his abduction.

In 2005, Gavin Tollman, the head of Trafalgar Tours, a holiday company, had arrived in Toronto by plane when he was arrested by Canadian immigration authorities.

An American prosecutor, who had tried and failed to extradite him from Britain, persuaded Canadian officials to detain him. He wanted the Canadians to drive Tollman to the border to be handed over. Tollman was escorted in handcuffs from the aircraft in Toronto, taken to prison and held for 10 days.

A Canadian judge ordered his release, ruling that the US Justice Department had set a “sinister trap” and wrongly bypassed extradition rules. Tollman returned to Britain.

Legal sources said that under traditional American justice, rendition meant capturing wanted people abroad and bringing them to the United States. The term “extraordinary rendition” was coined in the 1990s for the kidnapping of terror suspects from one foreign country to another for interrogation.

There was concern this weekend from Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP, who said: “The very idea of kidnapping is repugnant to us and we must handle these cases with extreme caution and a thorough understanding of the implications in American law.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “This law may date back to bounty hunting days, but they should sort it out if they claim to be a civilized nation.”

The US Justice Department declined to comment.

Sharif Blocked From Pakistan Election

AP – ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif risks disqualification from Pakistan’s crucial parliamentary elections after an official rejected his nomination papers Monday.

The decision could deepen the political crisis that has engulfed Pakistan since President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule one month ago.

Sharif was to meet later Monday with fellow opposition leader Benazir Bhutto to discuss whether to jointly boycott the Jan. 8 elections.

Raja Qamaruz Zaman upheld objections from other candidates to Sharif’s candidacy.

A lawyer for Sharif said they were considering an appeal to a tribunal composed of senior judges.

“This decision has been made under pressure. This shows how free and fair the elections will be,” said the lawyer, Imtiaz Kaifi.

Sharif, a two-time former prime minister who returned from exile late last month, is pressing for the opposition to unite and boycott the ballot because of Musharraf’s use of emergency powers to purge the judiciary and secure his own continued rule.

Candidates seeking to contest the same National Assembly seat in Lahore had complained that Sharif was ineligible because of a conviction on charges related to the 1999 coup, in which Musharraf ousted his government.

A court convicted Sharif of hijacking and terrorism charges for trying to prevent a plane carrying Musharraf back from a foreign trip from landing in Pakistan, despite a shortage of fuel.

A year later, Sharif agreed to go into exile for 10 years to avoid a life sentence in prison.

Rivals also complained about Sharif’s alleged default on a bank loan and an incident in 1997 in which Sharif’s supporters stormed the Supreme Court.

Zaman said only that the objections were “accepted” and provided no details.

The opposition demands that Musharraf, a close U.S. ally, rescind the state of emergency, under which he fired independent-minded Supreme Court judges, muzzled the media and detained critics.

However, Bhutto’s party is reluctant to boycott the ballot, saying it would hand pro-Musharraf parties a walkover.

“The regime does not need to rig elections that are boycotted,” Bhutto told The Associated Press, forecasting that her party will win a fair election.

“But we still have the option later of protesting a rigged election, so we would rather all the political parties take part,” she said after talks with visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Islamabad.

A boycott would be a serious blow to U.S.-backed efforts to return Pakistan to democracy after eight years of military rule. Musharraf has promised to lift the emergency — as demanded by Washington and the opposition — on Dec. 16.

Chavez Loses His Amendment

CNN – Venezuelans, by the slimmest of margins, rejected a constitutional referendum that would have allowed President Hugo Chavez to seek re-election indefinitely and tightened socialism’s grip on the oil-rich Latin American nation.

By 51 percent to 49 percent, voters shot down a referendum that included 69 proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution, according to Monday reports from the National Electoral Council. In all, 9 million of Venezuela’s 16 million eligible voters went to the polls.

“Don’t feel sad. Don’t feel burdened,” Chavez told supporters after the results were announced.

In Washington, the White House applauded the vote.

“We congratulate the people of Venezuela on their vote and their continued desire to live in freedom and democracy,” said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Thousands of Venezuelans gathered in the streets of Caracas, many of them university students who worked to defeat the measure, and burst into singing their country’s national anthem upon hearing the news.

One of the more controversial proposed amendments would have abolished term limits, allowing the firebrand Chavez to hold office indefinitely as long as he is re-elected.

The 53-year-old Venezuelan president was voted into power in 1998 and has twice been re-elected by large margins. The present law prohibits Chavez from seeking re-election when his term ends in 2012.

Another amendment on the ballot would have pushed the country more toward socialism. The leftist Chavez has said he should have full authority over the autonomous Central Bank as well as the nation’s economic policy. These measures, Chavez has said, are necessary to move the economy toward socialism.

Since winning a second six-year term in December, Chavez has promised to push forward with his particular brand of socialism and his “Bolivarian Revolution.”

Chavez has used skyrocketing oil revenues, which reportedly account for about 90 percent of the nation’s export earnings, to garner support in the country’s poorer neighborhoods.

In Venezuela, the poor receive free health care and education, much like in Cuba, which is under the rule of Chavez’s friend and mentor, President Fidel Castro.

In the last year, Chavez has nationalized oil, telephone and power companies and refused to renew the broadcast license for RCTV, an opposition television station that had been broadcasting for 53 years. The Venezuelan government later threatened to investigate broadcasters it said were inciting the public to violence over the decision.

On Friday, Chavez threatened to take independent Venezuelan network Globovision off the air if it broadcast partial results of the Sunday referendum.

Chavez, a former paratrooper, also routinely lambastes the United States, which has had thin diplomatic but close economic ties with Venezuela. The United States is Venezuela’s top oil customer, buying about 1 million barrels a day, and is one of the few countries that can refine its low-quality crude.

Despite Sunday’s defeat, Chavez — in what he called a talk “from my heart” — thanked those who opposed his proposals and said the election results proved Venezuelan democracy was maturing, a sentiment echoed by Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council.

Earlier in Caracas, Chavez — clad in his trademark red shirt and cradling his grandson — made the sign of the cross when he voted, then took his paper ballot and placed it in a box. “For me, it’s a very happy day,” he said.

He dipped his right pinkie in ink, collected his paper receipt from the voting machine and then gave an uncharacteristically short talk with the news media.

“Let’s wait for the results tonight,” he told reporters. “We’ll accept them, whatever they may be.”

Chinese Sub Surfaces Undetected Next to USS Kitty Hawk

Unfortunately, our military seems to underestimate the Chinese, especially their technology. Deployed with a battle fleet during exercises, the 160 ft Song Class slipped through a contingency of at least a dozen warships and 2 of our own submarines undetected, then proceeded to go into visible attack range before surfacing. The U.S.S. Kitty Hawk is a 1,000 ft. US super-carrier with 4,500 personnel on-board.

Read the rest here.

It disturbs me greatly that we can’t detect a sub when we have 14 ships looking for it.

Another Taser ‘Incident’

It seems I missed one. Our neighbors to the north seem to know enough not to let American cops have ALL the fun.

A Polish man ended up staying at Vancouver National Airport for TEN HOURS, after his mother, who said she would pick him up at the baggage area, wasn’t allowed to enter without a boarding pass and wasn’t allowed to tell him where to go. She then went home, after being told that her son NEVER ARRIVED at the airport. Eventually, they realize that he doesn’t speak English, only Russian, and ask for a translator to calm the man, upset at his detaining. After a while, the man picks up a computer, throws it, and then repeats the action with the folding table he has been carrying since arrival, for an unknown reason. Eventually security comes, but, unable to talk to the Russian-speaking man, they, again, ask for an interpretor. Then all hell breaks loose.

The RCNP arrive, and before even confronting the man, one officer asks another if he may TASER the Polish man. The questioned officer agrees. After confronting the man, still with no interpretor, the man shys away, and is jolted with 50,000 volts of electricity. The man falls, and far from stopping, the RCNP taser him again. Officers then pin his head to the ground with their knees, and the man loses consciousness.

The MOST remarkable thing isn’t that the man was tasered for no apparent reason, it is that the RCNP DENIED the unprovoked attack, claiming that the man fought against them, FORCING them to taser him for their own safety.

A video of the ENTIRE incident was released, filmed by a bystander, refuting this claim entirely.

The man died on the scene.

Read and commented on from CNN, and also the host of the video itself, with much of the information produced here.