Friday, October 23, 2015

NYPD Using Mobile X-Ray Vans To Spy On Unknown Targets

As NYPD brass wonders why cops now being shot; New York City won’t reveal how often cops bombard places, vehicles, or people with radiation - or health risks for residents, pregnant women, children     

By Conor Friedersdorf

Dystopian truth is stranger than dystopian fiction.

In New York City, the police now maintain an unknown number of military-grade vans outfitted with X-ray radiation, enabling cops to look through the walls of buildings or the sides of trucks. 

The technology was used in Afghanistan before being loosed on U.S. streets. Each X-ray van costs an estimated $729,000 to $825,000.

The NYPD will not reveal when, where, or how often they are used.

“I will not talk about anything at all about this,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told a journalist for the New York Post who pressed for details on the vans. “It falls into the range of security and counter-terrorism activity that we engage in.”

He added that “they’re not used to scan people for weapons.”

Here are some specific questions that New York City refuses to answer:
  • How is the NYPD ensuring that innocent New Yorkers are not subject to harmful X-ray radiation?
  • How long is the NYPD keeping the images that it takes and who can look at them?
  • Is the NYPD obtaining judicial authorization prior to taking images, and if so, what type of authorisation?
  • Is the technology funded by taxpayer money, and has the use of the vans justified the price tag?
Those specifics are taken from a New York Civil Liberties Union court filing. The legal organization is seeking to assist a lawsuit filed by Pro Publica journalist Michael Grabell, who has been fighting New York City for answers about X-ray vans for 3 years.

NYC taxpayers now shelling out to have themselves irradiated, spied on

“ProPublica filed the request as part of its investigation into the proliferation of security equipment, including airport body scanners, that expose people to ionizing radiation, which can mutate DNA and increase the risk of cancer,” he explained. (For fear of a terrorist “dirty bomb,” America’s security apparatus is exposing its population to radiation as a matter of course.)

A state court has already ruled that the NYPD has to turn over policies, procedures, and training manuals that shape uses of X-rays; reports on past deployments; information on the costs of the X-ray devices and the number of vans purchased; and information on the health and safety effects of the technology. But New York City is fighting on appeal to suppress that information and more, as if it is some kind of spy agency rather than a municipal police department operating on domestic soil, ostensibly at the pleasure of city residents.

What will the effects be for citizens already receiving radiation treatments for cancer?

Its insistence on extreme secrecy is part of an alarming trend. The people of New York City are effectively being denied the ability to decide how they want to be policed.

“Technologies––from x-ray scanners to drones, automatic license plate readers that record license plates of cars passing by, and ‘Stingrays’ that spy on nearby cell phones by imitating cell phone towers—have brought rapid advances to law enforcement capacity to monitor citizens,” the NYCLU notes. “Some of these new technologies have filtered in from the battlefields into the hands of local law enforcement with little notice to the public and with little oversight. 

These technologies raise legitimate questions about cost, effectiveness, and the impact on the rights of everyday people to live in a society free of unwarranted government surveillance.”

For all we know, the NYPD might be bombarding apartment houses with radiation while people are inside or peering inside vehicles on the street as unwitting passersby are exposed to radiation. 

The city’s position—that New Yorkers have no right to know if that is happening or not—is so absurd that one can hardly believe they’re taking it. 

These are properly political questions. And it’s unlikely a target would ever notice. “Once equipped, the van—which looks like a standard delivery van—takes less than 15 seconds to scan a vehicle,” 

Fox News reported after looking at X-ray vans owned by the federal government. “It can be operated remotely from more than 1,500 feet and can be equipped with optional technology to identify radioactivity as well.”

The spying will obviously not be limited to NYC residents

In her ruling, Judge Doris Ling-Cohan highlights the fact that beyond the privacy questions raised by the technology are very real health and safety concerns. She writes:

Petitioner states in his affidavit, and respondent does not dispute, that: backscatter technology, previously deployed in European Union airports, was banned in 2011, because of health concerns; an internal presentation from American Science and Engineering, Inc., the company that manufactures the vans, determined that the vans deliver a radiation dose 40 percent larger than delivered by a backscatter airport scanner; bystanders present when the van is in use are exposed to the radiation that the van emits… moreover, petitioner maintains, and it is not disputed by the NYPD, that ‘there may be significant health risks associated with the use of backscatter x-ray devices as these machines use ionizing radiation, a type of radiation long known to mutate DNA and cause cancer.

Finally, petitioner states, again without dispute, that, on August 2011, the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency, which used the vans to scan vehicles crossing into and out of the United States, despite repeated testing and analysis of the amount of radiation emitted by such devices, nevertheless, prohibited continued use of the vans to scan occupied vehicles, until approval was granted by the United States Custom and Border Protection Radiation and Safety Committee.

And since the technology can see through clothing, it is easy to imagine a misbehaving NYPD officer abusing it if there are not sufficient safeguards in place. 

What will the radiation effects be for pregnant women?
Trusting the NYPD to choose prudent, sufficient safeguards under cover of secrecy is folly. This is the same department that spent 6 years conducting surveillance on innocent Muslims Americans in a program so unfocused that it produced zero leads — and that has brutalized New York City protestors on numerous occasions. 

Time and again it’s shown that outside oversight is needed.

Lest readers outside New York City presume that their walls still stand between them and their local law enforcement agency, that isn’t necessarily the case. Back in January, in an article that got remarkably little attention, USA Today reported the following:

At least 50 U.S. law enforcementagencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant. 

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. 

They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

The overarching theme here is a law enforcement community that has never seen a technology that causes it to say, “We’d better ask if the public wants us to use this or not.”

Instead, the usual protocol is not only to adopt new technology without permission—regardless of the privacy, health and safety, or moral questions that it raises—but to keep having done so a secret as long as possible, and to hide the true nature of the technology in question even after the public has been alerted to its existence. The fact that this pattern has held in regards to a device that can look through walls while emitting radiation on the streets of New York City raises questions including “What’s next?” “What else don’t we know about?” and “Will any technology on the military-to-police pipeline ever cause cops to ask permission first?”

This news bureau contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Goodbye Middle Class : 51 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than 30,000 Dollars A Year

America continues the spin into a slow, inexorable death-spiral  

By Michael Snyder

We just got more evidence that the middle class in America is dying. According to brand new numbers that were just released by the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all workers in the United States make less than $30,000 a year. 

Tent city in California
Let that number sink in for a moment. You can’t support a middle class family in America today on just $2,500 a month – especially after taxes are taken out. And yet more than half of all workers in this country make less than that each month. In order to have a thriving middle class, you have got to have an economy that produces lots of middle class jobs, and that simply is not happening in America today.

You can find the report that the Social Security Administration just released right here. The following are some of the numbers that really stood out for me:

-38 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-51 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-62 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-71 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

Tent city in Sacramento, CA

That first number is truly staggering. The federal poverty level for a family of five is $28,410, and yet almost 40 percent of all American workers do not even bring in $20,000 a year.

If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make approximately $20,000. This should tell you something about the quality of the jobs that our economy is producing at this point.

Work until you die: the new "ethic" in America

And of course the numbers above are only for those that are actually working. As I discussed just recently, there are 7.9 million working age Americans that are “officially unemployed” right now and another 94.7 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”. 

 When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

So many people that I know are barely scraping by right now. Many families have to fight tooth and nail just to make it from month to month, and there are lots of Americans that find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into debt.

If you can believe it, about a quarter of the country actually has a negative net worth right now.

What that means is that if you have no debt and you also have ten dollars in your pocket that gives you a greater net worth than about 25 percent of the entire country. The following comes from a recent piece by Simon Black

Credit Suisse estimates that 25% of Americans are in this situation of having a negative net-worth.

“If you’ve no debts and have $10 in your pocket you have more wealth than 25% of Americans. More than 25% of Americans have collectively that is.”

The thing is– not only did the government create the incentives, but they set the standard. With a net worth of negative $60 trillion, US citizens are just following dutifully in the government’s footsteps.

As a nation we are flat broke and most of us are living paycheck to pay check. 

 It has been estimated that it takes approximately $50,000 a year to support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four in the U.S. today, and so the fact that 71 percent of all workers make less than that amount shows how difficult it is for families that try to get by with just a single breadwinner.

Needless to say, a tremendous squeeze has been put on the middle class. In many families, both the husband and the wife are working as hard as they can, but it is still not enough. With each passing day, more Americans are losing their spots in the middle class and this has pushed government dependence to an all-time high. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month.

Sadly, the trends that are destroying the middle class in America just continue to accelerate.

With a huge assist from the Republican leadership in Congress, Barack Obama recently completed negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Also known as Obamatrade, this insidious new treaty is going to cover nations that collectively account for 40 percent of global GDP. Just like NAFTA, this treaty will result in the loss of thousands of businesses and millions of good paying American jobs. Let us hope and pray that Congress somehow votes it down.

Another thing that is working against the middle class is the fact that technology is increasingly taking over our jobs. With each passing year, it becomes cheaper and more efficient to have computers, robots and machines do things that humans once did.

Eventually, there will be very few things that humans will be able to do more cheaply and more efficiently than computers, robots and machines. How will most of us make a living when that happens?

The robopocalypse for workers may be inevitable. In this vision of the future, super-smart machines will best humans in pretty much every task. A few of us will own the machines, a few will work a bit… while the rest will live off a government-provided income… the most common job in most U.S. states probably will no longer be truck driver.

For decades, we have been training our young people to have the goal of “getting a job” once they get out into the real world. But in America today there are not nearly enough good jobs to go around, and this crisis is only going to accelerate as we move into the future.

I do not believe that it is wise to pin your future on a corporation that could replace you with a foreign worker or a machine the moment that it becomes expedient to do so. We need to start thinking differently, because the paradigms that worked in the past are fundamentally breaking down.

So what advice would you give to a young adult today that is looking toward the future?

This news bureau contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

WAYNE MADSEN : Turkey May Regret Border Violation Claims In Hatay

Obama poodle Erdogan dooms Turkey to invasion, destruction  

By Wayne Madsen

Turkey has repeatedly charged that Russian military aircraft flying sorties over Syrian airspace against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have violated Turkish airspace over the province of Hatay. 

Hatay is the curious geographical outcropping of Turkish territory that juts from Anatolia into the eastern shoreline of the Mediterranean to the west of Syria. If it appears that Hatay should actually be part of Syria, it once was, that is, before the Turkish government annexed the territory in 1939 in a raw deal worked out with France. Hatay was long forgotten, that is, until 1989 when the film "Indian Jones and the Last Crusade" featured, in part, the State of Hatay as it existed in the late 1930s. However, Hollywood mistakenly referred to Hatay as a sultanate and created for it a fake flag.

NATO, without submitting anything in the way of proof, charged that Russian Sukhoi Su-30s and Su-24s violated Hatay’s "sovereign" airspace on at least three occasions from the first week of October to the middle of the month. 

However, many Syrians believe that Turkey has been violating Syrian sovereignty over what the Syrians refer to as Alexandretta since 1939. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, Alexandretta, which was part of the Aleppo Province of the empire, became a separate entity but ruled by Paris as part of the League of Nations’ French mandate of Syria as a result of the Franco-Turkish Treaty of 1921. Known as the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta, the area was administratively governed as part of the French-ruled State of Aleppo and in 1925 it became part of the new French state of Syria but, in recognition of its large Alawite, Turkish, and Armenian communities, retained its autonomous status. Alexandretta also had communities of Assyrians, Syriac Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronites, Greeks, Greek Catholics, Kurds, and Jews. There were four other states under the French mandate of Syria: Arab Syria, largely occupied by Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Turkoman; Latakia, the coastal region dominated by Alawites and Christians; Lebanon, which was then largely Christian; and the southern region largely inhabited by the nomadic Jebel Druze.

The Syrian civil war, instigated by the West, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, Turkey, and Israel, has played upon the old religious and ethnic fracture lines of the old League of Nations mandate to further their own agendas. However, by opening the Syrian can of worms, Turkey has also turned attention toward dormant claims by Alexandretta, now the Hatay province of Turkey, for retrocession to Syria.

Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk never recognized French-Syrian control of what the Turks insisted on calling Hatay. Ataturk made an astounding claim that Alexandretta was a Turkish homeland for 40 centuries even though it was also longtime homeland for a number Syrian Alawites, Arabs, Melkite Christians, Armenians, Kurds, Circassians, and Jews. Moreover, the Seljuk Turks had only occupied Alexandretta in 1096. The Seljuk Turkish occupation of the region ended three years later when Christian crusaders led by European princes conquered Alexandretta. 

Much like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s covert support for ISIL, Ataturj began providing clandestine support for Turkish irredentists in Alexandretta. 

The Turkish residents of Alexandretta formed pro-Kemalist organizations dedicated to forming a union with Turkey.

The Syrian Arabs of Alexandretta wanted nothing to do with becoming part of Turkey. 

Syrian nationalist leader Zaki al-Arsuzi, one of the inspirational leaders of the Arab Ba’ath Party, which would later come to rule both Syria under Hafez al-Assad and his son, current president Bashar al-Assad, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, began to call for Alexandretta’s independence from France and union with Syria. In 1936, the French and Turks concluded an agreement whereby Turkey would recognize the eventual independence of Syria, which would include the Sanjak of Alexandretta. However, Ataturk raised the status of Alexandretta before the League of Nations and claimed that because the majority of its population was Turkish – which, at 39 percent of the population, was another falsehood from Ataturk – the Sanjak should be separate from an independent Syria.

The Armenian community surrounding Alexandretta, fearing the Turks who had already engaged in a wholesale genocide of the Armenian people from 1915 to 1922, declared the Republic of Amanus and asked France for recognition. France ignored the Armenians. The French, Americans, British, and other World War I allies also ignored the plight of the Armenian, Greek, Maronite, and other minority communities of Cilicia, along the Mediterranean coast of Anatolia, who found themselves besieged by the extreme nationalism of Ataturk’s Young Turk movement.

France agreed that Alexandretta would maintain its autonomous status as part of Syria after Syrian independence but rejected Turkish demands that the region be granted separate independence, obviously with the goal of then incorporating the mini-state into Turkey. The League of Nations appointed a special committee, with French and Turkish members, to hammer out an agreement on Alexandretta. 

The committee agreed that Sanjak would retain autonomy over its internal affairs, Syria would have responsibility for the Sanjak’s foreign affairs; the Sanjak and Syria would have the same monetary system; Syria and Alexandretta would appoint commissioners to represent each entity in their respective capitals – Damascus and Antioch; Alexandretta would be completely demilitarized and only a police force would be maintained; the rights of all minorities with respect to race, religion, language, and nationality would be guaranteed; Turkey would have special rights in the port of Alexandretta and a separate customs zone; Arabic and Turkish were recognized as official languages; a unicameral legislature would be established with 40 members who would elect a president and an executive council; and freedom of the press and elementary education were guaranteed.

After the agreement, Christian and Muslim Arabs, as well as Armenians, immediately took to the streets in rioting to protest Turkish being adopted as an official language. In a fashion popular at the time with Nazi Germany with regard to its neighbors with German minorities, Turkish troops were deployed to the northern border of Alexandretta and Turkey began to officially complain about the treatment of Turks in the Sanjak. In 1937, as French authorities were registering voters in Alexandretta for forthcoming elections, Turkey abrogated its 1926 no-aggression treaty with the Syrian mandate. Al-Arsuzi and his Syrian nationalists claimed there was no Turkish majority in Alexandretta, that its numbers were only 85,000 compared to 100,000 Arabs and Armenians. After a French census, it was agreed that Turks would have 22 of the 40 seats in the legislature. 

In what can only be described as a double-cross of the Syrians, the French agreed to permit Turkey to station troops in Alexandretta to maintain "order" and an agreement was signed between Paris and Ankara that recognized Turkey’s special status in Alexandretta. 

After elections were held in 1938, a former member of the Turkish National Assembly was elected President of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, which he immediately changed to the Republic of Hatay in recognition of the Hittite, and thus, Turkish, claim over the territory. The Turkish president declared the capital to be in Antakya (not Antioch as it was known to the majority of the population). The flag of Hatay was proclaimed to be a white crescent and star on a red field, the same as that of Turkey. The official policy of the Hatay government was to be "Kemalism."

A 1939 Franco-Turkish mutual assistance treaty sealed Alexandretta’s fate. In order to ensure that Turkey did not join with the Axis Powers, France ceded sovereignty of Alexandretta to the Turks. The rights of the majority non-Turks in Alexandretta, particularly the Armenians and Kurds, were systematically discarded by the French mandate authorities over Greater Syria. Part of the friction today that exists between the Baathists of Syria and the neo-nationalists of Erdogan stems directly from the abandonment of Alexandretta to the Turks by the French in 1939. Even if Russian planes overflew Hatay, it demonstrates that Syria and its allies have not forgotten the perfidy that led to Alexandretta’s illegal seizure by the Turks. 

Essentially, the Alawites and other minorities who now live in Hatay have good cause to demand retrocession back to Syria. The Turks falsely claim that the Alawites, Circassians, and Kurds who live in Hatay are ethnic Turks, a hyper-nationalist claim rejected by all three groups. Some official Syrian government maps still show Alexandretta as part of Syria. The Turkish-supported Syrian opposition have printed maps showing no separate status for Hatay but showing it as part of Turkey. 

If Syria is divided between a Sunni-dominated interior and a Latakia-based Alawite-Christian coastal entity, Hatay, if joined to Latakia, would give the new country a fighting chance for survival in a dangerous environment of Turkish nationalist adventurism. And a final footnote for a Turkey that has covertly pushed for the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate. If ancient history is to be revived, Christian claims to Cilicia and Constantinople can also be revived. If there is a place for an Islamic State in the world of Erdogan and his cronies, so too, can there be a place for a revived Byzantium and the reopening of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul as the holy see for eastern Christianity.

Wayne Madsen

Wayne Madsen
Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist, Madsen has over twenty years experience in security issues. 

As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. Madsen has been a frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News and has also appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC and MS-NBC. He has been invited to testify as a witness before the US House of Representatives, the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and an terrorism investigation panel of the French government. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club, Madsen is based and reports from Washington, D.C.



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