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Archive for the ‘Homeland Security’ Category

Earmark Funds Going to “Scam Artist”?

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

advenovationThat’s the allegation made by a commenter on Rep. Bart Stupak’s (MI-1) requests for $1,900,000 to go to Advenovation, Inc.

The money would fund “research to combine robotics technology, machine vision and sensors with software to create platform-independent robots with advanced vision and sensing capability.” Sounds neat!

But is the proposed recipient a legitimate, reliable business? The public is entitled to investigate.

A comment posted yesterday—apparently by the owner of Advenovation—argues that the allegations about the company are false and that another company is at fault for alleged nonpayments.

What more can we learn about this earmark and the proposed recipient? That’s up to you, America. Anyone who knows something about this is welcome to comment or edit the wiki article about the proposed earmark.

In the meantime, here’s the current vote on it. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article.

FY 2010 Spending Under Way

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

The nitty-gritty of the fiscal year 2010 spending process is getting under way. By the beginning of the new fiscal year October 1st, Congress is supposed to pass twelve appropriations bills, spending the money in the U.S. treasury on all the operations of the government for the year.

Last week, the House passed the H.R. 2847, the Commerce/Justice/Science spending bill. It spends about $680 per U.S. family on operations of the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, and science-related agencies like NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security have been introduced in both the House and Senate. The House bill, H.R. 2892, and the Senate bill, S. 1298, would both spend about $460 per U.S. family to fund the department.

And bills to fund the legislative branch – Congress itself – have also been introduced in both houses of Congress. The House bill – H.R. 2918 – spends about $38 per U.S. family on the operations of Congress. The Senate bill, S. 1294, comes in at about $33.

As you can see from the budget process timetable, Congress is well behind on the annual spending bills – the House Appropriations Committee was supposed to have reported all the spending bills by June 10th, and the House is supposed to finish work on all the bills by the end of the month. But it’s still ahead of schedule compared to other recent Congresses.

Congress: Guantanamo No-Fly

Friday, June 5th, 2009

In a recent post that was meant to be funny, I noted the proposal to put Guantanamo detainees on the no-fly list. Wrecking people’s day at the airport, the cruelest torture. Get it? Oh well.

Anyway, that proposal – to put former detainees at Guantanamo on the no-fly list – was added to the TSA authorization bill that the House passed yesterday (along with the limits on body-scanners we reported yesterday).

There’s some good reporting on it, and other elements of the debate, at National Journal.

The debate about Guantanamo detainees is an odd one because I don’t find them scary, but it seems that lots of people do.

House Restricts “Strip-Search Machines”

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

As part of the debate on the the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act, the House voted today to limit the use of “strip-search machines.” We blogged about it here and here.

The roll call vote will soon be up here. You can use it to decide whether to cheer or jeer your member of Congress.

And here’s the text of the amendment as it appeared in the rule governing debate on the bill: (more…)

Congress May Ban TSA Strip-Search Machines

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

. . . at least their use for primary screening.

NextGov reports that the House of Representatives may consider limiting airport body scans in the TSA Authorization Act, which is being debated this week.

In the post “Limiting ‘Strip Search Machines,’” we took a look at H.R. 2027, the Aircraft Passenger Whole-Body Imaging Limitations Act, which is the language likely to be considered for the TSA bill.

Here’s a look at the voting on H.R. 2027, the Aircraft Passenger Whole-Body Imaging Limitations Act, and H.R. 2200, the TSA Authorization Act, into which it may be folded.

Click to vote, comment, learn more or edit the wiki articles about the bills.

The Cruelest Torture for Guantanamo Detainees

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

The torture debate has taken a new twist. A bill introduced in Congress yesterday would subject Guantanamo detainees to one of the cruelest tortures known to man. Nobody should suffer a fate like this, but the bill does have a chance of passing.

H.R. 2503 would put Guantanamo detainees on the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list. It’s a form of mistreatment so ghastly, so inhuman – no one should have to suffer such a fate. Getting pulled out of line at the airport, the pat-downs, the puffer machines. Taking your shoes of so they can wand the bottoms of your feet.

H.R. 2503 is a plan so diabolical – I hadn’t imagined that Congress might do such a thing, but it just might.

Here is the current vote on H.R. 2503. Click to vote, torture others with your comments, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.

Congress to TSA: No Cheating

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

H.R. 2464, introduced yesterday, would prohibit the Transportation Security Administration from giving advance notice to security screeners when they are going to be covertly tested.

Does it need saying that tipping off screeners undermines the value of testing? Does TSA need a law to make it not do that?

Here’s the current vote on H.R. 2464. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.

Do We Want Terrorists In the Country or Out of It?

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

The Sunday morning political shows spent some time today on a bill that was introduced in the House last week. H.R. 2294 is called the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act – OK! OK! I’m for it! With a name like that . . . .

And that’s why the bill has such a name, of course. The bill was introduced by Republican leadership to highlight some challenges that the Obama administration adopted when it pledged to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

You see, there are terrorists and suspected terrorists there. (Heck, a few people in Guantanamo may have become terrorists for being put there!) And they have to be moved. If they can’t be returned to their countries because they would be tortured or killed, they have to go somewhere else, including possibly the United States.

Now, it’s an easy out to throw up your hands and say, “Who cares if they are tortured or killed? They’re terrorists!”

Not so fast. Not all of them are. For example, it’s pretty clear that a group of Uighers, an ethnic group native to China, are not terrorists. They were picked up in Pakistan in late 2001 and have been held in Guantanamo ever since.

Is it OK to send them to China – well-known as a regime that represses minorities and dissidents – to suffer whatever punishment their government wants to mete out? It’s part of our national character not to throw innocent people into the jaws of oppression. We have to figure out what to do with people like this – in Guantanamo but not deserving of being thrown to the wolves.

So there’s complexity here. The Keep Terrorists Out of America Act would require the approval of the relevant State governor and legislature before a person is transferred there from Guantanamo. The answer, of course, is almost always going to be “Hell no!” (We’ve followed Guantanamo NIMBYism in this post.)

So what do you think about the bill? Should this law be passed so something else has to happen to the Guantanamo detainees? (vote “yes”) Or is this a political cheap-shot that muddies the debate? (vote “no”)

Here’s the current vote on H.R. 2294 is called the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act. Click to vote, comment, learn more, and edit the wiki article about the bill.

Limiting “Strip Search Machines”

Friday, April 24th, 2009

“Strip search machines,” also known as “whole-body imaging” and “millimeter wave scanning,” have been controversial as the Transportation Security Administration rolls them out around the country.

This week, a bill was introduced to limit the use of whole-body imaging. H.R. 2027, the Aircraft Passenger Whole-Body Imaging Limitations Act of 2009 does so in several ways:

  • Whole-body imaging could not be the sole or primary method of screening a passenger, and it could only be used as a follow-up to other methods like metal detection.
  • Passengers would have the right to opt for a pat-down search instead of whole-body imaging.
  • Passengers subject to whole-body imaging would have to be provided information about the technology and the images it generates, on privacy policies, and the right to have that pat-down search instead.
  • Images of passengers generated by whole-body imaging technology could not be stored, transferred, shared, or copied in any form after the passenger has passed through the security system.

Most of these protections are already TSA policy, but agency policies are relatively easy to change compared to federal law. Without limitations like this, these machines are on the natural, mission-creepy path to becoming mandatory.

Rules, of course, were made to be broken. How long do you suppose it is before TSA agents without proper supervision find a way to capture images contrary to policy?

(Agent in secure area guides Hollywood starlet to strip search machine, sends SMS message to image reviewer, who takes camera-phone snap. TMZ devotes a week to the story, and the ensuing investigation reveals that this has been happening at airports throughout the country to hundreds of women travelers.)

Here’s the current vote on H.R. 2027, the Aircraft Passenger Whole-Body Imaging Limitations Act of 2009. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article about the bill.

Right and Wrong on Torture

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The debate about torture – or “enhanced interrogation methods,” if you prefer – has swamped the Obama administration a bit, as this Politico article discusses. Many different pieces of the fallout are covered in a Washington Post blog post, including the release of a Senate Armed Services Committee report.

Congress has seen a few bills introduced on the subject. H.R. 374, the Lawful Interrogation and Detention Act and its counterpart S. 147 would limit the use of certain interrogation techniques, prohibit interrogation by contractors, and require notification of the International Committee of the Red Cross of detainees.

H.R. 893, the American Anti-Torture Act of 2009, would bar any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.

H.R. 591, the Interrogation and Detention Reform Act, “would improve United States capabilities for gathering human intelligence through the effective interrogation and detention of terrorist suspects and for bringing terrorists to justice through effective prosecution in accordance with the principles and values set forth in the Constitution and other laws.”

So what’s the right and wrong on torture?