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web posted February 4, 2002
Brink Lindsey to appear on LFB forum
Laissez Faire Books is pleased to announce that Brink Lindsey will host
a Laissez Faire Books' forum discussion on his book "Against the
Dead Hand" from Feb 1st - Feb 7th on thier web site: http://laissezfairebooks.com
Government floats plan to supply Klamath Basin farmers
Full water deliveries might be made to Klamath Basin farmers this year after a summer of conflict over government efforts to protect wild fish at the farmers' expense.
The plan, proposed January 28 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, must be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its impact on endangered suckers and by the National Marine Fisheries Service for its effect on threatened coho salmon.
The proposal drew immediate objections from commercial fishing and environmental groups, who said they would sue if necessary to ensure enough water was allocated for the fish.
Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations said the plan tries to assert that "all the water belongs to irrigators."
The Klamath project was begun in 1907 to irrigate the arid Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California line. The project last year became the center of a bitter water fight among farmers, the federal government, Indian tribes, commercial fishermen and environmentalists.
Last summer, environmental groups won a lawsuit that forced the government to shut off irrigation water to about 220,000 acres so there was enough water for the fish. Angry farmers responded by prying open the headgates to an irrigation canal, prompting the bureau to call in police.
This year, the mountain snowpack is above average, leading to hopes that there will be enough water to satisfy the needs of farms and fish.
The Bureau of Reclamation plan leaves it up to other federal agencies to find water for threatened and endangered fish that might be harmed.
"This is a recipe for more conflict over Klamath," said Steve Pedery of WaterWatch of Oregon.
ID card for air passengers
A U.S. Department of Transportation task force is moving forward with plans for a national transportation-worker identity card intended as a first step toward "trusted-traveler" cards for airline passengers.
The trusted-traveler card is part of the Aviation and Transportation Security signed by President Bush November 19 that authorized the Transportation Security Administration to "establish requirements to implement trusted passenger programs and use available technologies to expedite the security screening of passengers."
Trusted-traveler cards would authorize passengers to bypass extensive security screening at airport checkpoints. The Israeli government instituted a trusted-traveler program five years ago in an effort to speed up long lines at airport security checkpoints.
The electronic card would have an encoded biometric description of the owner to ensure that the person using it is the same person identified on the card. Biometrics refers to computerized systems that identify a unique part of each person's anatomy, such as fingerprints, facial structure or irises.
Eventually, the Transportation Department task force wants the cards to be used throughout airports and transportation services internationally. The card is intended to shorten lines at airports, but FBI background checks would disseminate information about the owners to many law enforcement agencies.
Currently, the transportation-worker identity card is in a draft proposal that needs approval from the Transportation Security Administration and its new director, John Magaw.
The idea of expanding the plan from transportation workers to travelers has critics.
"This is a backdoor national ID," said Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This so-called trusted-passenger card will become essentially mandatory for everyone to use not only on airlines but also buses, trains and perhaps drives over bridges and tunnels. The consequences of not having a trusted-passenger card is that you will be immediately suspect."
He said the card created additional privacy risks from identity theft, inaccurate information and giving information to foreign governments on political refugees.
Initially, only transportation workers would use the identification cards to control access to secure sites, such as passenger boarding areas or docks where freight is loaded, stored or received. It would be used for all transportation modes, including airlines, freight and passenger ships, railroads, trucks, buses and pipelines.
The draft proposal, developed by the Credentialing Direct Agency Group (CDAG), foresees wider uses for the cards that could include the trusted-traveler program.
"The focus of the CDAG's solution was on workers in the transportation system, while achieving sufficient flexibility to accommodate future needs to address identification of users of the transportation system," the draft proposal says. "The identification card system developed would apply to any person who has unescorted access to a transportation facility or who has access to control of a transportation conveyance."
CDAG is one of the task forces within the National Infrastructure Security Committee that Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta organized within weeks after the September 11 attacks.
The proposal recommends that the same card be used throughout a national, and perhaps international, network.
For transportation-worker identification, the cards would contain name, biometric information, date of birth, address, security clearance level, cargo authorization and an identification number. Details of the biometric information which most likely would be a fingerprint would be determined by the Transportation Security Administration.
"We're looking at all these kinds of issues," said Hank Price, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration. "I think it would be premature to discuss any specifics at all."
Among its supporters is Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican who last week was soliciting signatures from fellow congressmen for a letter he is sending to Bush. The letter encourages the president to act promptly to develop the "smart cards."
"The program would allow airport security and law-enforcement personnel to focus their attention and resources on passengers who pose a legitimate hijacking threat and would help the Transportation Security Administration achieve its stated goal of screening passengers and baggage with no passenger delays greater than 10 minutes," the letter says.
Culberson also supports the preliminary step of the national transportation-worker identification card, according to his spokesman.
Sharon regrets not killing Arafat
Israel should have killed Yasser Arafat 20 years ago, while he was under Israeli siege in Beirut, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview published January 31.
Sharon said he was "sorry we didn't liquidate him," but added that Arafat could yet become a partner for peace if he cracked down on Palestinian militants.
Sharon told the Maariv daily that Israel should have killed Arafat during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Sharon was defense minister at the time, and led the push to drive Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Lebanon.
"In Lebanon, there was an agreement not to liquidate Yasser Arafat," Sharon told Maariv. "In principle, I'm sorry that we didn't liquidate him."
In recent speeches, Sharon has said Arafat was Israel's bitter enemy and accused him of leading a "gang of terrorists."
Looking past the conflict, Sharon said Israel will enter peace talks with Arafat in the future, if he stamps out terror. "If Arafat will take all the steps that we are demanding from him, for me he will return to be a partner in negotiations," Sharon said.
Katherine Harris: I was 'the new Cruella De Vil'
The 2000 elections helped shine the spotlight on election problems that have plagued the nation for decades and motivated the public to finally deal with them, Florida's secretary of state says.
Katherine Harris told conservatives on January 31 that the problems of the 2000 election strengthened democracy, and Congress should not create a federal bureaucracy to run elections.
The crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Arlington, Virginia, stood applauding for several minutes to register appreciation for her role in settling the Florida election, which gave George W. Bush the presidency. Several in the crowd thanked her for "protecting the Constitution."
"The usually routine formality of certifying an election," she said, "abruptly thrust me into the role of being the new Cruella De Vil," the villainess of Disney's "101 Dalmatians."
Asked what Congress should do to reform elections, she responded: "We need no bureaucracy to run elections nationwide. We need a one-time funding mechanism to make sure states get up to speed."
Florida has moved to fix election problems, she said, improving voting machinery, its database for checking voter identification and voter education.
"In reality, the whole difficult experience exposed flaws in the elections process that had festered across America for decades," she said.
She said what Florida has done means that "never again will Floridians be subjected to the hanging, dangling or impregnated chads."
"Certainly never again will someone be turned away at polls," she said, "and, most importantly, never again will our men and women in uniform ... have to endure the indignity of someone challenging their right to vote."
Some in Florida have complained that the funding to carry out the plan is inadequate, though the Florida plan has been praised by many outside the state.
Harris, a Republican candidate for Congress, praised Bush's leadership and said: "Sometimes it's difficult to imagine that just over one year ago there were questions about his legitimacy carelessly floated around."
During the meeting, the conservatives heard from Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who outlined the threat of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and made a pitch for aggressively opposing potential enemies who are arming themselves with such weapons. He also explained the Bush administration's decision to forge ahead with creating a national missile defense system.
Bolton dismissed descriptions of U.S. policy as unilateral and said: "The Bush administration policy quite simply is pro-American."
Attendees also had a chance to say goodbye to retiring Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, one of the most popular figures at the annual meetings. He was introduced by Elizabeth Dole, a Republican running to fill his Senate seat this year. Helms called her "the new conservative Republican senator from North Carolina."
Intricate screening of fliers in U.S. in the works
Federal aviation authorities and technology companies will soon begin testing a vast air security screening system designed to instantly pull together every passenger's travel history and living arrangements, plus a wealth of other personal and demographic information.
The government's plan is to establish a computer network linking every reservation system in the United States to private and government databases. The network would use data-mining and predictive software to profile passenger activity and intuit obscure clues about potential threats, even before the scheduled day of flight.
It might find, for instance, that one man used a debit card to buy tickets for four other men who sit in separate parts of the same plane -- four men who have shared addresses in the past. Or it might discern an array of unusual links and travel habits among passengers on different flights.
Those sorts of details -- along with many other far more subtle patterns identified by computer programs -- would contribute to a threat index or score for every passenger. Passengers with higher scores would be singled out for additional screening by authorities.
As described by developers, the system would be an unobtrusive network enabling authorities to target potential threats far more effectively while reducing lines at security checkpoints for most passengers. Critics say it would be one of the largest monitoring systems ever created by the government and a huge intrusion on privacy.
Although such a system would rely on existing software and technology, it could be years before it is fully in place, given that enormous amounts of data would need to be integrated and a structure would need to be established for monitoring passenger profiles.
At least one carrier, Delta Air Lines, has been working with several companies on a prototype. Northwest Airlines has acknowledged that it is talking with other airlines about a similar screening system. Federal authorities hope to test at least two prototypes in coming months or possibly sooner, according to government and industry sources familiar with the effort.
"This is not fantasy stuff," said Joseph Del Balzo, a former acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and a security consultant working on one of the profiling projects. "This technology, based on transaction analysis, behavior analysis, gives us a pretty good idea of what's going on in a person's mind."The screening plans reflect a growing faith among aviation and government leaders that information technology can solve some of the nation's most vexing security problems by rooting out and snaring people who intend to commit terrorist acts.
But a range of policy and technical questions still need to be answered before the system can become a reality. The Transportation Security Administration, for example, must decide on a set of standards so technology companies and airlines can begin building a system. They must also figure out how to pay for the system and its operation. Industry officials said they hope the system will cost, on average, much less than $2 per ticket.
Officials at the TSA declined to comment, saying they did not want to disclose any details that might undermine aviation security.
Government officials and companies also face questions about privacy. In interviews, more than a dozen people working on two parallel projects said they were taking pains to protect individual privacy. They intend to limit the personal information shared with airlines and security officials.
But developers face restrictions on how much information they can use. Industry officials have already discussed with lawmakers the possible need to roll back some privacy protections in the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Driver's Privacy Protection Act to enable them to use more of the credit and driver's-license data.
Civil liberties activists said they fear the system could be the beginnings of a surveillance infrastructure that will erode existing privacy protections. When told about the system, Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it would be "a massive complex system of surveillance."
"It really is a profound step for the government to be conducting background checks on a large percentage of Americans. We've never done that before," he said. "It's frightening."
Some critics also worry that law enforcement authorities will be tempted to use it for broader aims, such as snaring deadbeat parents or profiling for drug couriers.
"If you can profile for terrorists, you can profile for other things," said Richard M. Smith, an independent computer security and privacy specialist. "The computer technology is so cheap and getting so much cheaper, you just have to be careful: Turn up the volume a little bit, and we just use the air transportation system to catch everybody."
Airlines rely on a couple dozen variables to screen passengers, such as how they bought tickets, whether they're flying one-way and travel history, people familiar with the system said. The details of that system, known as Computer Assisted Passenger Screening, or CAPS, are closely guarded. But security specialists regard that system -- expanded after Sept. 11 -- as limited.
The systems under development would include a thousand or more minute details and computer-derived conclusions about a person's travel, daily activity over time and whether he or she has coordinated activity with other passengers, possibly on other flights, according to the groups developing the systems.
Two leading prototypes are being developed. One group is led by HNC Software, a risk-detection specialist that works for credit card issuers, telephone companies, insurers and others. HNC is working with several companies, including PROS Revenue Management, which has access to seating records of virtually every U.S. passenger, and Acxiom Corp., one of the world's largest data-marketing companies, which collects such information as land records, car ownership, projected income, magazine subscriptions and telephone numbers.
"We can quickly build a system that is much more effective than anything in place today," said Joseph Sirosh, executive director of advanced technology solutions at HNC Software. "There is a night-and-day difference."
A second group is being led by Accenture. It has worked for months on a prototype with a variety of companies, including Delta. Data giant Equifax, Sabre Inc. (which is responsible for about half of U.S. airline reservations), IBM and other companies have also been working on profiling efforts.
Both systems are designed to use travel information and other data to create models of "normal" activity. Then they will look for variations in individual behavior that might suggest risk. Both may eventually make use of some sort of biometric system that uses iris scans, fingerprints or other immutable characteristics.
Officials at both HNC and Accenture said they take care with the personal information their systems collect and parse. The HNC prototype, for instance, does not link a passenger's personal information to a passenger's threat index. Officials also pledged that there will be no racial profiling, in part because ethnicity often has no bearing on potential risk.
The HNC prototype uses software known as neural networks, which can "learn" subtle patterns and relationships by processing millions of records, to predict when a particular transaction is likely to be fraudulent. The company already uses neural networks software to accurately profile the activity of millions of credit card owners, telephone callers and people receiving insurance benefits to crack down on fraud.
The HNC prototype would allow authorities, based in control rooms, to examine potential threats across the aviation system. One computer screen, for instance, includes a "prioritized passenger list" with passengers on a particular flight ranked from the highest risk to the lowest. The same screen also includes a box called "passenger coordination" with the names of other travelers that the computer has somehow linked to a high-risk passenger. Other screens show an aggregate threat for planes, airports and the entire system.
The Accenture system also creates a threat index, using massive computing power and relational database software. It examines travel data to look for things such as routes involving odd destinations or flying patterns. To search for threads linking individuals, the system will sift huge amounts of travel records, real estate histories and "seven layers" of passenger associates, according to Accenture partner Brett Ogilvie.
For instance, it would note if an individual lived at the former address of someone considered high-risk. Theoretically, the system could be calibrated to watch for people with links to restaurants or other places thought to be favored by terrorist cells. It might also note phone calls and match individuals against government watch lists. A potential link to a threatening character or region could boost a passenger's score, he said.
A limited model report, generated by Accenture on one individual, looked like any number of publicly available dossiers provided by information services. It included all his addresses for the past two decades, the telephone numbers and former addresses of people who now occupy those residences, and the names, ages, addresses, telephone numbers and partial Social Security numbers of possible relatives. Some of the information was incomplete or, apparently, unrelated to the passenger.
The company said it would eventually like to have more data in the analysis, including embassy warnings, passport information, foreign watch lists. Eventually, with government approval, they would link the system to a national ID or some sort of biometric or both.
The index would send color-coded signals to airlines. Green would indicate no problem. Yellow would indicate the need for more questioning. Red means apprehend. Ogilvie said the company would try to offer the same sort of service to cruise ships and other facilities that want to bolster security.
"The data is there and the technology is there," Ogilvie said. "There's a lot of value. There's a lot of data."
Paul Werbos, a senior National Science Foundation official and a neural
networks specialist, said such systems need to be used carefully. While
there is no doubt that profiling can improve security, Werbos said, "we
have to be very careful not to create punishments, disincentives, for
being different from average."
© 2001, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.
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