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web posted November 5, 2001

Gore: America must stay true to values

As America wages its war on terrorism, history will judge the nation by how it defends equality at home and human rights abroad, former Vice President Al Gore said October 27.

Al Gore"Political, religious and economic freedom represent the way we as human beings are intended to live our lives together," Gore told a New Hampshire Democratic Party fund-raiser. "We will never turn our backs on those values."

Gore, paying a visit to the state that hosts the nation's first presidential primary, did not say if he would run again in 2004, despite the prodding of 500 guests, some of whom chanted "Gore in four."

"I'm not gonna respond to that, but I appreciate the encouragement," said Gore, who lost to President Bush in last year's election. "I have not decided what I am going to do in the future."

The terrorist attacks underscore the need for America to promote its values of freedom and peace throughout the world, he said.

"It's been a long time since we've faced a situation where we've been under attack from a group that just wants to kill Americans," he said. "It really challenges our traditional way of thinking about these things.

Gore said the message of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban party is one of terror and injustice and discrimination, a society in which women must hide their faces and are not allowed to go to the doctor.

"It's not really about religion," Gore said. "My religious tradition says that by their fruits, you shall know them. Well, we've seen their fruits, a devastated land where people are suffering from violence and discrimination of all kinds."

Gore praised the dedication of firefighters and police officers who continue to risk their lives despite losing hundreds of colleagues in the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

"They were the ones going up the stairs when the rest of the people were trying to escape," Gore said. "What tremendous courage."

Gore also said it is important for Americans to stand behind Bush during this time of crisis, and for Democrats to continue the debate at home over the economy and social reform.

Saturday's $75-a-plate Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was expected to raise more than $20,000 for the party, officials said.

Gore kept a low-profile in the days leading up to the event as he toured the state and met with party members.

He said that if he runs for president again, there's at least one thing he'll change: "If I had it to do over again I would have kissed Tipper longer at the convention."

Justice tells prosecutors how to use new anti-terror laws

The Justice Department is telling U.S. prosecutors how to make the most of the government's surveillance powers under new anti-terrorism laws, describing when they can search a person's home secretly, trace Internet e-mail or seize telephone voice messages.

But with some of the most contentious provisions of the new laws, signed recently by President Bush, Justice lawyers urged federal prosecutors to call them by phone for additional help or wait for further guidelines.

In one mild concession to privacy concerns, FBI and Justice officials said October 29 they will not change the government's "Carnivore" Internet surveillance technology to collect more personal data than was gathered previously, except in limited cases.

Still, an expert hired by the Justice Department to review the technology expressed disappointment that investigators are being given more latitude to use Carnivore even though problems identified in last year's oversight study remain unresolved. "Some of these problems need to be fixed," said Henry Perritt Jr., head of the DOJ's own review panel and dean of the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Legal experts generally agree that the new anti-terrorism laws allow the FBI to use Carnivore, renamed the "DCS-1000," to more broadly monitor a person's Web surfing with only perfunctory approval by a judge.

"Individual circumstances may justify a broader filter setting (for Carnivore) ... but even those would be authorized by the Department of Justice," said Thomas Gregory Motta, the FBI assistant general counsel.

"We're not waiting for the statute to pass so we can suddenly change all the filter settings," said a Justice official, who asked not to be identified. Another Justice official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said government lawyers "take it upon ourselves to interpret the statutes in ways we think are wise and will stand the test of time, and we'll have to see how this plays itself out."

The Justice Department e-mailed more than 30 printed pages of new legal rules last weekend to the country's most cyber-savvy federal prosecutors. The guidelines, parts of which were written in arcane legal language, describe new powers permitting the FBI and police to seize voice messages. And they describe legal changes cracking down on computer hackers, who in some cases are deemed "terrorists" under the new law.

The Justice Department also released secret new guidelines for tracking spies and foreign terrorists under a powerful 1978 anti-espionage law, but those new rules were classified.

Critics said that perhaps most surprising was what the Justice Department didn't tell prosecutors: That lawmakers who wrote the statute do not believe the government should be allowed to record some types of Web searches without a wiretap order from a judge.

"They're doing that on purpose so that prosecutors interpret it as broadly as they can," charged Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which helped write the law. "They want to get as much information as they can, and I suspect they want to get a lot more information than they were intended."

The Justice guidelines don't specify which Web addresses can be recorded legally under so-called "pen register" orders, though the House Judiciary Committee deemed off-limits any Internet addresses "specifying Web search terms or the name of a requested file or article."

Outside expert Perritt, who headed Justice's oversight study, said allowing Carnivore to record Web addresses without wiretap orders is problematic, because they disclose which Internet sites a person visits. "The (DOJ) guidelines don't go far enough" in specifying what cannot be collected, he said.

Privacy experts warned that some Internet addresses can identify books a person reads or topics that someone researches. The new Justice guidelines merely tell prosecutors to call them about what might be permitted.

"They don't even try to resolve that question here," said James Dempsey, a lawyer with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington civil-liberties group. "They say call us on the phone and we'll try to explain what's content and what isn't."

"They don't seem to want to go on record," agreed David Sobel, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, another civil-liberties group. "There should have been specific language that took into account the technical issues."

The government also suggested in its new rules that under some conditions authorities can secretly search a house without telling the homeowner for up to three months.

Justice lawyers acknowledged that these secret searches should be "an infrequent exception" to traditional searches, where homeowners are notified immediately. They also told prosecutors to expect additional guidance in coming weeks, and they noted that some courts have required notice of a search after as little as seven days, not 90 days.

"I don't think by any reasonable interpretation is 90 days considered reasonable," Barr said.

Storm brews over Sept. 11 funds

Generous North Americans who gave more than half a billion dollars to the Red Cross expected their donations would go directly to surviving family members and victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But in a growing scandal which threatens to rock the foundation of the 120-year-old American Red Cross, it now appears that of the $530 million total donated, more than $200 million is being diverted to the blood agency's long-term goals and administrative costs.

That includes:

  • $109 million for improving the Red Cross' telecommunications, accounting and database management systems.
  • $50 million for the agency's blood reserves program.
  • $26 million for "community outreach."
  • $29 million for "indirect" or administrative relief costs.
  • $11 million for international assistance.

On October 26, Elizabeth Dole's successor as president in 1999, Dr. Bernadine Healy, suddenly and tearfully announced her resignation from the Red Cross as the scandal over Sept. 11 donations began to break open publicly.

So far, only about $40 million of the $530 million total raised has been distributed to victims' family members, the Red Cross says.

Victims' families are supposed to be contacted by the Red Cross call centre, just outside Washington in Falls Church, Va., to receive three months of living expenses for each family.

The Red Cross had initially promised the cheques would be sent out within 48 hours of a family being contacted.

But more than six weeks after the horrific tragedy, thousands of families have not been contacted and have not received any assistance. Red Cross officials now admit the Falls Church call centre is overwhelmed, has a shoddy records-keeping system and is awash in confusion.

Some say the $530 million outpouring of public support for the Sept. 11 victims' families was just too much for the Red Cross to possibly manage. In the entire fiscal year of 2000, the agency raised just over $600 million.

When the half-a-billion dollars arrived in just a few weeks after the terrorist arracks, Red Cross president Healy became embroiled in nasty infighting with her 50-member board of directors over use of the donations.

Healy, former dean of the Ohio State medical school and a cardiologist, choked back tears on Friday at a Washington news conference, saying she'd been "forced out" by the board.

American Red Cross board chairman David McLaughlin (no relation to Mike or Liz McLaughlin) said simply that the board had differences with Healy on "various issues."

Now it appears the Red Cross will use millions of dollars raised on the basis of Sept. 11 for purposes that have nothing to do with the victims or their families. Instead, critics say, the Red Cross is using the money to expand its own empire.

"In recent weeks, questions have been mounting over whether the Red Cross and Dr. Healy have been candid about how much of the money raised after the attacks will really go to the victims, their families and rescue workers," noted the publication Chronicle of Philanthropy, which monitors U.S. charitable organizations.

"Many people both inside and outside the Red Cross have expressed concern that Dr. Healy was focused more on raising extra money to expand the Red Cross's reach through long-term blood and anti-terrorism programs than on accurately evaluating the needs of the Sept. 11 disaster victims."

One former Red Cross employee told the publication: "Dr. Healy's attitude seems to be `If the money is there, we'll find a program to spend it on'."

In the American Red Cross' defence, spokesperson Dana Allen said the Sept. 11 disaster is unlike anything the agency had dealt with.

"The Red Cross has been responding to disasters for 120 years, but this was a completely different type of disaster," she said. "The Red Cross is not only responding in one disaster-struck region. It is responding all over the country because the entire nation is suffering as a result of these attacks."

Civil liberties groups trash surveillance camera technologies

As U.S. airports begin installing face-recognition systems to thwart terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, civil rights activists are rushing to decry the technology as ineffective and invasive.

The American Civil Liberties Union on November 1 derided the use of face-recognition software in airports, saying it doesn't work and "offers us neither order nor liberty."

The report comes the same day that ADT Security Services, one of the largest security companies, with a growing presence in airports, agreed to use face-recognition systems from Visionics. Boston's Logan International Airport also announced plans earlier this week to install such technology.

Officials at airports across the country are clamoring to implement additional safety measures to protect travelers and employees against potential terrorist threats. Some security experts, who believe better high-tech surveillance systems could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks, have said they are optimistic about the use of face-recognition technology and other so-called biometric security devices. But civil rights advocates worry that out-of-date photos and poor lighting could result in numerous misidentifications.

"It is abundantly clear that the security benefits of (face-recognition surveillance) would be minimal to nonexistent, for a very simple reason: The technology doesn't work," according to a report from the ACLU, citing a survey from the Department of Defense on the technology's high margin of error in pinpointing terrorists.

Equally concerned with the technology's rising adoption, high-profile privacy expert Richard Smith abandoned his post at the Privacy Foundation last week to evaluate and consult on security issues surrounding biometrics, including face-scanning devices.

Biometrics is the digital analysis using cameras or scanners of biological characteristics such as facial structure, fingerprints and iris patterns to match profiles to databases of people such as suspected terrorists. Some experts say face recognition is perhaps the most promising biometric technique for overcrowded airports because it relies on distant cameras to identify people--not finger scanners or other devices requiring people to click, touch or stand in a particular position.

Several airports are adopting such face-recognition software in an effort to beef up security after the suicide bombings on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In addition to the Logan airport in Boston, Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif.; T.F. Green Airport in Providence, R.I.; and Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California are among those adopting identification technology to check passengers.

As a result, leading biometric companies including Littleton, Mass.-based Viisage Technology and Minnetonka, Minn.-based Visionics are experiencing enormous demand from the government, security officials and investors. Share prices of many of these companies have surged more than 300 percent since Sept. 11.

Visionics, one of the biggest makers of face-recognition systems, signed a deal Thursday with conglomerate Tyco International to distribute its FaceIt technology through its ADT unit. ADT provides security systems at some 100 of the nation's 450 commercial airports, ranging from card-entry systems to metal detectors and security cameras.

But civil libertarians say biometric companies are preying on the country's fears about safety rather than offering a promising solution to prevent terrorism.

"Anyone who claims that facial-recognition technology is an effective law-enforcement tool is probably working for one of the companies trying to sell it to the government," according to the ACLU's report.

The group cited a study by the Department of Defense that recorded a high rate of error when identifying suspects--even under ideal settings such as scanning a person's image under bright lights, face forward. The study showed a large number of "false positives," wrongly matching people with photos of others, and "false negatives," missing people not in the database.

"Facial-recognition software is easily tripped up by changes in hairstyle or facial hair, by aging, weight gain or loss, and by simple disguises," the ACLU report said. "That suggests, if installed in airports, these systems would miss a high proportion of suspects included in the photo database, and flag huge numbers of innocent people--thereby lessening vigilance, wasting precious manpower resources, and creating a false sense of security."

Takeo Kanade, a professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, agreed--to an extent--with the ACLU's evaluation of facial recognition.

"When it comes to a problem of comparing mug shots from the front under good lighting conditions, and pictures that don't include aging effects, then the problem is a relatively easy problem to solve," he said. Solutions could include placing cameras so they scan people standing in place, such as at a check-in counter metal detector.

"However, the difficulty is recognizing people under varying conditions, (which) is required for a surveillance type of purpose," Kanade added. If the picture is taken from the side, if the person has an animated expression, or even if a person is wearing sunglasses, all can make recognition more difficult.

Yet, Kanade said he believed face recognition could make it easier to ensure airport security.

"The system can be used as a screening method," he said. "If the police have to look at 10,000 people rather than 1 million people, then it is worth it."

Joseph Atick, Visionics' founder and CEO, said in an earlier interview that the technology is best thought of as a first line of defense.

"It gives you somewhere in the 90s (percentile) in terms of effectiveness of the shield. Without creating any barricades, we can stop nine out of 10 terrorists," he said, adding an oft-quoted axiom in security circles: "There is no such thing as a 100 percent shield."

Visionics' technology can scan about 15 faces a second, compiling 84 bytes of data for each face detected in a frame of video. It maps the landmarks of the face including nose, eyes and mouth to create a digital "faceprint" of a person. The faceprint is then compared to a database of tens of thousands of other biometric IDs representing criminals, terrorists or other people for whom security is looking.

Atick acknowledged, though, that an average of a handful of false alarms a day, per airport, is likely. If passengers are frequently mistaken for terrorists, it could become a burden for travelers.

In addition, U.S. authorities in many cases don't know who the terrorists are, much less have a picture on file, said security consultant Smith.

"There's kind of a disconnect here," he said. "We can only spot terrorists who we have photos of--and why wouldn't we arrest them sooner in that case? How do we find them if we don't know what they look like?"

The Sept. 11 attacks underscored the United States' limited knowledge about who the terrorists are. Of the 19 Muslim extremists who hijacked the four commercial airlines, only two were reported to be on a CIA watch list.

In the end, the systems may be used far more often for nabbing smaller fish, Smith said.

"What really happens is that we end up going after petty criminals," he said. "A better approach is installing better doors in airplanes so that terrorists can't get in cockpits, which the government is doing."

In its report, the ACLU said that several government agencies including the Immigration and Naturalization Service office have abandoned face-recognition systems after finding they did not work as advertised. The INS, it said, experimented with using the technology to identify people in cars at the Mexico-U.S. border.

Nevertheless, other biometric devices have already made inroads in the United States. For example, New York's JFK airport uses hand scanners, but the purpose is to speed frequent flyers through customs--not to spot terrorists.

The Department of Defense has also funded the development of face-recognition technology as a weapon in its war on drugs. Department officials tested the technology to increase border security several years ago with "varying success." It continues to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology today.

"Face recognition at this time is still a very new technology. As with any new technology, there are items that have an impact on system effectiveness, including lighting, pose, temporal variation, distance and subject participation," said Stacia Courtney, spokeswoman for the department's Counter Drug Development Program Office.

Iain Drummond, CEO of biometric company Imagys, said that despite concerns, the public will eventually accept face-scanning devices as the norm in airports. Imagys is providing face-recognition software to Oakland International Airport.

"If you look back about 20 years, there were no X-ray machines," he said. "But no one grumbles about it today."

DVD decryption software is pure speech, court rules

In a blow to Hollywood's efforts to contain the spread of a DVD hacking program, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal ruled November 1 that computer programs like DeCSS are "pure speech" and that the First Amendment protects a Web site accused of posting the program.

Although the ruling has no direct effect on the studios' main lawsuit against DeCSS in federal court in New York, the California court's finding that DeCSS is protected by the First Amendment can only hurt the studios' cause.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America, which represents the major studios, had no comment on the ruling.

The case was brought in 1999 by DVD Copy Control Assn., the licensing agency for the studios that controls CSS, the encryption technology used to protect DVDs from illegal copying.

The association charged Web site operator Andrew Bunner with violating California trade secrets law for posting DeCSS on the Web. DeCSS removes the encryption from DVDs so they can be copied.

The case is separate from, but related to, a copyright infringement suit brought at the same time by the studios in federal court in New York against the Web site, which also posted DeCSS.

The studios won that case at trial but the decision is currently on appeal, raising many of the same First Amendment questions at issue in California.

"DeCSS is a writing composed of computer source code which describes an alternative method of decrypting CSS-encrypted DVDs," the California court wrote. "Regardless of who authored the program, DeCSS is a written expression of the author's ideas and information about decryption of DVDs without CSS. ... Although the social value of DeCSS may be questionable, it is nonetheless pure speech."

Officially, the ruling overturns a preliminary injunction the DVD Copy Control Assn. had been granted by the trial court forcing Bunner to remove DeCSS from his Web site. With the injunction lifted, Bunner is free to restore the program to his site while the case goes to trial.

The ruling can still be appealed to the California Supreme Court. Association officials could not be reached for comment.

No trial date has yet been set in the case.

Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents Bunner in the case, called the ruling "a great victory."

"We were very concerned that the (trial court) simply accepted the studios' claim that the fact that DeCSS may contain trade secrets made the First Amendment irrelevant," Cohn said. "We're pleased that the appeals court recognized that DeCSS is speech and needs to be analyzed that way under the law."

The EFF also represents in the New York case.

State Supreme Court upholds land seizure for Clinton Library

It looks like former President Clinton will get to build his library right where he wants it.

The Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision on November 1, eliminated the last legal roadblock to construction of the Clinton Presidential Library by upholding Little Rock's method of seizing land for it.

It ruled Eugene Pfeifer III, who owned three acres of the proposed 28-acre library site, failed to prove that the $200 million complex on the south bank of the Arkansas River did not meet the state's definition of a park.

"I'm shocked," Pfeifer said. "This is truly disappointing news."

Pfeifer appealed to the state Supreme Court after a Pulaski County judge last November rejected his claim that the project did not meet the park definition, the premise on which the city claimed his property under the right of eminent domain.

The head of the Clinton Presidential Foundation said the dispute over Pfeifer's three acres was the only problem delaying construction.

A decision against the city of Little Rock could have forced the ex-president to find another location for his planned academic center and museum. Last year, his foundation released sketches of the complex and a site plan.

Until the city claimed eminent domain, Pfeifer owned the land in an old warehouse district near the city's thriving River Market district.

The developer has said he supported the library, just not where Clinton wanted to build it.

Pfeifer, who also owns a lumber and building materials business, said his fight with the city was prompted over how it financed the purchase of the property.

The city sold $11.5 million in bonds to buy the library site and to repay pledged revenues from city parks and the zoo, which had just lost its license and accreditation.

"Our city could not afford to pay for this project. The foundation could have financed it by raising the money privately," Pfeifer said. "Had I won, I would have gladly allowed the foundation to buy my land for the appraised value that the city had offered me, if they had returned all or most or some of the money to the city."

Pfeifer rejected a $400,000 offer for his property because of his opposition to the method of financing.

Clinton hand-picked the site after reviewing suggestions from places around in and out of Arkansas. The ex-president was governor here for 12 years and also lived at Hope, Hot Springs and Fayetteville.

Foundation president Skip Rutherford said recently that a favorable ruling could bring about a groundbreaking by year's end.

The high court ruled that Pfeifer "... failed to meet proof with proof that the city's proposal for such a complex could not meet the definition of a 'park."'

The foundation's proposal includes an academic and museum complex surrounded by a park that would feature native Arkansas trees, a 2,500-seat amphitheater, urban fishing grounds and a pedestrian walk linking the complex to downtown Little Rock along President Clinton Avenue.

Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber, a distant relative of former president Bill Clinton, abstained from Thursday's decision.

Song for Osama

A talk-radio station in Houston has released a single CD to raise funds in response to Sept. 11 -- and given one reporter a chance to outdo his colleagues across the nation in the drive to display patriotic fervor. Channel 26 reporter Ned Hibberd is proud to say he sings all the backup vocals on "Bend Over Bin Laden," which KSEV-AM is selling in its fundraising drive.

The money, however, isn't earmarked for victim relief. True to the station's right-wing, peacenik-reviling politics, it's intended to buy a bomb to drop on Afghanistan. The lucky winner gets two plane tickets to Boeing's Seattle factory to present a $18,000 check that covers the bomb's hefty pricetag, and to sign his or her name on the device.

"Of course," KSEV host Edd Hendee said, "there might be some security concerns at the factory that would prevent us from doing that."

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