FBI Blocks Roads, FAA Sets No-Fly Zone Over Oregon Militia Standoff

standoff road block

More and more information keeps coming in about the standoff between the Feds and the Bundy militia. Not only do the Feds have the roads all blocked off and set up a perimeter  but the FAA has set a no fly zone over the entire area. This will bring out more theories, but it looks as if we have another Waco on our hands.  Continue reading

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Predator drones can track cell phones and tell if a citizen is armed

Homeland Security required that this Predator drone, built by General Atomics, be capable of detecting whether a standing human at night is "armed or not."

Homeland Security required that this Predator drone, built by General Atomics, be capable of detecting whether a standing human at night is “armed or not.”

(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

(CNET) -The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.

The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department’s unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States’ northern and southern borders but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.

Homeland Security’s specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify “signals interception” technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and “direction finding” technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s requirements for its drone fleet through the Freedom of Information Act and published it this week. CNET unearthed an unredacted copy of the requirements that provides additional information about the aircraft’s surveillance capabilities.

Homeland Security's Predator B drone can stay aloft conducting surveillance for 20 hours.Homeland Security’s Predator B drone can stay aloft conducting surveillance for 20 hours.

(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

Concern about domestic use of drones is growing, with federal legislation introduced last month that would establish legal safeguards, in addition to parallel efforts underway from state and local lawmakers. The Federal Aviation Administration recently said that it will “address privacy-related data collection” by drones.

The prospect of identifying armed Americans concerns Second Amendment advocates, who say that technology billed as securing the United States’ land and maritime borders should not be used domestically. Michael Kostelnik, the Homeland Security official who created the program, told Congress that the drone fleet would be available to “respond to emergency missions across the country,” and a Predator drone was dispatched to the tiny town of Lakota, N.D., to aid local police in a dispute that began with reimbursement for feeding six cows. The defendant, arrested with the help of Predator surveillance, lost a preliminary bid to dismiss the charges.

“I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners,” says Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”

Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency declined to answer questions about whether direction-finding technology is currently in use on its drone fleet. A representative provided CNET with a statement about the agency’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that said signals interception capability is not currently used:

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not deploying signals interception capabilities on its UAS fleet. Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices. 

CBP’s UAS program is a vital border security asset. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and day-and-night cameras, the UAS provides real-time images to frontline agents to more effectively and efficiently secure the nation’s borders. As a force multiplier, the UAS operates for extended periods of time and allows CBP to safely conduct missions over tough-to-reach terrain. The UAS also provides agents on the ground with added situational awareness to more safely resolve dangerous situations.

 

During his appearance before the House Homeland Security committee, Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who recently left the agency, testified that the drones’ direction-finding ability is part of a set of “DOD capabilities that are being tested or adopted by CBP to enhance UAS performance for homeland security.” CBP currently has 10 Predator drones and is considering buying up to 14 more.

If the Predator drones were used only to identify smugglers or illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders, or for disaster relief, they might not be especially controversial. But their use domestically by other government agencies has become routine enough — and expensive enough — that Homeland Security’s inspector general said (PDF) last year that CBP needs to sign agreements “for reimbursement of expenses incurred fulfilling mission requests.”

“The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground,” says Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws.”

A Homeland Security official, who did not want to be identified by name, said the drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition. The official also said that because the unarmed drones have a long anticipated life span, the department tries to plan ahead for future uses to support its border security mission, and that aerial surveillance would comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other applicable federal laws.

The documents show that CBP specified that the “tracking accuracy should be sufficient to allow target designation,” and the agency notes on its Web site that its Predator B series is capable of “targeting and weapons delivery” (the military version carries multiple 100-pound Hellfire missiles). CBP says, however, that its Predator aircraft are unarmed.

Gene Hoffman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s the chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said CBP “needs to be very careful with attempts to identify armed individuals in the border area” when aerial surveillance touches on a constitutional right.

“In the border area of California and Arizona, it may be actively dangerous for the law-abiding to not carry firearms precisely due to the illegal flow of drugs and immigrants across the border in those areas,” Hoffman says.

CBP’s specifications say that signals interception and direction-finding technology must work from 30MHz to 3GHz in the radio spectrum. That sweeps in the GSM and CDMA frequencies used by mobile phones, which are in the 300MHz to 2.7GHz range, as well as many two-way radios.

The specifications say: “The system shall provide automatic and manual DF of multiple signals simultaneously. Automatic DF should be able to separate out individual communication links.” Automated direction-finding for cell phones has become an off-the-shelf technology: one company sells a unit that its literature says is “capable of taking the bearing of every mobile phone active in a channel.”

Although CBP’s unmanned Predator aircraft are commonly called drones, they’re remotely piloted by FAA-licensed operators on the ground. They can fly for up to 20 hours and carry a payload of about 500 lbs.

Supreme Court Whores refuse to allow Americans the right to challenge FISA

 

(IntelHub) -The United States Supreme Court will not let Americans challenge a provision in a foreign intelligence law that lets the federal government secretly eavesdrop on the intimate communications of millions of Americans.

On Tuesday, the top justices in the US said the country’s highest court will not hear a case in which Amnesty International and a slew of co-plaintiffs have contested a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA, that lets the National Security Agency silently monitor emails and phone calls.

Under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the NSA is allowed to conduct electronic surveillance on any US citizen as long as they are suspected of conversing with any person located outside of the United States.

That provision was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, but Congress voted to re-up the bill and it was put back on the books for another five years.

Along with human rights workers and journalists, Amnesty International first challenged the FAA on the day it went into effect, arguing that the powers provided to the NSA under the FISA amendments likely puts the plaintiffs and perhaps millions of other Americans at risk of surveillance.

Now years later, though, they are finally being told that they cannot challenge the law that, while meant to collect foreign intelligence, puts every person in the country at risk of being watched.

“Under the FAA, the government can target anyone — human rights researchers, academics, attorneys, political activists, journalists — simply because they are foreigners outside the United States, and in the course of its surveillance it can collect Americans’ communications with those individuals,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on behalf of the plaintiffs in a legal brief filed last year with the court.

Amnesty, et al have been pursuing an injunction against the NSA in their lawsuit, which names former NSA-Chief James Clapper is a co-defendant. Because the plaintiffs cannot prove that they’ve actually been targeted under the FAA, however, the case is been stalled endlessly.

 

In last year’s filing, the ACLU acknowledged that an appeals court panel agreed in 2011 that “plaintiffs have good reason to believe that their communications, in particular, will fall within the scope of the broad surveillance that they can assume the government will conduct,” and the full body of US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit later refused the government’s attempts to have them reconsider.

“But instead of allowing the case to be heard on the merits, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to review the case,” the ACLU’s Ateqah Khaki, wrote. “Our brief urges the Court to affirm the appeals court’s decision.”

On Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court dismissed the claims that the plaintiffs were being watched under the FAA. Amnesty and others had argued that the presumed surveillance they were subjected to has caused them to go out of their way to maintain working relationships with clients, forcing them to travel abroad to communicate without the fear of being monitored.

In the suit, the plaintiffs have said that because they communicate “with people the Government ‘believes or believed to be associated with terrorist organizations,’ ‘people located in geographic areas that are a special focus’ of the Government’s counterterrorism or diplomatic efforts, and activists who oppose governments that are supported by the United States Government,” they’ve undertaken “costly and burdensome measures” to protect the confidentiality of sensitive communications.

“This theory of future injury is too speculative,” Justice Samuel Alito said in announcing the 5-4 decision, calling it “hypothetical future harm.”

“In sum, respondents’ speculative chain of possibilities does not establish that injury based on potential future surveillance,” the court ruled. “[R]espondents’ self-inflicted injuries are not fairly traceable to the Government’s purported activities under [the FAA] and their subjective fear of surveillance does not give rise to standing.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined Alito in the ruling. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan all dissented.

Hackers claim new air traffic system can be hijacked

1aa

(RT) -The Federal Aviation Administration is in the midst of upgrading its air traffic control system at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. A big price might not fix an even bigger problem, though, as hackers suggest that system could be compromised.

The FAA is already in the process of rolling out its Next Generation Air Transportation System, of NextGen, a state-of-the-art program that will keep tabs on every plane in US airspace using GPS technology in lieu of relying on traditional radar. In the wake of a series of incidents where GPS signals were spoofed, though, serious problems could emerge in the coming years.

“If I can inject 50 extra flights onto an air traffic controller’s screen, they are not going to know what is going on,” Canadian computer consultant Brad Haines told NPR last year. Because Haines and others can emulate unencrypted and unauthenticated GPS signals sent from imaginary planes, he says NextGen stands to warrant some upgrades before it’s ready for the rest of the world.

“If you could introduce enough chaos into the system – for even an hour – that hour will ripple though the entire world’s air traffic control,” Haines told NPR.

Haines’ ideas are outrageous, but not exactly out of this world. Just last year, a Texas college professor spoofed, or faked, GPS signals in order to hijack an unmanned aerial vehicle right in front of the US Department of Homeland Security. The United States stands to have as many as 30,000 UAVs, or drones, flying overhead by the end of the decade. When Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin spoke with RT though, he said those aircraft could come down if hackers have their way.

“The navigations systems of these drones have a variety of sensors,” Humphreys told RT, “…but at the very bottom is a GPS unit — and most of these drones that will be used in the civilian airspace have a civilian GPS unit which is wide open and vulnerable to this kind of attack. So if you can commander the GPS unit, then you can basically spoon feed false navigation information to the navigation center of these drones.”

“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” the professor added in an interview with Fox News.

Indeed, the system implemented by the FAA under NextGen will rely on similar technology. With the deep pockets of the government involved in NextGen, though, the GPS signals sent by planes flying overheard are likely to be encrypted. What damage could still be done remains a mystery for now, though, since the FAA is unwilling to let hackers perform any testing to see what could be carried out.

“I still wonder if it would be possible to fool the system on the edges,” Nick Foster, a colleague of Haines, told NPR. “I think the FAA should open it up and let us test it.”

The FAA isn’t all that willing for the time being, though, and perhaps with good reason: a 2009 report filed by the Wall Street Journal found that civilian air-traffic computer networks have been penetrated multiple times in only a few short years. At the time, the Journal cited a federal report issued by the US Department of Transportation that they said “warned that the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization efforts are introducing new vulnerabilities that could increase the risk of cyberattacks on air-traffic control systems.”

Meanwhile, a report released just last month by the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that America’s critical infrastructures, including the transportation sector, were subject to unprecedented cyberattacks in 2012.

“The threat of hackers interfering with our air-traffic control systems is not just theoretical; it has already happened,” Rep. Tom Petri (R- Wisconsin) told the Journal for their 2009 report. “We must regard the strengthening of our air-traffic control security as an urgent matter.”

Taylor Amerding of CSO says the NextGen system will cost taxpayers $27 billion, plus an additional $10 billion from the commercial aviation industry, in order to implement in full. Once it is rolled out, the FAA will still use radar to track flights, but only in addition to relying on GPS signals.

“Don’t for a moment believe there won’t be radar anymore,” aviation specialist Martin Fisher tells CSO. “Commercial aircraft will still have anti-collision radar and proximity alarms.”

Orlando Florida Patrolled By Surveillance Drones As Early As This Summer

 

Law Enforcement Drone

 

(Business Insider) -When Congress passed a bill last February allowing unmanned  drones to fly American skies it became only a matter of time before UAVs  patrolled U.S. cities for local law enforcement.

 

While most drones in the U.S. are flown along the Mexican border, the Orange County  Sheriff’s Office wants to put them over metro Orlando within the next few  months. The Greater Orlando metropolitan area is home to more than  2 million residents and is Florida’s third largest city.

Dan  Tracy at the Orlando Sentinel reports the local sheriff wants a pair of  unarmed UAVs able to record the activities of everyday citizens and criminals  alike.

From the Sentinel:

Sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson  … would not say exactly how the drones would be used, he wrote in an  email that they might be deployed when looking for explosives, barricaded  suspects and to inspect “hostile/inaccessible terrain” or at train  accidents.

As for civil-rights concerns, Williamson wrote,  “The OCSO has the privacy of its citizenry as a foremost concern. The device  will only be put into operations on the command of the high risk incident  commander.”

UAV FLIR House

YouTube

Thermal drone image of a house showing rafters in the roof  and the heat lamps in the bathroom (click to expand)

The sheriff still  needs the County Commission to sign off on the request before it goes to the FAA  for approval. The federal agency should have no problem accommodating as it  was ordered by Congress to get as many drones as possible into the air by  November, and be able to handle 30,000  UAVs by 2020.

 

Though Orange County refused to specify which type of drone it would be  flying, the Los Angeles  County Sheriff’s Department fought to fly Octatron’s  SkySeer surveillance drone over its jurisdiction in 2006 after a long battle  with the city. The manufacturer has since been working  closely with law enforcement agencies to coordinate networks and platforms,  making it a reasonable choice for the Orlando Sheriff.

Octatron’s SkySeer  description:

SkySeer™ is a lightweight, portable,  autonomous-flight UAV designed for single-person operation. It weighs less than  five pounds, flies quietly, can be assembled in minutes, and is hand-launched.  It has a flight time of 70 minutes and is recoverable through a normal landing  or parachute-based vertical landing (optional). GPS coordinates  (latitude/longitude) can be programmed into the Ground Control Station so the  SkySeer™ can fly to a specific point of interest. The flight path can also be  set by pointing and clicking GPS waypoints on the ground controller, giving the  operator full control over the UAV’s air-borne activities as well as the  operation of its equipment, such as cameras. The video can be recorded to a DVD  or Flash media at the  ground station. The night version SkySeer™ includes a thermal camera that allows  filming in total darkness. A stealth surveillance mission at night at 250’ has  been demonstrated. The two-mile range of coverage can be extended using  NetWeaver™. Training is required to fly a SkySeer™

Octatron now offers the SkySeer to any law enforcement office  with the proper FAA paperwork. If Orlando does go with that model it should be  convenient, as the  company’s sales office is listed down the road in St. Petersburg,  Florida.

 

FAA Orders Review of All Boeing 787 Dreamliners

A Boeing 787, painted in the company's colors, stands in the paint hangar Thursday, April 30, 2009, at the company's facility in Everett, Wash.

 
(Atlantic Wire) -The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a safety review of Boeing’s flagship plane after two more dangerous incidents raised troubling concerns about their integrity. The latest problems came on Friday, when a Japanese flight crew found a crack in a cockpit window of a 787 Dreamliner and different 787 on the same airline suffered an oil leak inside an engine. That makes five separate incidents this week alone for a plane that has received numerous and varied complaints since being launched in late 2011.

The order may not require the planes in service to be grounded, but will include a review of “critical systems,” including “the design, manufacture and assembly of the aircraft.” Boeing has put 50 787 Dreamliners into service around the world, but has orders to deliver 800 more in the next few years.

The 787 was meant to be a revolution in aircraft design utilizing several new techniques and materials and ushering in a new era of commercial aircraft construction. However, the plane’s launch was delayed by several years and the planes have seen a host of glitches since going into service. Perhaps the most troubling problem for Boeing is that there is not one single flaw being discovered across the fleet, but a variety of different issues, from electrical problems to battery fires to cracks in the lightweight fiberglass structure.

Boeing’s stock was hit hard earlier this week after reports of a fire on a plane at Logan Airport in Boston, and will be watched carefully once the market opens later this morning. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta, and Boeing president Ray Conner will discuss the review at 9:30 a.m. press conference.