Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Big Brother and the Times Square Wannabomber,

Phillip Shenon
Dana Milbank
Robert Mackey

"Hey, great news. They made an arrest today in that failed Times Square bombing attempt. It turns out the suspect is a foreign-born, naturalized American citizen. You know what that means? He would have been fine in Arizona." –Jay Leno

"Well, the amazing part, they arrested this guy. He was already on the plane. It was taxiing down the runway. They called the plane back. And they're calling it great work by Homeland Security, and I guess it is. I mean, that's one way to look at it. I mean, how about the fact that a Pakistani guy who bought a one-way ticket to the Middle East, reeking of fertilizer, made it through security and got on the plane. How did that happen?" –Jay Leno

"The real hero in this story was the T-shirt vendor who told the policeman about the smoke coming from the SUV in Times Square. And for some reason, New York Mayor Bloomberg took the policeman to dinner but not the T-shirt vendor. Hey, you see the T-shirt he's selling today? It says: 'I saw the smoking SUV first. All I got was this lousy T-shirt.'" –Jay Leno

Other than incredible police work to find the Times Square WannaBomber, which could have been from the script of a TV show, there were some neat cloak-and-dagger stuff, like this report from Wired's Danger Room: "Investigators were able to track wannabe terrorist Faisal Shahzad through his anonymous, pre-paid cell phone — exactly how, they won’t say. But there was a tantalizing explanation posted — and then quickly yanked — from the website of WCBS TV. “In the end, it was secret Army intelligence planes that did him in. Armed with his cell phone number, they circled the skies over the New York area, intercepting a call to Emirates Airlines reservations, before scrambling to catch him at John F. Kennedy International Airport.”

Jeremy Scahill, relying on a source in U.S. Special Operations, says those planes were likely RC-12s, equipped with a Guardrail Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) system. The planes are designed to pluck all kinds of communications from the air. But from the ground, they could easily be mistaken for an executive aircraft. The RC-12 is based on the Hawker-Beechcraft King Air B200 suit-carrier. And while earlier versions of the aircraft were covered in odd-looking antennas, the latest aircraft are far less conspicuous.

“It sucks up everything. We’ve got these things in Jalalabad [Afghanistan]. We routinely fly these things over Khandahar. When I say everything, I mean BlueTooth would be effected, even the wave length that PlayStation controllers are on. They suck up everything. That’s the point,” Scahill’s source tells him.
The planes were used because it was easier to obtain a signal in real time, and if they used the NSA's computers they would have lost hours waiting for the information they wanted to be sifted from the morass they pick up every day.

Another thing that was briefly mentioned in the news and later retracted, was the use of police spy cameras posted in the areas around Times Square. There were 82 owned by the city, and then an unmentioned number owned by private businesses, which is how they found footage of the man taking his sweatshirt off as he walked away.

Every major city now has these "traffic" video cameras mounted around major intersections, and dispersed in other sensitive locations. So Big Brother is now really watching you. The most wired city in the world is London, especially in the financial district. Every place where there is money being transacted has cameras, though many at my local library are dummy cameras because the books are now chipped with RFID...

We also know about his wife and her family, that a few years ago they lived in Colorado, but either the government is protecting their whereabouts or they don't know where they are right now. Even though she is not a suspect, what does it mean if she and her family turn up living in Pakistan? Another, more plausible scenario, is that our man in custody went to Pakistan for a beginner's course in bomb making after his wife and children left him. A despondent man would turn his back on his adopted country...

Robert Mackey, in the link above, writes how almost all of our would-be terrorists in the West come from middle class backgrounds, even Khalid Sheik Mohammed... They were all intelligent people, thankfully, without military backgrounds...

One of the things that the Tea Party seems to have stirred up, is a whole lot of new candidates running for Congress. In the Republican Party, at least thirty two black candidates are running for Congress this year. Of course, none of them agree with Barack Obama's politics, but they do have to give him his props for inspiring them to run: "... interviews with many of the candidates suggest that they felt empowered by Mr. Obama’s election, that it made them realize that what had once seemed impossible — for a black candidate to win election with substantial white support — was not.

“There is no denying that one of the things that came out of the election of Obama was that you have a lot of African-Americans running in both parties now,” said Vernon Parker, who is running for an open seat in Arizona’s Third District. His competition in the Aug. 24 primary includes the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, Ben Quayle."  Here's to friendly competition... I'd like to see Ryan Frazier win in Colorado, Jane Norton feels that she is the next to be anointed, and that we should all fall in line.

So, is it not ironic that backlash from the right wing whites and inspiration from an elected Black Man has brought about more black candidates since Reconstruction, after the Civil War?

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