Daily Archives: December 13, 2012

None (Liberals won’t anyway) dare call it a police state

U.S. citizens’ now under surveillance of federal government. All U.S. citizens.

The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.

Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans “reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information” may be permanently retained.

The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.

“It’s breathtaking” in its scope, said a former senior administration official familiar with the White House debate.


The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that searches of “persons, houses, papers and effects” shouldn’t be conducted without “probable cause” that a crime has been committed. But that doesn’t cover records the government creates in the normal course of business with citizens.

Congress specifically sought to prevent government agents from rifling through government files indiscriminately when it passed the Federal Privacy Act in 1974. The act prohibits government agencies from sharing data with each other for purposes that aren’t “compatible” with the reason the data were originally collected.

But the Federal Privacy Act allows agencies to exempt themselves from many requirements by placing notices in the Federal Register, the government’s daily publication of proposed rules. In practice, these privacy-act notices are rarely contested by government watchdogs or members of the public. “All you have to do is publish a notice in the Federal Register and you can do whatever you want,” says Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant who advises agencies on how to comply with the Privacy Act.

As a result, the National Counterterrorism Center program’s opponents within the administration—led by Ms. Callahan of Homeland Security—couldn’t argue that the program would violate the law. Instead, they were left to question whether the rules were good policy.

Under the new rules issued in March, the National Counterterrorism Center, known as NCTC, can obtain almost any database the government collects that it says is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” The list could potentially include almost any government database, from financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages to the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals.

Previous government proposals to scrutinize massive amounts of data about innocent people have caused an uproar. In 2002, the Pentagon’s research arm proposed a program called Total Information Awareness that sought to analyze both public and private databases for terror clues. It would have been far broader than the NCTC’s current program, examining many nongovernmental pools of data as well.

“If terrorist organizations are going to plan and execute attacks against the United States, their people must engage in transactions and they will leave signatures,” the program’s promoter, Admiral John Poindexter, said at the time. “We must be able to pick this signal out of the noise.”

Adm. Poindexter’s plans drew fire from across the political spectrum over the privacy implications of sorting through every single document available about U.S. citizens. Conservative columnist William Safire called the plan a “supersnoop’s dream.” Liberal columnist Molly Ivins suggested it could be akin to fascism. Congress eventually defunded the program.

Where’s Dollar Bill and his lickspittle crew on all this? Hiding.


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One tiny mistake gets blown all out of proportion

Colored Congressman apologizes for using the word “midget” on House floor.

The Georgia Democrat used the word — offensive to some, who prefer the term “little people” to describe those with dwarfism, he noted today — in a metaphor about the Michigan labor situation in which he made a point about an unfair matchup. “What happens when you put a giant with a midget in a cage fight?” he asked rhetorically.

Today, he said he has since learned that the language is “no longer socially acceptable,” much like the “n-word,” which he said used to be widely used but is no longer. “It was out of ignorance, not spite or hatred,” he said. “I will never use that term again.”

He called it a “learning moment.”

Good lord, what will the meddlers do next – ban loud TV commercials?


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You know that Democrat sob song about children brought here as illegal immigrants and who now deserve citizenship?

Here’s one now: Alien jailed for hiding videocam in restaurant bathroom.

STAMFORD — A former Subway worker was sentenced to serve a year in prison for hiding a video camera under a bathroom sink in the Noroton Heights store and filming patrons.

Marco Dias 22, of Bridgeport, was sentenced by Judge Richard Comerford Wednesday afternoon after he pleaded guilty to a voyeurism charge.

Police investigators discovered the camera was designed to look like a memory drive, the affidavit said.

Detectives then found a video file that showed Dias setting the camera up in the bathroom; police released a photo from that video file.

They also found films of two men and a woman using the toilet.

“It appears from the angle that this subject had set up the camera that he is more interested in seeing the genitalia of male subject, which may include minor children as well as adults,” the affidavit states.

After determining Dias has been in the country illegally for 12 years, Darien police contacted the U.S. Immigration Service, which placed a detainer on him.

Apparently Mr. Dias won’t be attending college at taxpayers’ expense. Our loss.


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Nothing is too small for our federal government to worry about

As of January 1st, it will be a violation of federal law to run a television ad louder than the show it appears on. This is what our bureaucrats spend their time and our money on? Can you imagine how many people were paid to draft this regulation and then field, summarize and evaluate a year’s worth of comments from all those affected and who claimed to be affected?  My loopy grandmother used to insist that there be a law like this; she also wanted one that penalized the use of telephone rings during the shows themselves because they confused her when she picked up the phone and found no one there.

Deafness and, later, leukemia quieted Granny’s complaints but it seems her ghost has moved permanently into Washington, where it can cure every little woe of life.


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Mendacity has consequences

Obama accepts Susan Rice’s withdrawal from consideration as Secretary of State. First glimmer of good news since the election.


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Time to trundle Mama off to the Witherell and sell the house out from under her

Granny's kitchen

Granny’s kitchen

The low end market – under $1 million is hot – no inventory to speak of and lots of buyers, which means almost anything will sell, in any condition.

23 Mianus and 18 Annjim, $979,000 and $895,000, respectively, both report contracts today and with all respect to the late owner of AnnJim, a jurist I admired, his house was, to use a technical real estate term, a real POS. Gone in nine days nonetheless, as is everything in this category. So if an adorable senior citizen in your family is still occupying her bungalow, tying up capital that rightfully should be yours, now’s the time to get her out of there.

In another price range, but the Riverside equivalent of “low end”, 26 Meadow Road finally reports a contract. It started at $2.495, far too high for this house (that’s not just my opinion, it was the market’s judgement) but once it was marked down to $1.999 it found a buyer. I really liked this house and its neighborhood, but $2 1/2 million was stretching it.


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Sale prices reported


85 Zaccheus Mead (September contract) sold for full asking price, $2.795. Two great acres on Zaccheus Mead? I’d describe this deal as one of those where you buy the land and get a perfectly good house for free. Not bad at all.



38 Meadowbank

38 Meadowbank

For even more money, you could have bought 38 Meadowbank Road in Old Greenwich for $2.9 million. While I liked this house, its quirky layout that reflected a series of additions over the years meant it didn’t work for several of my clients. Of course, that was back when the owners were asking $3.6, and there were better options available. At $2.9, and assuming you were willing to pay a premium to live near the beach, this might have been a reasonable price. Maybe.

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