‘Concrete facts are not necessary’ – Obama administration makes blacklisting air passengers easier than ever

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

A never-before-published document released by The Intercept on Wednesday reveals the flexibility with which United States officials may place individuals on watchlists and deem them terrorists without obtaining concrete proof.

The 166-page document, the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” suggests that the US government relies on “a secret process that requires neither ‘concrete facts’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence’ to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist,” journalists Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux wrote this week.

According to an excerpt of the lengthy but unclassified document, the guideline was “developed to help standardize the watchlisting community’s nomination and screening process,” which federal agencies implement when encountering persons that officials may believe are linked to terroristic activity.

The document suggests that those officials have a wide breadth with regards to evaluating suspects, however, and that one White House official even has the power to unilaterally place “entire categories” of people onto lists that may bar those individuals from traveling by air. The Obama administration, the journalists claim, “quietly approved a substantial expansion” of the list last year, allowing more individuals to be targeted than before with less evidence than before.

Elsewhere, the document contains verbiage which …read more

America The Divided: Everyone Knows We Have Problems But There Is Very Little Agreement On Solutions

Argument - Public Domain

A house divided against itself will surely fall.  America is more divided today than it has been in decades, and the deep divisions that are tearing us apart continue to get even worse.  In fact, a newly released Rasmussen Reports national survey discovered that 67 percent of voters believe that America is even more divided now than it was four years ago.  We are angry, we are frustrated and we love to fight with one another, but none of this strife and discord is getting us anywhere.  What most Americans can agree on is that we are facing tremendous problems as a nation.  One average of recent polls found that only 26 percent of Americans believe that this country is heading in the right direction and 63.8 percent of Americans believe that this country is heading in the wrong direction.  Unfortunately, there is very little agreement on what the solutions to our problems are.  That is where the division is.  As a nation, we no longer have a shared set of values or principles that provides a foundation for our decisions.  Everyone just kind of does whatever is right in their own eyes, and the result is …read more

Why Is Wal-Mart Preparing For A Major Earthquake On The New Madrid Fault?

New Madrid Fault Zone

Buried in a Wall Street Journal article from about a week ago was a startling piece of information.  According to a Wal-Mart executive, Wal-Mart “participated in an exercise to prepare for an earthquake on the New Madrid fault line” earlier this summer.  And officials at the U.S. Geological Survey have just released a report which indicates that they believe that the New Madrid fault zone has the “potential for larger and more powerful quakes than previously thought“.  So should we be concerned?  Do they know something that we don’t?  The USGS also says that the frequency of earthquakes in the central and eastern portions of the United States has quintupled over the past 30 years, and that significant earthquakes have started popping up in areas of the country that were once extremely quiet.  Along with the new report, the USGS released the following map…

If you look toward the middle of the map, you can see a big red oval over the center of the New Madrid fault zone.

Most Americans don’t realize this, but the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history did not happen in California.  Rather, they actually occurred along the New Madrid Fault zone …read more

Multi-billion pound UK govt IT contract ‘out of control’ – report

AFP Photo/Jonathan Nackstrand

AFP Photo/Jonathan Nackstrand

A £10.4 billion government IT contract has spiralled “out of control,” with private contractors reaping more than £1 billion in profits at the behest of British taxpayers.

In a highly critical report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that the Aspire contract, designed to streamline government IT services, went drastically over budget after civil servants commissioned more work than expected.

The contract – led by services conglomerate Capgemini, along with IT firms such as Fujitsu – has now cost the government double the amount it originally expected, jumping from £4.1 billion (US$6.9 billion) to £10.4 billion ($17.7 billion) since it began in 2004.

According to the latest figures produced by NAO, the Aspire program accounts for 84 percent of HMRC’s spending on IT.

Due to the structure of the deal, where HMRC relinquished its right to the program’s profits, Fujitsu has reaped at least £1.2 billion ($2 billion) since the initiative began.

“HMRC faces a considerable challenge to reform the Aspire contract while evolving a new approach to its technology suitable for its planned move to digital services. HMRC now has minimal time contingency to do this before the Aspire contract ends in June 2017″ …read more