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Member since: Fri Sep 8, 2006, 12:47 PM
Number of posts: 10,358

Journal Archives

The terrifying surveillance case of Brandon Mayfield


During a live Web chat in late January, National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden explained one of the least discussed dangers of bulk collection. By indiscriminately sweeping up the call records and the international communications of Americans, the government has the ability to engage in retroactive investigation, or mining the historical data of targets for any evidence of suspicious, illegal or simply embarrassing activities. It is a disturbing capability that should make even those fully convinced of their own propriety to think twice before uttering out loud, “What do I have to fear if I have nothing to hide?”

But there’s another danger that Snowden didn’t mention that’s inherent in the government’s having easy access to the voluminous data we produce every day: It can imply guilt where there is none. When investigators have mountains of data on a particular target, it’s easy to see only the data points that confirm their theories — especially in counterterrorism investigations when the stakes are so high — while ignoring or downplaying the rest. There doesn’t have to be any particular malice on the part of investigators or analysts, although prejudice no doubt comes into play, just circumstantial evidence and the dangerous belief in their intuition. Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as confirmation bias, and when people are confronted with data overload, it’s much easier to weave the data into a narrative that substantiates what they already believe. Criminologist D. Kim Rossmo, a retired detective inspector of the Vancouver Police Department, was so concerned about confirmation bias and the investigative failures it causes that he warned police officers in Police Chief magazine to always be on guard against it. “The components of confirmation bias,” he wrote, “include failure to seek evidence that would disprove the theory, not utilizing such evidence if found, refusing to consider alternative hypotheses and not evaluating evidence diagnosticity.”...

....On March 11, 2004, Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists coordinated a massive bombing of the Madrid commuter train system during the morning rush hour, killing 193 people and wounding approximately 1,800. Two latent fingerprints recovered during the investigation on a bag of detonators by the Spanish National Police (SNP) were shared with the FBI through Interpol. When the prints were run through the bureau’s database, it returned 20 possible matches for one of the fingerprints, one of whom was Brandon Mayfield. A former U.S. Army platoon leader, Mayfield was now an attorney specializing in child custody, divorce and immigration law in Portland, Ore. His prints were in the FBI system because of Mayfield’s military service as well as an arrest two decades earlier because of a misunderstanding. The charges were later dropped.

Despite finding that Mayfield’s print was not an identical match to the print left on the bag of detonators, FBI fingerprint examiners rationalized away the differences, according to a report by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Under the one discrepancy rule, the FBI lab should have concluded Mayfield did not leave the print found in Madrid — a conclusion the SNP reached and repeatedly communicated to the FBI. The FBI’s Portland field office, however, used that fingerprint match to begin digging into Mayfield’s background. Certain details of the attorney’s life convinced the agents that they had their man. Mayfield had converted to Islam after meeting his wife, an Egyptian. He had represented one of the Portland Seven, a group of men who tried to travel to Afghanistan to fight for al Qaeda and the Taliban against U.S. and coalition forces in a child custody case. He also worshipped at the same mosque as the militants. In the aftermath of 9/11, these innocent associations and relationships, however tangential, were transformed by investigators into evidence that Mayfield wasn’t a civic-minded American, but a bloodthirsty terrorist intent on destroying the West.

For the 'tl;dr' crowd: It wasn't his fingerprint, and he had nothing to do with the bombings

The declassified FBI report about this entire fiasco can be read here:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sun Feb 9, 2014, 10:18 PM (3 replies)

Note, please, that the OP elided this small detail from the linked article:


Massachusetts law currently allows both a Class A and a Class B license. The Class B license allows an individual to carry a non-large-capacity firearm, and that firearm may not be concealed. The Class A License allows the licensee to carry a concealed firearm for protection.

The report said that since Massachusetts is not a state where gun owners routinely carry their firearms in the open, the state should eliminate the Class B license.

Explained rather more succintly in the Boston Globe:


The panel members said they also learned that current law gives too much discretion to police chiefs to deny gun licenses to “unsuitable persons,” so they recommended that the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association help develop a tighter definition for that term.

For the most part, police chiefs invoke the “unsuitable persons’’ language to deny licenses for handguns. The panel recommended that police chiefs be allowed to apply that standard to buyers of rifles and shotguns, who are exempt.

Umm, not just no, but HELL NO. This approach was recently deemed unconstitutional in Illinois,
so if this is tried here in Mass it will certainly be challenged in Federal court- the Second Amendment
Foundation and/or the Gun Owners Action League will see to that.

They may very well win. I certainly hope so- 'may issue' laws violate both the Second and
Fourteenth Amendments.

A Class A license requires the approval of police. Eliminating Class B licenses would mean
that all gun purchases will be at the whim of a politician with a badge.

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Tue Feb 4, 2014, 09:17 PM (2 replies)

I'll work with anyone who explicitly renounces gun Prohibition...

...whether it is of the complete or 'gradualist' sorts advocated in these threads:



BTW, I believe the rise of the Prohibitionist wing of the gun control movement explains
why this:


gets comparitively little time here at DU- Gabby Giffords is a gun owner
and is merely tolerated by her so-called "allies"

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Mon Jan 27, 2014, 06:51 PM (20 replies)

Rahinah Ibrahim Wins No-Fly List Ruling: Muslim Woman Contests Controversial Program

Source: Huffington Post

(RNS) A Muslim woman now living in Malaysia struck a blow to the U.S. government’s “no-fly list” when a federal judge ruled Tuesday (Jan. 14) that the government violated her due process rights by putting her on the list without telling her why.

Muslims and civil rights advocates say the no-fly list disproportionately targets Muslims, and they hope the ruling will force the government to become more transparent about the highly secretive program.

“Justice has finally been done for an innocent woman who was wrongly ensnared in the government’s flawed watch listing system,” Elizabeth Pipkin, a lawyer representing Rahinah Ibrahim, said in a statement.

Ibrahim, 48, a mother of four with a doctorate from Stanford University, was waiting to board a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii en route to Malaysia in 2005 but was told she was on the no-fly list. She was eventually cleared to fly to Malaysia, but her visa was revoked soon afterward and she could not return to Stanford. She was never told why she was put on the list, and in 2006 she sued the government to find out.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/rahinah-ibrahim-no-fly-list_n_4612076.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

Good. Brazil was supposed to be satire, not a manual for statecraft...
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Jan 16, 2014, 09:47 PM (2 replies)

Repost from GD: ..."Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown"



My favorite paragraph:

Myth: Mass Shootings Are on the Rise
The recent carnages in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and elsewhere have
compelled many observers to examine the possible reasons behind the rise in mass
murder. The New York Times columnist David Brooks noted the number of schizophrenics going untreated (Brooks, 2012). Former President Bill Clinton and other guncontrol advocates have pointed to the expiration of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban as the culprit, while gun-rights proponents have argued that the body counts would be lower were more Americans armed and ready to overtake an active shooter.
There is, however, one not-so-tiny flaw in all the various theories and speculations for the presumed increase in mass shootings: Mass shootings have not increased in number or in overall death toll, at least not over the past several decades.
The moral panic and sense of urgency surrounding mass murder have been fueled by various claims that mass murders, and mass shootings in particular, are reaching epidemic proportions. For example, the Mother Jones news organization, having assembled a database of public mass shootings from 1982 through 2012, has reported a recent surge in incidents and fatalities, including a spike and record number of casualties in the year 2012 (Follman, Pan, & Aronsen, 2013).

Author Biographies
James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at
Northeastern University. He has published 18 books, including Extreme Killing: Understanding
Serial and Mass Murder (Sage 2012), co-authored with Jack Levin.

Monica J. DeLateur is a doctoral student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at
Northeastern University. Her current research explores sentencing outcomes and decisions to
prosecute, particularly in human trafficking cases.

Methinks the prohibitionists will studiously ignore this as one of the authors is
a professor of criminology and can't be easily written off as a hack.
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Jan 15, 2014, 02:32 PM (5 replies)

New scholarly paper: "Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown"

I am posting this in GD given the recent spate of shooting incidents in the news,
as well as the de facto easing of the restrictions on the discussion of guns here


Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown
James Alan Fox and Monica J. DeLateur

Mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, a Colorado movie theater, and
other venues have prompted a fair number of proposals for change. Advocates for
tighter gun restrictions, for expanding mental health services, for upgrading security
in public places, and, even, for controlling violent entertainment have made certain
assumptions about the nature of mass murder that are not necessarily valid. This
article examines a variety of myths and misconceptions about multiple homicide and
mass shooters, pointing out some of the difficult realities in trying to avert these
murderous rampages. While many of the policy proposals are worthwhile in general,
their prospects for reducing the risk of mass murder are limited...

...Author Biographies
James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at
Northeastern University. He has published 18 books, including Extreme Killing: Understanding
Serial and Mass Murder (Sage 2012), co-authored with Jack Levin.

Monica J. DeLateuris a doctoral student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at
Northeastern University. Her current research explores sentencing outcomes and decisions to
prosecute, particularly in human trafficking cases.

This is published by the Homicide Research Working Group:


About the Homicide Research Working Group

The Homicide Research Working Group has the following goals:

to forge links between research, epidemiology, and practical programs to reduce levels of mortality from violence,

to promote improved data quality and the linking of diverse homicide data sources,

to foster collaborative, interdisciplinary research on lethal and non-lethal violence,

to encourage more efficient sharing of techniques for measuring and analyzing homicide,

to create and maintain a communication network among those collecting, maintaining and analyzing homicide datasets, and

to generate a stronger working relationship among homicide researchers.

Organized at the 1991 American Society of Criminology (ASC) meeting, the Homicide Research Working Group now has hundreds of members representing many countries and academic and practice disciplines at national, state, and local government public and private agencies. It maintains an active listserv, a newsletter, and the journal Homicide Studies, published by Sage. It has held three-to-five-day meetings each year since 1992, at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD) in Ann Arbor, the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Emory University in Atlanta, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada in Ottawa, the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, the Firearms Division Training Center, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, in West Virginia, Loyola University in Chicago, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the University of Missouri in St. Louis, and the Epidemiology and Prevention for Injury Control Branch, California Department of Health Services in Sacramento, and at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Minneapolis. It also holds workshops at the ASC and other professional meetings.

The interdisciplinary focus of the Homicide Research Working Group has been recognized by support from a number of agencies and organizations, including the National Institute of Justice, which published the proceedings of the 1992-1998 Annual Meetings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which published the 1999-2001 Annual Proceedings, and the many agencies that have hosted an Annual Meeting. (To order the Proceedings, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) at 1-800-851-3420 or download the Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of the proceedings from the HRWG Web site).

IOW, the HRWG are not gun lobbyists.

The paper is an interesting read; the authors argue that several things widely believed about
mass shootings aren't actually true.

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Jan 15, 2014, 02:16 PM (1 replies)

Factose intolerance amongst the restrictionistas

They really don't like statistics, as see:


Wonder how this is going to be spun by the NRA

In Minnesota,

"Since the "shall issue" permit law went on the books a decade ago, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has recorded five instances of permit holders justifiably using a firearm. During that same timeframe, permit holders have committed 124 firearm-related crimes."

Seems to contradict that old saw of the NRA of more guns, less crimes.


That's out of how many permit holders in Minnesota? The post in GCRA elides that number.
Unfortunately for them, one meanyhead commenter in the linked article came up with
the number
-and got insulted for providing factual information:

_Joe_ Feb 25, 2013

To really put things in perspective, you not only have to take into account the unreported data, but also this:

120,000 people have carry permits in MN

124 crimes over a decade means that 0.1% of the people with carry permits have committed firearms related crimes. This also does not require a "victim" and could include improper transport, carrying somewhere you're not supposed to, carrying with a BAL of more than .04, etc..

MicheleBachmann Feb 27, 2013

@_Joe_ You are spouting their bullshit made up talking points. Guns cause murder and suicides. It's a fact.

_Joe_ Feb 27, 2013

@MicheleBachmann I'm not making up anything. And I don't need talking points. I have my own opinions. What I DID do, was cite the Star Tribune figures that came out recently and then applied simple math.

Willful ignorance, anyone?
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sun Jan 12, 2014, 05:44 PM (7 replies)

SFGate: Liberals find comfort level in 'NPR of gun clubs'


Liberals find comfort level in 'NPR of gun clubs'

Carla Marinucci
Updated 10:05 am, Thursday, January 2, 2014

Marlene Hoeber is feisty, tattooed, transgender, a self-described feminist, a queer activist - and a crack shot with her favorite "toys," guns of just about every kind.

One thing she's not - and proud of it - is a member of the National Rifle Association.

"We make ourselves a special place where we don't have to hear about the 'Kenyan Muslim socialist' in the White House," said Hoeber, a biotech equipment mechanic who says she's politically "somewhere around Emma Goldman," the turn-of-the-20th century anarchist.

Instead, Hoeber - whose array of firearms includes an M1 carbine rifle from World War II and a custom-made .44-caliber pistol - and other left-leaning gun lovers have their own organization: the Liberal Gun Club.

(Caption: "East Bay chapter of the Liberal Gun Owners Association, president Marlene Hoeber and board member Eric Wooten watches as she holds a M1 Carbine rifle at her Oakland, Ca. home, on Saturday Nov. 16, 2013.")

What's that sound you're hearing? Just certain long-lived planted axioms getting crushed...
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Jan 2, 2014, 05:19 PM (3 replies)

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Five Tips for Living In a Surveillance State

As he does 90% of the time, Bolling nails it...
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 09:43 PM (1 replies)

NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware


Note: previously discussed here:

Shopping for Spy Gear: Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox


Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 11:22 PM (3 replies)
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