Search This Blog

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bush/Cheney Reinvent Big Brother IV

Cheney the Manipulator

It’s obvious who pulls the strings in this administration, but it’s hard to determine whose nose should grow the longest for the most lies; Cheney, the manipulator, or Bush, the puppet. For deceit, however, Cheney is the master. From the Iraq war to wire tapping, there is little the man hasn’t stooped to in order to get what he wants. And I say “he” because it is he who is running the show. Of course, with the help of Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove.

Cheney’s Dark, Dark Side

We should have had a clue when he told Tim Russert of NBC, that the government would have to respond to the September 11, 2001 attacks by having to work on the dark side. That was September 16, and, of course, no one questioned it. Cheney goes on to say, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly…” What he didn’t say was that it would all be done in secrecy, sometimes even excluding the U.S. Congress.

Not Satisfied Just Pushing it, Now He Sponsors Legislation

Fast forward to the Fall of 2006, where the VP is sponsoring a bill with Senator Specter to make what Bush has already done illegally in the NSA spying incident, legal. Without warrants or independent checks, the spooks can listen to your phone calls and read your e-mails at will.

He also is sponsoring a bill in the House of Representatives with Heather Wilson (R, NM) to allow Bush to secretly search your home, business, conversations, and e-mails without warrants. The ACLU says both bills redefine the meaning of electronic surveillance to allow more warrantless spying on Americans through the back door.

Frist Apparently Fails on the Senate Bill

The latest word is that the wiretapping Senate bill will not make it before Congress adjourns this weekend. Earlier, Senator Frist, from Tennessee, had combined it with the legislation to gut the Geneva Conventions, in a move to piggy-back the two and make GOP points for the November election. The House is still working on its version.

Bush’s Illegal Wiretapping Impeachable, as Was Richard Nixon’s

John Dean, former Nixon White House staffer, in a FindLaw article, says: “There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.” He proceeds to say that Bush may have outdone Nixon, because of the scope of the NSA spying.

Dean also has comments on Cheney. He feels “Tricky Dick II” never got over when Congress placed checks on Ford’s presidency, and Cheney was chief of staff. Apparently it’s been simmering for all these years, and in a calamitous opportunity for Bush/Cheney, it came to a boil on September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

FTC Drops the Ball...Again

Can’t Reach a Human? You’re Not Alone

I can deal with talking to an automated telephone system when it comes to getting my latest bank balance, or calling the airlines for flight arrivals. I cannot tolerate this electronic technology when a series of button commands could not possibly answer my question. That was the case in my recent Experian incident, and many of your comments indicated you have had the same problem. The credit reporting company even denied my right to dispute at one point.

Shouldn’t Credit Reporting Agencies Be Required to Talk to Us?

When someone is handling information as delicate as your credit history, and you are in a critical situation requiring immediate attention, contact with a competent human being should be a given. It isn’t at Experian. It took me 14 e-mails to pry a telephone number out of the most incompetent crew of customer service representatives I have ever experienced. And then, when at the top of the pecking order, with my dilemma still unsolved, the guy left me stranded, telling me there was no more he could do for me.

Who You Know Still Works Best

It was only after asking a privacy colleague for help that I got the telephone number that did the job. Bingo. Problem solved in a couple of days, and after two follow-up calls—these people never return the first call—a credit was issued for the two months I was not able to access my credit report from Credit Manager.

Apparently, the fact that thousands of consumers cannot reach a human being at the big three credit reporting agencies, isn’t a priority for the FTC. Not satisfied yet, I am researching the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and Gramm-Leach-Bliley to determine if there is any stipulation in either of the bills to cover this issue. More on this later.

FTC’s Strike Number Two

Eight months after the Federal Trade Commission’s settlement with ChoicePoint—the gang that started the tide of data breaches in 2005—a $5 million fund for the 800 victims hasn’t paid out a penny. The FTC shouted success and waved flags exclaiming “look what we did,” but failed to plan just how to do it. Sounds like the other gang that thought they could coast after the Iraq war.

It is all very discouraging, because it shows a bureaucratic unwillingness to do something about the identity crisis from the Bush administration, to Congress, right on down to the government agencies that are supposed to regulate this issue. More fodder for my concept that consumers should control their names and personal data, and be paid any time they are used.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Analyzing Bush's Information Sharing Environment (ISE)

What is the ISE?

The Information Sharing Environment (ISE) is a cooperative effort between the federal government, state, local and tribal governments, and the private sector to share appropriate information related to terrorist threats. It is mandated in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act signed by President Bush in December of 2004. It resulted from the feds’ incompetence between the CIA and FBI in the sharing of intelligence prior to 9/11.

ChoicePoint’s Terrorist Database?

I don’t think so. As far as I know—and I spent 35 years in junk mail dealing with data brokers like ChoicePoint—their forte is collecting and selling your names and personal data. And that is the only reason the Bush administration would include the “private sector” in this latest attack on your privacy. It is just another way to spy on innocent American households, after getting whacked on the NSA spying.

Where’s the Justification?

We all probably agree that had the FBI told the CIA what it knew about questionable flying school students, and had the CIA alerted the FBI that there was a potential attack on the U.S. involving the use of an airliner; things probably would have turned out different on September 11, 2001. There is also the possibility that any private information available from these data brokers re. the 9/11 hijackers—many of which were known by both the FBI and CIA—could have sealed the deal and exposed them prior to the incident. But why is it necessary to spy on innocent U.S. citizens in the process?

How They Do It

The data mining/predictive modeling that was going on at the NSA involved a series of data inputs—including all the sensitive data about your household—which was manipulated in such a way that would establish a pattern of potential threat to the U.S. To find the bad guys in this procedure, you must first rule out the good guys, and that is you. Therefore, your personal data is basically scrutinized to the same extent as would be a potential terrorist. And that is the problem.

The Problem Gets Worse

On top of everything else, the private sector is using incorrect data (ChoicePoint scored 73% errors in their background reports by the Privacy Activism organization), and we are all at the mercy of the human being conducting the data mining. This individual(s) makes subjective decisions based on parameters established at the beginning of the modeling procedure. What I am saying—and that is based on 20 years experience in predictive modeling—is that this is yet another context in which your privacy is significantly challenged.

Who Do You Trust?

First of all, I wouldn’t trust this administration with my sensitive data under any circumstances. Second, considering the incompetence of Bush and his cronies, ISE will either never become a reality, or it will be so screwed up, it will have to be aborted like the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program. And third, when we rid the legislature in November of the “special interest” GOP members, then we can get back to assigning the right priorities for this country’s protection.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pretexting Is Just the Latest Buzzword, Not the Problem

The Problem Is Who Warehouses Your Names and Personal Data

Yes, “pretexting” is another unwanted complication in the identity crisis, but the real problem is the data brokers that aggregate your names and private information into a neat bundle and sell it to the information brokers that do the pretexting. To name the biggest, ChoicePoint, Acxiom, LexisNexis, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. There are hundreds more smaller companies, and the Big Six are not only the biggest, but, in most cases, the ones who collect the personal data and disseminate it to the others.

Abysmal Track Record in Accuracy

In a study by the Privacy Activism group, they found inaccuracies in 67% of Acxiom consumer reports, 73% for ChoicePoint. This included errors in basic data such as name, Social Security number, address and phone number. The Big Three Credit Bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, had mixed results. Rated as a group, not individually, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found that 25% of the Big Three credit reports had errors serious enough to deny credit. Overall, the mistake level was 79%. A Federal Reserve Bank study in 2005 of mistakes reported by consumers in their credit reports was in a range of from 20 to 40 percent.

Your Private Information Available Worldwide

When you “Google” information brokers—as distinguished from data brokers—using “quotes,” you get a total of 319,000, with 90 in the U.S., 243 in Europe, and 100 in Australia. That leaves the remaining some 318,500 distributed throughout the rest of the world. If a Nigerian information broker was pretexting in America, he would most likely have to get his data from one of the Big Six data brokers. You may remember that the perpetrator of the data breach at ChoicePoint that opened the identity crisis in February of 2005 was Nigerian-born Olatunji Oluwatosin. And, it isn’t clear if one of the Big Six would release private information to a pretexter of Nigerian origin, because they don’t identify their clients.


The data brokers will continue to collect every piece of your personal data they can, and sell it to any information broker they want until you put a stop to it by demanding federal legislation that will give you control over your name and private information. The elections are coming. Now is the time to contact Congressional representatives: House of Representatives; Senate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Identity Crisis Won't End Until the Consumer Takes Control over Their Name and Personal Data

There is No Data Security Today

Pretexting, data breaches, lost laptops…call it what you want. They all put your private information in harm’s way, and set the stage for an identity crisis in your household. And even if you don’t suffer a loss—and I sincerely hope you do not—doesn’t it bother you just a little that the details of your life and your daily routine are in multiple databases around the world? It should, unless you are comfortable living in a glass house.

Voracious Appetite for Personal Data

There will always be a demand for consumers’ personal data for purposes of marketing, research, and applications we haven’t even thought of yet. So why not stop right now and level the playing field.

It’s the Individual, Stupid

Place the responsibility for protection with the individual by forcing Congress to pass legislation giving you control over your name and private information. This same legislation should include a stipulation that the consumer be paid each time his or her name and personal data is sold.

This means you must be made aware of and approve any transaction using it. That would make any unsanctioned source of your sensitive data useless, since the phone company, credit bureau, financial institution, or whoever is being contacted for your data cannot release it without your approval. And, the authorization process has been incorporated into a system I have developed.

Here’s How it Works

With a unique ID which will completely replace the Social Security number for purposes of identification, any critical activity involving the use of your name and/or private information would be subject to your approval. This would be handled by a simplified process executed by e-mail or telephone message, taking only minutes for each event. You will also be able to opt-in, not have to opt-out, in receiving any junk mail offers. This almost effortless and sophisticated procedure of notification would also document each sale of your data, and provide reports on the amount you are due.

Let Congress Know You’re Mad as Hell and Not Going to take it Anymore

After 35 years in junk mail selling your name and personal data, and acting as a predictive modeling and database consultant, I know the concept is valid and could be implemented. If you would like to put an end to the panic of potential ID theft, let you Congressional representatives know how you feel. Contact the House of Representatives. Contact the Senate. TODAY!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hewlett Packard Chairwoman, Patricia Dunn, Confirms What Corporate America Thinks About Your Personal Data

Spying on Your Board of Directors?

She said she didn’t realize investigators would use compromising techniques to obtain private phone records of Hewlett Packard’s board members. Where the hell did she think they came from, the cabbage patch? Apparently Patricia Dunn, Chairwoman of HP, does not read or watch news that regularly covers the shady way these data brokers get their information. It’s called “pretexting” and they pose as either the target individual, or an official source, using the person’s personal data: Social Security number, date of birth, etc.

CA AG calls It a Crime

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has decided a crime has been committed, but he isn’t sure just who to charge yet, according to David Kaplan’s article, “Suspicions and Spies in Silicon Valley,” in Newsweek and on MSNBC. The privacy invasion included the Hewlett Packard board members, as well as journalists from CNET, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week magazine, and The New York Times, according to another MSNBC piece, “U.S. Attorney’s Office looks into HP scandal.”

Aware or Not, a Crime Against all Consumers

Whether or not Patricia Dunn knew what she was doing—anyway, where were her advisors?—it is another blatant act by corporate America that indicates just how little it values your private information. In a recent post, “It’s Monday Morning. Do You Know Where Your Name Is?” I talk about this general disregard for consumers’ sensitive data, and the reason we need federal legislation giving you control over your name and personal data.

Join the grass-roots movement and let me hear from you.

Next: Follow-up on Experian and my LOST Credit Report

It was July 12 when I attempted to access my credit report from Credit Manager, a service for which I pay $90 annually. It is an excellent means to check for identity theft, or any mistakes you might suspect are in your report. My credit report was blank. No information. After 14 e-mails and more telephone calls I care to mention, a supervisor at Credit Manager said, although he, himself, could not even get to my report, there was no more he could do, and I must talk with Experian, one of the big-three credit bureaus, of which Credit Manager is a subsidiary.

See prior stories: “Level of competence at Experian Credit Bureau Found to Be Low,” and “Experian Denies My Right to Dispute Credit Report Problem.”

Incompetence on Top of Incompetence

After suffering through the most incompetent group of customer “service” people I have ever experienced, I was ready to try anything. To make a long story short, Experian refused to even sell me a credit report, and then refused to allow me to dispute what was going on. That did it, and I contacted someone I knew at one of the largest privacy organizations in the country. I was given a name at Experian to e-mail and call. It still took two e-mails and one phone call to talk to this person. That was on September 5. I wasn’t able to access my credit report until Monday, Sept. 11—two months denied access—and the person at Experian has yet to contact me to let me know the problem was fixed.

Experian also maintains several databases with additional sensitive information on just about every household in the country…as well as credit data. Doesn’t this just cry out for that federal legislation to give you control?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

BULLETIN: Congress Tries Back Door for Bush Spying

Legislation Planned Would Anoint Bush/Cheney as Big Brother

There are three bills before Congress that threaten your Constitution and your privacy. They would give the president exclusive power to spy on your phone calls and e-mails at will, without a warrant. At the same time, exonerating any official complicit in the government’s past illegal spying program. They would also allow the Bush administration to bypass judicial approval for these activities, deciding for themselves whether to follow the Constitution.

Cheney Co-Sponsor on two of the Bills

The three bills are the Cheney-Specter version (S. 2453), Senator DeWine’s “Terrorist Surveillance Program Act of 2006” (S.2455), and the Cheney-Wilson House Bill (H.R. 5825). You’ll note whose name appears on two of the bills. Apparently the V.P. has run out of misinformation to spread around. All three are ludicrous and an insult to our intelligence.

Contact Your Congressional Representative

You can contact your Congressional representatives by clicking here: ACLU Had Enough? Tell them you’re fed up and you’re not going to take this anymore. It’s time we put an end to the Bush/Cheney grasp for monarchy. If any of the three bills are allowed to pass, we will be approaching the tyrannical state predicted by George Orwell's 1984, and Big Brother will be on our doorstep.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bush/Cheney Reinvent Big Brother III

Nixon, Although Sneaky, At Least Had His Capable Moments

Molly Ivins is one of my favorite columnists. She has a great political mind and an amazing ability to put the right words together that always seem to hit the point. She did this particularly well in her August 21, 2006, piece, “Big Brother Bush,” posted on AlterNet. It drew some comparisons between Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, with the latter not even finishing as a contender. “Testy Kid,” as she describes Bush, can’t even uphold the Constitution that put him in office.

Nixon Also Gave Us Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld

Ivins cites as an example of Bush’s Big Brother, the Pentagon’s giant data-mining program called Total Information Awareness (TIA), designed to tie databases together world-wide, and use the data to spy on anyone they chose. After pressure from just about everybody, the TIA was shut down, or as Molly puts it: “As often happens with this administration, it turned out they just changed the name and made the program less visible.”

Working in the background during all this time were graduates of Nixon’s regular classes on Deceit: 101, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, taking the reins on every available means to pry into the lives of innocent Americans.

TIA Sets Stage for NSA Spying

Then someone convinced the gung ho Bush that using the very secretive National Security Agency (NSA) to do this surveillance of U.S. citizens could keep it all under wraps and, once again, the Constitution be damned, full speed ahead. Fortunately, the New York Times exposed this attempt, and it ended up in Judge Anna Diggs Taylor’s court. Her decision was that the NSA’s warrant-less surveillance authorized by George W. Bush was unconstitutional.

This decision, of course is being appealed by the administration, and you will want to read in The Village Voice August 26, 2006, article, “George Bush: Recidivist,” by Nat Hentoff, on how the Justice department strong-armed Taylor to dismiss the case.

If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Discredit ‘em

Although Bush and his cronies once again used their hackneyed strategy, “if you’re agin us, you must be wrong,” a respected law professor, Laurence Tribe, recognized as one of the foremost constitutional law experts and Supreme Court practitioners in the U.S., considers her decision “splendid.”

But then, along came Republican Senator Arlen Specter to prop up the President and try to bail out the entire administration for violating the law, and the Constitution. Nat Hentoff strikes again on September 1, in “Arlen Specter’s Sellout,” his article on Specter’s attempt to pass legislation giving the administration a way to prevent going to the slammer. This, when Specter has stated before his belief that Bush did violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires a president to present programs of this nature to a special court for approval.

How Did We Get Here, and What Do We Do Now?

If you really don’t know how we got to this point where our privacy is in constant jeopardy—and I doubt many don’t—I will tell you much in the same way George Orwell told his readers in the classic novel, 1984: Big Brother is watching you. Although simple, it predicted a tyrannical state in the future that could usurp all our freedoms. I believe we are very close to realizing Orwell’s prediction. If we don’t wake up and take control of our privacy, Big Brother is imminent.