Archive | Technology RSS feed for this section

Update: Two Years Later the TSA is STILL Keeping You Safe Five Percent of the Time

Transportation Security Administration TSA Failed 95 Percent

Once again, TSA inspectors have failed to find 95% of the mock weapons sent through checkpoints by Homeland Security agents working undercover.

Just over two years ago, in June of 2015, I posted about tests Homeland Security had run at airports across the country. In those tests, undercover agents were sent through pre-boarding checkpoints run by the Transportation Security Administration. (Video from that original post is embedded below.)

Those agents carried realistic looking weapons and explosive devices past TSA screeners in order to determine how often the “weapons” would be detected. This included replicas of pistols, knives, nunchucks, tasers, ammunition, and even defused hand grenades.

Out of 70 items that should have been stopped, TSA screeners found a grand total of three of them. As I noted, at the time that translates to a failure rate of 95%. Not exactly a number that will make you feel happy as you stand in the giant line at the security checkpoint next time you fly somewhere.

Surely they’ve addressed those issues in those 2+ years and improved dramatically, though. After all, you could seemingly stumble into a higher level of success just by randomly guessing which passengers have some sort of contraband in their luggage. Right?

Not so much, according to the Washington Times:

Undercover federal agents successfully snuck drugs and explosives past security screeners at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last week, according to the local Fox affiliate.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) conducted the test last Thursday by sending agents disguised as ordinary passengers into the airport in order to see if screeners were up to snuff, KMSP reported.

The TSA “red team” attempted to smuggle 18 different items past airport security that should easily be detected but prevailed almost every time, the Fox affiliate reported.

“In most cases, they succeeded in getting the banned items through. 17 out of 18 tries by the undercover federal agents saw explosive materials, fake weapons or drugs pass through TSA screening undetected,” KMSP reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the operation.
In fact, it could have even been worse this time:

The security test was ultimately abandoned once the TSA’s failure rate reached 95 percent, the station reported.

So, before the Mercy Rule was invoked, the TSA screeners in Minneapolis had successfully found a weapon being smuggled onto a plane once. Which, like 2015, equates to just five percent of the time.

Basically, when you eliminate groping people; especially underage passengers, taking lewd photos of unsuspecting women, and stealing shit out of your luggage, they just aren’t very proficient at what they do. (To be fair, they do seem to be pretty good at finding spare change passengers being subjected to their ineffectual security theater leave behind.)

Truth be told, they actually couldn’t be much less useful (and would be quite a bit less annoying and exploitative) if they just slept through their shift, like the guy in the picture at the top of this post.

Minneapolis – St. Paul TSA Screeners Fail Yet Again

Successful Five Percent of the Time in 2015

Groping People to Keep You Safe Almost Never

Leave a comment

The LVMPD Agrees You Shouldn’t Talk to Them and Should Film the Police

Know Your Rights and how to protect them when dealing with police.

Know Your Rights and how to protect them when dealing with police.

About a month ago, in early September, I did an interview with Joe Bartels of “8 News Now,” the local CBS affiliate in Las Vegas. Although the actual interview went really well, once it was broadcast it was fairly obvious that the intent of the piece was already set even before Joe talked to me.

That predetermined slant being the nonsense claim that Cop Block promotes violence against cops and has ties to the Millers, a married couple who recently murdered a couple of Las Vegas Metro cops, but had no actual ties or even any evidence that they so much as followed Cop Block. (Their Facebook pages, which were pretty widely viewed after the incident, contained a grand total of two shares from Cop Block going back three months.) In spite of the fact that I pointed out that neither I nor anyone I know had ever met or even heard of the Millers prior to the day they shot those cops and that in doing so they had actually made it more difficult for those of us advocating for accountability in peaceful ways, he chose to leave all that out and just do a very incomplete paraphrasing of my statements about them.

They also left out all of the discussion about downtown and the increase in harassment by cops there or the historically nonexistent accountability that is so prevalent in Las Vegas area police departments, which was presumably the reason for the interview in the first place. However, I got nothing but positive feedback from it and several people came down to First Friday while other Nevada Cop Block members and I were handing out flyers and actually asked for one, stating that they saw the interview. Plus, the headline of the text version was pretty accurate (“‘Cop Block’ advocates for rights when dealing with officers“). It’s also rather funny to hear all of them making sure that they enunciate properly to make sure they didn’t slip up and say something else when they said “Cop Block.”

Flyering During First Friday in Downtown Las Vegas

Flyering During First Friday in Downtown Las Vegas

Beyond that, that little spinning flyer graphic they made is obviously going to be the opening of all my videos from here on out. Also, as the title of the post states, Metro decided they didn’t want to respond to any of my statements (they held the broadcast back a day in order to talk with a Metro spokesperson), but they did state that they agreed with everything on the flyer, which would presumably include the advice not to speak to cops and to film them. The other thing about this interview that made me rather happy is that it was prompted by someone placing one of our downtown “know your rights” flyers on their news van one day while they were at lunch.

I actually asked everyone that I thought might be out flyering that day and none of them had put it there. Therefore, someone apparently downloaded the file of the flyer that is available here at Nevada Cop Block, printed it off, and went out flyering on their own. I think it is awesome that people are taking advantage of that resource and that people I don’t even actually know are out there spreading the word to protect people from the harassment that has become so commonplace in downtown Las Vegas.

Finally, they also interviewed Stephen Stubbs, a local attorney that does free monthly “Know Your Rights” seminars for Las Vegas area residents, and he confirmed that the flyers contained “sound legal advice.” You may remember Stephen Stubbs from having been arrested for refusing to leave the area after one of his clients had asked for a lawyer during questioning by the LVMPD Gang Unit. He also represents the man who was beaten by Metro cops in a bar downtown because they didn’t think he was walking fast enough.

‘Cop Block’ advocates for rights when dealing… by Copwatch_World-News

Excerpts from the interview:

‘Cop Block’ advocates for rights when dealing with officers

Mounting created Bloggif

Know Your Rights!

LAS VEGAS — A group critical of police is warning downtown visitors of what they’re calling police harassment. The group known as ‘Cop Block’ said it feels that police are overstepping their authority, so they want people to know their rights.

Cop Block is a nationwide movement, and their main goal is to be an advocate for individual rights, so the group likes to hand out flyers with  a series of suggestions on how to handle interactions with police authorities…

The group said it’s handing out these flyers because of an increase in run-ins with police and the alleged harassment people see downtown.

“That flyer is basically a ‘know your rights’ flyer. It’s meant to educate people on what their rights are,” Kelly Patterson, a member of the Nevada chapter of Cop Block said.

Patterson said there’s a systemic problem that exists between police and the public.

“I’m advocating for them to be accountable; for them to do reasonable investigations when things appear questionable,” Patterson said…

We reached out to Metro Police, but they didn’t have anyone available to talk about the alleged harassment, or the flyers being handed out downtown.”

A spokesperson did tell us that the department was aware of the flyers and they agree with the information on them. The flyers five suggestions for people to take in consideration when they come into contact with officers consist of:

  1. Record your interaction on camera.
  2. Do not talk to the police or answer questions.
  3. Ask whether you are being detained, if not leave.
  4. Never consent to a search.
  5. Be polite, but firm.

We caught up with Stephen Stubbs, a local attorney, and he said that’s sound legal advice.

“If you want to talk to police, talk to police. The fact is that you don’t have to. The supreme court has said very clearly that you do not have to talk to police,” he said.

20 Comments

Avoid Speed Traps and Police Checkpoints with the “Waze” App

A screenshot from the Waze App showing reported locations of police within the downtown area of Las Vegas

A screenshot from the Waze App showing (user) reported locations of police within the downtown area of Las Vegas

Recently, I was contacted by one of Nevada Cop Block’s supporters here in Las Vegas concerning posting about the “Waze” GPS app on NVCopBlock.org because he feels it is a very good resource for avoiding government revenue generators, such as speed traps and DUI or other types of checkpoints, as well as for other Cop Block related activities.

In essence what Waze does is allow its users to post real-time alerts concerning traffic backups, accidents, and road hazards. Among those traffic hazards that can be reported by users are police activities and locations where they have been spotted. This enables people with the app to “crowdsource” such information and help their fellow users avoid wasteful and costly situations.

While in the process of researching it and double checking to see if it hadn’t already been posted on the Cop Block site, I came across a previous write up about the Waze app on “the Free Thought Project,” which is another accountability site that often shares Cop Block content (and vice-versa). Since it already does a pretty good job of detailing the app and why it’s useful, I’ve reposted that review below. Also, I’m including a Youtube video from the 405Show.com, which is a site that creates videos involving driving related subjects, at the bottom of this post. The video discusses methods to avoid speed traps and mentions the Waze apps as one of the options to do so. Unfortunately, but not particularly unexpectedly, one of the things I also came across was an article that discusses how Google has integrated the information from Waze into their Maps service, with the exception of the speed trap information.

Also, keep in mind this is a cell phone app. Therefore, driving isn’t the only option which this could potentially be useful. Conceivably, this could be utilized by someone walking around, as well. The obvious use for that would be by someone wanting to avoid being hassled/profiled by the police, who can use Waze to avoid potentially running into them. Because this is an app designed for driving, this could be somewhat less effective for people on foot, since people in cars aren’t as likely to report cops walking around. Of course, encouraging drivers and other pedestrians to do so would help offset that.

Additionally, another useful option, that would be even more relevant for Cop Block groups, would be to use this app as part of Cop Watch patrols. This could be done by either actively reporting speed traps and checkpoints or by using reports from other users to locate active stops and then recording the proceedings. Both of those potential uses for the Waze app would make Cop Block activities and the services that Cop Block chapters provide within their communities easier to implement.

*Note: the original post on the Free Thought Project mentions that Waze can be found on the CopBlock.org apps page, but when I checked it wasn’t currently listed there. Whether it needs to be added or was at one time listed, but isn’t now for some reason, is something I don’t actually know right now.*

If The Cops Can Track You, You Should Be Able To Track Them. Here’s How.

Be careful out there!

Be careful out there!

The limitless possibilities of new technology are allowing people to fight back against police abuse like never before.  Not only can people record occurrences of police brutality, but there are also dozens of apps that are designed to help you stay a few steps ahead of “the man”.

Out of the many helpful apps that can be found on Cop Block’s apps page, a GPS app called “Waze” is one of the most helpful for pinpointing the location of police and reporting police sightings to other drivers.  When someone sees a police car or a speed trap somewhere along their route, they can make a report alerting other drivers in the area about the police activity.

There is even an option that allows you to type in a message that gives a better description of where the police are and what they are doing.  This option also allows activists to send out witty messages to their fellow travelers, such as, “warning: state mercenaries extorting civilians near exit 7″.

There are a few different GPS apps out there that have similar features, but Waze has the most users, making the reporting more frequent and accurate.  Waze also awards points to people who make regular reports, encouraging everyone to stay active and warn other drivers of danger when they can.

A brief description on the app’s website explains how Waze works.

“After typing in their destination address, users just drive with the app open on their phone to passively contribute traffic and other road data, but they can also take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a ‘heads-up’ about what’s to come.  In addition to the local communities of drivers using the app, Waze is also home to an active community of online map editors who ensure that the data in their areas is as up-to-date as possible.”

Download Waze today by searching “Waze” on the app finder in your phone, or try visiting www.waze.com

28 Comments

The Myth of Fingerprint Identification Reliability

It’s a pretty accepted idea that fingerprint evidence is an airtight method of proving that an accused person was at the scene of a crime. However, contrary to what we are told constantly in movies, books, and actual courtrooms; fingerprints are not the judicial bedrock they have been portrayed as. The issue isn’t so much that fingerprints themselves are unreliable, but rather that finding a perfect set of fingerprints to compare to a suspect at a crime scene is very rare. As pointed out in the LA Times, there has been doubt about the reliability of fingerprint identification since shortly after it was first used to convict people and that uncertainty has been revived in recent years:

The year was 1905. Forensic science was in its infancy. Scotland Yard had only recently begun collecting carefully pressed fingerprints from criminals, stashing the cards in pigeonholes of a makeshift filing system…After learning that a man named Alfred Stratton had been seen near the crime scene, he collected the unemployed ruffian’s thumbprint and compared it with the one left at the crime scene. A close inspection showed there were 11 minute features that the two prints shared.

The prosecutor at Stratton’s trial told jurors the similarities left “not the shadow of a doubt” that the crime-scene print belonged to Stratton.

But the defense had a surprising ally at their table: Henry Faulds, a Scottish doctor who two decades earlier was the first to propose using fingerprints to solve crimes.

Faulds believed that even if fingerprints were unique — there was, after all, no scientific basis for the popular assumption — the same was not necessarily true of “smudges,” the blurry partial prints accidentally left behind at crime scenes in blood, sweat or grease.

A single bloody thumbprint, he felt, was not enough evidence to convict anyone of murder…

…Today, fingerprints are once again on trial.

In 2007, a Maryland judge threw out fingerprint evidence in a death penalty case, calling it “a subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports to be infallible.”

The ruling sided with the scientists, law professors and defense lawyers who for a decade had been noting the dearth of research into the reliability of fingerprinting. Their lonely crusade for sound science in the courtroom has often been ignored by the courts, but last month it was endorsed by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

The actual question isn’t whether fingerprints themselves are reliable. No case has ever been found of two people with the same fingerprint. Even identical twins’ fingerprints are slightly different. The problem lies in finding a quality fingerprint impression at a crime scene. Unlike when you stick your finger in ink and deliberately roll it back and forth, most fingerprints found by investigators consist of blurry, smudged prints that greatly limit the amount of common points that can be used to identify the actual perpetrators of a crime.

(Originally posted on EYEAM4ANARCHY)

3 Comments

Help Wanted! Contribute To Nevada Cop Block

Click this Image to find out how you can contribute to NVCopBlock.org

There are many ways you can join Nevada Cop Block and help contribute to our mission to ensure accountability for police crimes and violence. Among many other things, you can submit your own personal story or video involving the police, share a link to a story or video you’ve come across somewhere else on the internet, or invite us to an event you or someone you know is hosting that is related to issues involving the police and/or the judicial system.

You can also become involved on a more direct level in several ways. If you are a writer and are interested in police issues, I’d be happy to talk to you about posting on the site. If you would like to be involved in going out and doing copwatching and filming the police, we’d be happy to discuss joining you and posting any news worthy video that results. Similarly, if you are doing some sort of event and you’d like to have someone from our group involved, we’d be happy to discuss that with you. We’re particularly interested in events that encourage people to film the police and that help familiarize people with their rights.

We’re located in Las Vegas and as a result we have better access to and awareness of stories in Southern Nevada. We don’t, however, limit ourselves to Las Vegas or even Nevada. Whether you live in Nevada or not, I’d be happy to have you contribute in any manner mentioned above and possibly in many other ways that you may want to suggest.

6 Comments