News Roundup: NYPD luvs Microsoft, BDOs luv profiling, and Brennan warns us about Bad Guys

A couple of vital details about the new Domain Awareness System I missed when it was unveiled by NYPD last week: (1) the massive, instantaneous aggregator of video cameras, license plates, and databases was designed by Microsoft and (2) NYC expects to recoup costs with a 30% cut for future sales of the system.  Regardless of outcomes, then, expect a mighty tornado of a marketing push by Microsoft + NYC over the next few years. gets the scoop from its former boss and current Mayor Bloomberg, laying out the deal in New York, Microsoft Unveil Joint Crime-Tracking System.  The mayor is quoted in New York magazine saying, “I hope Microsoft sells a lot of copies of this system, because 30% of the profits will go to us.”  Even the Council on Foreign Relations had some remarks, about NYPD’s Powers of Threat Perception.  The staid CFR points out that that while our legal system has some experience with the data collection, the “integration and analysis of collected data streams…is a government power does not fit neatly into existing conceptual frameworks for safeguarding liberty.”  Judge for yourself: here is the NYPD’s half-assed Public Security Privacy Guidelines, dated April 2009 but updated to reference the Domain Awareness System.

Meanwhile, Racial Profiling Rife at Airport, U.S. Officers Say.  Before you say duh, consider the placement (above the fold, front page NYTimes) and who is doing the accusing (the so-called Behavioral Detection Officers themselves).   If you said duh anyway, you’re not alone – the story generated more yawns than yelps, and no comment from the TSA blog, which continued its summerlong festival of publishing photos of confiscated grenades, swords, guns, and sharp pointy things.

There are some special – very special – people for whom combing through budgets is as thrilling as riding the rides at Six Flags. You know who you are, and for you, the Congressional Research Service’s (93-page) summary the Department of Homeland Security FY2013 Appropriations.  Check out ICE’s request (requesting reduction of $53 million for detention beds and a $40 million increase to expand Alternatives to Detention) and the discussion on the CBP’s ongoing problems finding an effective tech “solution” to Southwest border surveillance.

Just discovered Melissa del Bosque, covering immigration and the border for the most excellent Texas Observer.  She has over the last month reported about how Now Laredo Wants a Drone Too, and how the Observer is now part of A New Media Collaboration Documents 14 Deaths by Border Patrol Agents. Collaborative investigative reporting to expand coverage of border patrol shootings that remain semi-secret because of lack of coverage – kudos galore! (If you have a great journalist who Catfish should be following, let us know!)

The week was a bit slow on news, so we had extra buckets of commentary to sift through.  Mike Rich uses a NYTimes op-ed The Perfect Non-Crime to ask, “Even if we could make it impossible for people to commit crimes, should we? Or would doing so improperly deprive people of their freedom?”  In Hidden History: America’s Secret Drone War in Africa, David Axe of Danger Room tracks how the secret drone war in Somalia has “drones doing an ever-greater proportion of the American fighting” in “one possible model for the future U.S. way of war.”  And the always tasty Glenn Greenwald of Salon asks in Unintended Causation: Is there a causal link between racially-motivated violence by individuals and U.S. foreign policy?  Greenwald answers yes, citing Falguni Sheth’s argument that attacks by white right-wing extremists are directly connected to the War on Terror.

And finally, bad guys. One of the phrases that gets stuck in Catfish’s craw (by choice, as a google alert) is “bad guys.”  Who should turn up discussing bad guys this week but John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.  Asked to help us understand who or what is most likely to exploit our vulnerability to cyberintrusions, Brennan names “bad guys.”  The transcript of an extended Q&A after a speech on Yemen and drones reads (inaudible) in key places, but it seems the “bad” that Brennan means is “international criminal groups” rather than terrorist organizations or unfriendly foreign countries.

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