David Slesinger's blog

Defence Against Bioterrorism


Defence Against Bioterrorism

21 Apr 2012

Researchers may have found a way to protect us against otherwise deadly chemical attacks, such as the subway sarin incident in Tokyo that left thirteen people dead and thousands more injured or with temporary vision problems. The method is based on a new and improved version of a detoxifying enzyme produced naturally by our livers, according to the report in the April 2012 issue of Chemistry & Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"The sarin attack in Tokyo in 1995 demonstrated that both the raw materials and know-how of producing deadly nerve agents are available to people outside government or military institutions," said Moshe Goldsmith of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. "We hope that our work would provide a prophylactic drug that will effectively protect the medical, police, and other teams that will have to act in a contaminated area following such an attack and would also provide these teams with a drug that could be administered on-site to intoxicated individuals to greatly improve their chances of survival."

Today, protection against nerve agents relies primarily on physical barriers such as gas masks and protective suits that can easily be breached, Goldsmith explained. Following exposure, people are treated with drugs that help with the symptoms but don't eliminate the nerve agent.

Homeland Security Goes to College


Homeland Security Goes to College
How college campuses became a Homeland Security battleground.
By Michael Gould-Wartofsky | Thu Mar. 22, 2012 1:24 PM PDT

This story [1] first appeared on the TomDispatch [2] website.

Campus spies. Pepper spray. SWAT teams. Twitter trackers. Biometrics. Student security consultants. Professors of homeland security studies. Welcome to Repress U, class of 2012.

Since 9/11, the homeland security state has come to campus just as it has come to America's towns and cities, its places of work and its houses of worship, its public space and its cyberspace. But the age of (in)security had announced its arrival on campus with considerably less fanfare than elsewhere—until, that is, the "less lethal [3]" weapons were unleashed in the fall of 2011.

[4]Today, from the City University of New York [5] to the University of California [6], students increasingly find themselves on the frontlines, not of a war on terror, but of a war on "radicalism" and "extremism [7]." Just about everyone from college administrators and educators to law enforcement personnel and corporate executives seems to have enlisted in this war effort. Increasingly, American students are in their sights.

In 2008, I laid out seven steps [8] the Bush administration had taken to create a homeland security campus. Four years and a president later, Repress U has come a long way. In the Obama years, it has taken seven more steps to make the university safe for plutocracy. Here is a step-by-step guide to how they did it.

Profiling, as in NYPD Muslim probe, does not improve security


Profiling, as in NYPD Muslim probe, does not improve security
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012, 8:26 AM Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 1:45 AM
By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist

Getty Images
Despite the uproar by politicians, most New Jersey voters believe the NYPD was doing "what is necessary to combat terrorism" when officers documented the activity of Muslim residents in the Garden State, a new poll has found.
By Engy Abdelkader
In 2002, our federal government implemented the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which required males 17 and older to register with U.S. immigration authorities. The requirement applied only to natives of predominantly Muslim countries.
After reporting to registration, many of the men and boys never returned home. Rather, they were detained and deported, often without any notice to remaining family members in the United States, who were left wondering about their whereabouts.
In response, I organized a human rights monitoring campaign outside of the Immigration and Naturalization Service offices in Manhattan. About 90 Americans volunteered to work three-hour shifts beginning as early as 5 a.m. and ending as late as midnight.
Donning bright yellow shirts with the words "Human Rights Monitor," the volunteers tracked the compliant men who entered and exited the building. In the event someone did not leave, we contacted their family and provided legal and other resources.

Hearing Strains to Revive Addled Privacy Watchdog


Wednesday, April 18, 2012Last Update: 2:27 PM PT
Hearing Strains to Revive Addled Privacy Watchdog
(CN) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to grill five nominees for a watchdog group that has not been staffed in four years.
The 9/11 Commission Report recommended establishing the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) in 2004 to check against abuses of power in the name of fighting terrorism.
Beset by claims of interference from the Bush administration and neglect in Obama's first term, however, the board has foundered.
The only Democratic member of the first board, Lanny Davis, resigned in protest of the more than 200 revisions the Bush administration made to its first report in 2007, according to the Washington Post.
The board has been vacant and inactive since 2008.
Three years into his term, Obama made his first five nominations: James Dempsey, an executive with the Center for Democracy & Technology; Elisebeth Collins Cook, a former Department of Justice lawyer; Rachel Brand, an attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Patricia Wald, a former federal judge for the D.C. Circuit; and David Medine, a WilmerHale partner tapped to chair the board.
Dempsey, Wald and Medine are Democrats. Cook and Brand are Republicans.
All of the candidates seemed reluctant Wednesday to comment on Obama administration policies that most trouble civil libertarians.
All five ducked questions from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, about the CIA's controversial targeted-killing program. The senator blasted the program's secrecy before the hearing and demanded to see the top-secret government memo justifying drone strikes.
Several candidates reserved comment until they could see that memo and other classified data and opinions.
"I'm going to approach that with an open mind and listen to the current thinking that has evolved," Dempsey said.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., grew impatient with the nominees' evasive answers.

Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings


Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings

By Peter Finn, Published: April 13

Days before his arrest in Pittsburgh last month, Khalifa Ali al-Akili posted a remarkable message on his Facebook page: A mysterious man who spoke often of jihad had tried to interest Akili in buying a gun, then later introduced him to a second man, whom Akili was assured was “all about the struggle.”
It smelled, Akili wrote on Facebook, like a setup.
“I had a feeling that I had just played out a part in some Hollywood movie where I had just been introduced to the leader of a ‘terrorist’ sleeper cell,” Akili wrote.
When he googled a phone number provided by the second man, it turned out to be to Shahed Hussain, one of the FBI’s most prolific and controversial informants for terrorism cases. Soon the sting was off; Akili was subsequently arrested on gun — not terrorism — charges, which he has denied.
It was a rare miss for Hussain, 55, who has played a wealthy, dapper member of a Pakistani terrorist group in several FBI operations over nearly a decade.
This role has inflamed Muslim and civil rights activists, who describe Hussain as an “agent provocateur,” and prompted harsh comments from the presiding judge in a 2010 case, who questioned his honesty and the aggressiveness of the FBI’s tactics.
“I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition,” said U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon at the sentencing of four men from Newburgh, N.Y., convicted on terrorism charges. She added, “That does not mean there was no crime.”
Hussain declined to speak about his work for the FBI, saying in a brief phone interview, “I can’t say anything for security reasons.” The FBI declined to discuss Hussain or McMahon’s comments.

Silverstein To Refinance $577M in Bonds at 7 WTC


This content is property of ALM’s Real Estate Media Group. Prints may be used for reference, they may not be used for marketing purposes. For reprints, digital ePrints and plaques, please contact our Reprints Department at 410-571-5893, afaulkner@alm.com or go to www.REMreprints.com.

Last Updated: March 19, 2012 11:26am ET
Silverstein To Refinance $577M in Bonds at 7 WTC
By Jacqueline Hlavenka

CMBS and Liberty Bonds
secured by 7 WTC will be

NEW YORK CITY-After reaching 100% occupancy late last year, Silverstein Properties will be refinancing the liberty bonds and a commercial mortgage-backed security secured by Seven World Trade Center, according to a report from Fitch Ratings.

The total loan includes $577.8 million of liberty bonds and a CMBS loan secured by a mortgage backed by two cross-defaulted loans on 7 WTC. The senior loan is a $452.8 million tax-exempt liberty bond financing designated loan and the junior loan is a $125 million CMBS loan, according to Fitch.

WTC 7 Blueprints Exposed Via FOIA Request: Building Plans Allow for Deeper Analysis of Skyscraper's Destruction


Mar-17-2012 13:23
WTC 7 Blueprints Exposed Via FOIA Request: Building Plans Allow for Deeper Analysis of Skyscraper's Destruction

Ron Brookman, Structural Engineer Special to Salem-News.com
Structural Drawings / Shop Drawings Available for Download.

WTC-7 sequence

(SAN FRANCISCO) - Editor’s note: The release of detailed construction documents and shop drawings for WTC Building 7 is the latest in a series of FOIA successes by AE911Truth supporters. Recent efforts have also led to the acquisition of revealing video recordings of the WTC catastrophe, and forced the NYC Department of Buildings to claim that the release of WTC renovation plans for the years leading up to 9/11 would “endanger the life or safety of any person.” If you are interested in helping us examine these important construction drawings, please consider joining our Volunteer Team.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office at NIST recently released over 2,600 electronic files pertaining to the NIST NCSTAR 1A: Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, and NCSTAR 1-9: Structural Fire Response and Probable Collapse Sequence of World Trade Center Building 7. These files include original structural design drawings, shop fabrication drawings and steel erection drawings of the third skyscraper to fall on 9/11, and are ready for architectural and engineering professionals and students to analyze.

Anyone can file a FOIA request. FOIA #11-209, shown below, was a simple and specific request:

Catherine S. Fletcher, FOIA & Privacy Act Officer
National Institute of Standards and Technology
100 Bureau Drive, STOP 1710
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-1710

Sent via email to: foia@nist.gov
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552

Dear Ms. Fletcher:
I respectfully request complete copies of the following documents pertaining to the NIST NCSTAR 1A ''Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7'', November 2008.

• Irwin G. Cantor P.C., Structural Engineers (1985). Structural Design Drawings, 7 World Trade Center

• Irwin G. Cantor P.C., Structural Engineers (1985). Structural Calculations, 7 World Trade Center

I am a licensed civil and structural engineer in California (licenses C44654 and S3653, expiration date 3/31/2012). This request is made for a scholarly purpose; it is not for any commercial use.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Ronald H. Brookman, S.E.

"Maryland attorney planning to sue TSA over 9-11 based procedures"

Message: "A Maryland attorney is preparing a lawsuit against the TSA for failure to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the TSA's current enhanced procedures supposedly justified by 9-11. The suit will focus on the radiation issues, and also possible deaths due to person switching to less-safe modes of transportation than air travel because they want to avoid the TSA. To withstand any standing challenges, he is looking for a number of plaintiffs who travel and use or don't use airports in a variety of ways because of the TSA's procedures. The suit would be filed on a contingency basis, and would likely last at least a year. The suit will not directly take on 9-11 issues, but will not shy away from then either. A MD or DC citizen is preferred, but interested citizens in other states may be able to take part as a plaintiff. If you are genuinely and seriously interested and upset about the TSA to be involved in an EIS suit, you may contact the attorney, Michael C. Worsham, Esq., at mcw at worshamlaw dot com. Thank you."


Michael C. Worsham
1916 Cosner Road
Forest Hill, MD 21050
(410) 557-6192

New Law Clears the Way for Airports to Drop T.S.A. Screeners


March 15, 2012
New Law Clears the Way for Airports to Drop T.S.A. Screeners
WASHINGTON — A new law makes it easier for airports to replace federal screeners with private contractors, and several airports, after years of passenger complaints, are lining up to make the change.

The law was welcome news to Larry Dale, president and chief executive of Orlando Sanford International Airport, who said his airport’s request to opt out of using Transportation Security Administration officers last year was denied by the federal government.

Mr. Dale said his desire to use private screeners in place of T.S.A. personnel was motivated by hundreds of complaints from passengers, and added that he had his own problems with the agency’s screeners.

“We’ve visited a number of airports who have opted out of the T.S.A. screenings, and no one wants to go back,” Mr. Dale said. “We think this will be more efficient and customer-friendly for us.”

Since 2001, a little-known law has let airports seek permission to stop using federal screeners. But airport officials said that the T.S.A had been slow in allowing the switch, and last year the agency said it would stop accepting additional requests.

Agencies poorly track FOIA requests, report says


Agencies poorly track FOIA requests, report says
By Ed O'Keefe

Obama made government transparency concerns a top priority of his early days as president. (J. Scott Applewhite - AP) Eleven of 17 Cabinet-level agencies fail to fully comply with federal law requiring complete inventories of public records requests, and most large agencies earn a subpar grade for records management, according to a new congressional report.

The report, set for release Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is meant to draw attention to government transparency issues during this year’s Sunshine Week, an annual event designed to raise awareness about access to public records.

The report does not probe how often agencies grant or deny Freedom of Information Act requests, but instead focuses on a key facet of FOIA law requiring agencies to track every request made by people or organizations for public information. The committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), asked 100 large and small federal agencies to provide information on their FOIA tracking systems. Each agency received a letter grade based on a seven-point criteria, including whether agencies produced digitized records that included the date of a request, the name of the requester and a description of the information requested.

“A number of agencies demonstrated that they are able to track basic information about requests, while others either would not or could not provide such information as requested,” the report said. The fact that several agencies “struggle to demonstrate transparency about very basic information is troubling and necessitates greater scrutiny.”

Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act


March 16, 2012
Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act
WASHINGTON — For more than two years, a handful of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public — or even others in Congress — knew about it.

On Thursday, two of those senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — went further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on that secret legal theory is not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained.

The senators, who also said that Americans would be “stunned” to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do, made their remarks in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. after a Justice Department official last month told a judge that disclosing anything about the program “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

Teachers Awarded for 9/11 Projects

Wall St Journal 2/28/12


Teaching the history and events of Sept. 11, 2001, requires a special touch. To honor those who do it best, the Tribute WTC Visitor Center will present awards on Tuesday to 10 teachers who have created special projects to help young people understand 9/11.

The Tribute WTC Visitor Center, located next to the World Trade Center site, opened its visitor galleries in 2006 and has made both memorial and education cornerstones of its programming. The center hosts field trips for school groups, and the teacher awards are now in their fifth year.

This year's ...

Evidence grows that 9/11 first-responders got cancer after working at Ground Zero

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 4:00 AM

Joseph Zadroga fought for the bill that bears his son’s name. But will it cover first responders who fell ill with cancer?

The director of Mount Sinai Medical Center’s World Trade Center health program is preparing to publish a study that will show elevated risks of cancer among 9/11 rescue and recovery workers.

A leading authority on the illnesses suffered by Ground Zero responders, Dr. Philip Landrigan says that an analysis of 20,000 medical case histories revealed an incidence of cancer that is 14% higher than expected for a population of the same profile. The most common elevations were in prostate, thyroid and blood cancers.

Landrigan’s findings add to the evidence that the toll from service on or around The Pile, bad as that toll has been, will significantly worsen with time. Research by fire department doctors previously had found a 19% higher cancer rate among FDNY members who’d been at Ground Zero than among those who hadn’t.

It has been well-established that exposure to airborne toxins in the smoke and dust that shrouded Ground Zero produced respiratory, heart and gastrointestinal damage. And medical experts have feared from the start that cancers, which develop slowly, would emerge.

REAL ID Implementation


Feb. 21, 2012, 6:00 a.m. EST
REAL ID Implementation

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Annual Report Finds Major Progress in Securing Driver's License Issuance Against Identity Theft and Fraud

The Center for Immigration Studies has released its second comprehensive assessment of the status of secure driver's license standards. The report fills a void left by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has been silent on the implementation of state license standards in the REAL ID Act of 2005.

The report concludes that by the deadline of January 13, 2013, 36 of the 56 jurisdictions (50 states, Washington D.C., and the five island territories) will be substantially or materially or fully compliant with REAL ID, even if there remains a wide gap between the strongest of state systems and the weakest.

The report is online at: http://cis.org/real-id-implementation-report

This assessment is by Janice Kephart, former 9/11 Commission counsel and National Security Policy Director at the Center. It covers state driver's license improvements in line with the REAL ID Act, including: overall compliance, production of tamper-resistant cards, verifying and protecting identity before and after issuance, secure card production, and federal funding.

The data is compiled in a chart that forms the heart of the report. Chart analysis shows that (1) states see value in pursuing REAL ID standards because the improvements reduce identity theft and fraud, increase efficiencies, improve customer service, and support law enforcement; (2) states are paying for those improvements with their own budgets outside of federal grant monies; and (3) states are often exceeding REAL ID minimum standards in order to achieve more complete credentialing security.

Specifically, this study finds that:

Assembly committee seeks supboena power over Port Authority


Assembly committee seeks supboena power over Port Authority

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17, 2012, 10:18 PM
A panel of state lawmakers is seeking subpoena power over the Port Authority, two weeks after the agency’s officials skipped an invitation to testify in Trenton.

The special committee would have the rare power to compel Port Authority officials to appear and to hand over agency documents if a proposed resolution is passed by a majority of the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

“There seems to be a call on both sides of the river for fundamental reform at the Port Authority,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Transportation Committee, which is considering several bills related to the agency and would have the subpoena power. “We need to understand how it works, how decisions are made, and in order to do that, we need questions answered.”

“So far, the track record is not good,” he added.