Saturday, December 29, 2012

How cost efficient is Canadian airport security?

Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International Airport

You spend billions of dollars on the airports and force the terrorists to spend an extra $30 on gas to drive to a hotel or casino and attack it ..... American airport security expert Bruce Schneier

Good Day Readers:

Another interesting article by Charles C. Mann in concert with Bruce Schneier about the state of airport security in the United States. Is it that much different from the Canadian experience? You may recall earlier a piece on CBC Television's National News in which Mr. Schneier took a tour of Toronto's Pearson International Airport easily spotting several security breaches everything from: doors that should have been locked that weren't; to unauthorized individuals in restricted areas; to the ease with which false boarding passes could be printed.

His comments on the state of airport security are indeed interesting especially his aforementioned quote.

Clare L. Pieuk
Smoke Screening

As you stand in endless lines this holiday season here's a comforting thought: all those security measures accomplish nothing at enormous cost. That's the conclusion of Charles C. Mann, who put the TSA to the test with the help of one of America's top security experts.

By Charles C. Mann
Thursday, December 20, 2012
(Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Not until I walked with Bruce Schneier toward the mass of people unloading their laptops did it occur to me that it might not be possible for us to hang around unnoticed near Reagan National Airport’s security line.

Much as upscale restaurants hang mug shots of local food writers in their kitchens, I realized, the Transportation Security Administration might post photographs of Schneier, a 48-year-old cryptographer and security technologist who is probably its most relentless critic. In addition to writing books and articles, Schneier has a popular blog; a recent search for “TSA” in its archives elicited about 2,000 results, the vast majority of which refer to some aspect of the agency that he finds to be ineffective, invasive, incompetent, inexcusably costly, or all four.

As we came by the checkpoint line, Schneier described one of these aspects: the ease with which people can pass through airport security with fake boarding passes. First, scan an old boarding pass, he said—more loudly than necessary, it seemed to me. Alter it with Photoshop, then print the result with a laser printer. In his hand was an example, complete with the little squiggle the TSA agent had drawn on it to indicate that it had been checked. “Feeling safer?” he asked.

Ten years ago, 19 men armed with utility knives hijacked four airplanes and within a few hours killed nearly 3,000 people. At a stroke, Americans were thrust into a menacing new world. “They are coming after us,” CIA Director George Tenet said of al-Qaeda. “They intend to strike this homeland again, and we better get about the business of putting the right structure in place as fast as we can.”

The United States tried to do just that. Federal and state governments embarked on a nationwide safety upgrade. Checkpoints proliferated in airports, train stations, and office buildings. A digital panopticon of radiation scanners, chemical sensors, and closed-circuit television cameras audited the movements of shipping containers, airborne chemicals, and ordinary Americans. None of this was or will be cheap. Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.1 trillion on homeland security.

To a large number of security analysts, this expenditure makes no sense. The vast cost is not worth the infinitesimal benefit. Not only has the actual threat from terror been exaggerated, they say, but the great bulk of the post-9/11 measures to contain it are little more than what Schneier mocks as “security theater:” actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job. In fact, the continuing expenditure on security may actually have made the United States less safe.

The first time I met Schneier, a few months after 9/11, he wanted to bet me a very expensive dinner that the United States would not be hit by a major terrorist attack in the next 10 years. We were in Washington, D.C., visiting one of the offices of Counterpane Internet Security, the company he had co-founded in 1999. (BT, the former British Telecom, bought Counterpane seven years later; officially, Schneier is now BT’s Chief Security Technology Officer.) The bet seemed foolhardy to me. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had just told The Washington Times that al-Qaeda was dispersing its killers all over the world.

From an airplane-hijacking point of view, Schneier said, al-Qaeda had used up its luck. Passengers on the first three 9/11 flights didn’t resist their captors, because in the past the typical consequence of a plane seizure had been “a week in Havana.” When the people on the fourth hijacked plane learned by cell phone that the previous flights had been turned into airborne bombs, they attacked their attackers. The hijackers were forced to crash Flight 93 into a field. “No big plane will ever be taken that way again, because the passengers will fight back,” Schneier said. Events have borne him out. The instigators of the two most serious post-9/11 incidents involving airplanes— the “shoe bomber” in 2001 and the “underwear bomber” in 2009, both of whom managed to get onto an airplane with explosives—were subdued by angry passengers.

Schneier’s sanguine views had little resonance at a time when the fall of the twin towers was being replayed nightly on the news. Two months after 9/11, the Bush administration created the Transportation Security Agency, ordering it to hire and train enough security officers to staff the nation’s 450 airports within a year.

Six months after that, the government vastly expanded the federal sky-marshal program, sending thousands of armed lawmen to ride planes undercover. Meanwhile, the TSA steadily ratcheted up the existing baggage-screening program, banning cigarette lighters from carry-on bags, then all liquids (even, briefly, breast milk from some nursing mothers). Signs were put up in airports warning passengers about specifically prohibited items: snow globes, printer cartridges. A color-coded alert system was devised; the nation was placed on “orange alert” for five consecutive years. Washington assembled a list of potential terror targets that soon swelled to 80,000 places, including local libraries and miniature-golf courses. Accompanying the target list was a watch list of potential suspects that had grown to 1.1 million names by 2008, the most recent date for which figures are available. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security, which absorbed the TSA in 2003, began deploying full-body scanners, which peer through clothing to produce nearly nude images of air passengers.

Bruce Schneier’s exasperation is informed by his job-related need to spend a lot of time in Airportland. He has 10 million frequent-flier miles and takes about 170 flights a year; his average speed, he has calculated, is 32 miles and hour. “The only useful airport security measures since 9/11,” he says, “were locking and reinforcing the cockpit doors, so terrorists can’t break in, positive baggage matching”—ensuring that people can’t put luggage on planes, and then not board them —“and teaching the passengers to fight back. The rest is security theater.”

Remember the fake boarding pass that was in Schneier’s hand? Actually, it was mine. I had flown to meet Schneier at Reagan National Airport because I wanted to view the security there through his eyes. He landed on a Delta flight in the next terminal over. To reach him, I would have to pass through security. The day before, I had downloaded an image of a boarding pass from the Delta Web site, copied and pasted the letters with Photoshop, and printed the results with a laser printer. I am not a photo-doctoring expert, so the work took me nearly an hour. The TSA agent waved me through without a word. A few minutes later, Schneier deplaned, compact and lithe, in a purple shirt and with a floppy cap drooping over a graying ponytail.

The boarding-pass problem is hardly the only problem with the checkpoints. Taking off your shoes is next to useless. “It’s like saying, Last time the terrorists wore red shirts, so now we’re going to ban red shirts,” Schneier says. If the TSA focuses on shoes, terrorists will put their explosives elsewhere. “Focusing on specific threats like shoe bombs or snow-globe bombs simply induces the bad guys to do something else.

You end up spending a lot on the screening and you haven’t reduced the total threat.”

As I waited at security with my fake boarding pass, a TSA agent had darted out and swabbed my hands with a damp, chemically impregnated cloth: a test for explosives. Schneier said, “Apparently the idea is that al-Qaeda has never heard of latex gloves and wiping down with alcohol.” The uselessness of the swab, in his view, exemplifies why Americans should dismiss the TSA’s frequent claim that it relies on “multiple levels” of security. For the extra levels of protection to be useful, each would have to test some factor that is independent of the others. But anyone with the intelligence and savvy to use a laser printer to forge a boarding pass can also pick up a stash of latex gloves to wear while making a bomb. From the standpoint of security, Schneier said, examining boarding passes and swabbing hands are tantamount to performing the same test twice because the person you miss with one test is the same person you'll miss with the other.

After a public outcry, TSA officers began waving through medical supplies that happen to be liquid, including bottles of saline solution. “You fill one of them up with liquid explosive,” Schneier said, “then get a shrink-wrap gun and seal it. The TSA doesn’t open shrink-wrapped packages.” I asked Schneier if he thought terrorists would in fact try this approach. Not really, he said. Quite likely, they wouldn’t go through the checkpoint at all. The security bottlenecks are regularly bypassed by large numbers of people—airport workers, concession-stand employees, airline personnel, and T.S.A. agents themselves (though in 2008 the TSA launched an employee-screening pilot study at seven airports). “Almost all of those jobs are crappy, low-paid jobs,” Schneier says. “They have high turnover. If you’re a serious plotter, don’t you think you could get one of those jobs?”

Continued (page 2 of 2)

The full-body-scanner program—some 1,800 scanners operating in every airport in the country—was launched in response to the “underwear bomber” incident on Christmas Day in 2009, when a Nigerian Muslim hid the plastic explosive petn in his briefs and tried to detonate it on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. It has an annual price tag of $1.2 billion. The scanners cannot detect petn directly; instead they look for suspicious bulges under clothing. Because petn is a Silly Putty–like material, it can be fashioned into a thin pancake. Taped flat to the stomach, the pancake is invisible to scanning machines. Alternatively, attackers could stick gum-size wads of the explosive in their mouths, then go through security enough times to accumulate the desired amount.
Staffing the airport checkpoints, at least in theory, are “behavioral detection officers,” supposedly trained in reading the “facial microexpressions” that give away terrorists. It is possible that they are effective, Schneier says—nobody knows exactly what they do. But U.S. airlines carried approximately 700 million passengers in 2010. In the last 10 years, there have been 20 known full-fledged al-Qaeda operatives who flew on U S planes (the 9/11 hijackers and the underwear bomber, who was given explosives by a Yemeni al-Qaeda affiliate). Picking the right 20 out of 700 million is simply not possible, Schneier says.

After the airport checkpoint, an additional layer of security is provided, in theory, by air marshals. At an annual cost of about $1.2 billion, as many as 4,000 plainclothes police ride the nation’s airways—usually in first class, so that they can monitor the cockpit. John Mueller, co-author of Terror, Security, and Money, a great book from which I drew much information for this article, says it's a horrible job. “You sit there and fly and you can’t even drink or listen to music, because you can’t have headphones on. You have to stay awake. You are basically just sitting there, day after day.” Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of turnover—“you’re constantly training people, which is expensive.” Worse, the program has had no measurable benefit. Air marshals have not saved a single life, although one of them did shoot a deranged passenger a few years ago.

Has the nation simply wasted a trillion dollars protecting itself against terror? Mostly, but perhaps not entirely. “Most of the time we assess risk through gut feelings,” says Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who is also the president of Decision Research, a nonprofit R&D organization.

“We’re not robots just looking at the numbers.” Confronted with a risk, people ask questions: Is this a risk that I benefit from taking, as when I get in a car? Is it forced on me by someone else, as when I am exposed to radiation? Are the potential consequences catastrophic? Is the impact immediate and observable, or will I not know the consequences until much later, as with cancer? Such questions, Slovic says, “reflect values that are sometimes left out of the experts’ calculations.”

Security theater, from this perspective, is an attempt to convey a message: “We are doing everything possible to protect you.” When 9/11 shattered the public’s confidence in flying, Slovic says, the handful of anti-terror measures that actually work—hardening the cockpit door, positive baggage matching, more-effective intelligence—would not have addressed the public’s dread, because the measures can’t really be seen.

Relying on them would have been the equivalent of saying, “Have confidence in Uncle Sam,” when the problem was the very loss of confidence. So a certain amount of theater made sense. Over time, though, the value of the message changes. At first the policeman in the train station reassures you. Later, the uniform sends a message: train travel is dangerous. “The show gets less effective, and sometimes it becomes counter productive.”

Terrorists will try to hit the United States again, Schneier says. One has to assume this. Terrorists can so easily switch from target to target and weapon to weapon that focusing on preventing any one type of attack is foolish. Even if the TSA were somehow to make airports impregnable, this would simply divert terrorists to other, less heavily defended targets—shopping malls, movie theaters, churches, stadiums, museums. The terrorist’s goal isn’t to attack an airplane specifically; it’s to sow terror generally. “You spend billions of dollars on the airports and force the terrorists to spend an extra $30 on gas to drive to a hotel or casino and attack it,” Schneier says. “Congratulations!”

What the government should be doing is focusing on the terrorists when they are planning their plots. “That’s how the British caught the liquid bombers,” Schneier says. “They never got anywhere near the plane. That’s what you want—not catching them at the last minute as they try to board the flight.”

To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest. Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.) During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs. Still more were killed by driving their cars into deer. The best memorial to the victims of 9/11, in Schneier’s view, would be to forget most of the “lessons” of 9/11. “It’s infuriating,” he said, waving my fraudulent boarding pass to indicate the mass of waiting passengers, the humming X-ray machines, the piles of unloaded computers and cell phones on the conveyor belts, the uniformed TSA officers instructing people to remove their shoes and take loose change from their pockets.

“We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this—and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cheap like borscht!

Dollar Store Incorporated: Booming Business of Being Cheap

Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine talks about how dollar stores have thrived in a down economy (Thursday, December 27, 2012)

Would you buy a pizza and used car from this man ..... well would you?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Will the smartphone become the smartperson's next weapon of choice?

Has there ever been a box connected to the internet people haven't tried to break into? ..... Barnaby Jack, researcher Seattle-based computer security firm IO Active

Good Day Readers:

Given the ability of the current generation of hackers, the proliferation of devices embedded with computers and sensors wirelessly distance controlled in real time plus smartphones, it is likely only a matter of time before we have a rewrite of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 thriller Dial M for Murder starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings.
A fascinating read well worth the time.

Clare L. Pieuk
Look out - he's got a phone!

Those words aren't yet a chiche on TV crime dramas, but security experts agree that it's only a matter of time before smartpnones become the smart person's murder weapon of choice

By Charles C. Mann
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The day is not far off when the manipulation of medical devices will be done routinely by punching keys on a smartphone, putting an individual's internal organs in the hands of every hacker, online scammer, and digital vandal on earth. [David LeBon/Transtock/Corbis (Cars)/; Rolf Bruderer/Corbis] 

Last October at Melbourne’s grand Intercontinental Hotel scores of technophiles watched a researcher for IOActive, a Seattle-based computer-security firm, demonstrate an ingenious new way to kill someone—a method that one can imagine providing a sensational plot twist in an episode of Homeland.

The IOActive researcher, a man named Barnaby Jack, was so worried about the implications of his work that he intentionally obscured many of the details in his presentation. As a further precaution, he asked the attendees not to take any pictures—a tough request in a crowd full of smartphones and laptops.

Jack’s work concerned pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD’s). More than three million American heart patients carry around these small, computerized devices, which monitor their heartbeat and deliver jolts of electricity to stabilize it when needed. To check and adjust these devices, many doctors use wand-like wireless programmers that they wave a few inches above patients’ chests—a straightforward and seemingly safe procedure. But now, with a custom-built transmitter, Jack had discovered how to signal an ICD from 30 feet away. It reacted as if the signal were in fact coming from the manufacturer’s official ICD. programmer. Instructed by the counterfeit signal, the ICD suddenly spat out 830 volts—an instantly lethal zap. Had the device been connected to an actual human heart, the fatal episode would likely have been blamed on a malfunction.

Let’s face it: Barnaby Jack is a man who is quite literally looking for trouble. This is a guy who had demonstrated the year before how he could wirelessly direct an implantable insulin pump to deliver a lethal dose. The year before that, he hacked an ATM to make it spray out bills like a slot machine. But trouble-making is what he’s paid to do at IOActive, and in that role he has developed a particular respect for the looming power of smartphones. Terrorists have already used cell phones to kill people in the crudest possible way: detonating explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan. But smartphones bring a new elegance to the endeavor and will bring new possibilities for mayhem into the most mundane areas of life.

The day is not far off, Jack says, when the manipulation of medical devices, for which he had needed to build special equipment, will be done routinely and remotely by punching keys on a smartphone. Indeed, in just a few minutes of online searching, I was able to find a dozen ventures developing smartphone apps for medical devices: pacemakers, defibrillators, cochlear implants, insulin pumps, cardiovascular monitors, artificial pancreases, and all the other electronic marvels doctors now are inserting into human bodies.

To engineers, the advantages are clear. Smartphones can relay patients’ data to hospital computers in a continuous stream. Doctors can alter treatment regimens remotely, instead of making patients come in for a visit. If something goes wrong, medical professionals can be alerted immediately and the devices can be rapidly adjusted over the air. Unfortunately, though, the disadvantages are equally obvious to people like Barnaby Jack: doctors will not be the only people dialing in. A smartphone links patients’ bodies and doctors’ computers, which in turn are connected to the Internet, which in turn is connected to any smartphone anywhere. The new devices could put the management of an individual’s internal organs, in the hands of every hacker, online scammer, and digital vandal on Earth.

I asked Jack if he thought anyone would actually use smartphones to try to fiddle with other people’s pacemakers, or change the dosage of their medications, or compromise their eyesight, or take control of their prosthetic limbs, or raise the volume of their hearing aids to a paralyzing shriek. Will this become a tempting new way to settle a score or hurry up an inheritance? He said, “Has there ever been a box connected to the Internet that people haven’t tried to break into?” He had a point: a few years ago, anonymous vandals inserted flashing animated images into an Epilepsy Foundation online forum, triggering migraines and seizure-like reactions in some unfortunate people who came across them. (The vandals were never found.) Jack was reluctant to go into detail about what he thinks the future may hold. “I’m not comfortable trying to predict exact scenarios,” he said. But then he added, calm as a State Department spokesman, “I can say that I wouldn’t want to discover a virus in my insulin pump.”

Smartphones taking control of medical devices: the tabloid headlines write themselves. But medical devices represent only one early and obvious target of opportunity. Major power and telephone grids have long been controlled by computer networks, but now similar systems are embedded in such mundane objects as electric meters, alarm clocks, home refrigerators and thermostats, video cameras, bathroom scales, and Christmas-tree lights—all of which are, or soon will be, accessible remotely. Every automobile on the market today has scores of built-in computers, many of which can be accessed from outside the vehicle. Not only are new homes connected to the Internet but their appliances are too. “Start your coffee machine with a text message!” says a video for Electric Imp, a device created by former Gmail and iPhone employees, whose stated goal is to “apply [Internet connectivity] to any device in the world.” Even children’s toys have Internet addresses: for instance, you can buy an add-on wi-fi kit for your Lego robot. The spread of networking technology into every aspect of life is sometimes called “the Internet of Things.”

The embrace of a new technology by ordinary people leads inevitably to its embrace by people of malign intent. Up to now, the stakes when it comes to Internet crime have been largely financial and reputational—online crooks steal money and identities but rarely can inflict physical harm. The new wave of embedded devices promises to make crime much more personal.

Consider the automobile. Surely nobody involved in the 2000 Bridgestone/Firestone scandal—a series of deadly rollovers in Ford Explorers, linked to disintegrating tires—realized that they were laying the groundwork for a possible new form of crime: carjacking-by-tire. In the aftermath of the accidents, Congress quickly toughened tire-safety regulations. Since 2007, every new car in the United States has been equipped with a tire-pressure-monitoring system, or TPMS Electronic sensors in the wheels report tire problems to an onboard computer, which flashes a warning icon on the dashboard.

By itself, the TPMS represents no great leap. Modern cars are one of the most obvious examples of the Internet of Things. It is a rare new vehicle today that contains fewer than 100 of the computers, called electronic control units, which direct and monitor every aspect of the vehicle. When drivers screech to a sudden stop, for instance, sensors in the wheels detect the slowdown and send the information to an ECU. If one wheel is rotating more slowly than the others—an indicator of brake lock—the ECU overrides the brake and the accelerator, preventing the skid. Even as it fights the skid, the computer reaches into the seatbelt controls, tightening the straps to prevent passengers from slipping under them in case of an accident. The software for these complex, overlapping functions is formidable: as much as 100 million lines of computer code. (By contrast, Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner makes do with about 18 million lines of code.)

Many of these functions can be activated from outside. Door locks are opened by radio pulses from key fobs. GPS systems are upgraded by special CD’s. Ignitions can be disabled by remote-controlled “immobilizers” in case of theft or repossession. Cars increasingly offer “telematics” services, such as OnStar (from General Motors), BMW Assist, MyFord Touch, and Lexus Link, that remotely diagnose engine problems, disable stolen cars, transmit text messages and phone calls, and open doors for drivers who have locked themselves out. As cars grow more sophisticated, their owners will, like computer owners, receive routine, annoying updates for the code that runs these features; Tesla, the electric-vehicle manufacturer, announced the planet’s first over-the-air car-software patch in September. A security-research team from InterTrust Technologies, a company that makes protected computer systems for businesses, describes today’s automobiles as full-time residents of cyberspace, scarcely distinguishable from “any other computational node, PC, tablet, or smartphone.”

The tire-pressure-monitoring system is an example. As a rule, it consists of four battery-operated sensors, one attached to the base of each tire valve. The sensors “wake up” when the wheels begin rotating.

Typically, they send out minute-by-minute reports—the digital equivalent of messages like “I’m the right front tire; my pressure is 35 p.s.i.”—to an ECU. To make sure the ECU knows which tire is reporting, each sensor includes an identification number with its report. The ID is specific to that one tire. In 2010, researchers from Rutgers and the University of South Carolina discovered that they could read a tire’s ID from as far away as 130 feet. This means that every car tire is, in effect, a homing device and that people 130 feet from an automobile can talk to it through its tires.

Schrader Electronics, the biggest TPMS manufacturer, publicly scoffed at the Rutgers–South Carolina report. Tracking cars by tire, it said, is “not only impractical but nearly impossible.” TPMS systems, it maintained, are reliable and safe.

This is the kind of statement that security analysts regard as an invitation. A year after Schrader’s sneering response, researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California–San Diego were able to “spoof” (fake) the signals from a tire-pressure ECU by hacking an adjacent but entirely different system—the OnStar-type network that monitors the TPMS for roadside assistance. In a scenario from a techno-thriller, the researchers called the cell phone built into the car network with a message supposedly sent from the tires. “It told the car that the tires had 10 p.s.i. when they in fact had 30 p.s.i.,” team co-leader Tadayoshi Kohno told me—a message equivalent to “Stop the car immediately.” He added, “In theory, you could reprogram the car while it is parked, then initiate the program with a transmitter by the freeway. The car drives by, you call the transmitter with your smartphone, it sends the initiation code—bang! The car locks up at 70 miles per hour. You’ve crashed their car without touching it.”

Systematically probing a “moderately priced late-model sedan with the standard options,” the Washington–San Diego researchers decided to see what else they could do. They took control of the vehicle by contacting the hands-free system through the built-in cellphone and playing a special audio file. They compromised the hands-free microphone and recorded conversations in the car as it moved. They reprogrammed a mechanics’ diagnostic computer to let them take over the sedan’s operation remotely, at a time of their choosing. They used Bluetooth signals to start cars that were parked, locked, and alarmed.

They did all this with instructions sent from a smartphone.

There was nothing to stop them. “Except for medical devices,” Stuart McClure, chief technical officer of the anti-virus company McAfee, told me, “nobody regulates any of this stuff.” And medical devices are regulated for safety, not security. Because government isn’t wielding a cudgel, security is entirely up to the manufacturers. In McClure’s view, “maybe 90 percent” of the vendors don’t see security as critical. The same thing was true of computer-software companies, he pointed out. Not until credit-card numbers by the millions began to be stolen did they begin to pay attention. “We live in a reactive society,” McClure went on, “and something bad has to happen before we take problems seriously. Only when these embedded computers start to kill a few people—one death won’t do it—will we take it seriously.”

It is a commonplace that most murders occur at home, which leads (solely for the purposes of illustration) to my own. My wife is an architect, so when we recently built a house we built one to her design. Late last spring, we moved in, hauling boxes as workers hurried to finish the last details. One day I walked into the basement to find the plumber peering in puzzlement at a device installed next to the circuit breakers. It was a white, lozenge-shaped object with a small LED panel on its face that showed a “dotted quad”—an Internet address in the form of four numbers separated by periods. “What’s that?” asked the plumber. “It looks like your house is connected to the Internet.”

I didn’t know. The contractor didn’t know, either. Nor did the cable guy or the house-alarm guy. After a few phone calls, I learned that our electric company had installed the mystery box to monitor the new solar panels on the roof. Our house—or at least our roof—was part of the Internet of Things.

The white lozenge, it turned out, was part of a “smart meter,” one of the most common among a wave of new devices that will, developers hope, produce the domestic dream of a “smart home.” In smart homes, residents can control their lighting, heating, air-conditioning, fire and burglar alarms, lawn sprinklers, and kitchen appliances with the touch of a button. Increasingly, that button is on a computer or smartphone.

These systems can help make homes more convenient, energy efficient, and safe. They are also a point of entry for online intruders—no different, really, from an open window or an unlocked door.

Computer-security researchers are focusing attention on smart meters in part because utilities have been installing them by the millions. (The Obama stimulus bill provided $4.5 billion for “smart grid” projects; the European Union has mandated a switch-over to smart meters by 2022.) Instead of learning about energy consumption inside a home or building from meter readers in white vans, electric companies now know about power usage in real time, from streaming data provided over the Internet, letting them avoid the cascading failures that lead to blackouts. Utilities talk up the environmental benefits of smart meters—no more wasted power! Utilities are quieter about “remote disconnect”—the possibility, created by smart meters, of cutting power to nonpaying customers with the flick of a switch or the punch of a phone key.

Because smart meters register every tiny up and down in energy use, they are, in effect, monitoring every activity in the home. By studying three homes’ smart-meter records, researchers at the University of Massachusetts were able to deduce not only how many people were in each dwelling at any given time but also when they were using their computers, coffee machines, and toasters. Incredibly, Kohno’s group at the University of Washington was able to use tiny fluctuations in power usage to figure out exactly what movies people were watching on their TVs. (The play of imagery on the monitor creates a unique fingerprint of electromagnetic interference that can be matched to a database of such fingerprints.)

Like the computer on my home-office desk, the smart-meter computer in my basement is vulnerable to viruses, worms, and other Internet perils. As long ago as 2009, Mike Davis of IOActive was able to infect smart meters with virus-like code. The infected meters could then spread the malware to other, nearby meters. In theory, smart-meter viruses could black out entire neighborhoods at a stroke. They could also ripple back and infect the central controls at utility companies. Because those utility networks are usually decades old, they often lack basic security features, such as firewalls and anti-virus protection. “If I’m a bad guy, I’ll wait till there’s a major snowstorm or heat wave,” said McClure. “Then kill the heat or A/C.” Under such circumstances, he observed, “the elderly die very easily.”

For average homeowners like me, smart meters are almost as invisible as their risks. We’re much more aware of the new temperature, security, and lighting controls operated by smartphones or tablets. (In September, the big real-estate developer Taylor Morrison announced a nationwide rollout of “interactive home” that include front-door video monitoring, whole-house Internet audio integrated with iTunes, and remotely programmable lighting and appliances.) Just around the corner, according to tech analysts, are refrigerators that alert families when they’ve run out of milk, ovens that can be turned on from the office, counters that double as video displays for recipes, videos, or Skype chats, and sensors that detect when residents are ill or hurt and that automatically call 911.

In the rush to put computers into everything, neither manufacturers nor consumers think about the possible threats. “I would be shocked if a random parent at Toys R Us picked up a toy with a wireless connection and thought, I wonder if there are any security problems here.” Kohno said to me. As he has himself demonstrated, children’s Erector Sets with Web cams can be taken over remotely and used for surveillance.

Kohno added, “I just hope you can’t use them to turn on the broiler and set the house on fire.” It was meant as joking hyperbole. But you won’t need an Erector Set to physically turn on the broiler. Smartphone apps will do that for you. And when that’s done—what the heck—you can kill the power, disable the fire alarm, suppress the call to 911, and for good measure start the car and leave it running in the garage.

Today, of course, these threats are remote. Only experts like Kohno can digitally hijack a house. But it is the nature of software to get easier to use and more widely available. Creating the first Internet worm required months of work in the late 1980s by a brilliant computer-science student, Robert T. Morris, who is now a professor at MIT. Today “virus construction kits” are readily downloadable on the Web, intended for teenaged miscreants with little programming ability. The expertise and time required for this type of vandalism have steadily declined. As a result, Internet threats have steadily risen. As I researched this article, every single computer-security expert I spoke with said they expected precisely the same pattern—obscure and rare to common and ubiquitous—to hold for the Internet of Things.

More than 1.5 million external defibrillators—flat, plastic devices that deliver shocks to people in cardiac arrest—have been installed in American offices, malls, airports, restaurants, hotels, stadiums, schools, health clubs, and, of course, hospital wards. (Usually bright red or yellow, they are typically mounted in boxes that look a bit like big fire alarms.) AED’s, as they are called, administer shocks through two pads taped to patients’ chests that also monitor their heartbeats. Many have the ability to simultaneously call 911 when they are used. AED’s are, in fact, computers, and most of them are updated with Windows-based software on a USB stick.

Last year, Kevin Fu of the University of Massachusetts and five other researchers decided to find out whether an AED. could be hacked. They discovered four separate methods for subverting the apparatus, two of which would allow the AED’s to be used as a portal for taking over nearby hospital computers.

In a way, Fu told me, using AED’s to hijack hospital computers was “irrelevant,” because computers are often already compromised by other means. Critically important devices like the fetal monitors for women with high-risk pregnancies can be so burdened with malware they no longer function. “I remember one computer in a radiology room that was absolutely riddled with viruses because the surgeons and nurses checked their e-mail on it,” Fu said. “And it was the computer that ran the radiology equipment.” Why didn’t people check e-mail on a separate computer? “They said there wasn’t enough room on the table for two machines,” he said.

Even when staffers aren’t careless, hospital-security problems can be difficult to fix. Medical manufacturers, Fu said, frequently will not allow hospitals to modify their software—even just to add anti-virus protection—because they fear that the changes would have to be reviewed by the U S Food and Drug Administration, a complex and expensive process. The fear is wholly justified; according to the F.D.A., most medical-device software problems are linked to updates, patches, and revisions.

Hospital equipment like external defibrillators and fetal monitors can at least be picked up, taken apart, or carted away. Implanted devices—equipment surgically implanted into the body—are vastly more difficult to remove but not all that much harder to attack.

You don’t even have to know anything about medical devices’ software to attack them remotely, Fu says.

You simply have to call them repeatedly, waking them up so many times that they exhaust their batteries—a medical version of the online “denial of service” attack, in which botnets overwhelm Web sites with millions of phony messages. On a more complex level, pacemaker-subverter Barnaby Jack has been developing Electric Feel, software that scans for medical devices in crowds, compromising all within range. Although Jack emphasizes that Electric Feel “was created for research purposes, in the wrong hands it could have deadly consequences.” (A General Accounting Office report noted in August that Uncle Sam had never systematically analyzed medical devices for their hackability, and recommended that the F.D.A. take action.)

Some 20 million Americans today carry implanted medical devices of some kind. As the population ages, that number will only grow, as will the percentage of those devices that are accessible by smartphone. So will the number of connected smart homes. Possibly people will own versions of Google’s driverless car, in which all navigation is controlled by computers and sensors—devices that a hacker with a smartphone can adjust with satisfactorily grim results. If Ridley Scott, say, were to attempt a remake of Dial M for Murder, I’m not sure he’d know where to begin.

“In 10 years,” Kohno told me, “computers will be everywhere we look, and they’ll all have wireless. Will you be able to compromise someone’s insulin pump through their car? Will you be able to induce seizures by subverting their house lights? Will you be able to run these exploits by cell phone? What’s possible? It’s more like ‘What won’t be possible?’”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why Canada needs re-call legislation ..... Jerk!

So much for the 'new' Pat Martin
MP goes on another foul-mouthed Twitter rant
By Tom Brodbeck
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Just when our Kevin Engstrom thought he was done kicking Pat Martin around for a while the NDP MP said something else worthy of another hoof. (QMI Agency Files)

So much for the new-found civility NDP MP Pat Martin professed to adopt last year, saying publicly at the time that he planned to tone down his loud mouthed, obnoxious behaviour.

“I choose civility. That’s the new me,” he said in 2011.

Well, if civility includes calling members of opposing political parties rodent-faced prostitutes, then I guess Martin is on solid footing.

Martin got into hot water — again — Wednesday evening when he called members of the federal Conservative party “rat-faced whores” on Twitter and dropped the F-bomb to a fellow tweeter he disagreed with.

He also made foul-mouthed, disparaging remarks about Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

And he slammed the new Youth for Christ centre downtown, suggesting funding for the facility — a place designed to help disadvantaged youth — was a misuse of public dollars.

I followed Martin’s tweets live that evening and they got progressively worse. At one point he said the term “rat-faced whores” was showing restraint given the tone of the last parliamentary session.

Boy, Martin’s family must be so proud of him.

Martin shut down his Twitter account the next morning, saying he was sorry for his words. It’s still unclear, however, whether he did so on his own or whether he was instructed to by federal NDP party leader Thomas Mulcair.

Martin has repeatedly used profanity-laced language on Twitter, dropping F-bombs on several occasions.

His Twitter tirades usually come late in the evening.

So far, Martin has not apologized to Toews, the Conservative Party or the Youth For Christ Centre for his gutter-mouthed comments.

In the spring of 2011, Martin vowed that he would clean up his act after years of boorish behaviour. But it didn’t last long. The late-evening F-bombs on Twitter continued and he even got into legal trouble earlier this year when he repeatedly attacked the automated call service company RackNine. The company launched a lawsuit against Martin, who was forced to apologize.

Sources say Martin was very unhappy this week after he didn’t get invited to a joint federal-provincial announcement on subsidized housing Monday in his own riding of Winnipeg Centre.

It was particularly humiliating for Martin because one of the key funders of the project is the provincial NDP.

And they didn’t invite Martin to the news conference. His own brothers and sisters.

To make matters worse for the Winnipeg MP, his own son Liam Martin — the Chief of Staff in Premier Greg Selinger’s Cabinet — didn’t see to it that his dad got an invitation to the announcement either.

I don’t blame Liam. Who wants to invite a guy to a public event who runs around calling people rat-faced whores, even if he is your father?

Business is business.

Two days later, the senior Martin launched into his blistering Twitter attacks.

Martin finally stopped tweeting about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday. After about a half-hour, it appeared he was done. I tweeted at the time that maybe a caring family member of friend finally pried Martin’s fingers off the keyboard and convinced him to call it a night.

Whatever the case, it’s another chapter in the life of one of the most foul-mouthed, undignified MPs of our time.

I can guarantee you one thing, though, Twitter or no Twitter, we haven’t heard the last of Martin and his charming language.

When taxpayer public information becomes government information ..... "Could you put that in writing please?"

Good Day Readers:

After reading the article (below) from the Toronto Star had to smile at this recent offering courtesy of The Winnipeg Free Press, Red River students find info far from free:

It's nice to see journalism students are getting a healthy dose of the issues associated with accessing government information albeit federal, provincial or municipal.

Same can be said for attempting to access an elected official at any level. Try, for example, calling your Member of Parliament and see what happens. Chances are you'll get an apparatchik who you'll have to remind is not your elected representative. One sees examples of this all over the place from the veteran Winnipeg report who bemoaned not being able to pick up the telephone any longer to talk directly with a provincial minister to a recent Hill Times News reporter who was unable to speak with a Cabinet Minister without encountering the aforementioned apparatchiks.

Such is life in the digital age.

Clare L. Pieuk
Culture of secrecy keeping Canadians in the dark
By Kevin Donovan/Staff Reporter
Saturday, December 22, 2012
In 1990, six years on the job, I walked through the doors of York City Hall on Eglinton Avenue West, ducked behind the counter and after a short chat with a clerk got to work. Telephone records of city councillors, expense reports, city correspondence were mine for the viewing. I took notes, copied what I wanted to copy. Along with reporters from other Toronto dailies I was investigating allegations of municipal corruption.

After New Year’s 1991, still on the hunt, I returned to York, at the time one of six municipalities that made up Metropolitan Toronto. I was greeted by a not-so-friendly clerk and a form.

“Fill this out,” he said.

“Why?” I asked, heart sinking.

“You now have to apply under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to see government records,” the clerk said.

“Public records?” I asked.

“Government records,” the clerk sniffed, leaving me with a form and a pen. The pen didn’t work, as I recall.

Neither did, or does, the freedom-of-information system in this country.

The records unearthed before the new law led to front page stories in The Star and elsewhere that fuelled a major police investigation. Ultimately, three councillors and a developer were convicted of a widespread pattern of bribery, favours and influence peddling. I doubt justice would have been served if the law governing municipal and provincial access was passed one year earlier.

This is not a story about freedom-of-information laws, which exist at all levels of government in Canada and are just one way, often a last resort, of obtaining access. Rather, it is a story about the spirit — or lack of spirit — of public information in this country. You, me, we the taxpayers own the information. We pay for it to be collected, but more often than not we are denied access unless we engage in a fight that can easily last a year or more and cost thousands of dollars.

Have you ever read The Charm School, Nelson DeMille’s fabulous 1988 thriller about a Cold War school that used captured American soldiers to train Russians to act like Americans?

In my darkest investigative reporter moments I imagine ex-journalists or wannabe journalists are training government officials how to stop the public and reporters from getting information. The response is formulaic — federally, provincially and municipally.

It starts, quite simply, with a request that sounds pleasant and promising.

Government official: “Could you please put your request in writing. Oh, and if you don’t mind, could you please tell us your angle, and your deadline.”

Here are some of the agencies in Canada that have recently used this tactic on the Star: ORNGE; Health Canada; Toronto Police; the Defence Department; the mayor’s office; various court houses; the Ontario College of Teachers; the Toronto District School Board; the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons; the provincial coroner’s office; Ontario’s Health Ministry; the University Health Network and many, many more.

In each case, the agency begins with a delay — days, weeks, even months. With ORNGE, truthful answers did not come for three years.

Next, the fee estimate. Access laws allow an agency to charge for the release of public records. The fees are to pay for the preparation of the records, removal of personal information and photocopying. They have become a barrier to access, a weapon in the war on freedom of information.

Last summer I asked for data showing construction and maintenance work orders for public schools in Toronto. The Toronto District School Board, in its wisdom, responded by sending a letter asking us for $3.6 million to process the request, even though it was a relatively simple electronic request. Opening that letter ranks as one of my best moments of 2012. Imagine, you are trying to investigate serious problems at the publicly funded school board and this is the response you receive?

Freedom-of-information rules require that both parties mediate or negotiate terms during the life of a request.

The Star negotiated the TDSB’s fee estimate on the front page. The fee was dropped and we obtained the work orders at no charge, resulting in a powerful story that revealed problems at the school board were more serious and widespread than originally thought.

I am frequently amazed how often government officials delay and deny information that deals with health and safety. I once asked for reports detailing serious abuse of people with intellectual disabilities living in provincially funded group homes. Sources in the community said it was a real problem and they asked The Star to look into it. I was clear in my request: the reports, I told the ministry, would reveal the extent of abuse of the most vulnerable residents of Ontario.

Receiving a request like that, would you not think someone at Queen’s Park should sound the alarm? Investigate?

Instead, I received a fee estimate of close to $3,000 to compile the records and was told it would take six months. More months were added to that extension and when I ultimately received the records, in a big brown envelope handed to me by a visibly nervous freedom-of-information officer in return for The Star’s cheque, they were sad and shocking. Many Ontario people with intellectual or developmental disabilities had been beaten, sexually abused, or stolen from by the community workers paid to look after them.

Only when that story and others were published on the front page did the provincial government take action.

What followed internally at Queen’s Park were predictable questions: Who knew? When did they know?

 The answer was simple: government officials who prepared the information — blacking out many parts deemed personal (I later learned some sections were deemed too embarrassing to release) — they knew.

Up the chain of command, top officials knew, because they approved the release.

Why this happens time and again relates to a dark part of human nature. If your job is to look out for taxpayers’ money or vulnerable people, and there is information that would reveal you had failed, would you want it released? Of course not. To stop the release of sensitive or embarrassing information, governments have a growing arsenal: time delays, whopping fees and outright denials. When the denial weapon is used, the public’s only choice is to appeal the ruling. That process can take up to two years and while the requestor is successful more often than not (in The Star’s experience, at least) it raises this concept: information delayed is information denied.

The mid-level government officials who make many of these decisions sometimes do it to protect the Minister. Once, I had been told that the Provincial Health Ministry had built a hangar at the Toronto Island Airport for a certain type of airplane. The plane had a high, distinctive tail. My sources told me the plane would not fit in the hangar. I asked the government and was refused access to information on the hangar and the contract to build it. I was told that, yes, the airplane fits.

Frances Lankin, who was the Health Minister of the day, stood at Queen’s Park and said The Star story was wrong. But Lankin, as she later told me, decided to dig deeper and questioned her bureaucrats. “Finally, they told me the truth. Yes, the plane would fit, but the nose would have to be raised quite high for the plane to fit in.” Not something the government should be doing with an expensive air ambulance (this was the predecessor of ORNGE.)

Lankin wanted the truth, which she said was more important than dealing with an embarrassing revelation.

Even when we are successful in obtaining a certain class of information (as in the abuse case) we must start from scratch the next time a request is made. Years later we went through a similar frustrating process to get reports related to nursing homes. Precedents may be the backbone of our common law but they do not apply to information requests. A reporter may obtain a public document from a court in Toronto one day; the next day, a clerk will deny an identical request.

Given all of this, and the importance of the free flow of information in a democracy, there is only one solution.

All levels of government need to develop schedules of information that must be released in a timely fashion.

The United States has this system and it works, though not always, better than the Canadian system.

To get there would require a political will that no government has shown. Politicians agree with the concept in opposition. When they get to the other side of the house or council, it all changes. I recall sitting with colleague Moira Welsh at a lunch with Liberal Dalton McGuinty while he was in opposition. The issue was records relating to abused children and local children’s aid societies. Both talked a good game about the importance of information being made public. Unfortunately, McGuinty’s Liberals have done what previous governments did: kept information secret for as long as they possibly could.

To end where we started, the municipal corruption cases in Toronto caused the province in the early 1990s to create Project 80, a municipal corruption squad of police. After it had run for a year or so I asked the solicitor general’s ministry (in a phone call) how much the squad was costing the taxpayer.

“Could you put the request in writing?” I was asked by a ministry official. “What is your deadline?”

To obtain the information, it took two years, including the original freedom-of-information request, an appeal to the provincial information commissioner (which we won and the government appealed), and an appeal to two levels of Ontario court (which we won).

In his submissions, Toronto Star lawyer Paul Schabas argued that “the public has a right to know what government is doing.”

The government, in its response, told the court the police are “apoplectic” that this information will get out.

The information, when released, detailed $3.4 million of expenditures, including officers’ salaries, forensic accounting, photocopying (a lot of photocopying!), vehicle rentals and car washes.

When the court ruled in the Star’s favour, the judges on the panel noted that, when the Star originally made its reasonable request, the government’s response was to tell the Star to “buzz off.”

Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the more than 20 years that has passed.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The perfect gift!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

You're fired and don't come "back" ..... at least not for a while!

Firing woman for being 'irresistible 'OK': Court
QMI Agency
Friday, December 21, 2012
An Iowa court ruled Friday in favour of a dentist who fired his assistant because he was attracted to her.

The all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that James Knight, 53, was justified in sacking Melissa Nelson after 10 years, even though she'd been a good employee and had never flirted with her boss.

Knight, who found Nelson to be "irresistible," fired her in 2009 at the behest of his wife and pastor.

She filed a discrimination lawsuit, alleging she would never have been fired if she was man. A district court agreed, but the Iowa Supreme Court overturned that ruling Friday.

"Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing," the court ruling reads.

"On another occasion, Dr. Knight texted Nelson saying the shirt she had worn that day was too tight. After Nelson responded that she did not think he was being fair, Dr. Knight replied that it was a good thing Nelson did not wear tight pants too because then he would get it coming and going."

Another time, court documents say, Knight compared Nelson's infrequent sex life to "having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it."

He also once texted her to ask how often she has orgasms. She didn't respond.

When Knight's wife Jeanne discovered the two had been sending text messages, which court documents describe as "relatively innocuous," she "confronted her husband and demanded that he terminate Nelson's employment."

"Both of them consulted with the senior pastor of their church, who agreed with the decision," it reads.

When Nelson's husband Steve confronted Knight, the dentist said "that nothing was going on but that he feared he would try to have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her."

Based on previous court cases in which employees had been fired over perceived spousal jealousy, the court ruled the case did not amount to gender discrimination, citing that Knight exclusively employs women and replaced Nelson with another woman.

Instead, the court said the case was about "individual feelings and emotions regarding a specific person."

"The civil rights laws seek to insure that employees are treated the same regardless of their sex or other protected status. Yet even taking Nelson's view of the facts, Dr. Knight's unfair decision to terminate Nelson ... does not jeopardize that goal," the judges ruled.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rejection Letter of the Day: Srry, But Yuo Can't Spel Gud
By Staci Zaretsky,
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Date: Monday, October 15, 2012 at 5:59 PM
Subject: Husch Blackwell

We received your resume expressing an interest in joing our firm as an attorney. Than you for your interesest in Husch Blackwell LLP.

While you certainly have an impressive resume, our current hiring nees dictate that we are not in a position to offer you an interview at this time. We will, however, keep your resume on file in case our needs change in the future.

Thank you again for your interest in Husch Blackwell, and w wish you the best in your legal career.

"Old hacks never die they just become state judges ....."

Good Day Readers:

This article caught CyberSmokeBlog's attention for a couple reasons. Besides its humour it raises some issues regarding our system.

Earlier this year, the Blog Sixth Estate published a comprehensive list of contributions and appointments that have taken place the past few years under the Harper administration. On it were two current Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justices each of whom had donated $1,200 which is the maximum amount a citizen is allowed to contribute to a federal political party for which, of course, a tax receipt is issued.

It also raised the question of what political involvement are Judges/Justices allowed? Is that covered under existing legislation such as The Judges Act? Rumous have circulated for years a sitting Queen's Bench Justice used to be a "bag man" ..... oops, sorry, "fundraiser," for one of the federal parties.

Clare L. Pieuk
Judge her by the donations
By Howie Carr
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Hack Judge Hefferman

Old hacks never die, they just become state judges and make $130,000 for “working” 35 weeks a year.

Just ask Mary Beth Heffernan, the “embattled” Secretary of Public Safety who finally got the boot last week.

“She’d make a great Judge,” Governor Deval Patrick said. Of course she would — she’s given the Governor at least $875.

Everyone knew Heffernan was on track to early retirement, which is what a state judgeship is.

How did we know this? Because she stopped making donations to state politicians just more than a year ago.

The rule is, you have to stop paying off politicians once you put in your judicial application.

The other rule is, until you put in that application, you damn well better give till it hurts.

Future Judge Mary Beth Heffernan’s name appeared on the job application of hack poster gal Sheila Burgess. And she was the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the state police when they tried to cover up the mysterious predawn accident of Lieutenant. Governor Tim Murray in 2011. He was going 108 mph at the time, although he lied to reporters that he was doing the speed limit.

Speaking of Murray, according to public records at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Mary Beth has given Tiny Tim at least $525 through the years. He’ll be wielding the gavel in the Governor’s Council when her nomination comes up for a vote next year.

Mary Beth is from West Roxbury, as are two other Heffernans from West Roxbury, in their 70s, who have also given Tiny Tim nearly $2,000, even after Mary Beth had to stop sending him cash. Mary Beth has not answered repeated email inquiries as to ties to the other Heffernans.

Let’s run down a few of the other statesmen Mary Beth has done the right thing by over the years. In 2009, she gave $500 to the Democratic State Committee — that’s the way a lawyer shows how desperate she is for those robes.

Other favorite pols of future Judge Heffernan: ex-Speaker Sal DiMasi, now in prison; Senate President Therese Murray, mentioned three times in the Probation indictment; former state Representative Marie St. Fleur, the Haitian-born tax deadbeat; Jolly John Rogers, the very ethical solon from Norwood; Speaker Bob DeLeo, who very much doesn’t want to meet the U.S. attorney; and former state Senator Marian Walsh, to whom Deval tried to give a $175,000 hack job that had gone unfilled for a decade.

Isn’t one-party government great?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Crusher" replies!

Judith "Crusher" Collins
Good Day Readers:

After CyberSmokeBlog became aware recently (Toronto Star) of a more than $400,000 study ($450 hourly fee plus travel and living expenses) done by then newly retired former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie into a long-standing, highly controversial wrongful conviction compensation case CSB's appetite was whet.
A displeased "Crusher" ordered a peer review (Dr. Robert Fisher, QC) which essentially trashed the Report rendering it virtually useless at least to the New Zealand government.

But it didn't end there. Previously, Mr. Binnie had written the decision in Simpson versus Mair & WIC that subsequently turned out to be quite controversial as well. His use of the term "road kill" in referring to Ms Simpson gave rise to internet-based RoadKill Radio News and Drive For Justice by founder Kari Simpson.
Ms Simpson is now calling for a Parliamentary Inquiry to independently review Canada's judicial system, such as it is, while lobbying the Canadian Judicial Council to undertake an investigation into an alleged serious conflict of interest by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Mary Marvyn Koenigsberg who ruled in her case before it made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The following letter was posted the other day on RoadKill Radio News, as well as, it's precursor which occasioned "Crusher's" response.
Clare L. Pieuk
The Honourable Judith Collins, Justice Minister
The Vogel Centre
19 Aiken Street
Wellington, New Zealand
SX 10088

Via Post & Email

December 14, 2012

Re: Retired Justice Binnie

Dear Madame Minister:

I have recently been apprised of a legal conundrum involving Mr. Justice Ian Binnie. I understand that Justice Binnie was paid a reported $400k by the New Zealand government to investigate a matter related to a claim for compensation for an alleged wrongful conviction and incarceration of a man named David Cullen Bain.

You should be advised that retired Justice Binnie is also at the centre of a somewhat parallel legal scandal here in Canada, for reasons of similar to the concern you expressed your
news release about Mr. Justice Binnie’s recommendations. Specifically:

“My concerns are broadly that the report appeared to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law. It lacked a robustness of reasoning used to justify its conclusions.”

In a precedent-setting defamation case here in Canada (WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson, 2008 SCC 40), while on the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Justice Binnie wrote a decision that is fraught with unsupported findings of fact, lies treated as “facts”, manufactured evidence and engaged in contextual chicanery.

Justice Binnie didn’t stop there; he also exceeded his lawful jurisdiction, attempting to justify irrational reasoning by adopting a new “modified” test for defamation, previously unknown to the litigants, and based on a “Binnie enhanced” minority dissent in another, and dissimilar, case. In Canada, as I am sure is also true in New Zealand, litigants have the right to know the legal test they must meet. Therefore, by changing the test for defamation without informing the parties involved, Mr. Justice Binnie acted without legal authority—i.e., unlawfully.

The matter to which I refer is now the subject of a growing controversy, as Justice Binnie and other judges find themselves at the centre of a scandal that has put a spotlight on how the “justice” system in Canada monitors or polices our judges—or fails to. 
The current justice system in Canada is broken. Judicial independence—that is, the theory that judges can monitor themselves—has clearly failed. Political and civilian oversight is an essential remedy to the problems within the Canadian judicial arena.

I have also been informed about Justice Binnie’s public retort to your response to his report. I am certain that his reference to your “
political document” has no more merit as his findings. It is well-known here that the hierarchy of Canada’s judiciary clearly fears political (i.e., public) scrutiny, and attempts to thwart accountability by incorporating the word “political” when attempting to deflect well- warranted criticism. The “P-word”, in certain Canadian legal cabals, is used as a slur; but for civil citizens, it brings hope that elected officials—like you—will exercise the authority and mandate with which we have entrusted them.

For your information, I am including a letter I wrote to Canada’s Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, summarizing the facts of the case to which I refer—a case in which I am a party; and a Summary Brief follows my letter to the PM. The problems related therein will give you some insight into the corruption that exists within our Canadian courts, and the scandalous games that are being played there. Games in which Justice Ian Binnie likes to engage, as you now know full well.

If you are in need of more information please feel free to contact me.

Kari D. Simpson
Telephone: 604-514-1614
Host: RoadKill

Copied: Robert Fisher QC

Canadians, judicial and other legal associations and their members, law schools, public interest groups and associations, the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, elected representatives, members of the Senate and media.

Sue him "Ceiling Vic" sue him!

Martin lets lose on Twitter, targets Toews
By Mia Rabson
Thursday, December 20, 2012
New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

OTTAWA - Manitoba MP Pat Martin was the life of Twitter Wednesday night as the Winnipeg Centre MP erupted in a stream of rants and attacks on Manitoba senior minister Vic Toews.

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday night Martin began ranting about money given to Youth For Christ for its new youth building on Main Street and Higgins Avenue.

"All the money for inner city youth went to USA Youth for Christ. Big building, no benefit. Vic Toews Mr family values. What gives?"

Within the next half hour he added several more tweets on the subject including:

"All the money for inner city youth went to 'Youth For Christ', who are Vic Toews' donors and buddies, now the bldg is all but empty," and "it's a disgrace that Vic Toews gave ALL the money for inner city youth to his evangelical Youth For Christ. That got me going."

But Martin was not done.

Apparently egged on by some supporters then he really got going, this time taking the attacks to Toews' personal life.

When one twitter user asked Martin if he was "cruising for another lawsuit," Martin responded "F*** you my friend."

When some noted he was rather worked up Martin said: "I'm not 'worked up' so much as 'fed up' with the rat faced whores in the CPC who neglect to invite me to ancemnts in my riding."

Then he said "Look ... Given the parliamentary session we've just endured, the term 'rat faced whores' is using a great deal of restraint..."

Martin told the Free Press this morning he was angry because he found out last night he had not been invited to an announcement on refugee housing in his own riding on Tuesday.

"I got upset again," he said. "I just get so fed up with these guys."

Martin said the former Liberal government always invited opposition MPs to government announcements as a courtesy. The Conservatives he said never do.

Martin has been in trouble on Twitter before for telling someone to "F*** off." He is also facing a lawsuit from an Alberta robocall company who allege Martin slandered the company last winter.

Martin told the Free Press he was not officially commenting on the Youth For Christ situation because he had to do more research to find out if what he was being told is really true.

"It was private tweeting to my followers," he said.

Many people wondered what exactly was going on with Martin last night, with some backing him and others questioning the wisdom of his ways.

Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Bergen weighed in. "Oh my goodness ... What has gotten into @PatMartinMP tonight. He's rather worked up ... Maybe too much rum?"

Then she added: "some get stomach pains from bad eggnog others @PatMartinMP get mouth rot. Hopefully he feels better in the morning."

Bergen had her own, albeit less profanity laced, twitter argument recently. In a brief Twitter conversation with Karl Knox, a Montreal indie radio dj, on December 13, Knox accused Bergen of being "Canada's answer to Sarah Palin - just as dumb and as much of an ideologue."

Bergen responded on twitter about an hour later with a single word. "@knoxkp coward."

She did not take the bait the second time, when Knox replied: "Don't like the truth? Did you celebrate the killing of the registry on December 6? Drive your SUV to UQAM and try that crap."

Is the Canadian Judicial Council running a "goon scam" protection racket?

Media Release
December 20, 2012
For Immediate Release

Is the CJC Aiding and Abetting Judicial Corruption in Canada?

LANGLEY, British Columbia: December 20, 2012 — RoadKill Radio host and noted citizens’ rights advocate Kari Simpson has laid down the gauntlet before the Canadian Judicial Council, a publicly-financed body formed under The Judges Act, which is supposed to protect public confidence in Canada’s judiciary by monitoring the conduct of judges and investigating complaints about federally-appointed judges.

On August 24 of this year, Simpson wrote to the CJC in an attempt to clarify their previous, if any, involvement of matters related to complaints about Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg of the BC Supreme Court. Justice Koenigsberg was Simpson’s controversial trial judge in a case that forms part of a pending complaint by Simpson to the CJC. Simpson did not receive any response.

Simpson then wrote to Chief Justice McLachlin as CJC Chairperson on October 6, 2012, requesting answers to her simple query. No response was forthcoming.

On November 26, 2012 she sent another correspondence to the CJC asking Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel of the CJC, to answer the crucial questions related to the CJC’s possible bias. Simpson sought to determine whether or not the CJC had previous involvement in investigating or reviewing information about Justice Koenigsberg. Due to the serious nature of her pending complaint—as it not only captured Koenigsberg J but also members of the Supreme Court of Canada—Simpson also proposed a remedy to the bias problem if it existed: a joint request to the Justice Minister for a Parliamentary inquiry

The CJC finally replied to Simpson on November 26, 2012, but failed to answer the simple questions she had posed. Instead, Norman Sabourin, Executive Director for the CJC, made a bizarre finding that the letter of inquiry was an “abuse of the complaints process” and as such, stated that he was refusing to open a file.

The problem is that Simpson’s letter had specifically stated that the information contained therein was not to be considered as a complaint, and she did not request a file be opened.

“The response I received from Mr. Sabourin confirms reports that the CJC fears public scrutiny and the public criticisms are justified,” says Simpson. “They’re not accountable to anyone. The legal scheme by which they operate works more like a scam.”

Sabourin refers to Simpson’s claims that Koenigsberg J and Chief Justice McLachlin et. al. are liars and judicial cheats as “having no foundation,” despite being provided with the facts. Simpson, undeterred, responded today. She pointedly confronts the CJC with challenges that have serious legal implications for the Chief Justice and other named judges, if true.

Simpson ups-the-ante and directs Sabourin to personally advise the judges of her very “public” statements.

Simpson also informs Sabourin of her intent to file a Judicial Review of any determination that results in dismissal by the CJC of her impending complaint. Alternatively, in the circumstance of admitted or perceived bias of the CJC, she advises:

I would be agreeable to pursuing an alternative forum for an independent, objective investigation into my complaint that is agreed upon by all affected parties, such as my previously suggested Parliamentary inquiry.

The CJC has been the target of growing criticism for acting more like a judicial goon—a protectionist gatekeeper—than its touted claims of ensuring judicial accountability.

“Clearly I am not the first to raise the alarm about what is transpiring in the courts,” says Simpson. “The court is broken, injustice abounds and the public’s trust and confidence in our judiciary is compromised. This is not an acceptable situation for our civil democracy. The administration of justice needs to be fixed.”

For more information contact

Kari Simpson
Tel: (604) 514-1614

Full text of Simpson’s December 20, 2012 letter to Norman Sabourin
Full text of Sabourin’s November 26, 2012 letter to Simpson
Full text of Simpson’s October 6, 2012 letter to Chief Justice McLachlin
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