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Posts Tagged ‘SAN FRANCISCO FEDERAL BUILDING’

THE REALITY OF REAL ID

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2018 at 12:11 am

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States got more complicated. But not necessarily safer.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security. And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope? The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

But, as one New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license. A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”  

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer. 

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

What passengers didn’t know was that the Guardsmen carried unloaded assault rifles.

Consider this advice posted on the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles website:

“A valid California driver license or ID card can be used for federal purposes, including boarding a domestic flight and entering military bases or secure federal facilities, until October 1, 2020. After that date, only a REAL ID card or other federally approved documents will be accepted, such as a valid U.S. passport, passport card or military ID.”  

To apply for a REAL ID card:

  • Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a DMV field office.
  • Provide proof of identity, such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.
  • Present proof of your Social Security number, such as an SSN card, W-2 or paystub with full SSN.
  • Show a California residency document, such as a rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill or employment, medical or school document.
  • An original or certified copy of a name change document, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may be required.

How does showing a “utility bill” document prove your integrity? 

No doubt Mohammed Atta—the ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks—faithfully paid his utility bills—right up to the day when he highjacked American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

And what does a “school document” reveal about the character of the person? 

That s/he attended school? So what? 

Theodore Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington—before embarking on his career as a burglar, kidnapper, rapist and serial killer.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this security theater ritual assume: “The guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522. 

Not exactly a salary geared to attract “the best and the brightest,” is it?

Or suppose you want to report a crime to a field office of the FBI. 

A secretary asks why you’ve come.

If she considers your reason legitimate, she requires you to show your driver’s license or State ID card. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then you must fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your: 

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Reason to speak with an FBI agent

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But demanding so much private information just to report a crime will almost certainly decrease the number of people willing to do so.

SECURITY THEATER IS NOT SECURITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on August 19, 2016 at 12:08 am

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States got more complicated.  But not necessarily safer.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security. And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope? The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own. As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license. A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Got all that?

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer.  

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this ritual assume: “The security guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522.  

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at the San Francisco Federal Building, at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

Now, suppose you want to report a crime to the San Francisco field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

You take an elevator to the 13th floor and walk into a large room filled with several comfortable chairs that sit close to the floor. You approach a window such as you find in a bank–made of thick, presumably bulletproof glass.

A secretary on the opposite side greets you, and asks why you’ve come.

You offer your reason for wanting to speak with an agent. Assuming the secretary thinks you have a legitimate reason, she says you must first show her your driver’s license or State ID card.

You slide these through the bottom part of the glass window. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, you have to fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security Number;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

Of course, you can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you meet with an FBI agent.

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But this demand for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

STRIPPING DOWN FOR THE FBI

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement on September 27, 2013 at 12:00 am

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But recently the FBI has adopted a practice that is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine named Jim visited the San Francisco field office of the FBI.  He wanted to report a violation of Federal computer fraud and harassment laws.

This meant visiting the San Francisco Federal Building (technically named the Phillip Burton Federal Building, in honor of the late San Francisco Congressman).

At 450 Golden Gate Avenue, located close to the Civic Center and City Hall, it serves as a courthouse of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

It also lhouses offices for such Federal law enforcement agencies as the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshal’s Service.

To enter, you must first show a driver’s license or State ID card.  Then you must remove

  • Your belt
  • Your shoes
  • Your watch
  • Your wallet
  • All other objects from your pants pockets
  • Any jacket you’re wearing
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Then, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re set for your next big screen test.

This comes when you enter the 13th floor office of the FBI.

According to Jim: You walk into a large room filled with several comfortable chairs that sit close to the floor.  Ahead is a window such as you find in a bank–made of thick, presumably bulletproof glass.

A secretary on the opposite side greets you, and asks why you’ve come.

You say that you want to speak with an agent about what you believe is a violation of Federal law.

If you’ve done your homework, you should know at least the general legal area this violation falls under.  And you’re even better-off if you know what division of the FBI is assigned to handle it.

For example: Jim knew the acts he wanted to report were a violation of Federal anti-computer hacking and harassment laws.  He also knew that these violations are handled by the FBI’s Cybercrime Division.

So he asked to speak with an agent from that division.

The secretary said she would see what she could do.  But before he could speak with an agent, he would have to show her his driver’s license or State ID card.

The secretary made a xerox of this, and then handed the card back.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he had to fill out a single-page form, where he was required to provide his:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • The reason he wanted to speak to an agent

Of course, he could refuse to fill out the form.  But then the secretary would refuse to let him meet with an FBI agent to gain help in resolving his problem.

In Jim’s case, his request to speak with an agent specializing in Cybercrime was denied.   He would up speaking instead with the “duty agent”–whichever luckless person has been assigned to deal with the public that day.

Unofficially, the “duty agent” is the one who takes the “nut calls” from, among others, the mentally disabled who claim they’re picking up KGB transmissions in the fillings of their teeth.

In Jim’s case, the “duty agent” he drew specialized in Gang Violence.  While this is definitely a worthy subject for investigation, it had nothing to do with the matter Jim wanted to talk about.

The agent candidly said he knew nothing about cybercrime.  Which meant he couldn’t give Jim even the barest information about what he might expect to happen after submitting his report.

Fortunately, Jim had thought ahead enough to write up a detailed, three-page report of the cyber attacks he had recently experienced.  He now gave this to the agent.

The agent promised to forward it to the Cybercrime Division.

Jim asked when he might hear from someone there.  The agent said this was highly unlikely.

Jim was surprised.  The agent was in turn surprised that Jim would expect anyone to get back to him.

“I would think,” said Jim, “they would want to ask me a few questions.  And give me some idea as to what was going on in my case.”

The agent said that if the FBI wanted more information, they would contact him.  And, no, they wouldn’t give him any hints about what–if anything–was happening in his case.

That was assuming they chose to investigate it.

No one at the FBI ever contacted Jim.

So if you want to report a crime to the FBI, be prepared to give up a lot of your own privacy beforehand.

And don’t expect to receive even the courtesy of a call-back in exchange for all of it.

STRIPPING DOWN FOR THE FBI – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 8, 2013 at 12:07 am

So you want to report a crime to the FBI?  Then be ready to give up your most private information before you get to speak with an agent.

If you feel you’re an upstanding citizen with nothing to hide, then fine.

But many people who don’t have anything to hide will hesitate to surrender such personal information to a powerful law enforcement agency–simply to talk with one of its agents.

This is even more true in this age of right-wing crusades against the Federal Government–and especially its law enforcement agencies.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is definitely not the way to go about getting it.

It’s analogous to the famous joke about an English-speaking reporter covering a civil war in a foreign country who enters the scene of a massacre and asks: “Is there anyone here who speaks English and has been raped?”

Good detectives know that if you want to establish a bond between yourself and a potential source, you must prove, over time, that you can be trusted.

People who get most of what they “know” about police work from TV crime shows know almost nothing about its realities.

Cases aren’t wrapped up in 45 minutes.  Oftentimes, cops make deals with hardened criminals to solve a case: “You have to use a smaller bum to get a bigger bum,” as a deputy U.S. marshal once said about protecting Mafia informants through the Witness Security Program.

And merely slapping handcuffs on an accused criminal and saying “Book ’em, Danno” isn’t the same as ensuring his conviction and imprisonment.

As cops know better than anyone, today’s arrest is often followed by tomorrow’s release on bond.  And, still later, by a watered-down sentence under a plea bargain agreement–if not an acquittal by a judge or jury.

Shows like “Hawaii Five-O” and “Law and Order” have proven great hits with the public.  But they don’t reveal the highly mixed feelings that most people actually have about the men and women who enforce the nation’s laws at local, state and Federal levels.

On one hand, many children are taught to believe in Officer Friendly as their protector in times of peril.  They grow into adults who want to believe the best about those sworn to “protect and serve.”

But if someone breaks into your home and steals your TV set, chances are, that’s the last you’ll ever see of it.

The cops aren’t going to put out an APB (All Points Bulletin) for a missing TV set, even if you’ve inscribed your own driver’s licence number on it with an engraving pen for quick identification.

And while “the law is the law is the law,” the quality of the police response depends heavily on the status of the person who gets victimized.

Thtreaten to kill the President of the United States and you’ll instantly get a visit from the Secret Service.  You may be arrested, indicted, convicted and sent to prison.

Or you may simply be added to a “watch list” of those considered possibly dangerous to the President.  If he visits your city, you may be put under temporary house arrest until he’s passed through.

The same holds true–but to a lesser extent–for those who threaten the governor or mayor.  If the threat is deemed serious, you can be certain that official will have a full SWAT team assigned to his protection.

But suppose you’re just Mr. Average Citizen.  If your neighbor thinks you’re trying to horn in on his wife or girlfriend and threatens to blow your head off, the police will take an entirely different tack.

“If he does anything,” will be the standard police reply, “give us a call.”

Odds are that by the time the police arrive, there will be a warm body for them to draw a chalk circle around.

In San Francisco, calls to the regular police number–(415) 553-0123–will usually get you a recorded message (in English, Spanish and Chinese) letting you know what agency you’ve reached.

You’ll then be told that if this is an emergency, hang up and call 9-1-1.  So if it is an emergency, you’ve already lost valuable time calling a number that nobody is answering.

But even calling 9-1-1 isn’t a guaranteed way to get help.  At times you’ll get a recorded message saying that “all calls are answered as quickly as possible.”

That’s small consolation for the caller whose house is burning down or who’s threatened by someone pounding at the door.

Even reaching the police department offers no certainty of assistance.  In cash-strapped San Jose, short-handed police are no longer responding to home burglaries.

Meanwhile, police departments loudly complain they get no support from the public they’ve sworn to “protect and serve.”

Law enforcement agencies–at all levels–need to vastly improve their relations with those whose support they need–and who need their protection.  Until this happens, both the police and public will be the poorer for it.

STRIPPING DOWN FOR THE FBI – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 7, 2013 at 12:15 am

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But recently the FBI has adopted a practice that is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

A friend of mine named Jim recently visited the San Francisco field office of the FBI to report a violation of Federal computer fraud and harassment laws.

This meant visiting the San Francisco Federal Building (named the Phillip Burton Federal Building, in honor of the late San Francisco Congressman).

At 450 Golden Gate Avenue, located close to the Civic Center and City Hall, it serves as a courthouse of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

It also houses offices for such Federal law enforcement agencies as the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshal’s Service.

To enter, you must first show a driver’s license or State ID card.  Then you must remove

  • Your belt
  • Your shoes
  • Your watch
  • Your wallet
  • All other objects from your pants pockets
  • Any jacket you’re wearing
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Then, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re set for your next big screen test.

This comes when you enter the 13th floor office of the FBI.

According to Jim: You walk into a large room filled with several comfortable chairs that sit close to the floor.  Ahead is a window such as you find in a bank–made of thick, presumably bulletproof glass.

A secretary on the opposite side greets you, and asks why you’ve come.

You say that you want to speak with an agent about what you believe is a violation of Federal law.

If you’ve done your homework, you should know at least the general legal area this violation falls under.  And you’re even better-off if you know what division of the FBI is assigned to handle it.

For example: Jim knew the acts he wanted to report were a violation of Federal anti-computer hacking and harassment laws.  He also knew that these violations are handled by the FBI’s Cybercrime Division.

So he asked to speak with an agent from that division.

The secretary said she would see what she could do.  But before he could speak with an agent, he would have to show her his driver’s license or State ID card.

The secretary makes a xerox of this, and then hands the card back.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, you must fill out a single-page form.  In this, you’re required to provide your:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent

Of course, you can refuse to fill out the form.  But then they will refuse to let you meet with an FBI agent to gain help in resolving your problem.

In Jim’s case, his request to speak with an agent specializing in Cybercrime was denied.   He would up speaking instead with the “duty agent”–whichever luckless person has been assigned to deal with the public that day.

Unofficially, the “duty agent” is the one who takes the “nut calls” from, among others, the mentally disabled who claim they’re picking up KGB transmissions in the fillings of their teeth.

In Jim’s case, the “duty agent” he drew specialized in Gang Violence.  While this is definitely a worthy subject for investigation, it had nothing to do with the matter Jim wanted to talk about.

The agent candidly said he knew nothing about cybercrime.  Which meant he couldn’t give Jim even the barest information about what he might expect to happen after submitting his report.

Fortunately, Jim had thought ahead enough to write up a detailed, three-page report of the cyber attacks he had recently experienced.  He now gave this to the agent.

The agent promised to forward it to the Cybercrime Division.

Jim asked when he might hear from someone there.  The agent said this was highly unlikely.

Jim was surprised.  The agent was in turn surprised that Jim would expect anyone to get back to him.

“I would think,” said Jim, “they would want to ask me a few questions.  And give me some idea as to what was going on in my case.”

The agent said that if the FBI wanted more information, they would contact him.  And, no, they wouldn’t give him any hints about what–if anything–was happening in his case.  (Assuming they chose to investigate it.)

As matters turned out, the FBI never contacted Jim.  And, to his knowledge, no action  was taken on his complaint.

All of which means that if you’re a citizen who wants to report a crime to the FBI, you had better be willing to give up a lot of your own privacy beforehand.

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