More Government & Corporate Tracking: A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue

A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue

 

Los Angeles Times
by Evan Halper
October 26, 2013

 

Ryan Morrison is chief executive of True Mileage, a Long Beach company testing devices that can track drivers' mileage. "People will be more willing to do this if you do not track their speed and you do not track their location," he says. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times / October 24, 2013)
Ryan Morrison is chief executive of True Mileage, a Long Beach company testing devices that can track drivers’ mileage. “People will be more willing to do this if you do not track their speed and you do not track their location,” he says. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times / October 24, 2013)

 

WASHINGTON —

As America’s road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.

The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America’s major roads.

The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.

The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues.

And while Congress can’t agree on whether to proceed, several states are not waiting. They are exploring how, over the next decade, they can move to a system in which drivers pay per mile of road they roll over. Thousands of motorists have already taken the black boxes, some of which have GPS monitoring, for a test drive.

“This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. “There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it.”

The push comes as the country’s Highway Trust Fund, financed with taxes Americans pay at the gas pump, is broke. Americans don’t buy as much gas as they used to. Cars get many more miles to the gallon. The federal tax itself, 18.4 cents per gallon, hasn’t gone up in 20 years. Politicians are loath to raise the tax even one penny when gas prices are high.

“The gas tax is just not sustainable,” said Lee Munnich, a transportation policy expert at the University of Minnesota. His state recently put tracking devices on 500 cars to test out a pay-by-mile system. “This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term,” he said.

Wonks call it a mileage-based user fee. It is no surprise that the idea appeals to urban liberals, as the taxes could be rigged to change driving patterns in ways that could help reduce congestion and greenhouse gases, for example. California planners are looking to the system as they devise strategies to meet the goals laid out in the state’s ambitious global warming laws. But Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has said he, too, sees it as the most viable long-term alternative. The free marketeers at the Reason Foundation are also fond of having drivers pay per mile.

“This is not just a tax going into a black hole,” said Adrian Moore, vice president of policy at Reason. “People are paying more directly into what they are getting.”

The movement is also bolstered by two former U.S. Transportation secretaries, who in a 2011 report urged Congress to move in the pay-per-mile direction.

The U.S. Senate approved a $90-million pilot project last year that would have involved about 10,000 cars. But the House leadership killed the proposal, acting on concerns of rural lawmakers representing constituents whose daily lives often involve logging lots of miles to get to work or into town.

Several states and cities are nonetheless moving ahead on their own. The most eager is Oregon, which is enlisting 5,000 drivers in the country’s biggest experiment. Those drivers will soon pay the mileage fees instead of gas taxes to the state. Nevada has already completed a pilot. New York City is looking into one. Illinois is trying it on a limited basis with trucks. And the I-95 Coalition, which includes 17 state transportation departments along the Eastern Seaboard (including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida), is studying how they could go about implementing the change.

The concept is not a universal hit.

In Nevada, where about 50 volunteers’ cars were equipped with the devices not long ago, drivers were uneasy about the government being able to monitor their every move.

“Concerns about Big Brother and those sorts of things were a major problem,” said Alauddin Khan, who directs strategic and performance management at the Nevada Department of Transportation. “It was not something people wanted.”

As the trial got underway, the ACLU of Nevada warned on its website: “It would be fairly easy to turn these devices into full-fledged tracking devices…. There is no need to build an enormous, unwieldy technological infrastructure that will inevitably be expanded to keep records of individuals’ everyday comings and goings.”

Nevada is among several states now scrambling to find affordable technology that would allow the state to keep track of how many miles a car is being driven, but not exactly where and at what time. If you can do that, Khan said, the public gets more comfortable.

The hunt for that technology has led some state agencies to a small California startup called True Mileage. The firm was not originally in the business of helping states tax drivers. It was seeking to break into an emerging market in auto insurance, in which drivers would pay based on their mileage. But the devices it is testing appeal to highway planners because they don’t use GPS and deliver a limited amount of information, uploaded periodically by modem.

“People will be more willing to do this if you do not track their speed and you do not track their location,” said Ryan Morrison, chief executive of True Mileage. “There have been some big mistakes in some of these state pilot programs. There are a lot less expensive and less intrusive ways to do this.”

In Oregon, planners are experimenting with giving drivers different choices. They can choose a device with or without GPS. Or they can choose not to have a device at all, opting instead to pay a flat fee based on the average number of miles driven by all state residents.

Other places are hoping to sell the concept to a wary public by having the devices do more, not less. In New York City, transportation officials are seeking to develop a taxing device that would also be equipped to pay parking meter fees, provide “pay-as-you-drive” insurance, and create a pool of real-time speed data from other drivers that motorists could use to avoid traffic.

“Motorists would be attracted to participate … because of the value of the benefits it offers to them,” says a city planning document.

Some transportation planners, though, wonder if all the talk about paying by the mile is just a giant distraction. At the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area, officials say Congress could very simply deal with the bankrupt Highway Trust Fund by raising gas taxes. An extra one-time or annual levy could be imposed on drivers of hybrids and others whose vehicles don’t use much gas, so they pay their fair share.

“There is no need for radical surgery when all you need to do is take an aspirin,” said Randy Rentschler, the commission’s director of legislation and public affairs. “If we do this, hundreds of millions of drivers will be concerned about their privacy and a host of other things.”

 

Direct Link:  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-roads-black-boxes-20131027,0,6090226.story

Obama administration tight-lipped on NSA surveillance of allies

Obama administration tight-lipped on NSA surveillance of allies

 

CBS News
by Rebecca Kaplan
October 28, 2013

 

The U.S. Embassy, right, sits near Germany's legislative buildings in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the leaders of U.S.-allied nations who have complained in recent days over reports of U.S. spying. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images / October 28, 2013)
The U.S. Embassy, right, sits near Germany’s legislative buildings in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the leaders of U.S.-allied nations who have complained in recent days over reports of U.S. spying. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images / October 28, 2013)

 

The White House is under fire to explain exactly how much President Obama knows about U.S. surveillance programs in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article that suggested the National Security Agency (NSA) had been monitoring the phones of 35 world leaders until an internal Obama administration review discovered and ended the program.

The White House has avoided confirming or denying whether the report is true, instead choosing to reiterate that they are not currently and will not monitor the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who raised the issue in a phone call with Mr. Obama last week.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of how the president is briefed on different intelligence operations,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes in an interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, regarding whether Mr. Obama knew about the monitoring. “What I will say is that he sets priorities as a commander in chief…he is briefed on a regular basis and the fact of the matter is what he’s focused on in the intelligence are threats. What is the state of counterterrorism around the world?”

 

 

 

Rhodes echoed White House spokesman Jay Carney’s briefing earlier Monday, stressing that the administration is in the process of reviewing its intelligence collection. One of the reason Rhodes declined to discuss whether Merkel’s phone was monitored was because the administration wants to deal with the larger question of how information is gathered and what constraints are placed on the collection, “not on an ad hoc basis,” he said.

“If we got into the business of briefing out every aspect of our intelligence operations we couldn’t operate with the necessary secrecy that intelligence gathering depends upon,” Rhodes said. “At the same time we can be more transparent about how we gather information.”

CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate said the president should know about surveillance programs at that level, and that it would be the responsibility of the Director of National Intelligence – currently James Clapper – to ensure that Mr. Obama knows the scope of what the intelligence community is doing.

Zarate also noted that Mr. Obama pledged to review Bush-era intelligence operations when he entered office, “so in some ways if the president didn’t know, shame on him, and shame on him and his leadership for not asking the question, but also it may not be believable [that he didn’t know] given the intensity and scope of this type of surveillance.”

“At the end of the day the administration is responsible for the programs and authorizes these programs so the president has to answer for them,” Zarate said.

The NSA, led by Keith Alexander, told CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former deputy director of national intelligence, that the president was never briefed in 2010 on any surveillance of Merkel.

 

NSA spying on foreign leaders: What did the President know about, and when?

“The way this works is the president gets the president’s daily briefing,” Miller said. “What you get in there is a lot of really good information that is meant to give American policy makers, starting with the president, what they call ‘decision advantage’ – which way are other people leaning, what are they thinking, what turmoil is going on inside their government, we call that the intelligence business.”

But the revelations about the surveillance is already straining U.S. relationships. “If you get the feeling that your closest allies spying on you, then that’s difficult to talk to such an ally in an open way anymore. And I think we have to make a clear distinction between fight together terrorism and not spying on friends,” said Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament who had a closed-door session with House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Monday morning. Brok added that if the German people – some of whom lived under the East German police state during the Cold War — feel like the U.S. was spying on all of them, “people do not love America anymore…that is a very damaging thing.”

“We’re not spying on everybody in Europe,” Rhodes said. “That’s a dramatic overstating of the situation.”

Brok said Germany will seek a “no-spying” pledge like the so-called “Five Eyes” agreement in which the U.S. and four other countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – share intelligence but do not spy on one another. Rhodes said broadly that the U.S. is open to discussion with its European allies about how to better coordinate intelligence gathering. He also noted that there are already longstanding intelligence relationships that exist, and that U.S. intelligence has helped to foil terrorist plots in a number of European countries.

The frustration is reaching members of Congress as well. On Monday afternoon, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for a total review of all intelligence programs and said that the Senate had been inadequately informed of surveillance activities.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies–including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany–let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.”

 

Direct Link:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57609690/obama-administration-tight-lipped-on-nsa-surveillance-of-allies/

UK cyber defence unit ‘may include convicted hackers’

UK cyber defence unit ‘may include convicted hackers’


BBC News

October 22, 2013

 

 

Watch Susan Watts' full Newsnight film, in which former Lulzsec hacker Mustafa al-Bassam and Dr David Day, who helped convict him, meet for the first time
Watch Susan Watts’ full Newsnight film, in which former Lulzsec hacker Mustafa al-Bassam and Dr David Day, who helped convict him, meet for the first time

 

Convicted computer hackers could be recruited to the UK’s cyber defence force if they pass security vetting, the head of the new unit has said.

Lt Col Michael White told BBC Newsnight he would “look at individuals in the round” when assessing applicants.

Recruitment would be focused on “capability development” rather than “personality traits”, he added.

The Joint Cyber Reserve Unit was announced by the government in September.

Under the £500m initiative, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is set to recruit hundreds of reservists as computer experts to work alongside regular armed forces.

The unit will defend national security by safeguarding computer networks and vital data, and it will also launch strikes in cyberspace if necessary.

It is hoped the move will address the shortage of people with the technological skills and knowledge to protect corporations, the military, and government systems from cyber attacks.

 

‘Civil liberties’

The MoD said the recruitment, which started in early October, would target regular personnel leaving the armed forces, current and former reservists with the required skills, and civilians with the appropriate technological knowledge.

When asked by Newsnight whether someone with the right skills would be ruled out if they had a criminal record for hacking, Lt Col White said: “I think if they could get through the security process, then if they had that capability that we would like, then if the vetting authority was happy with that, why not?

“We’re looking at capability development, rather than setting hard and fast rules about individual personality traits.”

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond unveiled plans for the cyber defence unit last month.

 

 

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond: "The armed forces, overall, do not have an absolute bar on people with criminal convictions"
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond: “The armed forces, overall, do not have an absolute bar on people with criminal convictions”

 


Defence Secretary Philip Hammond: “The armed forces, overall, do not have an absolute bar on people with criminal convictions”

Mr Hammond also told Newsnight he could foresee circumstances in which convicted hackers could be employed.

“Each individual case would be looked at on its merits,” he said.

“The conviction would be examined in terms of how long ago it was, how serious it was, what sort of sentence had followed. So I can’t rule it out.”

But one former hacker told Newsnight the government had already undermined its chances of attracting talented individuals.

Mustafa al-Bassam, now a computer science student at King’s College London, was the youngest hacker in the Lulzsec group – which recently targeted organisations such as the FBI in the US and Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in a 50-day hacking campaign.

He told the BBC that revelations by former US contractor Edward Snowden about the extent of mass surveillance carried out by intelligence agencies – including the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ – had dissuaded him from using his cyber skills to protect UK national security.

“I can understand the need for a government to protect itself, but when you go ahead and stomp on everyone’s civil liberties – as we’ve seen with all the mass surveillance stories that have been out over the past year – I think you can rest assured that you’re going to repel talented people,” he said.

 

‘Industrial scale’ attacks

Dr David Day, a Sheffield Hallam University computer forensics expert who provided evidence for Mr Al-Bassam’s conviction, told Newsnight it was a “terrible shame” someone convicted of malicious hacking would find it difficult to get a job in the industry.

“If they have those abilities and those skills, then some of the best talent we can’t use,” he said.

Cyber attacks and crime have become more common in recent years.

In July, it emerged Britain was seeing about 70 sophisticated cyber espionage operations a month against government or industry networks,

GCHQ director Sir Iain Lobban told the BBC business secrets were being stolen on an “industrial scale”.

And in a written statement in December last year, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said 93% of large corporations and 76% of small businesses had reported a cyber breach in 2012.
Direct Link:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24613376

 

Florida deputy arrested after fight with another cop over alleged affair

Florida deputy arrested after fight with another cop over alleged affair

 

Edeania Nettles punched Jennifer Hoyos while she was in her car and in uniform after catching the woman with her husband, Elbert John Nettles. Edeania thought the two were having an affair, leading to a fight in which her husband had to separate them. She currently faces battery charges and could lose her job.

 

New York Daily News
by Trudi Bird
October 7, 2013

 

Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy Edeania Nettles was arrested on battery charges against a law enforcement officer after she punched a St. Cloud, Fla., cop.  (pic: Osceola Jail)
Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy Edeania Nettles was arrested on battery charges against a law enforcement officer after she punched a St. Cloud, Fla., cop. (pic: Osceola Jail)

 

A Florida sheriff’s deputy was arrested after getting into a fight with a police officer she believed was having an affair with her husband.

Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy Edeania Nettles, 39, dragged her rival from a car when she found the woman with her husband, Elbert John Nettles, on Oct. 2, authorities said.

Twenty-six-year-old Jennifer Hoyos had a large clump of hair ripped from her head and suffered bruises, as well as received a bleeding lip when she was pulled through the open window of a police cruiser, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Nettles and Hoyos then fought on the ground before Elbert John Nettles broke up them up and separated the pair, police said.

The fight happened at around midnight in a park in St. Cloud near Orlando. Hoyos, who is an officer with St. Cloud’s police department, was on duty and in uniform, according to authorities.

 

Nettles punched Jennifer Hoyos, a cop who was in uniform and with Nettles’ husband at the time.  (pic: WFTV)
Nettles punched Jennifer Hoyos, a cop who was in uniform and with Nettles’ husband at the time. (pic: WFTV)

 

Investigators said Nettles had followed her husband to the park where he had met up with Hoyos.

It is believed the pair was chatting when Edeania approached Hoyos’ vehicle and punched her on the left-hand side of her face after reaching in through the window.

It was not revealed why Elbert — also a police officer in St. Cloud’s police department but is not Hoyos’ supervisor — was with Hoyos.

Edeania was arrested and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.

She was immediately removed from duty while the incident is being investigated by the sheriff’s office.

She risks losing her job pending the outcome of the investigation, according to sheriff’s spokesman Twis Lizasuain.

 

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Direct Link:  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/deputy-arrested-fight-alleged-affair-article-1.1478342

 

Rio Hondo police officer arrested in tool theft

Rio Hondo police officer arrested in tool theft

 

Valley Morning Star News
by EMMA PEREZ-TREVIÑO
October 4, 2013

 

 

Officer Ernesto Yañez,  was identified as a suspect in the Sept. 27 burglary of tools from a construction
Officer Ernesto Yañez, was identified as a suspect in the Sept. 27 burglary of tools from a construction

 

RIO HONDO  (TX) —

A police officer was arrested for stealing tools after a botched burglary in which he dropped a police pager at the crime scene, the sheriff said Friday.

Officer Ernesto Yañez, 26, was identified as a suspect in the Sept. 27 burglary of tools from a construction site at a residence near Rio Hondo, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said Friday.

Yañez resigned from the police department on Oct. 1, and was taken into custody Friday in Houston, Lucio said. Yañez was expected to be returned to Cameron County.

A second suspect, 22-year-old Manuel Manzanares, also was charged in connection with the burglary, authorities said.

Both men are believed to reside in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Anytime that a law enforcement officer is involved in criminal activity, it is a black eye to law enforcement,” Lucio said. “Like everything else, you have bad attorneys, bad doctors, bad teachers; people we feel are pillars of the community, bankers and what have you.

“We wish that were not the case because it is a very honorable profession. There are a lot of outstanding officers in the cities and counties and throughout the state and the United States, but you will always find some bad apples,” the sheriff added.

Lucio said that Yañez had tried to give himself a cover story after he realized he had lost his pager.

 The sheriff said Yañez called the homeowner at about 2 a.m. on Sept. 28. When the homeowner did not answer the telephone, Yañez left a message that he had been patrolling the area, had seen the gate to the property open and had walked inside to check, Lucio said.

“Apparently he was trying to cover his tracks,” Lucio said.

Subsequently, the Sheriff’s Department was called to the Rio Hondo Police Department, Lucio said, because Yañez had said that he had arrested Manzanares, a suspect who allegedly committed the burglary.

Manzanares was arrested, with bond set at $5,000.

Manzanares later accused Yañez, saying that he had been riding with Yañez in the police car, and that both had been involved in the burglary.

Yañez, after he resigned, went to Houston. An arrest warrant was issued for him.

The tools belonged to Gene Diaz, a retired U.S. Marshal, who was doing the construction work for the Glatz family. Diaz noticed the gate to the property open when he arrived for work, and realized that some of the tools had been taken, the sheriff said.

Diaz found the pager.

Lucio said the tools that had been taken from the property in the police unit had been recovered.

Rio Hondo Police Chief Weldon Matlock declined comment except to say Yañez had not been a full-time police officer and had resigned.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, the peace-officer licensing agency, said Friday that Yañez had been a police officer in Port Isabel from 2009 through the spring of 2012.

Police Chief Wally Gonzalez was not available to comment on why Yañez left the police force last year.

Yañez then held a dual commission as a reserve deputy Cameron County constable in 2012, which overlapped for a few months with service as a reserve officer in Rio Hondo.

Public records show that Manzanares was charged in Cameron County with evading arrest and possession of marijuana in October 2009. The marijuana charge was dismissed and he was given deferred adjudication on the evading arrest charge after pleading guilty in February 2010. His 16-month sentence was probated, but his probation was revoked and he was to serve 90 days in jail in 2011, the public record shows.

 

Direct Link:  http://www.valleymorningstar.com/news/local_news/article_a6faf87e-2d7a-11e3-b59b-001a4bcf6878.html