Self Guided Bullets

Are you looking for an expensive, although wickedly cool, means of correcting your poor aim? Worry not for Sandia National Laboratories has you covered:

Sandia National Laboratories have invented a small caliber self guided bullet. The bullet contains an optical sensor, CPU, battery and electromagnetic actuated fins. It is able to track laser designated targets out to 2,000 meters.

Sometimes I feel as though I live in a science fiction universe. Sure we don’t have spaceships, flying cars, or man portable laser cannons but we do have extremely powerful computers that are so small the fit in your pocket, an effective worldwide communication network, and now we have self guided bullets.

When I stop to think about what this bullet entails I’m amazed at the human capacity for engineering awesome stuff. We’ve actually shrunk central processing units, batteries, and optical sensors down to the point that they can all be fitted into a single bullet. How cool is that?

As this technology is new it’s not ready for prime time but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that technology only improves over time so I’m sure we’ll have extremely cheap self guided bullets in our future.

I Thought Pakistan Was Our Ally

If this is how we treat our allies I don’t even want to know how we treat our enemies:

US President Barack Obama has confirmed that unmanned drones regularly strike suspected militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Mr Obama called the strikes a “targeted focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists”.

For the record were a country to fly unmanned drones into our airspace for the purpose of targeting and killing suspected terrorists we would call it a declaration of war. Somehow when we do the same thing it’s perfectly fine though.

Big Brother is Watching You Tweet

OK the title is misleading because Big Brother is watching more than just your Twitter feed but Twitter is one of the sites being monitored by General Dynamics under a contract granted by the Department of Homeland Motherland Security (DHS).

EPIC’s FOIA lawsuit forced the DHS to disclose 285 pages of records. The documents include contracts, price estimates, Privacy Impact Assessment, and communications concerning DHS Media Monitoring program. These records make public, for the first time, details of the DHS’s efforts to spy on social network users and journalists.

The records reveal that the DHS is paying General Dynamics to monitor the news. The agency instructed the company to monitor for “[media] reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government, DHS, or prevent, protect, respond government activities.”

The documents can be viewed at the provided link. What makes this interesting is the fact that this monitoring was apparently used to arrest a person traveling to the United States:

Two British tourists were barred from entering America after joking on Twitter that they were going to ‘destroy America’ and ‘dig up Marilyn Monroe’.

Leigh Van Bryan, 26, was handcuffed and kept under armed guard in a cell with Mexican drug dealers for 12 hours after landing in Los Angeles with pal Emily Bunting.

The Department of Homeland Security flagged him as a potential threat when he posted an excited tweet to his pals about his forthcoming trip to Hollywood which read: ‘Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America’.

Bruce Schneier, who I obtained this story from is doubtful that General Dynamic’s monitoring of Twitter is what actually lead to the arrest of the two British tourists:

Still, I have trouble believing that this is what happened. For this to work General Dynamics would have had to monitor Twitter for key words. (“Destroy America” is certainly a good key word to search for.) Then, they would have to find out the real name associated with the Twitter account — unlike Facebook or Google+, Twitter doesn’t have real name information — so the TSA could cross-index that name with the airline’s passenger manifests. Then the TSA has to get all this information into the INS computers, so that the border control agent knows to detain him. Sure, it sounds straightforward, but getting all those computers to talk to each other that fast isn’t easy. There has to be more going on here.

Twitter does have a mechanism for entering your real name as I have my real name entered in it. When you go to my Twitter feed you can see my user name is ComradeBurg but the name displayed is Christopher Burg and that I’m in Minnesota. Therefore it is conceivable that the monitoring being done by General Dynamics grabbed the offending tweeter’s real user name and location, fed to to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to be cross referenced with flight manifests, and a target could be found and arrested.

Of course this all depends on the Twitter user entering the real name and real location, but that is a problem that must be overcome when monitoring any website. I do agree with Schenier’s remark though because as he said getting all of those computers (not to mention those bureaucracies) to talk to each other so quickly is unlikely. Claiming that the target was arrested solely from obtaining their Twitter information seems like propaganda being thrown out to scare the public into obedience. In fact that’s exactly what the concept of Big Brother was supposed to do in 1984’s society, scare the populace into obedience. Truthfully nobody was sure whether or not Big Brother was actually watching them, but the fear of being watched kept the people from getting too many thoughts of revolution in their heads.

Knowledge Made Illegal

You can now get prison time in the United Kingdom for obtaining verboten knowledge:

Asim Kauser, aged 25, of Bardon Close, Halliwell, Bolton, pleaded guilty to four offences under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at an earlier hearing. The particulars are that Kauser was in possession of records of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

He has today, 27 January 2012, been sentenced to two years and three months in prison at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square. Kauser was arrested and charged following an operation by the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit.

The first thing I had to do was look up Section 58 of the Terrorism Act. What Section 58 does is make the possession of certain knowledge outright illegal:

58 Collection of information.

(1)A person commits an offence if—

(a)he collects or makes a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b)he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.

(2)In this section “record” includes a photographic or electronic record.

(3)It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had a reasonable excuse for his action or possession.

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

(a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, to a fine or to both, or

(b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.

So a person commits and offense if possess a document or record containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. That is so broad that somebody could be charged for possessing any document. A blueprint for a building would be very useful for somebody wanting to commit an act of terrorism at said building so the architect in possession of the blueprint could easily be charged under this section. Subsection three really makes me laugh because the only way to avoid this charge is to prove you have a reasonable excuse for the possession of that document. Notice that “reasonable” isn’t actually defined to it means whatever agents of the state says it means. That’s the kind of open ended law that I’ve come to expect from jolly old England (honestly I expect it from the United States as well).

Let’s get back to the story. Kauser is now sitting in prison for two years because he violated this catchall law. So what knowledge was Kauser in possession of exactly? Mostly material that I’d find interesting to read through:

Kauser’s father gave police a USB stick which was thought to contain CCTV images of the burglary.

However, when it was examined it contained recipes on how to make explosive devices and poisons, anti-interrogation techniques and details on how to kill efficiently.

A further examination of the stick revealed a letter, addressed to an unknown recipient, in which the author – again anonymous but referring to himself as a 24-year-old man – seeks spiritual guidance and says he has prepared himself physically and financially for jihad.

Officers also recovered a list that contained prices in both pounds and rupees of a number of items, including an AK47 rifle, rounds of ammunition, a grenade launcher and other survival or combat material.

Forensic analysis of the pen drive revealed the material had been downloaded in the spring of 2010.

With the exception of a letter seeking spiritual guidance all the information on the thumb drive would be material that interests me. While I have no interest in blowing anything up I find the chemistry of making explosives interesting and I sure as the hell enjoy reading about different counter-interrogation techniques. I don’t even think I need to state the fact that I have lists of gun prices in my possession on a very regular basis.

Ultimately though this story just seems downright fishy. Supposedly Kauser had a magical unencrypted USB stick that contains material on making explosives, killing people, and countering interrogation alongside a single archived email asking for spiritual guidance and a statement saying he’s physically and finically ready for jihad. Not only that but all of this information is from 2010 and Kauser hasn’t made any indication of acting using the information found on this USB drive. That combination of things just seems far too convenient.

Things are Looking Worse for Eric Holder

Things keep getting worse and worse for Attorney General Eric Holder. The entire Fast and Furious situation has been threatening to topple his career and his only saving grace has been his ability to play dumb. Now that a large series of e-mails have been released it looks like Eric Holder’s sham defense of claiming to know nothing is at an end:

Late Friday night, the Justice Department released a series of e-mails related to Operation Fast and Furious that indicate officials at the agency, including Attorney General Eric Holder, were alerted within hours of the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, and that Holder’s aide was told guns found at the scene were linked to the gun trafficking scheme.


The timing of this document dump fits a pattern, because Holder is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday. NPR posts some critical documents here. Among them is an e-mail exchange between then-U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke and Holder aide Monty Wilkinson.

While I’m hoping this will be an interesting thing to watch I fear these e-mails will also be swept under the rug like so much of Fast and Furious has been. The simple fact that Holder has continued to maintain his job demonstrates how corrupt Washington really is. Were you or I involved in an operation that smuggled American arms into Mexico to arm the drug cartels we’d be in prison so fast our heads would spin. The rules are entirely different when the government does the smuggling though.

I Guess the Secret Service has Nothing Better to Do

The Secret Service must be bored as shit if they can waste time interrogating a buch of guys who went to the range and used an Obama t-shirt as a target:

A photograph showing a group of men with guns posing with a bullet-riddled T-shirt containing an image of Barack Obama’s face is to be investigated by the Secret Service, a spokesman confirmed to NBC News.

The New York Times reported that the picture showed seven young men, four with weapons, one of whom was holding a T-shirt with the president’s face on it, above the word “HOPE.” The T-shirt was covered in holes and gashes.

The Times said the photograph was posted on the Facebook page of a Peoria, Ariz., police officer, Sgt. Pat Shearer, on Jan. 20.

“We are aware of it. Anytime information is brought to our attention that a group or individual expresses an unusual interest in one of our protectees, we conduct the appropriate follow-up,” Secret Service spokesman Max Milien told NBC News.

“We respect the right of free speech and expression but we certainly have the right and obligation to speak to individuals to determine what their intent is,” he added. “We treat anything (any potential threat) seriously. We can’t dismiss anything.”

While I find shooting a target representing a specific human being a bit distasteful there certainly is nothing illegal about it nor should it raise much in the way of suspicion. Let’s be honest with ourselves, people take their frustrations out on targets depicting people they dislike all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the range and somebody was shooting a target emblazoned with a picture of Osama bin Laden. I’ve person shot up a copy of Twilight but in no way would I ever want to bring actual harm against the book’s author (I actually hold a lot of respect for anybody who knows their audience so well that they can crank up completely drivel and make a fortune doing it, I wish I could).

The Secret Service says they have the right to speak with these individuals and to that I disagree. Members of the Secret Service are paid using money stolen from me in the form of tax dollars so I feel I should at least get a little bang for my buck. If there is a credible threat to one of our politicians then do your thing and stop it, but this is obviously not a threat.

What’s more likely is that the Secret Service wants to make open criticism of the president a frightening ordeal. They’re basically saying, “If you express dissatisfaction with the president we’re going to be knocking on your door.”

Mexican Citizens Taking Up Arms Against the State’s Decrees

What do you do when the state ruling over your area refuses to protect you and even goes so far as to make it illegal to protect yourself? You give them the middle finger, which is what many Mexican citizens are doing to protect themselves against the drug cartels:

In Mexico, where criminals are armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons smuggled from the United States, it may come as a surprise that the country has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world.

Smuggled in by our government as part of Operation Fast and Furious.

But on July 7, 2009, close to 20 men showed up at Benjamin LeBaron’s house, according to his older brother, Julian LeBaron.

“They wanted to terrorize everyone into never opposing them,” Julian LeBaron says. “They dragged Benjamin out of his house, and [his brother-in-law Luis Widmar] came to help him.”

Then, he says, the criminals took the two men a couple of miles down the road and shot them.

The cold-blooded murders of Benjamin LeBaron and Luis Widmar galvanized the community, Julian LeBaron says. It prompted them to take a stance that is familiar to Second Amendment advocates in the U.S., but one that is taboo in Mexico.

“I think there would be less violence if there were more guns, in the sense that I could barge in here and do whatever I want, knowing that this guy doesn’t have a gun,” says Jose Widmar, the brother of slain Luis.

Today, if the gangsters return, the LeBaron colony is locked and loaded.

The average person in the United States and most European nations are fortunate that they can live a life relatively free of violence. Unfortunately relatively safe lives lead people to forget the necessity of self-defense and thus lose pasion for their right to keep and bear arms.

These lessons are quickly being learned in Mexico though, where armed drug cartels all but run the country and view human life as being without value. The Mexican government has been unable to protect the people yet demand the people be unarmed. Now people living in Mexico are going to the really free market (often incorrectly called the black market) to obtain the means of personal defense. I commend these people and demand those advocating for the disarmament of the citizenry explain what alternative these people have.

North Korea is Strict

Compared to North Korea the United Police States of America is in its infancy. With the recent death of their Scumbag Dear Leader the people of North Korea has been going into full out fake grief mode in the hopes of avoiding execution for not being fully loyal to the state. What does being fully loyal to the state entail in North Korea? Apparently not using a cell phone:

North Korea has warned that any of its citizens caught trying to defect to China or using mobile phones during the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong-il will be branded as “war criminals” and punished accordingly.

The funny thing is that I didn’t even know North Korea had cell phones.

Somebody Thought This was a Good Idea

Remember that somebody, somewhere thought this was a good idea:

Less Lethal Africa, a South African company, had their less lethal .50 BMG rounds on display at SHOT.

So instead of having a mere 110 percent chance of killing you these rounds will only have a 100 precent chance of killing you? These seem to be the most pointless rounds developed in recent history. What’s next? Less lethal nuclear weaponry?