Archive for September 8th, 2009

Voter Identification Project, anyone?

As I was arriving home this afternoon, the phone was ringing. I managed to answer it (Answerphones? We don’t need no stinking answerphones!) and it turned out to be a call for one of my roommates, who we’ll call… Robert Alphonse Jacobs VII. (“John Doe” is just so boring a pseudonym, don’t you think?) Anyway, Bob was evidently still off doing whatever it is that Bob does during the day, so I informed the caller that Bob was unavailable. Could I take a message, perhaps?

“Just let him know this is a courtesy call from the Voter Identification Project, please.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. Thanks.”

Now, maybe I’m a really suspicious bastard, but the first thing I did after hanging up the phone was to search Google for the Voter Identification Project – not least because we have cats who are more interested in politics than Bob is, and because this seems a really strange time to be doing any sort of political survey or money-begging.

Imagine my complete lack of surprise at finding absolutely nothing about the VIP. Zip, zero, zilch, nada. Doesn’t appear to exist.

My guess? A social-engineering or identity-theft scheme – “pretext calls”, I think they’re called, digging for exploitable personal information.

We don’t have Caller ID, or I’d post the phone number; it suffices to say that if you get a call from people you don’t know, asking for personal information, you should probably tell them – politely – to get lost. (Or accuse them of being “ACORN operatives”, if that’s what floats your boat. It’s a great way to confuse the heck out of telemarketers – “Are you now, or have you ever been, in the employ of ACORN or one of its subsidiary operations? No? Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure? Well, would you like to be? We have several openings in our Detroit office. Attractive starting salary, relocation bonus, good health plan? No? Not even a little bit tempted? Alright, well, have a nice day, and thanks anyway.”)

Oh, and if the Voter Identification Project really is legitimate, get a freaking website already, okay? Get with the times already, would you?

…says the guy whose household doesn’t have an answering machine or Caller ID, heh. 🙂

Published in: General | on September 8th, 2009 | No Comments »

Terror Watch List FOIA Exemption A Look at What’s to Come?

The FOIA Blog noted on Sunday that Congress wants to make Terror Watch List data automatically exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. He notes that the material is “often wrong”, which is inarguable, and adds “the material can already be withheld pursuant to a number of existing FOIA exemptions so the added legislation doesn’t really change how the material is handled”, making the whole thing kind of, um, pointless.

Now, I’m not so idealistic that I think Congress never does anything infantile, retarded, or pointless, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

Why would the government want to pass legislation exempting the Watch List data from disclosure, when it’s already withholdable under the FOIA? I can think of two reasons:

1, to cut down on FOIA-related litigation, and related expenses, connected to the watch list;


2, because proposed – but not yet disclosed – FOIA reforms would roll back some of the existing protection covering those records, and DHS are being obstructionist over individual records systems… like the Terror Watch List.

Mind you, I see absolutely no evidence – yet! – to really support theory number two, but it might be worth keeping an eye on legislative proposals in the short term to see if any other government records systems get similar (proposed) treatment. If so, that might signal one possible prong of the Administration’s FOIA reform plan – perhaps weakening the “internal rules and practices” (“High 2” and “Low 2”) exemptions, for example (which have been somewhat overused by the DOJ in recent years, in my opinion).

Still, to put it cynically, we can hope that the government aren’t just being cheap bastards in this instance, and that there’s something else going on. 🙂

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on September 8th, 2009 | No Comments »