Category Archives: Uncategorized

The NSA Aims For There To Be No “U. S. Persons”: Traffic Shaping and the Legacy of Verdugo-Urquidez

Credit: theyliewedie.org

Credit: theyliewedie.org

In 1990, the Supreme Court fatefully ruled 6-3 in Verdugo-Urquidez that the Fourth Amendment did not exist for foreign nationals who had not established a sufficient nexus with the United States to be part of its “people.” In a blistering dissent, Justices Brennan and Marshall (peace be upon them) argued that “If we expect aliens to obey our laws, aliens should be able to expect that we will obey our Constitution when we investigate, prosecute, and punish them.” Brennan and Marshall argued that Constitutional rights apply whenever the U. S. government seeks to exert its authority; it is not possible for it to be legal for the U. S. government to act outside the boundaries of the very Constitution that created it.

Time has shown us all how right Brennan and Marshall were.

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If You Want Privacy, Put A Ring On It? RI Supreme Court Rules No Expectation of Privacy in Text Messages on Girlfriend’s Phone

Being all of 36, I’m not down with the young’uns and their “hippety-hop” and “texting”. But I glanced up from my afternoon’s abacus calculations of the expected height of the Nile floods and saw that the Rhode Island Supreme Court has declared that a criminal defendant has no expectation of privacy in “text messages” that they send to another party (viz. a girlfriend with which said defendant had a daughter), and that police found when they searched said girlfriend’s “telephone.”

If they had been married, presumably the law would recognize a spousal communications privilege. But gee whillikers, it’s 2014, not 2064, and staunchly Catholic Rhode Island will be blowed if it starts making exceptions for mere “girlfriends”. If you wanted privacy, then you should have PUT A RING ON IT.

Beyonce has nothing on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Beyonce has nothing on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Michael Patino, the Providence Journal reports, is accused of murdering a son he had by a prior girlfriend. The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled certain kinds of evidence inadmissible – a confession that was the fruit of a coercive interrogation, and evidence from the warrantless search of Patino’s own phone.

Once again, then, the police got themselves in a heap of trouble by not going through the (fairly trivial) process of obtaining a warrant – something that, in the context of a child murder investigation, would almost certainly have been given – and now want the courts to correct a defect that arises from their unwillingness to dot the is. How much has this case cost the state, when simply obtaining a warrant would have removed any ground for Patino to object and would have made it more likely that justice would be done?

This is what I don’t get about warrants. Warrants are almost never refused. They’re simply an external check that the police are doing what they should. Yet police departments fight warrants tooth and nail, and act like the Apocalypse will come if they have any external oversight of their work. The truth is that in this country, we sometimes very literally let police get away with murder, even when caught on video. Officers routinely break the laws they expect the rest of us to follow. City governments are terrified of offending their police chiefs, and those who do offend them sometimes risk their lives.

So the question is not whether oversight is already so onerous that a little more of it will lead to a crime wave. The question is whether we allow to grow up in our midst an unaccountable paramilitary force able to hold our civilian government to ransom.

Clock Ticks Down on MA Electronic Privacy Act: Call Now!

Our phone records and our email metadata convey a lot of information. It’s because of this that the Supreme Court has just ruled unanimously that the police need a warrant to search your phone when making an arrest. But, thanks to the third-party doctrine, the same rule doesn’t yet straightforwardly apply when the police request your information from your phone company, from Dropbox, or from Google.

A quick canter through my own Google records, for example, would disclose communications with political radicals, pirates, hackers, criminal suspects and foreigners of all kinds (hey guys! love you all!). The fact that Gmail holds my contact lists rather than my writing them down with a quill pen in a vellum notebook, should not mean that law enforcement should be able to access them without getting a warrant. Seriously, I’ll buy the vellum if you make me, but have you seen how much that stuff costs? It’s like 35 bucks a sheet. Plus, it would take around ten years for the monastic scriptorium to write them all out.

This alone took over a month.

This alone took over a month.

So there’s a bill – we’ve reported on it before – which would solve this problem, and apply ordinary warrant protections to your phone records and electronic records held by neutral third parties. It’s a good bill, and the Massachusetts Judiciary Committee just reported it out favorably. The legislative session ends at the end of July, so if this bill is to pass, we need a lot of calls to go out in the next couple of weeks. The ACLU of Massachusetts has sent out an appeal for people to call their legislators:

Massachusetts residents: Take action now! Call your state senator and Senate president Therese Murray. Tell them you want your privacy, and to quickly pass the Electronic Privacy Act! Like the Supreme Court said, if police want to spy on us, they should get a warrant!

This is the twenty-first century, not the sixteenth century, and it’s way past time for our communications to be protected, whatever form they are written in. So get out there and make the call!

Digital Fourth Thwarts Mass AG’s “Top Priority” Wiretap Bill

Digital Fourth’s first and longest-running campaign was against a bill that Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney-general and now gubernatorial candidate, described as her “top legislative priority” for the 2013-14 legislative session. On June 30, we succeeded: The Judiciary Committee killed S. 654, the “Act Updating the Wire Interception Law”.

When it was proposed, this bill could hardly have had more heavyweight support. The then-Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Katherine Clark, co-sponsored it, as did the House Chair. The AG, the DAs, and the police were all behind it. So what happened?

We happened.

We happened.

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The Blackmail Power: Mass Surveillance and Senators’ Secrets

Couple weeks ago, I was on WEMF’s “Young Jurks” radio show, talking (as usual) a whole lotta seditious stuff about the surveillance state. The hosts asked me about the next wave of revelations from the Snowden documents. Glenn Greenwald, who is overseeing the order and timing of the disclosures, is publicly previewing that the next wave will consist of lists of Americans who have been targeted for NSA surveillance.

If that sounds like a Nixon-style “enemies list” to you, well, you’re not altogether wrong. Read on!

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Animal welfare clashes with the Fourth Amendment in Lynn

In April, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts expanded the circumstances under which police could enter a home without a search warrant.

The facts of the case are of a nature almost calculated to extinguish sympathy with the defendant. As reported in the Lynn Daily Item, the Duncan family mistreated their dogs and left them outside in January of 2011.

Massachusetts in a typical January is no picnic.

Massachusetts in a typical January is no picnic.

A neighbor called the police, and the police found two dogs dead in the front yard and a third starving to death.

Normally, the Fourth Amendment prevents access to the home or the “curtilage” (surroundings) of a home without a warrant based on probable cause. However, the Fourth Amendment is also honeycombed through with two centuries’ worth of exceptions and special circumstances driven by facts such as these. Here, the court ruled that the already-existing “exigent circumstances” exception to needing a warrant in order to save human life, also applied to animal life. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, among others, were pleased at the outcome.

We are not altogether so pleased at the implications of this ruling. Let me explain why.

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Digital Fourth protests at the Boston fusion center

Noble defenders of the Constitution in Boston included Joan Livingston, Kinetic Theorist, journalist Chris Faraone, and some British guy

Noble defenders of the Constitution in Boston included Joan Livingston, Kinetic Theorist, Chris Faraone, and some British guy.

On a windy Thursday afternoon, we gathered to protest the privacy abuses of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center. It’s one of 85 fusion centers across the country, and we were joined nationally by groups in LA, Oakland, Dallas, Charlotte and DC. Cambridge City Councillor Nadeem Mazen gave a fiery speech describing the waste of resources the fusion center represents; journalist Chris Faraone described an operation of the fusion center where they digitally classified graffiti tags and enabled the arrest of graffiti artists (way to go, strike a blow for freedom!).

We presented a FOIA request to the Boston Fusion Center, but neither the Privacy Officer nor any BRIC representative would descend to communicate with us mortals. It appears that they were far too busy with vitally important meetings all day trying to prevent the next terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, to meet with members of the public concerned about privacy.

You’re Invited!

invite

FBI: Look Mom, We “Found” Another Terrorist!

Nicholas_Teausant_Facebook

The news this morning is full of the arrest of yet another American on charges of “attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.” Nobody’s suggesting that 20-year-old National Guardsman Nicholas Teausant of Acampo, CA is a terrorist, or that he provided any help whatsoever to terrorists, or that he was in contact, ever, with any actual terrorists. But, the media breathlessly report, he’s still facing charges that can put him in jail through to the 2030s.

Why?

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Google’s “Zeitgeist” List of Top 100 Search Terms of 2013 Includes Snowden; WP Writes Whole Article About How It Didn’t

Brian Fung, on the Washington Post’s “The Switch” blog, “reported” recently on Google’s “Zeitgeist” list of the top 100 search terms for 2013. His main interest in it, it appears, was to make the point that “Edward Snowden” wasn’t one of them, and therefore that the public really doesn’t care that much about the surveillance abuses uncovered by his whistleblowing.

A picture of Snowden courtesy of a Kerala, India newspaper - because the world don't care, right?

A picture of Snowden courtesy of a newspaper in south India – because the world doesn’t care, right?

You know what’s funny? Snowden is on the list. True, he’s at #97. But you’d think that if you were going to write a whole article about how unimportant this silly little man is, and if you were going to use presence on Google’s list as the sole determinant of what people care about, then you’d actually bother to find out whether he was on it first.

Not, clearly, if you’re Brian Fung of the Washington Post. Facts are for the little people. So if you actually want to know what’s on the list – you won’t find the full list anywhere else on the Internet – keep reading.

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