UPDATE: To reflect substantive changes in information received from the Addivinola campaign, the title of this article and portions of the analysis have been changed to more accurately reflect Councillor Addivinola’s positions.
We gave the same questionnaire to all seven Democratic primary candidates, but the strongest opponents of government surveillance (Long, Sciortino and Spilka) did not make it through the primary. Here are the results for the remaining two candidates.
In the states and the cities of New England, unparalleled, cross-partisan, cross-racial coalitions are forming, bringing together libertarians, Tea Party people, technologists, peace and environmental activists, Occupy folks, veterans’ groups, people of color, religious groups and progressive Democrats. The nation may never have seen people of such disparate views united under one banner.
We’re now at over 4,000 signups for the Stopwatching.us anti-NSA rally down in DC this Saturday!
We’re looking for people who are driving down to DC from New England and have space in their car for fellow protesters: please email me if that’s you!
We’ll deliver a petition with over half a million signatures to Congress, We’ll demand real NSA reforms and an end to mass surveillance programs that do an end-run around the Fourth Amendment. It’s time for the lies to end.
In a seven-way primary with an all-star cast, Sen. Katherine Clarkwon the nomination for Democratic candidate for the U. S. House in my own district of MA-5, one of the most Democratic districts in the nation (D+22).
She now faces Boston resident Frank Addivinola in the general, but it would essentially take a meteor strike for her to not head to Congress.
Here in the heavily Democratic Fifth District of Massachusetts, we know that the winner of October 15th’s Democratic primary will reliably win the general and go to Congress. The seat was last open almost 40 years ago. Bearing that in mind, we at Digital Fourth thought it pretty important to assess the Democratic candidates’ positions on the hot issue of surveillance, while the district’s registered Democrats still have a chance to affect the outcome.
We sent a standard questionnaire to all seven candidates running in the primary. We asked about whether the candidate supported requiring warrants for searches of digital data (ECPA reform); whether they would defund the “fusion centers” that capture data and generate reports on peaceful activists; whether they support the Mass. Attorney-General and Senator Clark’s proposal to expand electronic wiretapping; whether they would vote for the Amash-Conyers Amendment reining in the NSA; and finally, whether they would support Rep. Rush Holt (D-PA)’s “Surveillance State Repeal Act”, which would repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act and provide protection for government whistleblowers.
All except Sen. Karen Spilka and Mr. Paul John Maisano were kind enough to respond in detail, and we have done our best to reconstruct the positions of these two candidates from past votes and public statements.
UPDATE: Sen. Spilka has provided answers to the questionnaire that place her in equal first place on surveillance, along with Rep. Carl Sciortino and Mr. Martin Long.
So, for your reading pleasure, here’s the Surveillance Voter’s Guide to The Democratic Field in MA-5!
Mass surveillance getting you down? Feel like the federal government doesn’t trust you, and wants access to everything you do, say, or even think? Then come on out with us in the nation’s biggest ever rally against mass spying, on Oct. 26 in Washington, DC!
We’re calling for Congress to:
Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
Without our pressure, the very best we can hope for is for the government to become marginally more transparent about how they are spying on our every moment. The Obama administration has not supported any changes to the NSA’s actual programs, and has done its best to block meaningful discussion of reform.
Maybe you’re content simply with knowing what abuses are being committed against you. We’re going to DC to send the message that the abuses themselves must end. The only kind of surveillance that the Fourth Amendment allows is also the only kind that really works: surveillance of individuals, based on probable cause of their involvement in an actual crime. Anything beyond that is a grave threat to our freedom to live our own lives as we wish.
Sign up to attend or volunteer here. And if you can’t make it to DC that day, here’s a link for other ways you can help.
UPDATE: Our new article on the rally gives much more detail.
The second Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case coming down the pike is Commonwealth vs. Marcus Mitchell. This deals with our favorite law here at Digital Fourth, Massachusetts’ electronic wiretapping statute, which forms part of the forbiddingly named Mass. General Laws Chapter 272: CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY, MORALITY, DECENCY AND GOOD ORDER.
Electronic wiretapping was never intended to become a routine day-to-day tool of the police; now, this case asks whether the police can use electronic wiretaps to prosecute offenses outside the wiretapping statute.
Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court is soliciting amicus briefs from interested parties in two cases highly relevant to electronic privacy.
First up is Commonwealth vs. Shabazz Augustine, where they seek to establish:
“whether there is a warrant requirement for cell phone records collected and held by the phone company, namely historic cell site location information, sought by police to establish a person’s location at various times.”
The case is attracting heavyweight legal attention from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who have already filed an amicus brief, assisted by local information activist, Harvard legal scholar and all-around side-of-the-angels guy Kit Walsh. It will most likely be argued on October 10.
The question underlying the case is whether we all have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our movements as recorded by a third party. In the context of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, this depends on whether the person moving can be said to have abandoned all proprietary interest in the record of their movements that is held by their cell phone company. Supreme Court precedents from the 1980s indicate that people have no reasonable expectation of privacy in this kind of telephonic “metadata”, but those rulings look increasingly out of date in a technological context where cellphone metadata can reveal a great deal more about you than the metadata associated with a 1980s landline could. EFF’s amicus brief reports that the lower court ruled that cellphone subscribers cannot be said to have “voluntarily conveyed” their interest in data on their movements to a third party simply because that party holds the data, and asks the SJC to let that part of the lower court ruling stand.
As is the case with the Supreme Court, it is worrying that the Supreme Judicial Court has accepted the case for review. The best outcome for defenders of digital privacy would have been for it to allow the lower court ruling to stand, and their acceptance indicates a significant risk of its being overturned. We urge the Supreme Judicial Court to heed the arguments of EFF’s amicus brief, and to err, if they err, on the side of liberty.
In response to a groundswell of public horror at the intrusiveness and enormous scale of the surveillance state, President Obama appointed a blue-ribbon panel to consider changes – not to the programs themselves, God forbid, because Terror, but changes to how much we know about how much the government is spying on us.
Once again, as is so often the case, “Yes Minister” tells us what’s going on:
Sir Humphrey Appleby: … I am fully seized of your aims and of course I will do my utmost to see that they are put into practice. James Hacker: If you would. Sir Humphrey Appleby: And to that end, I recommend that we set up an interdepartmental committee with fairly broad terms of reference so that at the end of the day we’ll be in the position to think through the various implications and arrive at a decision based on long-term considerations rather than rush prematurely into precipitate and possibly ill-conceived action which might well have unforeseen repercussions. James Hacker: You mean no.
Unlike more mealy-mouthed efforts at “reform”, this one strikes at the guts of the problem: the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act themselves. Simply put, without these Acts, the kind of mass surveillance conducted by the NSA would no longer have any figleaf of legality. The FISA Amendments Act’s main purpose was to legalize what the government had already been doing, and immunize from prosecution the companies who had colluded with the government’s illegal warrantless surveillance of Americans. Then-Senator Obama (this is always worth pointing out) voted for it. He has never sincerely opposed mass government surveillance, he doesn’t oppose it now, and he will do his best to secure an outcome where nothing about what the NSA is actually doing has to change. And I say this as someone who voted for him in 2012, based on our agreement on many non-surveillance-related issues.
So, please call your congressmember and ask them to cosponsor Rep. Holt’s excellent bill, which also provides better protections for government whistleblowers. And if you’re in DC toward the end of October, please sign up to come and protest for surveillance reform with the Stopwatching.us coalition.
One huge question for legislators and the public to understand is: how does pervasive US government surveillance damage the tech industry itself? The Boston area’s economy depends hugely on the health of the tech industry. The United States as a whole benefits enormously from the dominance of US tech firms like Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox, Adobe, Amazon and too many others to name.
Now that we have had a few months since the beginning of the Snowden revelations in June, analysts are beginning to come out with some answers. It seems that the economic impact could be enormous.