Help get this anti-PRISM video on the air

Our friends over at Fight for the Future are creating a video that explains PRISM and the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, in order to help build opposition.

They need to raise another $10,000 to have the video produced and released. Check out the trailer, and give if you can!

#MassWiretap Campaign Breaks 3,000 Signatures After Just 7 Days

The #MassWiretap campaign to prevent passage of a bill that would greatly loosen Massachusetts’ wiretapping laws has reached over 3,000 signatures after only seven days. And today, our partners at Demand Progress, the advocacy group founded by Aaron Swartz, have launched their part of the petition campaign. David Segal, Demand Progress’s Executive Director, had this to say:

“For this to happen less than a month after the revelations of NSA spying is an outrage. To make matters worse, the bill they’re considering wouldn’t just expand wiretapping – it also gets rid of a clause that makes privacy a crucial constraint on lawmaking. That tells us that our lawmakers know this expansion is a grave danger to our privacy, but that they don’t think that’s important anymore. Right now, Massachusetts has some of the strongest privacy protections on wiretapping. Let’s keep it that way.”


[UPDATE] 600 new signatures from Demand Progress in the first hour of their petition!
[UPDATE x 2] Another 510 signatures by 6pm from Demand Progress and now BORDC too, takes us over 3,000!

#MassWiretap Press Release: NSA-Style Phone Tapping Coming to Massachusetts?

NSA-Style Phone Tapping Coming to Massachusetts? New alliance of civil liberties groups opposes massive expansion of Massachusetts wiretapping law


Alex Marthews, President, Digital Fourth, 781 258-2936,

The recent NSA spying scandals have rocked the DC establishment and shocked the public. However, that hasn’t stopped a new bill before the Mass. Legislature that actually loosens Massachusetts’ wiretapping laws (Mass. Gen. Laws. 272.99). Digital Fourth, a new group named in honor of the 4th Amendment, is leading a coalition of six civil liberties groups to oppose the bill, and is launching a petition campaign today.

The bill, called “An Act Updating The Wire Interception Law” (S. 654 / H. 3261), will come up for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts legislature on July 9. Its major provisions:

1) Remove the requirement that an electronic wiretapping warrant be connected with organized crime, or indeed with serious crimes more generally. Potentially, even minor crimes like marijuana possession could become eligible for wiretapping by state authorities.

2) Double the length of an authorized wiretap, from 15 to 30 days.

3) Legalize mass interception of communications at telecommunications switching stations, rather than through individual wiretaps on individual phone numbers.

Alex Marthews, founder of Digital Fourth, comments, “The mass interception provisions are especially worrying. Both the Fourth Amendment and our own state constitution’s Article XIV forbid ‘general warrants’ that tap entire streams of personal information without specifying ahead of time what’s being searched for and whose records are being searched. This bill undermines basic liberties that have served us well for over two hundred years.”

As this bill and other privacy legislation come before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, the nation’s eyes are on Massachusetts. Will our Legislature react to the recent terrorist attacks with panic, throwing away two centuries of our historic commitment to civil liberties? Will they allow state law enforcement the kind of Orwellian powers to track our phone calls that Congress unwisely gave to federal intelligence agencies? Or will they set an example for how Americans can roll back an increasingly intrusive surveillance state?

#MassWiretap Campaign Goes Live!

Our campaign to stop the disturbing new Massachusetts wiretapping bill launches today; sign the petition here!

If you’re interested in giving testimony to the Judiciary Committee on the bill, please contact Gavi Wolfe of the ACLU here.

Our thanks go to our partner organizations: the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and our experts at Social Movement Technologies who put the petition together.

FBI-Borg Informs US Private Sector of its Impending Assimilation, Generously Limits Fines for Resistance to $25,000 Per Day Per Violation


The FBI has a new proposal afoot to require communications companies doing business in the US to make their communications technologies “wiretap-ready”, to avoid the “going-dark problem”. From Charlie Savage at the New York Times, six hours ago:

The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. […]

Currently, such orders instruct recipients to provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies, leaving wiggle room for companies to say they tried but could not make the technology work. Under the new proposal, providers could be ordered to comply, and judges could impose fines if they did not.

Under the proposal, officials said, for a company to be eligible for the strictest deadlines and fines — starting at $25,000 a day — it must first have been put on notice that it needed surveillance capabilities, triggering a 30-day period to consult with the government on any technical problems.

Lord forbid that private companies should offer services that can’t be wiretapped by the government. If the FBI finds itself unable to routinely spy on the communications of people not yet suspected of any crime, that’s a feature, not a bug, and is in fact what the Fourth Amendment requires.

In America, this manic need to collect every iota of data is “helping defeat the terrorists” and “protecting the homeland”. When other countries do it, though, it’s a whole different story. Read on!

Continue reading FBI-Borg Informs US Private Sector of its Impending Assimilation, Generously Limits Fines for Resistance to $25,000 Per Day Per Violation

Quick Update:: Lockdown Lifted, and There is Lots to Come

So we’re out from under the lockdown, and plenty happened while we were “requested” to stay inside. This has been an extraordinary week here in Massachusetts, and we’ll be dealing with the implications of it for some time to come.

Our congratulations go to the members of the public who provided crucial information that helped catch bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Congratulations also to law enforcement, for proceeding cautiously in apprehending Tsarnaev, resulting in his being taken alive.

Coming up on

– A two-part discussion of the Fourth Amendment relating to the Boston Marathon attacks, covering racialized “reasonable suspicion”, the case of the Saudi student, and the constitutionality of refusing entry to law enforcement conducting a house-to-house search.
– An update on Wednesday night’s upcoming BU-PAO panel discussion on privacy and security

The Theory of Surveillance: The Panopticon and the Stainless Steel Rat

As we residents of Massachusetts gambol heedlessly downward from the Mountains of Liberty toward the Swamps of Oppression, let’s take a brief breather to consider a more general commentary on surveillance.

Philosophical examinations of governmental surveillance powers center on eighteenth-century founder of utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham and twentieth-century philosopher Michel Foucault. The key concept used to inform their thinking is Bentham’s notion of the Panopticon:

The Panopticon: the ideal prison
According to Bentham, the ideal prison

The Panopticon was a prison with the cells in the outside circle and the guard tower in the center. Each prisoner was, at all times, perfectly visible to the guards. The guards were invisible to the prisoners, so prisoners had to assume that they were being permanently watched.

Continue reading The Theory of Surveillance: The Panopticon and the Stainless Steel Rat

Not A Clown Car Law: Comparing Massachusetts’ Electronic Wiretapping Laws to Connecticut’s

The way you hear Martha Coakley tell it, Massachusetts’ laws relating to when you can and cannot issue an electronic wiretapping warrant are about as effective as using a clown car to fly folks to the moon. They were passed in the 1960s, man! Don’t you know you can’t trust any law over 30?

Of course, the Bill of Rights is nearly 220 years old, and many people seem somehow to find it important despite being oldy oldy old old. So we figured, why don’t we take a look at what other comparable states do, and see if Massachusetts’ laws look comically outdated compared to them?

Let’s try our friends over in dull-but-wealthy Connecticut! What does Nutmeg State law enforcement have to do to get their donut-frosting-smeared mitts on one of those sweet, sweet electronic wiretapping warrants?

Continue reading Not A Clown Car Law: Comparing Massachusetts’ Electronic Wiretapping Laws to Connecticut’s