Whoa, for a moment there I was worried. Our own Inspector-General here at the CIA has verified that we tortured people and then lied about it and then illegally surveilled the Intelligence Committee that’s supposed to oversee us, to intimidate them into not publishing the report that documents the torture and lying and covering up. All of which was illegal, like you even care. Even Lawfare is calling for “repercussions”.
What, repercussions like refusing to confirm me as the actual head of the actual CIA? Too late, suckers. Repercussions? Ahaahahaaahaha! Are you kidding me?
The official system of electronic wiretaps in the US predates and is separate from the unconstitutional mass surveillance conducted by the NSA and other surveillance agencies. Typically, electronic wiretaps comply fully with the Fourth Amendment by requiring an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the wiretap begins. But it’s still interesting to look at how they operate and what they target, and this week’s Wiretap Report 2013 from the Administrative Office of the U. S. Federal Courts allows us to do exactly that.
The first thing that jumps out from the data is how much the electronic wiretaps system is an instrument of the War on Drugs. Though the report’s categories allow for many types of crime (“Conspiracy”, “Corruption”, “Gambling”, “Homicide and Assault”, “Kidnapping”, “Larceny, Theft and Robbery”, “Narcotics”, “Racketeering” and “Other”), fully 87% of the 3.576 wiretaps across the country were for drug investigations.
So, it’s worthwhile for us to do again what we did in the MA-05 race, and question the candidates closely on the kinds of surveillance topics the governor can affect. Notably, we’ll be covering the wiretapping expansion, state monitoring of social media, state retention of an array of data on people not suspected of any crime, the militarization of law enforcement, and warrant requirements.
We’ll report back here on the responses we receive, covering Republicans, Independents and Democrats separately. When all candidates of one affiliation have responded, we will post a comparison of their views.
Meanwhile, here are all of the candidates’ websites, for you to assess their positions on other issues. Enjoy!
Boston Police Department bosses want to install GPS monitoring devices in every patrol car, to enable dispatch to more efficiently process 911 calls. But police officers and their union are outraged, saying that the ubiquitous tracking is too invasive of their personal privacy. Tracking the location of officers as they go about their days would reveal incredibly detailed information about their lives, the officers say.
It must be just awful to go about your daily life looking over your shoulder, conscious that your every movement and activity is being recorded and could be used against you. Oh, wait. That’s what the entire American public is already dealing with, in this age of mass electronic surveillance. But the way the police union is hissing’n’flapping about it, it’s almost as if there was something wrong with that. Don’t they know that youhavenothingtofear, ifyouhavenothingtohide?
Police officers are public employees, and they would be monitored during, and only during, the performance of their duties as public officials employees. We require elected officials to disclose their votes publicly, and require secrecy for private individuals at the ballot box, even though that’s inconsistent, because public disclosure of how public business is conducted is vital to maintain democratic accountability. In the same way, close monitoring of law enforcement is vital, to ensure that police don’t abuse the vast and special powers society gives them. When you put cameras on cops, complaints about police misbehavior and brutality drop like a stone. We have the right – affirmed by the federal courts in the First Circuit and across America – to record the police in the commission of their duties. The Fourth Amendment constrains the actions of the government, not the actions of members of the general public.
The Boston police may not like it – last week’s PINAC case shows that they’re willing even to threaten people with felonies to avoid public embarrassment over misconduct – but they are not entitled to a high level of privacy protection in their capacity as police officers. That distinction matters. Doxxing police officers’ personal names and phone numbers and addresses is not cool. But recording them, having them record themselves, and encouraging people to call their office numbers and hold them accountable to the public, is vitally important in order to preserve freedom for the rest of us.
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.
Senator Katherine Clark, the Senate Co-Chair of the Judiciary Committee who is also running for Congress in Ed Markey’s old district, is penning op-eds in defense of her positions on privacy legislation. She supports warrant protection for electronic communications, which is great news for the Fourth Amendment here in Massachusetts.
However, she also supports the Attorney-General’s proposed “update” to the wiretapping laws. Both she and the Attorney-General make the case for an update by relying heavily on a comment by Justice Gants in the Supreme Judicial Court’s 2011 ruling in Commonwealth v. Tavares. This decision overturned a (first) conviction of murderer Paulo Tavares, on the ground that the state’s evidence had been gathered in violation of the state’s electronic wiretapping laws.
Let’s look at that decision a little more closely.
Yesterday, starting at 1pm and stretching long into the night, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on pending legislation, including on many privacy and surveillance-related bills. Members of the public started lining up more than an hour beforehand, trying to get on the list to testify not just on the privacy bills but on domestic violence protections, transgender rights, immigrant rights and animal cruelty. By 1pm, the crowd numbered in the hundreds, and the room was obviously not going to hold all of us, so we got moved to the much larger Gardner Auditorium which (just about) held everybody.