Tag Archives: Warrants

This Is Mass Justice: SJC Requires Warrants For Cellphone Tower Data

On February 18, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that here in Massachusetts, state cops actually do have to get a warrant if they want to access your cellphone location data.

This is what an independent judiciary looks like. The Justices of our Supreme Judicial Court have withstood over half a century of New England winters. They have endured the long decades of the Curse of the Bambino. Their knotted muscles are carved from whalers’ scrimshaw. They are not to be messed with. The obsequious servants of the surveillance state on the FISA Court could learn a thing or two from them.

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One Ring To Rule Them All: Surveillance and the Massachusetts Governor’s Race

While most Massachusetts voters are digging out from a ferocious winter storm, state politics goes on. In particular, ten brave souls are running for this November’s election for Massachusetts governor – five Democrats, two Republicans and three Independents. It seems recently that candidates campaigning against the surveillance state have been getting some traction, probably because most people think there aren’t enough constraints on invasive government surveillance and like candidates better who promise to do something about it.

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!

Republicans: Baker, Fisher.
Independents: Falchuk, Faraone, McCormick
Democrats: Avellone, Berwick, Coakley, Grossman, Kayyem

Smart Meters On Your Home: Where Does The Data Go?

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Patricia Burke of local activist group Halt MA Smart Meters brings to our attention an effort by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to study how to achieve universal adoption of smart meters on residential homes in Massachusetts. This implicates the Fourth Amendment because electricity usage within a home, if gathered many times over a 24-hour period and transmitted to a government agency, may constitute a warrantless search of that home to which the home’s resident has not consented. The IT Law Wiki provides an excellent overview of the constitutional issues here.

It is unclear from the documents provided by DPU whether any plan actually exists for what to do with the data gathered by utility companies such as National Grid. It is possible that the data would remain with the utilities, and would be used to implement peak pricing that in turn would both increase profits and reduce stress on the grid at peak times. However, as we have seen with the NSA scandals, it is very easy for government agencies to get court orders requesting the ongoing release of such records by utilities to law enforcement. The records would, under the “third-party doctrine,” probably be considered to be the property of the utility company, and therefore law enforcement would typically not seek either the permission of the resident or a duly executed warrant from a judge before accessing this data.

Long-time readers of this blog will know where we’re going with this. Yes, it’s fusion centers.

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Boston PD Suspends ALPR Program After Massive Privacy Violation

Just before Christmas, Muckrock and the ACLU of Massachusetts brought out excellent articles based on a full year of Muckrock’s investigative reporting into Boston PD’s use of automated license plate recognition technology.

ALPR systems automatically photograph and store in a police database the license plates of any car an ALPR-equipped police vehicle passes. The car may be parked or driving. It could be on the Pike, in a driveway, or anywhere a camera can reach. The question was, what does the Boston PD do with the mountain of data once it has it?

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New Judiciary Senate Chair Will Brownsberger

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The Joint Committee on the Judiciary handles most of the bills relating to privacy and surveillance in Massachusetts. Its most senior member is the Senate Chair. In a press release today, Senate President Therese Murray announced that Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) would become the new Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, replacing Sen. Katherine Clark, who was elected to Congress in Massachusetts’ Fifth District. She writes:

Senator Brownsberger is a deliberative and thoughtful leader in the Senate and has a strong work ethic. I am confident that he will continue to do great work in this new position.

Having seen Sen. Brownsberger’s work as my own senator, he is indeed thoughtful, deliberative and hard-working. He is genuinely concerned about transparency, and is very willing to communicate and discuss with constituents on a wide array of topics. Sen. Brownsberger ran for Congress as well in the Fifth District, and during the race his openness and willingness to see and consider both sides of many sensitive questions made it harder for him to appeal to a highly partisan Democratic primary electorate. In the Senate Chair position, his reflective disposition may be a significant advantage. The Senate Chair is often called upon to weigh carefully the competing claims of law enforcement and civil liberties advocates, and every indication is that he will weigh them with care.

We have documented already on this blog Sen. Brownsberger’s views on national surveillance issues like the Amash Amendment, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Surveillance State Repeal Act. At the state level, he has been supportive of warrant protections for email and digital data. On the wiretapping bill, he believes that the organized crime requirement is outdated and should be dropped, but also believes that the list of designated offenses suggested by the Attorney-General is too broad. On fusion centers, his skepticism of law enforcement claims is very welcome.

We don’t expect that Sen. Brownsberger will always and unambiguously vote the way we would like on the bills before the Judiciary Committee. However, we appreciate the Senator’s intellect and sense of professionalism. We hope that as Senate Chair, very often he will side with the Constitution, and opt to protect the residents of the Commonwealth from the growing pressure to subject them at every turn to unnecessary and intrusive surveillance.

Bring Us Back Food, Or Be Food Yourself: The FBI and Ayyub Abdul-Alim

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The Deep State requires terrorists as its food. Only by claiming, falsely, to thwart terrorist attacks before they happen, can the three-letter agencies justify their vast increases in budget, manpower and technology over the last ten years. The problem is that there’s just not enough terrorism to go around. On the amount of actual terrorism we have – which, excluding school shootings, has killed about thirty Americans in the last twelve years – you simply can’t justify NSA mass surveillance, 78 state-funded fusion centers, the massive and unnecessary DHS, or the ruinously expensive foreign adventures that have resulted in over 100,000 deaths and trillions of wasted dollars. If you can’t find enough terrorists, the obvious recourse – obvious, that is, if you have no decency and no actual love for justice – is to make your own terrorists. In Oregon and California and Ohio and New York and Massachusetts, the FBI has offered Muslims the same, terrible deal: Be our spy with your fellow Muslims, or we will ruin your life.

I have not come to this analysis lightly. It is a terrible observation to make about people who are supposed to protect us. But the bureaucratic imperative at work here is too powerful. Bring back a terrorist, and your career is made. Fail to find any, and people will start asking questions about why you need all those tax dollars to do your work.

Which brings us to the sad story of Amherst-born Springfield resident Ayyub Abdul-Alim – building manager, owner of the “Nature’s Garden” store, and the creator of “Connections Transportation”, which provided families with free commuter services to and from local prisons to visit their loved ones.

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Justice for Army Spc. Denis Reynoso

We like to think that we’re safe in our homes, and that if we need the police, we can call on them to help protect us. That’s what we tell our children – I have two – and I’d like to think it was more consistently the truth than it is.

Today’s story comes from Lynn, MA, which in September saw an Army reservist shot to death in his home by police in front of his five-year-old son.

 

Army Spc. Denis Reynoso

Army Spc. Denis Reynoso

Police were called after Spc. Reynoso yelled at a man, who then drove away. Two police officers arrived at the Reynoso home on Newcastle Street in the King’s Lynne housing complex, and they appear to have entered the home without either a warrant or the permission of the residents, which would clearly violate the Fourth Amendment. The police version of events is that during the ensuing argument, Spc. Reynoso lunged for one of the police officers’ weapon, and fearing for their lives, the police fatally shot him. The family point out that there is no way to confirm that Spc. Reynoso did lunge for an officer’s gun, and no public information as to why he might do so; that he was unarmed, that they shot him anyway, and that they then searched the house for any drugs or contraband that would provide justification for their actions, without a warrant and without finding anything.

The excuse used by the police – that he “lunged” for the gun – is inherently unprovable. It’s such a hoary old chestnut when it comes to defending the indefensible that it has been immortalized in song. Perhaps that’s why they thought of it.

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StopWatchingUs DC rally rocks out: 3,000+ people call for NSA reforms

This Saturday, DC saw something it had never seen before.

A city that treats the superficial hatreds of party politics as its lifeblood, saw thousands of people from across the political spectrum gather to denounce NSA mass spying. We heard, and roared approval for, the words of feminist Naomi Wolf, Dennis Kucinich (Democrat), Justin Amash (Republican), and Gary Johnson (Libertarian). Kymone Freeman spoke movingly about the impact of surveillance on minority communities and the civil rights movement. Whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Russell Tice were there, and Edward Snowden sent a message to be read by leading whistleblower-protecting attorney Jesselynn Radack. Tea Party people up from Richmond, VA, proudly put on Code Pink stickers labeled “Make Out Not War”. The press reported wonderingly that it was not put together “by any of the “usual” well-connected DC organizers.” I should know: I’m proud to say that, in a small way, I was one of them, and this was the first time most of us had done anything like this.

That wasn’t all. Here in Boston, activist Joan Livingston put together a solidarity rally at Park Street Station:

and ACLU organizer Raquel Ronzone arranged for the rally to livestream at the Digital Media Conference in Cambridge.

If you want updates on the StopWatchingUs campaign going forward, text “PRIVACY” to 877877. Stay tuned for the next stage of the campaign, which will be to pass the “USA FREEDOM Act.” Personally, just to hammer home the point, I’d have preferred the “USA FREEDOM Fourth Amendment Restoration – Objective: Undermining Tyranny Act of 2013”, because I too can do acronyms, but such frivolity is apparently frowned upon in the legislature that gave us the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 in the first place.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. I’m the tall guy to the left of Rep. Amash!

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