Tag Archives: Warrants

MA-5: Addivinola and Clark tussle over surveillance, differ only on wiretapping bill *UPDATED*

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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.

The primaries are over, and two very different candidates are facing off in the December 10 general election: State Senator Katherine Clark (D) and Frank Addivinola (R). Both candidates have responded to the Digital Fourth questionnaire on surveillance issues, so we can compare their positions directly and in their own words.

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.

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Thousands to Rally in DC Against Mass Surveillance on Patriot Act Anniversary 10/26

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!

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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.

To sign the petition: https://optin.stopwatching.us/
To join the rally: https://rally.stopwatching.us

Details below the fold:

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Clark Primary Victory May Be Good For Digital Privacy

In a seven-way primary with an all-star cast, Sen. Katherine Clark won 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).

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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 at Digital Fourth, we’ve been tough on Sen. Clark for her cosponsorship of Martha Coakley’s proposal to expand electronic wiretapping. Our #MassWiretap campaign gathered over 4,000 signatures against that bill, and it became an issue in the campaign, producing third-party negative ads against her from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Curiously, though, there’s an argument that Sen. Clark’s victory in the primary may be positive for digital privacy. Let me explain.

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SJC Reviewing Warrant Requirement for Historic Cell Phone Location Data

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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.

David House lawsuit sheds light on border laptop searches

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Cambridge resident David House got a nasty shock back in December 2010, when on his way back from vacation in Mexico he landed in Chicago, and found himself in a Homeland Security interrogation room. What was House’s crime? Being involved with the Bradley Manning Support Network. He was generally sympathetic to Wikileaks’ efforts to publicize the war crimes revealed by the Bradley Manning leaks. Or, as the “lookout” alert put it, he was “wanted for questioning re leak of classified material.”

 

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Globe reports on Saturday’s NSA/fusion center picnic

Michael Morisy at the Globe reports:

With speeches, flyers, and some family friendly songs, a few dozen protesters joined outside the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) yesterday to push back against what they said were increasingly invasive government intrusions into individuals’ privacy.

The event was dubbed an Orwell Day protest, after George Orwell’s 1984 (the date was 8/4), a novel about a totalitarian regime that maintains control largely through an aggressive surveillance program.

“I believe in the constitution, I believe in the Fourth Amendment,” said Alex Marthews, founder of Digital Fourth, a non-profit which advocates for strong Fourth Amendment protections and a strong emphasis on privacy. He blasted BRIC as an ineffective institution that wasted time and money investigating peace activists and graffiti artists rather than more serious threats.

“An agency that does no good and wastes your money should be closed,” he said.

Maximum attendance was around 75, which was much larger than the first event – looks like the movement is growing. Here’s full footage of the first hour, featuring great speeches from Steve Revilak of the Mass Pirates and Joan Livingston of Veterans for Peace. Many thanks to the activists from #MassOps and Restore the Fourth Boston who put the event together!

Cambridge debates switching on its surveillance cameras after Marathon attacks

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The city of Cambridge, MA is considering whether to switch on its network of surveillance cameras. Councillor Craig Kelley, who chairs the Public Safety Subcommittee [UPDATE: and whom, I should make clear, is skeptical about the merits of surveillance camera systems, scheduled seven public hearings on the newly proposed Security Camera Policy, but like most subcommittee hearings, they were relatively poorly attended]. The City Council voted unanimously on July 2 to ask the Mayor and the City Manager to arrange a better-publicized meeting to discuss the Policy.

ORDERED:
That Her Honor the Mayor and the City Manager be and hereby is requested to arrange a community meeting with other stakeholders to discuss the proposed Security Camera Policy submitted by the Police Department for implementation.

The minutes of the July meeting are here.

This is the history.

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Curious July 4 Twitter threat case leads to house search, charges (Arlington, MA)

Let me tell you about Travis Corcoran.

Corcoran lives in Arlington, Mass., and till July 4 of this year, the self-described “anarcho-capitalist” made his living running comic book store Heavy Ink. He first ran into trouble after the shooting of Congressman Gabby Giffords, when he posted the following:

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In response, the police apparently temporarily took Corcoran’s firearms license, and some customers of Heavy Ink organized a boycott.

On July 4, in an apparent response to the heavy security measures proposed for the Esplanade, he made another violently-themed tweet:

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Unlike with the Long Island case, Corcoran was not simply searching for something that someone malevolent might also search for: anybody could do that. He was fantasizing about violence, but in a way that is not specific to any named individual. So let’s have a look at the law on such threats, and then I’ll let you know what has happened to Corcoran. I’d welcome your thoughts on what should have happened.

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Google The Wrong Stuff, Get Six Agents In Your Home (Nassau County, NY)

Long Island freelance writer Michele Catalano reported two days ago on a deeply disturbing incident where six officers from an undisclosed agency came to her family home:

At about 9:00 am, my husband […] saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving. Six gentlemen in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door. […] He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands. “Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said. They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search.

The “gentlemen” pepper her husband with questions about pepper cookers and backpacks; about where he’s from, about his wife, about their parents and their reading habits. They say that “they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.”

 

How reassuring.

How reassuring.

It appears that Suffolk County CID had received a tip from “a Bay Shore based computer company” about the Google searches of a former employee, Ms. Catalano’s husband, who had searched while at work for terms including “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks” – the former because he was curious about how the Boston Marathon bombing had happened, and the latter because they were in the market for new backpacks.

It’s still unclear exactly what agency the “gentlemen” were from. The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are both denying involvement. Nor do we know exactly why such Google searches triggered a full-court press from no fewer than six officers. But there are two important points that arise out of this story.

One is how blunt the tools of Internet surveillance are. Your Google search for “pressure cooker bombs” tells the authorities only that you are interested in pressure cooker bombs at that moment. As part of my research for this article, I just put it into Google myself. It doesn’t tell them why, and by itself is not evidence of any criminal intent. Nor does separately searching on the word “backpacks” help to establish such an intent. If we were still operating in a world where the Fourth Amendment were consistently applied, this evidence alone would not be nearly enough to demonstrate probable cause to a judge that the person in question was engaged in or planning criminal activity. Instead, we’re operating in an environment of high governmental paranoia about people’s search activity, where agencies have to find ways of justifying an over-muscled and over-funded security state.

The second point is that we don’t know whether a warrant was issued, or whether the “gentlemen” felt that one was needed, because Ms. Catalano’s husband did not assert his Fourth Amendment rights (and may in fact have been afraid to do so). He could have refused them entry without a warrant; they may or may not have complied; but he had every right to refuse. It’s just not something many people think of doing, and in consequence law enforcement feels able to intrude on our homes at will. Like the “gentlemen” in Buffy, their success depends on our silence.

UPDATE: The author of this testimony has taken it down. Whether it was false, he had deeply misunderstood what was going on, or he was scared into withdrawing it, it can no longer be considered reliable.

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