RSSCategory: Privacy

Things you shouldn’t say to a TSA agent

August 19, 2012 | By | Reply More

If you’re in a hurry at the airport, there are things you shouldn’t say to the TSA, and this article summarizes several of the biggest no-no’s.

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US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

We are definitely living in Orwellian times, based on the following article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which I am reprinting in its entirety (it is licensed by Creative Commons):

EFF Challenges National Security Letter Statute in Landmark Lawsuit

Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court — as far as we know — exactly one time. EFF is today releasing FBI-redacted briefing from a major new ongoing case in which it is challenging one of the NSL statutes on behalf of a telecommunications company that received an NSL in 2011. Not only does this briefing show that the Department of Justice continues to strongly protect the FBI’s NSL authority, it highlights a startlingly aggressive new tactic used by the Department of Justice: suing NSL recipients who challenge the FBI’s authority, arguing that court challenges to such authority themselves amount to breaking the law.

National security letter statutes — five in all — are controversial laws that allow the FBI to easily bypass courts and issue administrative letters on their own authority to telecommunications companies and financial institutions demanding information about their customers. The NSL statutes permit the FBI to permanently gag service providers from revealing the fact that the demand was made, preventing them from notifying either their customers or the public. While the statute has many deficiencies, one of the core constitutional issues (already recognized by one federal appeals court) is that it turns the First Amendment’s procedural prior restraint doctrine on its head by allowing the FBI to issue a never-ending prior restraint on its own, then requiring the recipient service provider to undertake a legal challenge. Another fundamental problem with the NSL statutes is that courts are all but written out of any part of the process: the FBI can issue demands for records and gag provisions without court authorization, and recipient telecommunications and financial companies have no way to determine whether and how the government might be overreaching or otherwise abusing its authority. Not surprisingly, given these significant structural barriers, legal challenges are extraordinarily rare.

EFF brought its challenge on behalf of its client in May of 2011, raising these and other fundamental due process and First Amendment concerns about the structure of these problematic statutes. In response, the Department of Justice promptly filed a civil complaint against the recipient, alleging that by “stat[ing] its objection to compliance with the provisions of” the NSL by “exercis[ing] its rights under” the NSL statute to challenge the NSL’s legality, the recipient was “interfer[ing] with the United States’ vindication of its sovereign interests in law enforcement, counterintelligence, and protecting national security.” While it ultimately agreed to a stay, temporarily suspending its suit against the recipient, the government has moved to compel disclosure of the subscriber information and to uphold the gag. The petition to set aside the NSL is currently pending before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Whether the recipient will be permitted to speak out about its specific experiences — and whether the FBI will be permitted to issue NSLs, at least in one district — should soon be known.

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Consider signing the Declaration of Internet Freedom

July 2, 2012 | By | Reply More
Consider signing the Declaration of Internet Freedom

Today I signed this clearly worded Declaration of Internet Freedom.

We stand for a free and open Internet.

We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.

Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.

Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.

Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.

Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

I invite you to join me in signing this Declaration. The sponsoring organization, Free Press, has long been on the right side of media/Internet/speech issues. This one-page declaration captures what is critically important about net neutrality.

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Domestic U.S. drone bases

June 16, 2012 | By | Reply More
Domestic U.S. drone bases

There are at least 64 of them, according to this article and map.

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The Surveillance State marches on under Barack Obama

May 24, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
The Surveillance State marches on under Barack Obama

I voted for Obama, but I am compelled to speak up with he pushes the same insane policies as bush when it comes to spying on Americans. He continues to act against our allegedly-treasured Constitution as he continues to expand America’s surveillance State. Glenn Greenwald sum up the situation: “The continuously expanding Surveillance State in the United States is easily one of the most consequential and under-discussed political developments. And few are doing more to ensure it continues than top-level Obama national security officials.”

Amy Goodman discussed recent developments in Congress with William Binney, who served in the National Security Agency for nearly 40 years, including a stint as technical director of its World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, Binney has warned that the NSA’s data mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.”

Here is the immediate problem:

The Senate is closer to renewing controversial measures that critics say would allow the emails and phone calls of U.S. citizens to be monitored without a warrant. The Select Committee on Intelligence has voted to extend controversial amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that were set to expire at the end of this year.

Here is William Binney’s reaction:

Well, in my mind, this is a continuation in the mindless legislation that our Congress has been putting out, just to justify what they’ve been doing for a decade or more. Instead of trying to use discipline and living up to their oath of office to defend the Constitution, they’ve decided to violate the civil liberties and the rights of all U.S. citizens. And that’s what—that’s what’s going on here. That’s what PATRIOT Act Section 215 is about. That’s what they’ve been doing. And what’s happening is they’re destroying the strength of this nation, which is the freedom and liberties that the citizens have to do things . . . [O]ne of the primary reasons I left NSA. I mean, we were collecting data on virtually every U.S. citizen in the country. And so, I couldn’t—I couldn’t participate in that. I couldn’t be an accessory to subversion of the Constitution and subverting the constitutional rights of every U.S. citizen. So I had to go. And that’s the reason I left. But like I say, I left a system, that they used that system that I built to target U.S. citizens. But when I left it there, I had built in protections, but it meant that, for them, they could not use my system that way and target U.S. citizens, so they had to remove the protections to make that possible.

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NSA whistleblower: The Federal Government has your emails

April 20, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
NSA whistleblower: The Federal Government has your emails

Former NSA employee, and now whistleblower, Willian Binney believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush.

He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions” — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States.

Binny indicates that the federal government is not being honest to the extent that it suggests that it does not possess massive amounts of emails and phone calls made to and from Americans (min 55), in addition to records of our bank transactions and internet searches. And as I posted a few days ago, the federal government is not satisfied. It wants more of your private data, and more legal cover for spying on ordinary law-abiding Americans.

The participants to this surreal (though completely credible) discussion include Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now, and their guests:

William Binney, served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.”

Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. He is a developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a network enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the internet.

Laura Poitras, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer. She is working on the third part of a trilogy of films about America post-9/11. The first film was My Country, My Country,” and the second was The Oath.

The above video is but one part of an extraordinary discussion on Democracy Now. Consider, also, the story of Laura Poitras:

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras discusses how she has been repeatedly detained and questioned by federal agents whenever she enters the United States. Poitras said the interrogations began after she began working on her documentary, “My Country, My Country,” about post-invasion Iraq. Her most recent film, “The Oath,” was about Yemen and Guantánamo and follows the lives of two past associates of Osama bin Laden. She estimates she has been detained approximately 40 times and has had her laptop, cell phone and personal belongings repeatedly searched.

And the story of Jacob Appelbaum:

a computer researcher who has faced a stream of interrogations and electronic surveillance since he volunteered with the whistleblowing website, WikiLeaks. He describes being detained more than a dozen times at the airport and interrogated by federal agents who asked about his political views and confiscated his cell phone and laptop. When asked why he cannot talk about what happened after he was questioned, Appelbaum says, “Because we don’t live in a free country. And if I did, I guess I could tell you about it.” A federal judge ordered Twitter to hand over information about Appelbaum’s account. Meanwhile, he continues to work on the Tor Project, an anonymity network that ensures every person has the right to browse the internet without restriction and the right to speak freely.

The same show also featured William Binney:

In his first television interview since he resigned from the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance program, William Binney discusses the NSA’s massive power to spy on Americans and why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower. Binney was a key source for investigative journalist James Bamford’s recent exposé in Wired Magazine about how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches and other personal data.

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Proposed new federal law would invite thousands of paranoid strangers to secretly read your most private thoughts

April 17, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Proposed new federal law would invite thousands of paranoid strangers to secretly read your most private thoughts

Its sponsors call it the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (HR 3523), but its main function is to invite Big Brother into all aspects of what you assumed to be your private online existence. Perhaps you are thinking, “I have nothing to hide.” Good for you, but what about the fact that this horrifically vague proposed law would force you to share all of your most private online communications with the hyper-paranoid geek-goons and geek-thugs of the NSA? Under CISPA, the Federal Government will have the right to look at that emotional email you just sent to your mother last week. The government, including many thousands of people with security clearances, will have access to the pin numbers and passwords for your bank accounts and investments. After all, you do use the Internet, and all they want is anything connected with or associated with the Internet. They want to know what your read and what you buy. It will be like they are sitting right next to you while you use your computer. CISPA is a blatant attempt to shred the Fourth Amendment, while offering offenders explicit immunity for their misconduct. Even if they use your private writings merely to show sympathy for the political goals of someone the U.S. is attacking with drones.

You can read the bill here. Here’s how Free Press sums up the main provisions in its call for action:

  • CISPA would allow companies and the government to bypass privacy protections and spy on your email traffic, comb through your text messages, filter your online content and even block access to popular websites.
  • CISPA would permit companies to give the government your Facebook data, Twitter history and cellphone contacts. It would also allow the government to search your email using the vaguest of justifications — and without any real legal oversight.
  • CISPA contains sweeping language that could be used as a blunt weapon to silence whistleblower websites like WikiLeaks and the news organizations that publish their revelations.
  • CISPA would create an environment in which we refrain from speaking freely online for fear that the National Security Agency — the same agency that has conducted “warrantless wiretapping” online for years — could come knocking.

The centerpiece of this bill is that federal agents will only read your private information for purposes of “national security.” We’ve heard that word over and over and over for the past ten years. It has justified anything and everything for the federal government, including spying, maintaining secrets from the People who supposedly run this country, torture and endless war at a cost of billions of dollars per week. This bill invites the government to spy on every American for no damned good reason.

[More . . . ]

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Thirteen ways the federal government loves you

April 10, 2012 | By | Reply More
Thirteen ways the federal government loves you

Actually, these are 13 ways the U.S. government loves to follow you around and spy on you, compiled by Bill Quigley, who is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US.

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More on the U.S. law enforcement warrantless seizures of private data of Americans

April 8, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
More on the U.S. law enforcement warrantless seizures of private data of Americans

I’ve posted on this topic before, based on one of Glenn Greenwald’s articles. I am at a loss for any legitimate reason for the U.S. to seize, without a search warrant, private information of Americans who are in the process of re-entering the United States. This includes seizure of cell phones and laptops and demands for the passwords. Greenwald’s newest report gives the shocking statistics:

A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, “there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.” That’s just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing.

Greenwald’s report also gives us details regarding a recent detention of award-winning film-maker Laura Poitras, who has been detained and questioned 40 times by U.S. Border Authority:

Each time this has happened in the past, Poitras has taken notes during the entire process: in order to chronicle what is being done to her, document the journalistic privileges she asserts and her express lack of consent, obtain the names of the agents involved, and just generally to cling to some level of agency. This time, however, she was told by multiple CBP agents that she was prohibited from taking notes on the ground that her pen could be used as a weapon. After she advised them that she was a journalist and that her lawyer had advised her to keep notes of her interrogations, one of them, CBP agent Wassum, threatened to handcuff her if she did not immediately stop taking notes.

Greenwald then details yet another incident, this one involving David House, an activist who helped found the Bradley Manning Support Network. The details are equally disturbing. There is some consolation, in that U.S. District Judge Denise Casper, an Obama-appointed judge in the District of Massachusetts, has reviewed allegations from a case brought by House and so far refused to dismiss House’ case against the United States. Other aspects of that case are less than satisfying, though, for those of us who still think that the First and Fourth Amendments are good ideas.

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