Favorite Quotes

"Once you walk into a courtroom, you've already lost. The best way to win is to avoid it at all costs, because the justice system is anything but" Sydney Carton, Attorney. "There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well. Or if they are, they are for courts that are an embarrassment to the ideals of justice. The law of real people doesn't work" Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law Professor.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Not a happy new year, DHS Is pushing for REAL ID In 2015

Beginning in 2015, many federal facilities will require a "Real ID" for entry where identification is required.

Several states have opted out of the Real ID Act, a federal mandate to modify the design of state drivers licenses, raising questions about the ability of people in those states to access federal buildings and board commercial aircraft. EPIC, supported by a broad coalition, opposed the Real ID regulations, arguing that many of the required identification techniques, such as facial recognition and RFID tags, compromise privacy and enable surveillance.

EPIC provided detailed comments to DHS about the program and later issued a L6 report: "REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs" (May 2008).

The Cato Institute surveillance conference (2014)

Never in human history have people been more connected than they are today — nor have they been more thoroughly monitored. Over the past year, the disclosures spurred by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have drawn public attention to the stunning surveillance capabilities of the American intelligence community, and the unprecedented volume of data they collect from hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The growth of government surveillance is by no means restricted to spies: Even ordinary law enforcement agencies increasingly employ sophisticated tracking technologies, from face recognition software to “Stingray” devices that can locate suspects by sniffing out their cellular phone signals.

Are these tools a vital weapon against criminals and terrorists — or a threat to privacy and freedom? How should these tracking technologies be regulated by the Fourth Amendment and federal law? Can we reconcile the secrecy that spying demands with the transparency that democratic accountability requires?

This inaugural Cato Institute Surveillance Conference will explore these questions, guided by a diverse array of experts: top journalists and privacy advocates; lawyers and technologists; intelligence officials … and those who’ve been targets of surveillance. And for the more practically minded, a special Crypto Reception, following the Conference, will teach attendees how to use privacy-enhancing technologies to secure their own communications.

Download a video of the Opening and Introduction
Download a video of Panel 1
Download a video of Panel 2
Download a video of the Luncheon Keynote
Download a video of Panel 3

Part 1 of Panel 4:
Download a video of Panel 4
Part 2 of Panel 4:
Download a video of Panel 4

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Police/DHS can spy on your medical & financial records

The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPPA) is the primary federal law that addresses health records.

The HIPAA privacy rules have special exceptions for law enforcement and national security investigations.

The law enforcement provision is very broad. It covers all the usual police procedures, including subpoenas. Those don’t require a judge’s advance permission, and they also require much less basis than probable cause.

Big Brother is collecting out baby pictures, medical records, resumes & our children's DNA.

Click here to read more.

The national security exception is even broader.

A covered entity may disclose protected health information to authorized federal officials for the conduct of lawful intelligence, counter-intelligence, and other national security activities authorized by the National Security Act (50 U.S.C. 401, et seq.) and implementing authority (e.g., Executive Order 12333).

United States v. Miller held that routine financial records are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. Two years later, Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act… which largely codified Miller. Law enforcement agencies can still access financial records with just a subpoena.

RFPA includes a special set of national security procedures. Federal grand jury subpoenas and warrants aren’t covered by RFPA, so long as the investigating agency self-certifies “there may result a danger to the national security of the United States.”

RFPA also includes a National Security Letter provision. In counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism investigations, the FBI (and, by proxy, the NSA) doesn’t even need a grand jury subpoena. It can demand financial records with a mere self-certification.

A plain reading of RFPA suggests some privacy protection: targets receive advance notice of a subpoena and have an opportunity to contest the subpoena. In everyday practice, however, RFPA’s delayed notice provisions have swallowed the rule. Law enforcement agencies routinely obtain court orders that both eliminate the advance notice requirement and temporarily gag financial institutions from disclosure.

The precise statutory provision at issue in Smith and Klayman is Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Allows the FBI/NSA access to any business records when conducting a counter-intelligence or counter-terrorism investigation. A FISA judge’s approval is required, though the standard for issuance is very low.

Section 215 covers medical records. A part of the statute, in fact, expressly addresses them.
Section 215 also covers financial records. In a 2010 opinion, the FISA Court held as much. And, in fact, the CIA operates a bulk financial surveillance program under Section 215.

In sum: not only are national security investigations generally outside HIPAA and RFPA, but the very same authority at issue in Smith and Klayman allows access to medical and financial records.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cleveland cop insists the shootings of Tamir Rice & John Crawford were justified

Cenk Uygur from the Young Turks Network blasted Cleveland Patrolmen’s Association head Jeffrey Follmer on Tuesday for his insistence that the shootings of Tamir Rice and John Crawford by local officers were justified.

"The president of the Cleveland Patrolmen's Association on Monday refused to back down from criticizing a Cleveland Browns player as "pathetic" for wearing a shirt calling for justice for two unarmed black males who were killed by police officers in Ohio.

Cleveland Patrolmen's Association President Jeffrey Follmer on Sunday issued a statement criticizing Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins for wearing a shirt saying, "Justice For Tamir Rice and John Crawford," before the team's game. Tamir Rice, 12, was shot to death by Cleveland police last month while carrying a pellet gun. Crawford, 22, was killed by police officers in August while holding a toy rifle in a Walmart in Dayton, Ohio.

"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," Follmer said on Sunday. "They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology."

“Just, for Christ’s sake, be a human for a second,” Uygur said. “And say, ‘We’re so sorry that a 12-year-old kid died, man. Obviously we didn’t mean that.’ Is that too hard to say? Is that too hard to say — ‘We didn’t mean to kill your 12-year-old son. We’re so sorry about that’” Cenk Uygur said.

“You killed him in two seconds — [Rice] didn’t have time to listen to what you said,” Uygur said in response. “This Orwellian prick; we just saw the video, we’ve seen the video a million times. You pull up and you shoot him. You pull up and you shoot him. One-one thousand, two-one thousand and he’s dead.”

In an interview with MSNBC's Ari Melber, Follmer criticized Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins for wearing a T-shirt calling for justice in the killing. The union previously described the football player as "pathetic" in a statement.

“You’re saying that the video clearly shows that the 12-year-old boy was an imminent lethal threat to the officers?” Melber asked.

“Oh, absolutely. I don’t know if you didn’t see it, but yeah absolutely," the officer replied.

Eventually, Follmer dismissed Melber's questions about excessive force and wrapped up the debate with a message to Americans.

"How about this: Listen to police officers' commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop," he said. "I think that eliminates a lot of problems."

"I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it," he added.

Police officer in Massachusetts angered by second-graders' Ferguson protest:

A protest put on by a group of second-graders in Massachusetts has sparked controversy, but the school says it was just teaching the kids a lesson in civics.

The peaceful demonstration happened on Friday, a spokesperson for the Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford told ABC News today. Second-graders gathered in front of the school with signs, some that said "Honk For Justice," after learning about the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, both at the hands of police officers.
"A group of scholars played on the playground while other scholars held their demonstration without incident," Will Gardner, the school's executive director, said today in a statement.
But the protest went awry when a friend of a police officer, whose daughter attends the school, saw the students and alerted him that his 7-year-old daughter was taking part, the spokesman said.
That father, George Borden, told The Boston Globe he believed the event was anti-police and shouldn't be condoned by the school. While Alma del Mar says the protest was the students' idea, Borden disagrees.
"I don't think 7-year-olds can come up with the idea to go out and protest on the street," he told the newspaper.
ABC News could not reach Borden for comment, but Borden's father, who is also named George, said he agrees with his son.
"What second grader wants to give up recess to go stand on a busy street corner and chant, 'We want justice'?" he said. "My son's a cop, so he's really upset, and after his daughter got in the car, she asked if he shoots people."

CNN's #AskACop triggers anti-police backlash:

When CNN called on Twitter users to offer up questions for a panel of police officers on an upcoming segment called "Cops Under Fire," it instead elicited a flood of sarcasm, outrage and derision centered on recent high-profile incidents of police violence.

Thanks to the backlash, the hashtag #AskACop climbed to the top of the list of U.S. Twitter trends Tuesday night.

The network should have known what it was getting itself into. When NYPD called on New Yorkers to tweet out pictures with cops in an effort to drum up goodwill for the department this April, the campaign was overrun with pictures depicting police brutality.

Click here to see the actual Tweets CNN received.

How public is your private information?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Police can stop you even if you've done nothing wrong

Police officer may stop and search drivers who have done absolutely nothing wrong. In an 8 to 1 decision Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that a police officer can be wrong about a traffic law being violated, but the stop will be upheld as valid as long as he the officer's mistake was "reasonable."

“To be reasonable is not to be perfect,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “And so the Fourth Amendment allows for some mistakes on the part of government officials, giving them ‘fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community’s protection.’”
Roberts wrote that the ruling “does not discourage officers from learning the law,” because the Fourth Amendment only covers “objectively reasonable” errors from police.
Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed separate concurring opinions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed the only dissent, arguing that the ruling meant “further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties” at a time when that protection has already been deteriorated.

"An officer might, for example, stop a motorist for traveling alone in a high-occupancy vehicle lane, only to discover upon approaching the car that two children are slumped over asleep in the back seat," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "The driver has not violated the law, but neither has the officer violated the Fourth Amendment. But what if the police officer's reasonable mistake is not one of fact but of law?"
"Giving officers license to effect seizures so long as they can attach to their reasonable view of the facts some reasonable legal interpretation (or misinterpretation) that suggests a law has been violated significantly expands this authority," Justice Sotomayor wrote. "One wonders how a citizen seeking to be law-abiding and to structure his or her behavior to avoid these invasive, frightening, and humiliating encounters could do so."

"By refusing to hold police accountable to knowing and abiding by the rule of law, the Supreme Court has given government officials a green light to routinely violate the law," said Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead.

The Supreme Court has now held that they are the arbiters of the law, with the only condition being that they can craft a half-baked, phony, facile excuse for why they got the law wrong.  The new test for “reasonableness” under the Fourth Amendment is how good a spin the prosecution and cops can offer for mistakes.  As it turns out, this is the one thing that they’re exceptionally good at.

Rutherford Institute's Amicus Brief in Heien vs. North Carolina: https://www.rutherford.org/files_images/general/06-17-2014_Heien_Brief.pdf

Monday, December 15, 2014

Police are spying on social media and assessing your ‘threat rating’

New World Systems  offers software that allows dispatchers to enter in a person’s name to see if they’ve had contact with the police before.  Provided crime data, PredPol claims that  its software “forecasts highest risk times and places for future crimes.” These and other technologies are supplanting and enhancing traditional police work.

Public safety organizations, using DHS funding, are set to begin building a $7-billion nationwide first-responder wireless spying network, called FirstNet.

FirstNet is a giant surveillance network. For more info. about FirstNet, read my story from March 2014 "FirstNet America's national 'First Responder' surveillance & spying network".

Beware, has been sold to police departments since 2012 by a private company, Intrado. This mobile application crawls over billions of records in commercial and public databases for law enforcement needs. The application “mines criminal records, Internet chatter and other data to churn out … profiles in real time,” according to one article in an Illinois newspaper.

Here’s how the company describes it on their website:
Accessed through any browser (fixed or mobile) on any Internet-enabled device including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, Beware® from Intrado searches, sorts and scores billions of commercial records in a matter of seconds-alerting responders to potentially deadly and dangerous situations while en route to, or at the location of a call.
Crunching all the database information in a matter of seconds, the Beware algorithm then assigns a score and “threat rating” to a person — green, yellow or red. It sends that rating to a requesting officer.

An annual subscription to Beware costs police departments around $36,000 dollars a year, the majority of which is covered by DHS grants!

For example, working off a home address, Beware can send an officer basic information about who lives there, their cell phone numbers, whether they have past convictions and the cars registered to the address. Police have had access to this information before, but Beware makes it available immediately.

Yet it does far more — scanning the residents’ online comments, social media and recent purchases for warning signs. Commercial, criminal and social media information, including, as Intrado vice president Steve Reed said in an interview with urgentcomm.com, “any comments that could be construed as offensive,” all contribute to the threat score.

There are many troubling aspects to these programs. There are, of course, obvious risks in outsourcing traditional police work — determining who is a threat — to a proprietary algorithm. Deeming someone a public threat is a serious designation, and applications like Beware may encourage shortcuts and snap decisions.

The report notes that the program could also produce any number of false positives if the system has failed to update who lives at a particular residence, potentially transforming, “a green rating into a red rating — turning a midday knock on the front door into a nighttime SWAT raid.”

It is also disconcerting that police would access and evaluate someone’s online presence. What types of comments online will increase a threat score? Will race be apparent?

Police departments have NSA like spying powers for social media monitoring.

LexisNexis' social media monitor service allows police to spy on your social media posts.

The NYPD has admitted to monitoring events on Twitter and Facebook, even creating a formal unit for such purposes. The rise of social media in everyday communication has seen the NYPD launch "social-media driven investigations," going as far as having the officers conducting them establish aliases and use laptops with untraceable Internet cards.

Use of facial recognition technology is not limited to just the NYPD. The New York State DMV has utilized facial recognition software to cut down on identity fraud and people illegally obtaining a second license while the first was suspended. The program has resulted in more then 2,500 arrests. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working on a nationwide facial recognition system, part of the $1 billion Next Generation Identification program.

The intrusion of the surveillance state into areas such as social media is troubling for a number reasons. While police departments claim that such measure are necessary for fighting crime and federal agencies wish to use them to combat terrorism, privacy advocates fear that such technologies will make it much easier to place people under surveillance. In the past the FBI has put those who threatened to upset the status quo, such as Martin Luther King, under intense surveillance. In 2007 the American Civil Liberties Union released a report detailing the Pentagon monitoring at least 186 anti-military protests. During the Occupy Wall Street protests the FBI conducted extensive surveillance on the movement.

Privacy advocates worry that increasing the ease by which police departments can identify people at certain locations may make it easier to mask abuses of civil liberties. Instead of having to investigate and arrest all the protesters at a public protest, law enforcement agencies could utilize facial recognition technology to selectively detain organizers, cutting off the organization of the protest at its Achilles tendon.

During a Senate hearing on privacy, Senator Al Franken expressed such concerns:

“I fear that the FBI pilot [on facial recognition] could be abused to not only identify protesters at political events and rallies, but to target them for selective jailing and prosecution, stifling their First Amendment rights. Curiously enough, a lot of the presentations on this technology by the Department of Justice show it being used on people attending political events or other public gatherings. I also fear that without further protections, facial recognition technology could be used on unsuspecting civilians innocent of any crime — invading their privacy and exposing them to potential false identifications.”

This summer the Boston Police used facial recognition software to spy on everyone who attended a music festival!


"Homeland Security" police visit activist's home ask her about her Facebook posts:

Laura Krasovitzky a University of Pennsylvania student organizer was visited on the morning of December 8th by a Philadelphia Police Department detective, who she soon learned was in the Homeland Security Bureau, asking about posts in a Facebook group.

“The detective told me he was there because of specific language I used in the notes I posted on the ‘Ferguson to Philly’ Facebook group after the town hall meeting of Dec. 2. He had the notes printed out,” Krasovitzky says.

Krasovitzky, who says she is active in several causes but has been mostly focused on work with Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), which has been heavily engaged in actions responding to both the Ferguson and Staten Island non-indictments. SOUL staged a die-in attended by hundreds last week, and was represented at a December 2 town hall meeting held by community organizers in response to the verdicts. That community forum produced a list of “movement demands” – and language contained in that list brought Detective Ray Rycek to her dorm room at 11:00 AM.

He wanted to know about language in the notes which Krasovitzky had posted to the page, notes the student organizer had collected from various participants in a related working group from the Calvary meeting, she says, which described “targeting” the Christmas Village at Love Park, “targeting” disgraced and rehired Philly cop Jonathan Josey, and “targeting” Commissioner Charles Ramsey in an upcoming protest action. The Dignitary Protection Division detective told Krasovitzky that this was considered threatening, and questioned her regarding any plans for violence against the Commissioner or other persons.

Before eventually asking if she was being detained and upon being answered in the negative stating that she had nothing further to say, she completed a form which the detective had brought with him, containing Krasovitzky’s personal information, including her address and date-of-birth. On the form, in which she responded to concerns over “notes posted…in regards to targeting abusive cops (e.g., Jonathan Josey), Charles Ramsey…and the Christmas Village,” the Penn senior and prolific activist was quoted by the detective:
“We are peaceful. We would not harm the Police Commissioner, visitors of the Christmas Village, or abusive cops. I have nothing further to say.”