"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.
Because News Corp. has apparently given up any pretensions to respecting
Wall Street Journal website to allow the company to connect personally
identifiable information with Web browsing data without user consent.
The Wall Street Journal revised its website privacy
policy on Tuesday to allow the site to connect personally identifiable
information with Web browsing data without user consent.
affirmative consent” to combine personal data with “click stream information”
culled from the website.
The company said that combining the two types of data would “allow us to
provide customized Wall Street Journal service information to our users,” said
Alisa Bowen, general manager of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network. “It is
not being applied retrospectively and only applies going forward to new
registered users and subscribers.”
The change is part of a larger effort by the Journal to streamline and
simplify privacy policies across its network of websites, which include WSJ.com,
Marketwatch.com, AllthingD.com, Barrons.com and SmartMoney.com.
Digital Network. It contains expanded disclosures of online tracking techniques
and contains links to opt-outs from third party tracking networks. It also adds
a disclosure that it collects mobile device IDs. The company says that it only
shares the mobile identifiers with companies that provide internal analytics.
The Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385), passed on June 18, 1878, following the end of Reconstruction, restricts the federal government from using the military in state and local law enforcement. The statute specifically prohibits the Army and Air Force and units of the National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity.
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878:
“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” 18 U.S.C. § 1385 states. http://www.dojgov.net/posse_comitatus_act.htm
Cheyenne, WY — In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, F.E. Warren Air Force Base will collaborate with state and local governments and law enforcement to cut down on underage and irresponsible drinking, officials announced Tuesday.
The $300,000-per-year program, funded with federal dollars, will step up education and enforcement efforts to combat alcohol use among minors and abuse among adults, Gov. Matt Mead said at a State Capitol press conference alongside Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak and Col. Christopher Coffelt, commander of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren.
The program, which is an expansion of a similar effort at F.E. Warren, will look to find the best ways to educate people about the dangers of drunken driving, underage drinking and drinking to excess.
CHICAGO, - This is the story of Louis Frobe, but it's also about others who have run afoul of the Illinois eavesdropping law, one of the most restrictive of its kind in the country. It requires that all parties to a conversation give their consent before you can record legally record it.
Police arrested Frobe and tried to hit him with a 15-year jail sentence for “eavesdropping” after the man filmed his own traffic stop, in another example of how citizens are being intimidated out of documenting the actions of public servants despite every single case against Americans for recording police officers being thrown out of court.
Say you take out your smart phone and you start taking pictures of police officers making an arrest. The pictures and video are allowed by law, but you must have permission before you record the audio, even if the officer is on the public way. "I'm just an ordinary citizen. I was on my way to the movies, and all of a sudden I'm facing a felony and 15 years in prison," Frobe told ABC7.
Frobe calls it the worst experience of his life. He was on his way to a late evening movie on an August night last year when he was stopped for speeding in far north suburban Lindenhurst. He didn't believe he was in a 35-mile-an-hour zone, and he figured if he was going to get ticket he wanted to be able to document his challenge with video evidence, so he got out his flip camera, which he was not very adept at using.
At one point he held it out the window trying to record where he was. When the officer, being recorded on his squad dash cam, walked back to Frobe's car, the officer saw Frobe's camera.
Officer: "That recording? Frobe : "Yes, Yes, I've been... Officer: "Was it recording all of our conversation? Frobe: "Yes. Officer: "Guess what? You were eavesdropping on our conversation. I did not give you permission to do so. Step out of the vehicle." Louis Frobe was then cuffed and arrested for felony eavesdropping.
The Illinois eavesdropping law has been proven unconstitutional time and time again, and yet police in the state and other states around the country with even less strict laws are still arresting citizens for filming police officers. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place – that’s why police are allowed to film citizens from dashboard cameras. However, citizens are still being told they have less rights than public servants.
The nation’s major mobile-phone providers are keeping a
treasure trove of sensitive data on their customers, according to newly-released
Justice Department internal memo that for the first time reveals the data
retention policies of America’s largest telecoms.
The single-page Department of Justice document, “Retention Periods of Major Cellular Service Providers,”
Pdf. is a guide for law enforcement agencies looking to get information — like
customer IP addresses, call logs, text messages and web surfing habits – out of
U.S. telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
The document, marked “Law Enforcement Use Only” and dated
August 2010, illustrates there are some significant differences in how long
carriers retain your data.
Verizon, for example, keeps a list of everyone you’ve exchanged text messages with for the past year, according to the document. But T-Mobile stores the same data up to five years. It’s 18 months for Sprint, and seven years for AT&T.
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the precursor of the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program (SPOT) when the head of its national Campaign against Racial Profiling – a tall African-American man with a beard - was spotted behaving "suspiciously" by talking on a pay phone after deboarding an airplane. A jury agreed that he had been wrongly detained.
Evidence that "behavioral profiling" is just another term for racial profiling did not prevent SPOT from being rolled out at other airports, at a cost of some $400 million. In a 2010 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claimed the program had no scientific validity and caught no terrorists, despite the fact that some 16 individuals alleged to be involved in terrorist plots (including the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad) moved through airports deploying SPOT on at least 23 occasions.
Nevertheless, an additional $1 billion was designated for the next version of SPOT, which was unveiled at Logan beginning in August 2011. It involves the Israeli-style screening of passengers who are asked questions to see if they seem unduly nervous or display evidence of Orwell's "facecrime." The $14 billion spent by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on airport security has been handed over to dozens of contractors, with little attention paid to what actually works, and even less to notions of privacy and the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches - especially in the case of "backscatter" whole-body screening, which is bringing a hefty commission to the company headed by former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Michael Chertoff.
Like other states and cities, Massachusetts and Boston law enforcement officials have received federal funding for a broad range of other surveillance-related technologies. Some, at first glance, may seem like sensible policing tools. For instance, automatic license plate readers - provided to state and local police through a federal Department of Transportation grant - can help police spot stolen cars and parking violators.
But they also capture digital images of thousands of license plates per minute and store this information in databases, along with travel information indicating the time and place a particular vehicle was "pinged." In Massachusetts, this information is required to be submitted to the state's criminal justice information services database, which can be freely accessed by other states' and federal law enforcement. Absent a formal policy on data retention and sharing - which the state does not have - the personal travel information of millions of Massachusetts residents can be shared with agencies throughout the nation.
Massachusetts police may soon have an even more powerful tool at their disposal - if they do not already. Imagine a database containing billions of data entries on millions of people, including (but not limited to) their bank and telephone records, email correspondence, biometric data like face and iris scans, web habits and travel patterns. Imagine this information being packaged "to produce meaningful intelligence reports" and made accessible via a web browser from a handheld mobile or police cruiser laptop.
WASHINGTON • Most days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer David Gasho sends three unmanned spy planes into the skies over the rugged Sonora Desert to hunt for drug smugglers crossing into southern Arizona from Mexico.
But in mid-June, as the largest wildfire in Arizona history raged, Gasho sent one of the Predator B drones soaring over residential neighborhoods in search of another threat — rogue brush fires. Working from an air-conditioned trailer, his crew aimed an airborne infrared camera through thick smoke and spotted a smoldering blaze.
Using coordinates fed from the drone, airborne firefighters then doused the hot spot from helicopters and watched over a secure Internet feed as the heat signature of the flames cooled.
It was the latest example of once-secret military hardware finding routine civilian uses. Seven surveillance drones are chiefly used to help patrol America's borders. But in recent months, they also have helped state and local authorities fight deadly fires, survey damage from floods and tornadoes, and inspect dams and levees.
"People are constantly coming up and wanting a piece of that Predator pie," said Gasho, a former commercial pilot who heads the Customs and Border Protection air operations in Sierra Vista, Ariz., standing beside one of the drones at Libby Army Airfield.
In addition to three Predators in Arizona, Customs and Border Protection crews operate two drone aircraft out of Grand Forks, N.D., one from Corpus Christi, Texas, and another in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Plans call for adding three more drones this year.
But some see dangers as well as benefits in the arrival of drones.
Privacy experts warn that few guidelines restrict eye-in-the-sky coverage. Jay Stanley, a senior analyst on privacy and technology at the American Civil Liberties Union, says the unregulated use of drone aircraft "leaves the gates wide open for a dramatic increase in surveillance of American life." The drones can detect all manner of activities: from its usual altitude of 20,000 feet, a drone camera can tell if a hiker eight miles away is carrying a backpack full of marijuana.
Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.
"We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines," said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team "We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine."
The Argonne Lab, run by the Department of Energy, has the mission of conducting scientific research to meet national needs. The Diebold Accuvote voting system used in the study was loaned to the lab's scientists by VelvetRevolution.us, of which the Brad Blog is a co-founder. Velvet Revolution received the machine from a former Diebold contractor.
Indeed, the Argonne team's attack required no modification, reprogramming, or even knowledge, of the voting machine's proprietary source code. It was carried out by inserting a piece of inexpensive "alien electronics" into the machine.
The files, released by the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, disclose how the police are instructed to react if they encounter a person on the list. They lay out, for the first time in public view, the legal standard that national security officials must meet in order to add a name to the list. And they shed new light on how names are vetted for possible removal from the list.
Inclusion on the watch list can keep terrorism suspects off planes, block noncitizens from entering the country and subject people to delays and greater scrutiny at airports, border crossings and traffic stops.
The database now has about 420,000 names, including about 8,000 Americans, according to the statistics released in connection with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. About 16,000 people, including about 500 Americans, are barred from flying.
The 91 pages of newly disclosed files include a December 2010 guidance memorandum to F.B.I. field offices showing that even a not-guilty verdict may not always be enough to get someone off the list, if agents maintain they still have “reasonable suspicion” that the person might have ties to terrorism.
“If an individual is acquitted or charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism, the individual must still meet the reasonable suspicion standard in order to remain on, or be subsequently nominated to, the terrorist watch list,” the once-classified memorandum says.
Ginger McCall, a counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “In the United States, you are supposed to be assumed innocent. But on the watch list, you may be assumed guilty, even after the court dismisses your case.”
But Stewart Baker, a former Homeland Security official in the Bush administration, argued that even if the intelligence about someone’s possible terrorism ties fell short of the courtroom standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it could still be appropriate to keep the person on the watch list as having attracted suspicion.
According to European data protection law every individual has the right to get
a copy of all personal data a company holds about them. This
law is applicable to Facebook too, since every European user has a contract with
“Facebook Ireland Limited”, based in Dublin, Ireland.
non-users have the same right to access data that Facebook might hold about them.
Insist on your Rights
Facebook tries to get rid of people requesting
their data. The first response is often an e-mail with the information
on how to log onto Facebook. Of course you can't see all the data that is used
in the background this way (e.g. meta data, deleted data).
necessary to send two or three e-mails, it might be necessary to make a
complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
Receive a CD
As soon as Facebook gives in, you will get a CD holding your
data and a short letter. According to Irish regulation Facebook has 40 days form
the initial request to deliver the CD. On the CD you will usually finda a PDF
that holds a lot, but not all your personal data. You can expect that the PDF
will be more than 1.000 pages long and more than a hundred megabytes
You'll be able to get an idea of the amount of personal data
facebook is holding about you. Some of the data will be data that you removed
long ago where you did not even know that it still existed.
After decades of new laws to toughen sentencing for criminals, prosecutors have gained greater leverage to extract guilty pleas from defendants and reduce the number of cases that go to trial, often by using the threat of more serious charges with mandatory sentences or other harsher penalties.
“We now have an incredible concentration of power in the hands of prosecutors,” said Richard E. Myers II, a former assistant United States attorney who is now an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina. He said that so much influence now resides with prosecutors that “in the wrong hands, the criminal justice system can be held hostage.”
“Legislators want to make it easy for prosecutors to get the conviction without having to go to trial,” said Rachel Barkow, a professor of law at New York University who studies how prosecutors use their power. “And prosecutors who are starved for resources want to use that leverage. And so now everyone acts with the assumption that the case should end with a plea.”
“How many times is a mandatory sentence used as a chip in order to coerce a plea? They don’t keep records,” said Senior Judge John L. Kane Jr. of United States District Court in Denver, who believes that prosecutors have grown more powerful than judges. But it is very common, he added. “That’s what the public doesn’t see, and where the statistics become meaningless.”
But one result is obvious, he said: “We hardly have trials anymore.”
“Judges have lost discretion, and that discretion has accumulated in the hands of prosecutors, who now have the ultimate ability to shape the outcome,” Mr. Cassell said. “With mandatory minimums and other sentencing enhancements out there, prosecutors can often dictate the sentence that will be imposed.”
“There are some judges who will punish you for going to trial,” Mr. Cervone who was head of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said. “Legally, you cannot impose a longer sentence on someone because they exercised their right to trial,” he said, speaking of judges. “Factually, there are ways to do it.”
It’s been said a thousand times: Congress had to pass President Obama’s health care law in order to find out what’s in it. But, despite the repetitiveness, the level of shock from each new discovery never seems to recede.
This time, America is learning about the federal government’s plan to collect and aggregate confidential patient records for every one of us.
In a proposed rule from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal government is demanding insurance companies submit detailed health care information about their patients.
The HHS has proposed the federal government pursue one of three paths to obtain this sensitive information: A “centralized approach” wherein insurers’ data go directly to Washington; an “intermediate state-level approach” in which insurers give the information to the 50 states; or a “distributed approach” in which health insurance companies crunch the numbers according to federal bureaucrat edict.
It’s par for the course with the federal government, but abstract terms are used to distract from the real objectives of this idea: no matter which “option” is chosen, government bureaucrats would have access to the health records of every American - including you.
There are major problems with any one of these three “options.” First is the obvious breach of patient confidentiality. The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.
Two weeks ago, the media's heart went aflutter when it learned that the
president had borrowed a page right out of ole' Joe McCarthy's communist witch
hunt book with the launch of Attack Watch. The response by everyone, even
fans of Obama, was immediate and brutal.
Yet where Obama took about 24 hours to crash and burn, someone else has stepped
in with a far stealthier method of ferreting out the traitors amongst us: none
other than our old friends, the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, which
in a Request for Proposals filed to companies that are Fed vendors, is
requesting the creation of a "Social Listening Platform"
whose function is to "gather data from various social media outlets and
The Federal Reserve, “Is requesting the creation of a “Social Listening Platform” whose function is to “gather data from various social media outlets and news sources.” It will “monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria.” The Fed’s desired product should be able to “determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document”… “The solution must be able to gather data from the primary social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube. It should also be able to aggregate data from various media outlets such as: CNN, WSJ, Factiva etc.” Most importantly, the “Listening Platform” should be able to “Handle crisis situations, Continuously monitor conversations, and Identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers.”
It will "monitor billions of conversations and
generate text analytics based on predefined criteria." The Fed's
desired product should be able to "determine the sentiment
[ED:LOL] of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or
document"... "The solution must be able to gather data from the primary social
media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube. It
should also be able to aggregate data from various media outlets such as: CNN,
WSJ, Factiva etc." Most importantly, the "Listening Platform" should be
able to "Handle crisis situations, Continuously monitor conversations,
and Identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers."
The federal government has just entered the counterespionage era and will be
monitoring everything written about it anywhere in the world. After all, why ask
others to snitch for you and anger everyone as Obama found out the hard way,
when you can pay others to create the supreme FIATtack
WatchTM using money you yourself can print in unlimited
amounts. And once the Internet is completely "transparent", the Fed will next
focus on telephone conversations, and finally will simply bug each and every
otherwise "private" location in the world. Because very soon saying that
"printing money is treason" will be treason, and such terrorist thoughts must be
pre-crimed before they even occur.
Sentiment Analysis And Social Media MonitoringSolution RFP
From the key section of the RFP, presented in its entirety below:
Social media platforms are changing the way organizations are communicating
to the public Conversations are happening all the time and everywhere.
is need for the Communications Group to be timely and proactively aware of the
reactions and opinions expressed by the general public as it relates to the
Federal Reserve and its actions on a variety of subjects.
II. Social Listening Platforms
Social media listening platforms are solutions that gather data from various
social media outlets and news sources. They monitor billions of conversations
and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria. They can also
determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or
The information gathered can guide the organizations public
relations group in assessing the effectiveness of communication strategies.
Here are some of the services it can offer:
o Track reach and spread of your messages and press releases
o Handle crisis situations o
Continuously monitor conversations o Identify and reach
out to key bloggers and influencers o Spot emerging
trends, discussions themes and topics
Last May the Indiana Supreme Court surprised constitutionalists and
patriots the nation over by calling the “castle doctrine” — that is, the age-old
view that a man's home is his castle, his place to defend from all unauthorized
invasions — a thing of the past. The newly minted Justice Steven David, writing for himself, Chief Justice
Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan, decreed the following to be
Indiana law (over the dissent of justices Robert Rucker and Brent Dickson): “We believe, however, that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a
home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment
jurisprudence. … Nowadays, an aggrieved arrestee has means available at common
law for the redress against unlawful police action.”
Please note that the Royalist “we” above is limited to 60 percent of the
Indiana Supreme Court in 2011. Three contemporary men in black have taken it
upon themselves to roll back almost 800 years of common law. Thus the hubris
that is post-modernity is on full display in Indianapolis.
On Tuesday, this same court reaffirmed its May ruling, allegedly “clarifying”
(i.e., in a manner likely to pacify the politicos getting grief from their
constituents) that their decision visits no harm upon the Fourth Amendment.
(Rightly understood, that is — which really means Leftly understood, of
The Indiana Supreme Court now assures us that even though it uprooted common
law established by Magna Carta in 1215, the court did not intend to encroach
upon the Bill of Rights hammered out some 560 years after that seemingly
optional social compact. And lacking the intent to encroach, must not have
Wrong. The garden of legal precedent cannot be so neatly weeded. Ripping out
one “weed” always leads to a fraying of the roots of the flowers in the general
vicinity. Our esteemed court's “new and improved” angle on changing medieval
common law by using a sentence beginning with “nowadays” will soon metastasize,
taking down the Orwellian memory hole much more than just the castle
Jeff Chester, who heads the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C., was in Burlington on Thursday to deliver a warning that our personal data and our personal habits are being systematically collected and marketed for corporate and political gain.
"Powerful forces," he said, "are shaping the future of the Internet and other digital media."
Chester was invited to town for two talks, one at noon Thursday at the First Congregational Church and an evening presentation at Champlain College. Sponsors were the Center for Media and Democracy and organizations including Seven Days, the American Civil Liberties Union, Champlain College, the University of Vermont Libraries, Vermont Commons, Front Porch Forum, United Way of Chittenden County and the Vermont Library Association.
Chester warns that money-making pressures are making the Internet perilous for individuals' privacy. "The technology is Orwellian," he said.
As that technology collects information minute by minute on each Internet excursion on one's computer or on social media or mobile phones, it provides insights about our political beliefs and practices, he said.
For more than a year, federal authorities
pursued a man they called simply "the Hacker." Only after using a
little known cellphone-tracking device—a stingray—were they able to zero in on
a California home and make the arrest.
Stingrays are designed to locate a mobile
phone even when it's not being used to make a call. The Federal Bureau of
Investigation considers the devices to be so critical that it has a policy of
deleting the data gathered in their use, mainly to keep suspects in the dark
about their capabilities, an FBI official told The Wall Street Journal in
response to inquiries.
A stingray's role in
nabbing the alleged "Hacker"—Daniel David Rigmaiden—is shaping up as
a possible test of the legal standards for using these devices in
investigations. The FBI says it obtains appropriate court approval to use the
one of several new technologies used by law enforcement to track people's
locations, often without a search warrant. These techniques are driving a
constitutional debate about whether the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits
unreasonable searches and seizures, but which was written before the digital
age, is keeping pace with the times.
A stingray works by mimicking a cellphone tower,
getting a phone to connect to it and measuring signals from the phone. It lets
the stingray operator "ping," or send a signal to, a phone and locate
it as long as it is powered on, according to documents reviewed by the Journal.
The device has various uses, including helping police locate suspects and
aiding search-and-rescue teams in finding people lost in remote areas or buried
in rubble after an accident.
The government says
"stingray" is a generic term. In Mr. Rigmaiden's case it remains
unclear which device or devices were actually used.
The best known
stingray maker is Florida-based defense contractor Harris Corp. A spokesman for
Harris declined to comment.
trademarks registered between 2002 and 2008 on several devices, including the
StingRay, StingRay II, AmberJack, KingFish, TriggerFish and LoggerHead. Similar
devices are available from other manufacturers. According to a Harris document,
its devices are sold only to law-enforcement and government agencies.
FBI and Department of Justice officials have also
said that investigators don't need search warrants. Associate Deputy Attorney
General James A. Baker and FBI General Counsel Valerie E. Caproni both said at
a panel at the Brookings Institution in May that devices like these fall into a
category of tools called "pen registers," which require a lesser
order than a warrant. Pen registers gather signals from phones, such as phone
numbers dialed, but don't receive the content of the communications.
To get a
pen-register order, investigators don't have to show probable cause. The
Supreme Court has ruled that use of a pen register doesn't require a search
warrant because it doesn't involve interception of conversations.
cellphones, data sent includes location information, making the situation more
complicated because some judges have found that location information is more
intrusive than details about phone numbers dialed. Some courts have required a
slightly higher standard for location information, but not a warrant, while
others have held that a search warrant is necessary.
As The Seattle Timesreports today, the Seattle Police Department is, in one respect, opening up its records. The department is now providing misconduct investigation documents even in cases where an officer has been cleared. According to a court declaration by Assistant Chief Dick Reed, the department is miserable about doing so, but has no choice given a recent state Supreme Court ruling. But when the department is obligated to disclose those and other records is another matter, one a different court ruling this week took up. That ruling was not so friendly to the cause of open records.
The Monday ruling by the state Court of Appeals concerns the case of Evan Sargent, a young man who had a nasty confrontation with an off-duty officer in an alley where Sargent was parked, one the officer was itching to drive through. Sargent claims that the officer, Don Waters, smashed his side mirror, and to boot had Waters arrested for assault because the young man held up a baseball bat to defend himself.
Prosecutors declined to press charges, but the case blew up anyway. Sargent retained Mike McKay, the former U.S. attorney, to look into a possible civil rights suit. McKay cited the Sargent case in calling for a civil rights probe of SPD, a plea that pissed off the mayor's office.
Sargent also sued SPD for withholding records about the road rage incident. The trial judge said the department had indeed failed to comply with the Public Records Act, and ordered a $100-a-day fine. But the appeals court, while saying that the department made some minor errors, largely reversed the trial court's ruling.
Monday's judgment declares SPD justified in claiming that it didn't have to turn over records because the case was still open--even though the King County Prosecutor's office by that time had declined to press charges. The prosecutor's office had sent the case back to SPD for further investigation, the ruling points out.
The appeals court further emphasizes that it's up to the police--and the police alone-- to determine when a case is over. One can't simply say, as the trial court did, that a case is closed "with the final witness interview."
Motorists issued a traffic ticket in Massachusetts will have to pay
money to the state whether or not they committed the alleged crime.
According to a state supreme court ruling handed down yesterday, fees
are to be imposed even on those found completely innocent. The high
court saw no injustice in collecting $70 from Ralph C. Sullivan after he
successfully fought a $100 ticket for failure to stay within a marked
Bay State drivers given speeding tickets and other moving violations
have twenty days either to pay up or make a non-refundable $20 payment
to appeal to a clerk-magistrate. After that, further challenge to a
district court judge can be had for a non-refundable payment of $50.
Sullivan argued that motorists were being forced to pay "fees" not
assessed on other types of violations, including drug possession. He
argued this was a violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection
clause, but the high court justices found this to be reasonable.
"We conclude that there is a rational basis for requiring those cited
for a noncriminal motor vehicle infraction alone to pay a filing fee and
not requiring a filing fee for those contesting other types of civil
violations," Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the court. "Where the
legislature provides greater process that imposes greater demands on the
resources of the District Court, it is rational for the legislature to
impose filing fees, waivable where a litigant is indigent, to offset
part of the additional cost of these judicial proceedings."
The court insisted that allowing a hearing before a clerk-magistrate
instead of an assistant clerk, as well as allowing a de novo hearing
before a judge constituted benefits that justified the cost. Last year,
the fees for the clerk-magistrate hearings generated $3,678,620 in
revenue for the courts. Although Sullivan raised the issue of due
process during oral argument, the court would not rule on the merits of
"I am disappointed that the SJC did not consider my due process
argument," Sullivan told TheNewspaper. "I suppose that some other driver
who gets charged with a moving violation will need to consider doing
that. At least this decision will give them a blueprint for a focused
due process argument."
Sullivan, an attorney, is not planning on further appeal to the US Supreme Court.
"While the decision did not go my way, I am safe in the knowledge that I
gave it my best shot," Sullivan said. "I took on this case because I
felt that it was the right thing to do." http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/35/3592.asp
Here we are in 2011, with our federal, state and local governments having the technological ability to track and store in massive databases what we say on the phone, in emails, on Facebook, on Twitter and the myriad other digital means in which we communicate. The Obama administration has the power to punish an American for providing "material support" to our terrorist enemies.
We are ordered to do this in obedience to the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign.
It's up to you to define "suspicious." This is what our America has become.
There has been scarcely any media attention to this Aug. 11 release by the minutemen and minutewomen of the ACLU:
"In a massive coordinated information-seeking campaign, 34 ACLU affiliates are filing over 375 requests in 31 states across the country with local law enforcement agencies large and small that seek to uncover when, why and how they are using cell phone location data to track Americans. ... The requests, being filed under the states' freedom of information laws, are an effort to strip away the secrecy that has surrounded law enforcement use of cell phone tracking capabilities."
If there's any doubt about Americans' widespread use of cell phones, look around on any street. Also, says Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project: "A detailed history of someone's movements is extremely personal and is the kind of information the Constitution protects" – and that's why "the ability to access cell phone location data is an incredibly powerful tool and its use is shrouded in secrecy" by the Obama administration.
As I provide a few examples of what the ACLU is demanding, see how the answer (if this government ever answers) affects you: "The use of cell phone location records to identify 'communities of interest (detailing those persons who have called or been called by a target)' in investigations."
Watch where you're going. You could be brought into an FBI or local police probe. This spring "police in Michigan sought information about every cell phone near the site of a planned labor protest." What if the FBI is refocusing on all cells in an area of protesters, including by American Muslims, whose Bill of Rights signs are bringing an administration into disrepute and contempt, and you were just wandering by?
I canceled the OnStar subscription on my new GMC vehicle today after receiving an email from the company about their new terms and conditions. While most people, I imagine, would hit the delete button when receiving something as exciting as new terms and conditions, being the nerd sort, I decided to have a personal drooling session and read it instead. I’m glad I did. OnStar’s latest T&C has some very unsettling updates to it, which include the ability to sell your personal GPS location information, speed, safety belt usage, and other information to third parties, including law enforcement. To add insult to a slap in the face, the company insists they will continue collecting and selling this personal information even after you cancel your service, unless you specifically shut down the data connection to the vehicle after canceling.
The complete update can be found here. Not surprisingly, I even had to scrub the link as it included my vehicle’s VIN number, to tell OnStar just what customers were actually reading the new terms and conditions.
The first section explains the information that’s collected from the vehicle. No big deal. Sounds rather innocuous and boring. I imagine most people probably drool out and close the window by the time they get this far. Your contact information, billing information, etc. is collected. Nobody cares about tire pressure and crash information being collected – after all, that’s what OnStar is there for. Toward the end, you’ll read about how GPS data is collected, including vehicle speed and seat belt status. Again, in an emergency, this is very useful and most customers want an emergency services business to collect this information - when necessary. And the old 2010 terms and conditions only allowed OnStar to collect this information for legitimate purposes, such as recovering a stolen vehicle, or when needed to provide other OnStar services to customers on demand. As you scroll down the list of information collected, you see that once you get past important emergency services (what we pay OnStar for), OnStar now has given themselves the right to also use this information to stuff their pockets. OnStar has granted themselves the right to collect this information “for any purpose, at any time, provided that following collection of such location and speed information identifiable to your Vehicle, it is shared only on an anonymized basis.” – This provides carte blanche authority for OnStar to now track and collect information about your current GPS position and speed any time and anywhere, instead of only in the rare, limited circumstances the old contract outlined.
Anonymized GPS data? There’s no such thing! We’ve all seen this before – anonymized searches, for example, that were not-so-quite anonymized. But in this case, it’s impossible to anonymize GPS data! If your vehicle is consistently parked at your home, driving down your driveway, or taking a left or right turn onto your street, its pretty obvious that this is where you live! It’s like trying to say that someone’s Google Map lookup from their home is “anonymized” because it doesn’t have their name on it. It still shows where they live! What’s unique even more-so to OnStar is that the data they claim they sell as part of their business model is useless unless it’s specific; that is, not diluted to the nearest 10 mile radius, etc. This combination of analytics, and their prospective customers (law enforcement, marketers, etc) requires the data be disturbingly precise. Anyone armed with Google can easily do a phone book or public records search to find the name and address that resides at any given GPS coordinate.
So the GPS location of your vehicle and your vehicle’s speed are likely going to be collected by OnStar and sold to third parties. What kind of companies are interested in this data? OnStar would have you believe that respectable agencies, like departments of transportation and various law enforcement agencies (for purposes of “public safety or traffic services” – A.K.A ticket writing). I can imagine this data COULD be used for good, to create traffic based analytics to improve future road construction or even emergency response. But given that those types of decisions are only made once a decade in most cities, OnStar isn’t likely to benefit much financially from “respectable” companies.
What is more profitable to OnStar that your personal GPS data could be used for? Hmm, well how about the obvious – tracking you and your vehicle. It would be extremely profitable to be able to identify all vehicles within OnStar’s network that frequently speed, and provide law enforcement “traffic services” the ability to trace them back to their homes or businesses, as well as tell them where to set up speed traps. Or perhaps insurance companies who want to check and make sure you’re wearing your seat belt, or automatically give you rate increases if you speed, even if you’re never in an accident? How about identifying all individuals who shop at certain stores, and using that to determine whose back yard to put the next God-awful Wal-Mart store? How about employers who purchase these records from these third parties to see where their employees (or prospective employees) travel to (and how fast), sleaze bag lawyers who want to subpoena these records to use against you if you’re ever sued, government agencies who want to monitor you, marketing firms who want to spam you, and a long list of other not-so-squeaky-clean people who use (and abuse) existing online, credit card, financial, credit, and other analytics to destroy our privacy?
Add to this OnStar’s use policy of your personal information – the stuff that does identify who you are and ties it to your GPS records. While I have no problem using my personal information in events of an emergency, OnStar also uses my information to “allow us, and our affiliates, your Vehicle Maker, and Vehicle dealers, to offer you new or additional products or services; and for other purposes“. So not only is OnStar going to sell my vehicle’s GPS location data to a number of third parties, but they’re also going to use it and my personal information for marketing purposes. Imagine your personal data being sold to any number of their “affiliates”, and a few months later, you start to receive targeted, location-specific advertising based on where you’ve traveled. Go to Weight Watchers every week? Expect an increase in the amount of weight loss advertising phone calls. Go to the bar frequently? Anticipate a number of sleazy liquor ads to show up in your mailbox. Sneak out to Victoria Secret for something special for your lover? You might soon be inundated with adult advertising in your mailbox.
The following statement can be attributed to Joanne Finnorn, Vice President, Subscriber Services
"OnStar has and always will give our customers the choice in how we use their data. We've also been very open with our customers about changes in services and privacy terms.
"Under our new Terms and Conditions, when a customer cancels service, we have informed customers that OnStar will maintain a two-way connection to their vehicle unless they ask us not to do so. In the future, this connection may provide us with the capability to alert vehicle occupants about severe weather conditions such as tornado warnings or mandatory evacuations. Another benefit for keeping this connection "open" could be to provide vehicle owners with any updated warranty data or recall issues.
"Of course, if the customer requests us to turn off the two-way connection, we will do as we have always done, and that is honor customers' requests.
Researchers have discovered a serious weakness in virtually all websites
protected by the secure sockets layer protocol that allows attackers to silently
decrypt data that's passing between a webserver and an end-user browser.
The vulnerability resides in versions 1.0 and
earlier of TLS, or transport layer security, the successor to the secure sockets layer technology that serves as the internet's
foundation of trust. Although versions 1.1 and 1.2 of TLS aren't susceptible,
they remain almost entirely unsupported in browsers and websites alike, making
encrypted transactions on PayPal, GMail, and just about every other website
vulnerable to eavesdropping by hackers who are able to control the connection
between the end user and the website he's visiting.
At the Ekoparty security conference in Buenos Aires later this week,
researchers Thai Duong and Juliano Rizzo plan to demonstrate proof-of-concept
code called BEAST, which is short for Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS. The
cookies a targeted website uses to grant access to restricted user accounts. The
exploit works even against sites that use HSTS, or HTTP Strict Transport Security, which prevents certain pages
from loading unless they're protected by SSL.
The attack is the latest to expose serious fractures in the system that
virtually all online entities use to protect data from being intercepted over
insecure networks and to prove their website is authentic rather than an easily
counterfeited impostor. Over the past few years, Moxie Marlinspike and other
researchers have documented ways of obtaining digital certificates that trick
the system into validating sites that can't be trusted.
Earlier this month, attackers obtained digital credentials for Google.com and
at least a dozen other sites after breaching the security of disgraced
certificate authority DigiNotar. The forgeries were then used to spy on people
in Iran accessing protected GMail servers.
In a bid to convince Americans to follow orders and report “suspicious behavior,” which the DHS has defined as a variety of mundane actions and even political affiliations, security corporations are lobbying for the passage of the See Something, Say Something Act (H.R. 963), which would encourage Americans to frivolously snitch on each other by providing legal protection for people who report “suspicious behavior” to the authorities.
The law would provide immunity for anyone who reports “any suspicious transaction, activity, or occurrence indicating that an individual may be engaging, or preparing to engage, in a violation of law relating to an act of terrorism,” which judging by DHS standards and those set down by federal agencies and law enforcement bodies over the last decade, could be classified as almost any behavior whatsoever, including political activism, owning gold, being a Ron Paul supporter, or displaying a political bumper sticker.
So-called “suspicious behavior” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security includes talking to police officers, using cell phones and a myriad of other normal activities. Moreover, the DHS has gone to great lengths to portray white, middle class Americans as the primary terror threat.
By encouraging Americans to frivolously report anything as “suspicious behavior,” the federal government is mimicking the policy of some of the darkest dictatorships in history.
One common misconception about Nazi Germany was that the police state was solely a creation of the authorities and that the citizens were merely victims. On the contrary, Gestapo files show that 80% of all Gestapo investigations were started in response to information provided by denunciations by “ordinary” Germans.
“There were relatively few secret police, and most were just processing the information coming in. I had found a shocking fact. It wasn’t the secret police who were doing this wide-scale surveillance and hiding on every street corner. It was the ordinary German people who were informing on their neighbors,” wrote Robert Gellately of Florida State University.
Gellately discovered that the people who informed on their neighbors were motivated primarily by banal factors – “greed, jealousy, and petty differences,” and not by a genuine concern about crime or insecurity. This is precisely the kind of environment the ‘See Something, Say Something’ law, and the campaign itself, is designed to create.
Related Article: NASCO Endorses "See Something, Say Something" Act to Protect Citizens Who Report Suspicious Activity
Big Brother is watching you while you drink your coffee, or at least imploring you to watch others while you drink your coffee.
Coffee addicts getting their morning fix may notice an advertisement on their coffee-cup sleeves with a helpful message from the Department of Homeland Security. “If you see something, say something,” the ad says. “Report unattended bags and unusual behavior to police or transit personnel.”
In addition, history shows us that recruiting the population to spy on each other in the name of security only ever creates an oppressive and fearful society, and doesn’t even provide greater security.
A DHS spokesperson said the Maryland Transit Administration started the coffee sleeve campaign. According to the sleeve, the ad was “purchased with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
Part of the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines for suspicious behavior include individuals “acting furtively and suspiciously” and “avoiding eye contact.” The side effects of heavy caffeine use include irritability, anxiety, tremulousness and muscle twitching.
The fact that the call to Americans to report on each other is being taken to the lengths of plastering the message all over coffee cups is chilling and a shocking reflection of how Sovietized the country is becoming as a result of the myth that terrorists are everywhere when in reality peanut allergies, accident-causing deer and swimming pools pose a greater threat.
In a bid to convince Americans to follow orders and report “suspicious behavior,” which the DHS has defined as a variety of mundane actions and even political affiliations, security corporations are lobbying for the passage of the See Something, Say Something Act (H.R. 963), which would encourage Americans to frivolously snitch on each other by providing legal protection for people who report “suspicious behavior” to the authorities
Hacks waged against companies that issue security certificates for websites are calling into question long-standing domain name verification practices.
The most headline-grabbing attacks, launched by the so-called Comodohacker against certificate authorities Comodo and DigiNotar, aim to gather certificate information for frequently used social sites such as Google. With certificate information, anyone with access controls at an Internet service provider could easily create a ghost site, one that under common Internet browsing behavior and standards would be difficult for the average Web user to spot. With a ghost site, hackers could attempt to defraud unsuspecting users.
Difficulty in citing suspicious ghost or spoofed sites has been exasperated by mobile browsing. "We could be browsing fake sites, a fake Google site, and not know that we're doing anything badly," says Bob Walder, chief research officer at NSS Labs, an IT security research and testing firm. "The train of trust will appear to be unbroken on an iPhone and Android phone."
Part of the problem is user behavior. Most online users trust that sites matching the URLs they enter are safe. But another part of the problem lies in the way certificates are verified - ultimately a system that has been built on trust and honors, say security experts such as Michael Smith of Akamai Technologies.
Jerry Bryant, group manager of response communications for Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, says Microsoft's Internet Explorer assures users that sites are legitimate by displaying lock icons in the browser security status bar. "That will let the user visiting the website know that the site has a digital certificate," he says. "The certificate that is used to encrypt the connection also contains information about the identity of the website owner or organization. You can click the lock to view the identity of the website. Normally, you won't have to think about certificates at all. You might, however, see a message telling you that a certificate is expired or invalid. In those cases, you should follow the instructions in the message."
The Obama administration is ramping up civil rights enforcement against local police nationwide, opening a number of investigations to determine whether officers are guilty of brutality or discrimination against Hispanics and other minorities.
In recent months, the Justice Department has begun inquiries into major city police departments such as Portland, Ore., where officers shot several people who had mental health issues, and Seattle, where police were accused of gunning down a homeless Native American woodcarver. The department issued a scathing report earlier this month accusing Puerto Rico police of a “staggering level of crime and corruption.’’
All told, Justice’s Civil Rights Division is conducting 17 probes of police and sheriff departments — the largest number in its 54-year history.
The investigations are civil, meaning they will not lead to criminal charges, but can result in court-enforced reforms.
The federal effort, part of the administration’s heightened enforcement of civil rights laws, has won praise from advocacy groups and experts on police brutality.
“This is long overdue,’’ said Deborah J. Vagins, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “The Bush administration beyond dropped the ball. These are some of the most egregious situations, places where we have killings committed by officers.’’
Experts say it is unclear if police brutality is increasing or just more likely to be exposed, though Justice officials say factors such as the economy and weaknesses in the mental health system are leading to more potentially dangerous encounters with civilians.
“There’s no way to measure it,’’ said Samuel Walker, an expert on police accountability at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who praised the Obama administration’s crackdown as “a simple issue of justice. The victims are almost entirely people of color.’’
The current investigations cite a 1994 federal law that gave the Civil Rights Division the authority to determine whether departments are engaging in a “pattern or practice” of violating constitutional or federal rights. It was enacted after the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.
The Obama administration also has amped up criminal enforcement. The Civil Rights Division last year filed a record number of criminal cases, 52, against mostly law enforcement officers for allegedly violating constitutional or legal rights “under color of law.’’ There are about 10,000 police departments nationwide.
“We can’t go everywhere there is a civil rights violation,’’ said one Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman. “There are too many places with problems.’’
Plans to put Atlanta’s public spaces under camera surveillance will move forward this week with the opening of a state-of-the-art video monitoring center.
Whether it’s good that Atlanta is joining other big cities in the video surveillance race depends on your comfort level with being watched more often by police.
The downtown “Video Integration Center,” funded by a mix of private donations and public money, has already given Atlanta police links to more than 100 public and private security cameras.
Talks are underway to link up with more cameras at CNN Center, Georgia State University, the Georgia World Congress Center and MARTA, along with cameras in Buckhead.
Officials say hundreds or thousands more private-sector cameras will eventually feed into the center. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution toured the center last week, as live footage of a traffic stop and archived video of a DragonCon parade played on a 15-foot screen. Officers can watch up to 128 views at once.
“This is just the beginning,” said Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which helped raise money for the center. “This is going to grow by leaps and bounds over the years. The goal, of course,
is to have the entire city blanketed.”
Created under the auspices of securing the borders and preventing illegal immigrants from being hired for “American” jobs, E-Verify challenges the rights of the individual, the rights of labor and the rights of industry. As such, this is not a left or right issue. Anyone who values civil liberties should be alarmed. In fact, E-Verify is being opposed by various civil liberties groups such as the ACLU, American Library Association, The Rutherford Institute, Liberty Coalition and others.
If approved by Congress, this legislation would make the federal government the final authority on who gets hired by American businesses and in the process create a bureaucratic nightmare for already over-burdened and over-regulated small business owners. In a nutshell, H.R. 2885 requires all employers to submit potential employees’ names, Social Security numbers and other data to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for authorization before the employees can start work. The data would then be run through E-Verify, a government-run database and employment identification verification system.
In other words, the E-Verify system would require all those wanting to be employed by American companies to register the credentials of their citizenship in a government database. What this means, of course, is that in order to be able to verify an applicant’s legitimacy, the government would first have to build a massive database to store the biographical information of the entire working population in the United States—a huge undertaking with numerous pitfalls and security flaws, as we have seen with many other government databases. If you think unemployment is a problem now, just wait until your employment hinges on getting government clearance. Under this legislation, if a worker’s information is incorrect in E-Verify, he or she can’t work until the problem is resolved.
A pending appeal to the state’s highest court on whether to reinstate the latest drunken driving conviction of a habitual offender is shining new light on proposed legislation that would give local law enforcement agencies the power to make arrests outside their jurisdiction.
Local police chiefs and officers have been closely tracking an appeal before the Supreme Judicial Court involving the 2007 conviction of Joseph F. Limone of Winthrop, which was thrown out in Appeals Court last year after it was determined an off-duty police officer involved in the case exceeded his powers outside his jurisdiction.
An opinion from the justices could be rendered in the next few weeks, based on oral arguments that were heard Sept. 8.
In oral arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court on Sept. 8, Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Kevin Curtin argued: “This case presents an opportunity to articulate clear and helpful lines between official conduct and private conduct in a context of off-duty police officers.’’ He added that Kelleher can’t be blamed for being in uniform, and that how he handled the situation “did not constitute arrest, and the officer returned to his own car, consistent with private conduct.’’
Limone’s attorney, Robert H. D’Auria, argued at the hearing that Kelleher went beyond what a private citizen would do in telling Limone to get back in his car and wait for police.
“When you add a police uniform and the color of the law behind everything this ‘citizen’ says or does, it has to be viewed in a different light,’’ D’Auria told the justices. “Before we expand the authority of a police officer to engage in this conduct outside of their territorial jurisdiction, we have to also take note of the potential for anarchy and vigilantism. . . . Do we want a guy from Nevada, [saying] ‘Hey, I happen to have my uniform,’ making these types of decisions in Massachusetts? Do we want to promote that?’’
When Erich Campbell passed two Florida Highway Patrol cruisers parked in the median near Tampa International Airport in December 2009, he flashed his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of the radar patrol.
Then, to his surprise, one of the troopers pulled over his silver Toyota Tundra and ticketed him for improper flashing of high beams.
In August, the Land O'Lakes, Fla., resident filed a class-action lawsuit in Tallahassee against the highway patrol and other state traffic-enforcement agencies. He seeks an injunction barring law enforcement from issuing headlight-flash tickets, plus refunds and civil damages for previously cited motorists.
Campbell's lawyer, J. Marc Jones, claims his client's First Amendment right to free speech was violated. "The flashing of lights to communicate with another driver is clearly speech," he said.
David Hudson, a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University who has studied the issue, said motorists have previously challenged headlight-flashing tickets in New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee, but those were individual cases, rather than the statewide class-action lawsuit in Florida.
"The First Amendment protects all sorts of non-verbal conduct; it protects more than the spoken or printed word," Hudson said. "Courts have found that a wide variety of actions — such as honking one's horn or flashing one's headlights — are forms of communication under the First Amendment."
Imagine that President Obama could order the arrest of anyone who broke a promise on the Internet. So you could be jailed for lying about your age or weight on an Internet dating site. Or you could be sent to federal prison if your boss told you to work but you used the company's computer to check sports scores online. Imagine that Eric Holder's Justice Department urged Congress to raise penalties for violations, making them felonies allowing three years in jail for each broken promise.
Think again. Congress is now poised to grant the Obama administration's wishes in the name of "cybersecurity."
The little-known law at issue is called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It was enacted in 1986 to punish computer hacking. But Congress has broadened the law every few years, and today it extends far beyond hacking. The law now criminalizes computer use that "exceeds authorized access" to any computer. Today that violation is a misdemeanor, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to meet this morning to vote on making it a felony.
Remarkably, the law doesn't even require devices to be connected to the Internet. Since 2008, it applies to pretty much everything with a microchip. So if you're visiting a friend and you use his coffeemaker without permission, watch out: You may have committed a federal crime.
Until now, the critical limit on the government's power has been that federal prosecutors rarely charge misdemeanors. They prefer to bring more serious felony charges. That's why the administration's proposal is so dangerous. If exceeding authorized access becomes a felony, prosecutors will become eager to charge it. Abuses are inevitable.
Greensburg, IN.- Behind bars for 16 years, an Indiana mother found guilty of setting the fire that killed her three-year-old son says she was wrongfully convicted.
Now as she awaits a decision on a new trial by the Indiana Court of Appeals, Kristine Bunch sits down exclusively with 13 Investigates with claims of burning injustice. At issue is Indiana's method of fire investigation.
Investigators had no clear motive, but convinced a jury that Kristine Bunch, a single, unemployed mother on food stamps with no life insurance policy, deliberately set the fire.
Their evidence: the presence of an accelerant and a gasoline can found three feet from the front door, burn patterns, hydrocarbon readings, or the analysis of unburned fuel, and a chair blocking the door preventing three-year-old Tony's escape.
She was alarmed that prosecutors in her case used some of the same questionable arson indicators under review in the Texas case. 13 Investigates first spoke with national experts who uncovered the flaws and wrote new investigative standards for arson in a series entitled "Burning Injustice" in 2008.
"I started raising hell about it," scientist Gerald Hurst told 13 Investigates. He was referring to the arson conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham's case prompted a series of fire tests that discovered prosecutors were wrong in their fire theory and analysis.
"We started looking at our own guidelines. We started realizing they're not only woefully inadequate, they were woefully wrong," added Dan Churchward, who was on the committee to write new arson standards now known as NFPA 921.
Kristine Bunch and attorneys from the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University recently made similar arguments about outdated fire investigation techniques and theories before the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Armed with testimony from a world renowned ATF investigator, and scientists they say Bunch should get a new trial.
"There was zero evidence, zero that this was intentionally set" said Attorney Ron Safer, who presented arguments to the Court of Appeals. "No one would get up on the stand today and say burn patterns means arson. And that's exactly what they said when Kristine was on trial. We know it's wrong," he added.
Specifically, Safer says there is no evidence of an accelerant or a burn pattern in Tony's room. Toxicology reports show Tony died from high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning, suggesting the fire didn't start in the open air, but in the ceiling.
As for that chair blocking Tony's door, attorneys say it was actually a charred wall.
Brookline, MA - Some license applicants will be required to get fingerprinted before doing business in town if the Brookline police get their way.
A proposed bylaw would require several types of businesses, including taxi and ice cream truck drivers, hawker peddlers, door-to-door salesmen, and people seeking liquor licenses, to submit to a fingerprint scan as part of a national criminal records check. Secondhand dealers, and car dealers would also be subject to the bylaw.
“We have found out over the years that some of the people that apply for these occupations have a past,” said Police Chief Daniel O’Leary. “I’m not going to give somebody a license that has a criminal record and them put them out in the community.”
Currently, the department requires people applying for certain types of licenses to submit their names for a name-based records check. But officials said the check only reviews Massachusetts’ criminal records and also opens the department up to the possibility that somebody might lie about their name.
“This allows us to be more accurate, which is fairer to the person, and it will allow us to scan anywhere within the United States,” O’Leary said. “People can lie to us [now] and we don’t know about it.”
The occupations listed in the bylaw are all ones that the department currently licenses, will be licensing in the near future, or does criminals checks on for the Board of Selectmen, O’Leary said. And while he said the majority of those who apply for licenses don’t have issues, he added that they have denied people for lying about their names or criminal history in the past.
O’Leary said bylaws like the one his department is proposing are allowed under a revised Criminal Offender Record’s Information law, passed in by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2010. Officials said Boston has already created a similar bylaw, and other communities are considering passing their own.
Privacy advocates worry that the proposed bylaw could constitute an erosion of civil liberties.
“Boston did this a few months ago and we were against them doing it, and we’re not in favor of Brookline doing it either,” said Kade Crockford, the privacy right coordinator the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The reasons that the chief lays out for wanting this to happen are sort of like ‘the sky is falling,’ worst possible scenarios, which is clearly not the place to create smart public policy from.”
One of Crockford’s specific concerns is whether the fingerprints will be retained, by whom, and for how long. Similar concerns were raised during conversations about video and information gained from surveillance cameras and proposed license plate-reading cameras in Brookline.
Crockford also worried that the intense checks could scare away people considering doing business in Brookline, even if they have no criminal history. For instance, people could have concerns that the information will end up in the hands of federal agencies.
“It seems to us that, especially in a recession, there’s no reason for Brookline to be setting up unnecessary employment barriers,” she said. “People who apply to have an ice cream truck in Brookline should not be afraid that their fingerprints are going to end up with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”