Apple’s focus on the customer and their security has triggered complaints from the Drug Enforcement Administration. It seems that iMessage encryption is so good that the DEA cannot intercept any of the communications.
More details here.
Surveillance is harmful because it can chill the exercise of our civil liberties, especially our intellectual privacy. It is also gives the watcher power over the watched, creating the the risk of a variety of other harms, such as discrimination, coercion, and the threat of selective enforcement, where critics of the government can be prosecuted or blackmailed for wrongdoing unrelated to the purpose of the surveillance.
This time from the NYCLU:
A federal judge has ruled that a New York City Transit Authority rule requiring people using the city’s transit system to carry ID is unconstitutional. The decision is a victory for the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit in November, 2011 defending the public’s right to take photographs in the subway system without fear of being arrested or having to show identification to police.
“This decision is a victory for the freedom of people to walk around free from showing their papers, a core American right,” said NYCLU Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose. “It’s past time for the NYPD to learn about the Constitution and stop harassing and even arresting people for exercising their basic rights.”
You can read the decision in the case here.
National Security Letters are warrantless demands for information that have one particularly bad characteristic. The NSLs specifically prohibit the recipient of the NSL from notifying persons whose information is being sought. Essentially, the recipient of the NLS is subject to a gag order, which is said to be not subject to appeal.
However, a Federal district court judge in California has ruled all NSLs unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” said Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a challenge to NSLs on behalf of an unknown telecom that received an NSL in 2011. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”
Reuters is reporting the following:
The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.
The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.
Enough is enough. There is no legitimate reason for allowing intelligence agencies full access to every American’s financial transactions. How is such sharing not a violation of citizen’s rights to privacy? Financial crimes can be investigated by financial regulators and the FBI. Opening the books to the CIA and the NSA is another matter entirely.
The Department of Homeland Security is claiming that it is fine for DHS to stop anyone within 100 miles of the US border, without any suspicion or warrant, and search all the data on all their devices. And this decision was made by the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is supposed to protect civil liberties, not grant carte blanche for invasions of privacy.
Are you kidding me? I wasn’t aware that the requirements of the Constitution are “blacked out” in a 100 mile ring around the US border. I live within 100 miles of the Canadian border so I assume DHS could come to my house and scan my computers, tablets and phones without specifying any cause whatsoever.
The ACLU did an analysis of the number of people living within this border zone.
What we found is that fully TWO-THIRDS of the United States’ population lives within this Constitution-free or Constitution-lite Zone. That’s 197.4 million people who live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.
Nine of the top 10 largest metropolitan areas as determined by the 2000 census, fall within the Constitution-free Zone. (The only exception is #9, Dallas-Fort Worth.) Some states are considered to lie completely within the zone: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Is this really where we want to be as a country?
NBC has revealed a 16-page leaked memo, unsigned and undated, that describes the analysis used by the US Government to support killing US ctizens without trial.
Here is a brief summary from the New York Times:
It adopts an elastic definition of an “imminent” threat, saying it is not necessary for a specific attack to be in process when a target is found if the target is generally engaged in terrorist activities aimed at the United States. And it asserts that courts should not play a role in reviewing or restraining such decisions.
The white paper states that “judicial enforcement of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”
It also fills in many blanks in a series of speeches by members of the Obama legal team about the use of force in targeted killings, including remarks by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. at Northwestern’s law school in March. He asserted that the Constitution’s guarantee of “due process” before the government takes a life does not necessarily mean “judicial process” in national security situations, but offered little specific legal analysis.
And here is a preliminary take from the ACLU.
Of course, there is no way that this is legal. The damage done to the Constitution that began in the Bush Administration continues under the supervision of a Constitutional lawyer.
Aaron Swartz was prosecuted under the so-called “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” The statutory language of the CFAA is incredibly broad, and this allows prosecutors to level extremely broad charges against the smallest of potential infringements.
Among other things, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to protected computers “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.” Unfortunately, the law doesn’t clearly explain what a lack of “authorization” actually means. Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to craft criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer but instead target other behavior the prosecutors don’t like.
An obvious problem with this argument is that it would mean anyone who runs afoul of a web site’s fine print is a criminal — and many of us intentionally or unintentionally violate those agreements every day. Prosecutors wouldn’t bother filing criminal charges against most of us, of course. But if they wanted to, they would have the leeway to do it under the government’s theory.
But other criminal defendants haven’t been so lucky.
ProPublica has published a detailed summary of the various methods that the government can use to breach your privacy, without the bother of securing a warrant. If you think your comings and goings, email and browsing habits, etc., are private, you are wrong.
The U.S. government isn’t allowed to wiretap American citizens without a warrant from a judge. But there are plenty of legal ways for law enforcement, from the local sheriff to the FBI, to snoop on the digital trails you create every day. Authorities can often obtain your emails and texts by going to Google or AT&T with a simple subpoena. Usually you won’t even be notified.The Senate last week took a step toward updating privacy protection for emails, but it’s likely the issue will be kicked to the next Congress.
Like many Americans, I am concerned about the growing and unwelcome intrusions into our private lives in cyberspace. I also understand that we must update our digital privacy laws to keep pace with the rapid advances in technology.
– Senator Patrick Leahy, after announcing that his committee approved a bill that would require law enforcement to secure a warrant to access most online email. This bill would have to be reintroduced next year to be enacted, but it is a step in the right direction for a change.
Senator Patrick Leahy authored a bill that he claimed would increase email privacy rights in the US. However, law enforcement officials complained and Leahy apparently agreed to change the privacy provisions to provide warrantless government access to email.
Revised bill highlights
- Grants warrantless access to Americans’ electronic correspondence to over 22 federal agencies. Only a subpoena is required, not a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause.
- Permits state and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans’ correspondence stored on systems not offered “to the public,” including university networks.
- Authorizes any law enforcement agency to access accounts without a warrant — or subsequent court review — if they claim “emergency” situations exist.
- Says providers “shall notify” law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell their customers that they’ve been the target of a warrant, order, or subpoena.
- Delays notification of customers whose accounts have been accessed from 3 days to “10 business days.” This notification can be postponed by up to 360 days.
So what’s next? A committee vote on the bill is currently scheduled for next Thursday. This deserves attention.
America’s no-fly list is an Orwellian nightmare. People on the list have no right to appeal their listing and no right to understand what facts or errors landed them on the list at all.
Here is an example, via Boing Boing:
Wade Hicks Jr. got a standby flight on an Air Force jet from Gulfport, Miss to visit his wife, a U.S. Navy lieutenant stationed in Japan. But when the jet set down in Hawai’i, he was not allowed to board it again. He had mysteriously been landed on the FBI’s no-fly list, and was stranded in Hawai’i, unable to fly anywhere. Five days later, without comment, the FBI removed him from the list.
Before a citizen’s right to travel within the US is limited, there ought to be a right to some kind of reasonable administrative or judicial hearing.
You might be particularly interested in this Federal statute:
Current US Code addresses air travel specifically. In 49 U.S.C. § 40103, “Sovereignty and use of airspace”, the Code specifies that “A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace.”
The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.
– Justice Antonin Scalia, highlighting the “easy” issues he hopes to deal with this term, and applying certain views of the 18th century to the contemporary world.
The Obama administration’s Justice Department is arguing that American citizens have no right to keep their locations private. Law enforcement, it argues, is perfectly correct in seeking detailed locational histories of private cellphone locations, without any need for a warrant.
The Obama administration will tell federal judges in New Orleans today that warrantless tracking of the location of Americans’ mobile devices is perfectly legal.
Federal prosecutors are planning to argue that they should be able to obtain stored records revealing the minute-by-minute movements of mobile users over a 60-day period — in this case, T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers — without having to ask a judge to approve a warrant first.
The case highlights how valuable location data is for police, especially when it’s tied to devices that millions of people carry with them almost all the time. Records kept by wireless carriers can hint at or reveal medical treatments, political associations, religious convictions, and even whether someone is cheating on his or her spouse.
Cellphone location data is sufficient to track a person’s location and activities in extreme detail and certainly it is unreasonable to assume that citizens has no expectation that law enforcement can “follow them” without the minimum requirement of a warrant. Outrageous.
Update: Now this…
California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required the state’s authorities to get a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge to obtain location information from electronic devices such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops.
As part of an update to the national fingerprint database, the FBI has begun rolling out facial recognition to identify criminals.
It will form part of the bureau’s long-awaited, $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme, which will also add biometrics such as iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification to the toolkit. A handful of states began uploading their photos as part of a pilot programme this February and it is expected to be rolled out nationwide by 2014. In addition to scanning mugshots for a match, FBI officials have indicated that they are keen to track a suspect by picking out their face in a crowd.
Another application would be the reverse: images of a person of interest from security cameras or public photos uploaded onto the internet could be compared against a national repository of images held by the FBI. An algorithm would perform an automatic search and return a list of potential hits for an officer to sort through and use as possible leads for an investigation.
Ideally, such technological advancements will allow law enforcement to identify criminals more accurately and lead to quicker arrests. But privacy advocates are worried by the broad scope of the FBI’s plans. They are concerned that people with no criminal record who are caught on camera alongside a person of interest could end up in a federal database, or be subject to unwarranted surveillance.
This development bears careful watching by those who care about civil liberties.