Posts Tagged ‘surveillance’

“Defense lawyers insist on clients’ right to use NSA records”

Perhaps inevitably, following revelations that NSA surveillance data is being passed on to law enforcement for use against drug crimes and other non-terrorist offenses, criminal defense lawyers are demanding that the government turn over surveillance-obtained data and recordings that might help their clients’ case. And thus do telephone and online records that would once have been considered private wind up spilling out to wider circles of users for wider ranges of purposes. How long before we begin to see attempts to use them in civil suits? [Miami Herald]

Groklaw shuts down on NSA privacy fears

Chilling effects of the surveillance state [Glyn Moody, ComputerWorld UK]:

Groklaw is shutting down, as a direct result of the revelations that the world’s communications – including our emails – are being spied upon by the NSA and GCHQ. That’s a huge loss for the open source world: Groklaw played an immensely important part in fighting off the absurd but dangerous SCO attack on free software. Alongside that main work it has conducted countless legal analyses of various other attempts to use patents and copyright to undermine open source. And it has done it applying the open source method of collaboration, a significant achievement in itself.

But the guiding force behind Groklaw, PJ, feels she can’t go on when something so fundamental as the privacy of her communications can no longer be taken for granted. In her final post, she compares the feeling to an earlier one when her flat was broken into, and someone went through all her belongings.

More: Brian Barrett, Gizmodo. We’ve cited Groklaw a number of times in this space.

Not unrelated: “What Should, and Should Not, Be in NSA Surveillance Reform Legislation” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]

“If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It”

The head of Lavabit — one of two small encrypted email providers that just closed down pre-emptively rather than fight federal government demands — “says he’s been told it’s illegal even to discuss what demand the feds made of him.” [Kashmir Hill/Forbes, more, TechCrunch, Guardian] “Wyden’s constant references to location tracking in this context would be nothing short of bizarre unless he had reason to believe that the governments assurances on this score are misleading, and that there either is or has been some program involving bulk collection of phone records.” [Julian Sanchez, Cato] “The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership” [Bruce Schneier, Bloomberg] “A Guide to What We Now Know About the NSA’s Dragnet Searches of Your Communications” [Brett Max Kaufman, ACLU] The Cato Institute has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to accept a case challenging the legality of current programs of mass surveillance, in a case filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

More: No right to noisy exit? “Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service” [TechDirt] And now (Sunday): with no charges and no arrest, authorities at Heathrow held and interrogated the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald (who has exposed the NSA program) for nine hours, exactly as long as they could under Britain’s anti-terror law without pressing a charge. They also confiscated his phone, laptop, USB sticks and other electronic gear. [Guardian, Greenwald, NY Times, Lowering the Bar, Peter Maass/NYT Magazine (filmmaker and Greenwald collaborator Laura Poitras regularly detained and interrogated at airports), Joel Mathis/Philly Mag] But see The Spectator (Miranda “carrying encrypted files from Snowden to Greenwald”).

Using NSA spy data to go after…FCPA violators?

The implications are mind-boggling [Houston Chronicle/Connecticut Post via NACDL via Americans for Forfeiture Reform, earlier] On paper, NSA is supposed to turn over spy-collected data only if evidence of serious unrelated crime turns up while investigating terrorist threats or other specified matters. However, as Reuters shows in an important new investigation, in drug investigations (and probably other types as well) “law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin — not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges” Thus the common little white lie about how such-and-such was discovered “during a routine traffic stop,” when in fact the traffic stop was intended to intercept something or someone known by previous investigation to be aboard the vehicle. With the origins of investigation routinely “phonied up” in this way, however, it becomes virtually impossible to know how many handoffs of spy information fall into gray areas beyond the clear intent of the authorizing law. [Julian Sanchez, Cato] Our coverage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is here; earlier on surveillance here.

“NY Suspends Driver’s Licenses For Tax Delinquents”

With enough enforcement linkage between different branches of government, do we even need a Panopticon? “Beginning this year, [New York] drivers who owe more than $10,000 in state taxes face losing their license until the debt is paid.” Does this mean persons who have fallen behind on taxes won’t be able to get to their jobs to pay off the arrears? Well, it seems “there is a ‘restricted’ license that you can apply for in the event that your license is suspended” which “would allow you to commute to and from work only.” How this is to be enforced — whether the hapless motorist will be nailed for stopping off for a loaf of bread on the way home, or venturing out for a job interview — is your guess as well as mine. [Kelly Phillips Erb, Forbes]

Other federal agencies want in to the Panopticon

Yes, “copyright infringement”:

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the [National Security Agency’s] vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say. …

“It’s a very common complaint about N.S.A.,” said Timothy H. Edgar, a former senior intelligence official at the White House and at the office of the director of national intelligence. “They collect all this information, but it’s difficult for the other agencies to get access to what they want.”

“The other agencies feel they should be bigger players,” said Mr. Edgar, who heard many of the disputes before leaving government this year to become a visiting fellow at Brown University. “They view the N.S.A. — incorrectly, I think — as this big pot of data that they could go get if they were just able to pry it out of them.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) speaks out on NSA bulk surveillance in this new Cato video with Caleb Brown. Earlier on surveillance here, here, and here; earlier on panopticons here. For the use of “money laundering” laws to pursue financial flows having nothing to do with terrorism or drug smuggling, see our reports here, here, here, here, etc.

Police drones in the sky, cont’d

Caleb Brown interviews me for Cato’s Daily Podcast on the subject of law enforcement drones, which I wrote about yesterday. You can watch here.

Also, check out recent columns on the subject by my Cato colleagues Gene Healy and Nat Hentoff. As Healy points out, elected officials such as Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) have made remarkably blithe statements in favor of drone use, even as a defense contractor is perfecting tiny mechanized spies-in-the-sky that weigh no more than a battery and can perch on window ledges taking pictures of what is inside. (Another drone capability: intercepting nearby wireless communications.) Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has emerged as a leading critic (“when I’m separating out my recyclables, I don’t want them having a drone to make sure I’m putting my newspaper in the proper bin.”) The AP’s Joan Lowy covered the controversy last month.

Meanwhile, the chief practical obstacle to widespread drone deployment over U.S. skies — Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval — was quietly gotten around this spring when Congress passed legislation directing the FAA to carve out an approved space for drones, a move that followed a strong lobbying push on the “pro” side and almost no organized opposition from privacy advocates, Fourth Amendment fans or anyone else (see T.W. Farnam’s excellent Washington Post account.) More on domestic drone lobbying from Andrea Stone at HuffPo and First Street Research.