The FBI Is Winning the Fight to Invade Your Online Privacy

May 10, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:motherboard.vice.com

Two months ago, the Supreme Court refused  to hear a challenge to the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act  (FISA), a Bush-era law that allows the NSA to wiretap American citizens without  a warrant. Now, the full scope of the US government’s warrantless surveillance  schemes is becoming known.

Leaked documents from the IRS, the FBI, and the Department of Justice have  now shown that none of those agencies believe that warrants are required for  monitoring the online communication—think emails, not just public Twitter  posts—of American citizens. At the same time, the Obama administration is  reportedly planning on backing an FBI plan that would force internet providers,  email hosts, social media platforms, and others to install backdoors to their  system to allow the FBI easier access.

The past few months have seen the culmination of years of work by  authorities to exploit the regulatory vagaries of electronic communication and  the technical  ineptitude of legislators. By loudly proclaiming that internet is the realm  of criminals, authorities are successfully pushing to make monitoring of  American’s communication online far easier, and with fewer legal barriers, than  traditional modes of communication.

The revelation that the FBI doesn’t believe the Fourth Amendment applies to  all online communication comes via the ACLU, which filed a FOIA request to see  if the FBI was exploiting loopholes in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act  (ECPA), a hopelessly outdated pre-Internet bill that  Congress has yet to update and which allows for some warrantless  monitoring of communication.

The FBI argues that the law states citizens  have no expectation of privacy on transmitted information, and that accessing  six month old emails only require a subpoena.

The FBI  sent the ACLU “excerpts from two versions of its Domestic Investigations and  Operations Guide (DIOG), from 2008 and 2012,”  which is notable because they fall on either side of the 2010 Sixth Circuit  Court of Appeals decision on United  States v. Warshak, in which the court ruled authorities must get  warrants before forcing email hosts to hand over user emails.

It’s important to note that Warshak only applies to the Sixth  Circuit, which only  comprises four states. And it appears it had little effect. According to the  ACLU, neither version of the FBI’s handbook for domestic investigations states  that warrants are required for all emails.

The FBI argues that the law states citizens have no expectation of privacy  on transmitted information, and that old emails only require a subpoena—an order  signed by a district attorney, not an independent judge like a warrant does—to  force providers to hand over data. The relevant paragraph from the 2012 Guide, as  quoted by the ACLU:

In enacting the ECPA, Congress concluded that customers may not retain a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in information sent to network providers. .  . [I]f the contents of an unopened message are kept beyond six months or stored  on behalf of the customer after the e-mail has been received or opened, it  should be treated the same as a business record in the hands of a third party,  such as an accountant or attorney. In that case, the government may subpoena the  records from the third party without running afoul of either the Fourth or Fifth  Amendment.

As Declan McCullagh writes  at CNET, with whom the ACLU shared its FBI documents, the Department of  Justice doesn’t see a problem. Internal documents sent by the US attorney in  Manhattan state that subpoenas are all that are required to obtain “all  records from an ISP.” McCullagh also notes that the US attorney in Houston recently  won  “contents of stored communications” using the same  argument.

After the IRS’s exploitation of the same “180-day rule” from the ECPA—which  states that police can obtain American emails that are more than 180 days old  without a warrant—came to light last month, the agency was roundly criticized by  Congress and the public. The head of the IRS has  since declared the agency will change its policy.

Read more: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-fbi-is-winning-the-fight-to-invade-your-online-privacy#ixzz2SsyQ6B7C Follow us: @motherboard on Twitter | motherboardtv on Facebook

FBI may be reading emails without a warrant

May 9, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:Suzanne ChoneyNBC News

The FBI and some U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country may be reading emails without a warrant, according to documents obtained by the ACLU and made public Wednesday.

The documents “paint a troubling picture of the government’s email surveillance practices,” wrote Nathan Freed Wessler, attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, in a blog posting.

“Not only does the FBI claim it can read emails and other electronic communications without a warrant — even after a federal appeals court ruled that doing so violates the Fourth Amendment — but the documents strongly suggest that different U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country are applying conflicting standards to access communications content,” he wrote.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“The documents we received from the FBI don’t flat out tell us whether FBI agents always get warrants, but they strongly suggest that they don’t.”

The ACLU obtained documents from the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ offices via federal Freedom of Information Act requests.

The FBI told NBC News, via an emailed statement, that in “all investigations, the FBI obtains evidence in accordance with the laws and Constitution of the United States, and consistent with Attorney General guidelines.”

The bureau’s field offices “work closely with U.S. Attorney’s Office to adhere to the legal requirements of their particular districts as set forth in case law or court decisions/precedent.”
NBC News also contacted the Department of Justice for comment, and will update this post when we hear back.

Last month, the ACLU shared IRS Criminal Tax Division memos and manuals which indicated the agency is not always following a 2010 appellate court ruling that the government must obtain a warrant before ordering email providers to turn over messages. That information also was obtained through a FOIA request.

In a statement to NBC News then, the IRS did not directly address the ACLU’s concerns, but did say  “Respecting taxpayer rights and taxpayer privacy are cornerstone principles for the IRS. Our job is to administer the nation’s tax laws, and we do so in a way that follows the law and treats taxpayers with respect.”

The ACLU said the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Office documents show “if nothing else” that “federal policy around access  to the contents of our electronic communications is in a state of  chaos. The FBI, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, and DOJ  Criminal Division should clarify whether they believe warrants are  required across the board when accessing people’s email.”

The civil liberties organization is also pushing for passage of amendments to the federal Electronics Communication Privacy Act. The act was passed in 1986, before email and the Internet became part of everyday life.

The law, as now written, does not require the government to have a search warrant when requesting access to emails and messages more than 180 days old that are stored online. Such information can be gathered by obtaining a subpoena, which is easier to get than a warrant.

A bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont — who authored the original ECPA bill 27 years ago — would update the law by requiring a search warrant if the government wants to read emails stored with third-party providers, such as Google or Yahoo.

It would also eliminate the 180-day rule and require the government to notify a person whose emails or other electronic communications have been disclosed, within 10 days of obtaining a search warrant. The bill is making its way through the Senate.

“When ECPA was enacted, email was primarily a means of communicating  information, not storing it,” Leahy said in a statement. “Today, we use our email  accounts as digital filing cabinets, where we store many of the  personal documents and sensitive information that the Fourth Amendment  was meant to protect. This bill takes an essential step toward ensuring  that the private life of Americans remains private

Widespread,illegal debtor’s prisons in Ohio

April 7, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

soure:boingboing.net

A new ACLU report called The Outskirts of Hope (PDF) documents the rise of illegal debtors prisons in Ohio. A majority of municipal and mayors’ courts (an unregulated and rare system of courts only permitted in two states) surveyed by the ACLU routinely imprison people for their inability to pay fines, a practice banned in both the US and state constitution. 20 percent of the bookings in the Huron County Jail are “related to failure to pay fines.”

Taking care of a fine is straightforward for some Ohioans — having been convicted of a criminal or traffic offense and sentenced to pay a fine, an affluent defendant may simply pay it and go on with his or her life. For Ohio’s poor and working poor, by contrast, an unaffordable fine is just the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.

The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay. Jailing a person who is unable to pay violates the law, and yet municipal courts and mayors’ courts across the state continue this draconian practice. Moreover, debtors’ prisons actually waste taxpayer dollars by arresting and incarcerating people who will simply never be able to pay their fines, which are in any event usually smaller than the amount it costs to arrest and jail them.

The report documents heartbreaking cases, like Samantha Reed and John Bundren, a couple with a nine-month-old who were both ordered to pay fines they can’t afford. John diverts whatever seasonal/part time wages he earns to Samantha’s fines so she can look after their baby, while he goes to jail for ten-day stretches for failure to make payments. They are effectively indigent, but are not given access to counsel when they appear in court over their debts

2 out of every 3 Americans lost Fourth Amendment protections to DHS

February 20, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

Two out of every three people reading this could have your electronic devices searched, without there being any reasonable suspicion, because the Department of Homeland Security has decided that such search and seizures do not violate your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Border agents don’t need probable cause and they don’t need a stinking warrant since they don’t need to prove any reasonable suspicion first. Nor, sadly, do two out of three people have First Amendment protection; it is as if DHS has voided those Constitutional amendments and protections they provide to nearly 200 million Americans.

United States Constitution Free Zone Map shows 2 out of every 3 Americans lost Fourth Amendment protections to DHS

Those numbers come from the ACLU’s estimates of how many people live within 100 miles of the United States border, since Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CLCR) concluded that border searches of electronic devices do not violate the Fourth Amendment. Previously, the ACLU called this area the Constitution-Free Zone and provided a map showing how many people within states along the all our borders are affected without constitutional rights. The estimate is that nearly two out of three Americans live in the Constitution-Free Zone.

Full Article

Texas trooper in chopper shooting returns to work

November 2, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

source:msn.com

A grand jury will consider the case of two Guatemalan immigrants killed in the bed of the tarp-covered truck that authorities thought was ferrying drugs, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

LA JOYA, Texas  — The Texas trooper who fired on a fleeing pickup truck from a helicopter near the U.S.-Mexico border, killing two illegal immigrants hiding in the bed, has returned to work but in a different role, the state Department of Public Safety said Thursday.

The announcement came less than an hour after the American Civil Liberties Union and local civil rights organizations gathered near the site of the Oct. 25 shooting to demand an investigation by an independent body outside the agency. Currently, the Texas Rangers, an elite force within DPS, is leading the investigation.

Some state lawmakers are demanding an immediate meeting of a legislative committee that oversees DPS.

DPS identified the trooper involved as tactical flight officer Miguel Avila. He was placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident. He has since returned but been reassigned to administrative work pending the outcome of the investigation.

The chase started after Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens spotted the red pickup near La Joya, near the U.S.-Mexico border about 250 miles south of San Antonio. The DPS helicopter joined midway in the 14-mile high-speed pursuit of what it believed was a “typical covered drug load,” and Avila fired from the air to disable the vehicle.

The truck crashed into a ditch. Six illegal immigrants from Guatemala, not drugs, were hidden under a blanket in the bed. Two died, and a third was injured. In total, DPS said there had been 10 people in the truck.

The agency’s statement Thursday reiterated earlier comments that troopers believed they were pursuing a covered a drug load when shots were fired. They believed the driver’s recklessness was a threat to the public and to elementary and middle schools less than three miles away.

“Although it is very tragic that two lives were lost, had the vehicle continued recklessly speeding through the school zone, any number of innocent bystanders or young lives could have been lost or suffered serious bodily injury,” DPS director Steve McCraw said.

In a letter delivered to McCraw on Thursday, the ACLU suggested the use of deadly force was “illegal and unconstitutional” and asked for an investigation by an agency not tied to DPS.

Several investigations seem possible.

Some state legislators also called for a committee with oversight of the agency to convene immediately.

Terri Burke, the ACLU’s executive director in Texas, said her group is starting with the legislative committees that oversee DPS, but if that doesn’t produce results, the ACLU will go to the U.S. Justice Department.

“You think about it: you’ve got a helicopter, you’ve got a car moving at whatever speed. It’s outrageous in terms of safety,” she said.

Two Democratic lawmakers who sit on a House committee with DPS oversight are asking its chairman to immediately convene a hearing on the matter. Reps. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth and Armando Walle of Houston said they want the committee to review the trooper’s conduct and the agency’s policy on firing at moving vehicles.

In a letter to the chairman, they note that 13 percent of DPS pursuits between 2005 and 2010 occurred in Hidalgo County. Pursuits by a variety of local, state and federal agencies of drugs and illegal immigrants are a daily occurrence in the border county.

“I was not aware of this policy, but apparently, based on what I’ve learned since last Thursday, most areas’ law enforcement agencies in the state are aware of it and that’s why they call on DPS,” Burnam said. “But I have a lot of concern about a sharpshooter sitting in a helicopter shooting at what he can’t see.”

Burnam, who said he has flown in the border region with DPS and the local sheriff’s office, called the policy “terrible.”

“The fact of the matter is neither human trafficking nor drug trafficking deserves the death penalty without a trial,” Burnam said. “The two people who were killed are guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra announced Wednesday after meeting with Texas Rangers that the case would be taken to a grand jury, but at the moment charges against Avila were not under consideration. He asked them to tell DPS leadership to suspend firing from helicopters until its policies are reviewed.

McCraw’s statement Thursday indicated a policy review was underway.

The 14-year-old driver who was detained, but then released to a grandmother, is believed to have fled. The juvenile equivalent of an arrest warrant has been issued.

Guatemala’s consul in McAllen has expressed skepticism that the troopers wouldn’t have been able to see people in the truck and her government has asked for an investigation.

Michael Seifert, who once served as a Roman Catholic priest in La Joya and now heads the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, said Thursday that he used to frequently drive the roads near the shooting site. He said the dead could have just as easily been local teenagers.

“It sounds like war but we’re not at war,” he said.

read more:http://t.news.msn.com/us/texas-trooper-in-chopper-shooting-returns-to-work

 

All Three Branches Agree: Big Brother Is the New Normal

October 30, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

source:wired.com

Despite Hurricane Sandy, the Supreme Court on Monday entertained oral arguments on whether it should halt a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance program targeting Americans’ communications, a program that Congress eventually legalized in 2008.

The hearing marked the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed any case touching on the eavesdropping program that was secretly employed by the President George W. Bush administration in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, and largely codified into law years later.

Just three weeks ago that the Supreme Court closed a six-year-old chapter in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s bid to hold the nation’s telecoms liable for allegedly providing the National Security Agency with backdoors to eavesdrop, without warrants, on Americans’ electronic communications in violation of federal law. The justices, without comment, declined to review a lower court’s December decision dismissing the EFF’s lawsuit. At the center of the dispute was legislation retroactively immunizing the telcos from being sued for cooperating with the government in Bush’s warrantless spy program.

Fast forward to Monday, and the court took the historic step of hearing a post-September 11 spying case. Judging by the high court’s deference to Congress in general and how it killed the EFF spy case weeks ago, we likely already know the outcome of this highly complex issue now before the justices: Warrantless spying is expected to continue unabated for years, and possibly forever.

University of Baltimore legal scholar Garrett Epps in a Sunday blog post in the Atlantic asked in a headline whether “Big Brother is the New Normal?” His own affirmative answer is spot-on:

“Whatever the court decides, Big Brother will still be watching. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know,” he said. “Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”

Let’s start with summarizing the legal issue before that Supreme Court.

The same law that immunized the telcos is before the justices. This time, however, another section of the FISA Amendments Act (.pdf) is at issue. The act, subject to a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed to be outside the United States. Communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

There’s more.

The FISA Amendments Act generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, a secret tribunal set up in the wake of President Richard M. Nixon-era eavesdropping, to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests. The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application.

Yet none of these details are even before the Supreme Court.

Instead, the fight is about something much simpler.

The Obama administration argues that the ACLU and a host of other groups don’t have the legal standing to even bring a challenge.

A lower court agreed, ruling the ACLU, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union and other plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case because they could not demonstrate that they were subject to the eavesdropping.

The groups appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that they often work with overseas dissidents who might be targets of the National Security Agency program. Instead of speaking with those people on the phone or through e-mails, the groups asserted that they have had to make expensive overseas trips in a bid to maintain attorney-client confidentiality. The plaintiffs, some of them journalists, also claim the 2008 legislation chills their speech, and violates their Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

Without ruling on the merits of the case, the appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs last year that they have ample reason to fear the surveillance program, and thus have legal standing to pursue their claim.

That’s it.

That’s what this case before the justices is all about, whether a lawsuit can be brought at all. The courts are years away, if ever, of entertaining the constitutional merits of the law in question. So the spying will continue unabated no matter how the Supreme Court decides Monday’s arguments.

The government’s argument can be reduced to this scary proposition: You can’t sue us for secretly spying on you because there’s no way for you to prove it. Case closed.

Now the thing is, the spying law expires at the end of the year, if Congress fails to re-authorize it.

But that’s not going to happen.

learn more:http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/10/big-brother-new-normal/

US Constitution repealed by traitorous Senators; ‘Republican party now the Gestapo party’ says observer

December 3, 2011 by  
Filed under General News

Friday, December 02, 2011
by Mike Adams, the Health
Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all
articles…)

 

NaturalNews)
The mainstream media doesn’t want you to know about this story even though it is
arguably the single most important story of the year in terms of impacting your
future as a free citizen. Yesterday as part of the National Defense
Authorization Act
, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal the Constitution and
its Bill of Rights
by authorizing the U.S. military to operate on U.S. soil,
conduct secret kidnappings of American citizens and throw them in secret
military prisons where they will be “legally” tortured, interrogated and
murdered.

All that is required for this to take place is the
allegation that you are somehow linked to something resembling
“terrorism.” There is no due process and no evidence whatsoever required. And
this is all being give the thumbs up by the traitorous U.S. Senate, led by
Republicans like Sen. John McCain who should know a thing or two about secret
prisons.

You won’t find any real coverage of this story in the mainstream
media, which has predictably sided with tyranny while blacking out this story
for reasons you can only imagine. So I’ve collected some of the more important
videos and articles you need to see in order to understand what’s happening with
this issue and why America is about to descend in an overt, in-your-face
military police state run by militant Republican tyrants. If you thought Bush
was bad, just wait until a Republican wins the election in 2012 and then uses
this law to declare open war on the American people…

Here are some
videos and articles you need to see:

Paul Craig Roberts on RT
America

http://www.prisonplanet.com/paul-cr…
“We now have a
Republican party that is a Gestapo party…”

Stewart Rhodes on
InfoWars Nightly News

http://www.prisonplanet.com/paul-cr…

ACLU
Senate Poised to Pass Indefinite Detention Without Charge or Trial
http://www.aclu.org/national-securi…
“The bill is an
historic threat to American citizens and others because it expands and makes
permanent the authority of the president to order the military to imprison
without charge or trial American citizens…

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/034302_indefinite_detention_National_Defense_Authorization_Act.html#ixzz1fUVZapOO