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Paul Merrell

How Edward Snowden Changed Everything | The Nation - 0 views

  • Ben Wizner, who is perhaps best known as Edward Snowden’s lawyer, directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. Wizner, who joined the ACLU in August 2001, one month before the 9/11 attacks, has been a force in the legal battles against torture, watch lists, and extraordinary rendition since the beginning of the global “war on terror.” Ad Policy On October 15, we met with Wizner in an upstate New York pub to discuss the state of privacy advocacy today. In sometimes sardonic tones, he talked about the transition from litigating on issues of torture to privacy advocacy, differences between corporate and state-sponsored surveillance, recent developments in state legislatures and the federal government, and some of the obstacles impeding civil liberties litigation. The interview has been edited and abridged for publication.
  • en Wizner, who is perhaps best known as Edward Snowden’s lawyer, directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. Wizner, who joined the ACLU in August 2001, one month before the 9/11 attacks, has been a force in the legal battles against torture, watch lists, and extraordinary rendition since the beginning of the global “war on terror.” Ad Policy On October 15, we met with Wizner in an upstate New York pub to discuss the state of privacy advocacy today. In sometimes sardonic tones, he talked about the transition from litigating on issues of torture to privacy advocacy, differences between corporate and state-sponsored surveillance, recent developments in state legislatures and the federal government, and some of the obstacles impeding civil liberties litigation. The interview has been edited and abridged for publication.
  • Many of the technologies, both military technologies and surveillance technologies, that are developed for purposes of policing the empire find their way back home and get repurposed. You saw this in Ferguson, where we had military equipment in the streets to police nonviolent civil unrest, and we’re seeing this with surveillance technologies, where things that are deployed for use in war zones are now commonly in the arsenals of local police departments. For example, a cellphone surveillance tool that we call the StingRay—which mimics a cellphone tower and communicates with all the phones around—was really developed as a military technology to help identify targets. Now, because it’s so inexpensive, and because there is a surplus of these things that are being developed, it ends up getting pushed down into local communities without local democratic consent or control.
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  • SG & TP: How do you see the current state of the right to privacy? BW: I joked when I took this job that I was relieved that I was going to be working on the Fourth Amendment, because finally I’d have a chance to win. That was intended as gallows humor; the Fourth Amendment had been a dishrag for the last several decades, largely because of the war on drugs. The joke in civil liberties circles was, “What amendment?” But I was able to make this joke because I was coming to Fourth Amendment litigation from something even worse, which was trying to sue the CIA for torture, or targeted killings, or various things where the invariable outcome was some kind of non-justiciability ruling. We weren’t even reaching the merits at all. It turns out that my gallows humor joke was prescient.
  • The truth is that over the last few years, we’ve seen some of the most important Fourth Amendment decisions from the Supreme Court in perhaps half a century. Certainly, I think the Jones decision in 2012 [U.S. v. Jones], which held that GPS tracking was a Fourth Amendment search, was the most important Fourth Amendment decision since Katz in 1967 [Katz v. United States], in terms of starting a revolution in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence signifying that changes in technology were not just differences in degree, but they were differences in kind, and require the Court to grapple with it in a different way. Just two years later, you saw the Court holding that police can’t search your phone incident to an arrest without getting a warrant [Riley v. California]. Since 2012, at the level of Supreme Court jurisprudence, we’re seeing a recognition that technology has required a rethinking of the Fourth Amendment at the state and local level. We’re seeing a wave of privacy legislation that’s really passing beneath the radar for people who are not paying close attention. It’s not just happening in liberal states like California; it’s happening in red states like Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. And purple states like Colorado and Maine. You see as many libertarians and conservatives pushing these new rules as you see liberals. It really has cut across at least party lines, if not ideologies. My overall point here is that with respect to constraints on government surveillance—I should be more specific—law-enforcement government surveillance—momentum has been on our side in a way that has surprised even me.
  • Do you think that increased privacy protections will happen on the state level before they happen on the federal level? BW: I think so. For example, look at what occurred with the death penalty and the Supreme Court’s recent Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. The question under the Eighth Amendment is, “Is the practice cruel and unusual?” The Court has looked at what it calls “evolving standards of decency” [Trop v. Dulles, 1958]. It matters to the Court, when it’s deciding whether a juvenile can be executed or if a juvenile can get life without parole, what’s going on in the states. It was important to the litigants in those cases to be able to show that even if most states allowed the bad practice, the momentum was in the other direction. The states that were legislating on this most recently were liberalizing their rules, were making it harder to execute people under 18 or to lock them up without the possibility of parole. I think you’re going to see the same thing with Fourth Amendment and privacy jurisprudence, even though the Court doesn’t have a specific doctrine like “evolving standards of decency.” The Court uses this much-maligned test, “Do individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy?” We’ll advance the argument, I think successfully, that part of what the Court should look at in considering whether an expectation of privacy is reasonable is showing what’s going on in the states. If we can show that a dozen or eighteen state legislatures have enacted a constitutional protection that doesn’t exist in federal constitutional law, I think that that will influence the Supreme Court.
  • The question is will it also influence Congress. I think there the answer is also “yes.” If you’re a member of the House or the Senate from Montana, and you see that your state legislature and your Republican governor have enacted privacy legislation, you’re not going to be worried about voting in that direction. I think this is one of those places where, unlike civil rights, where you saw most of the action at the federal level and then getting forced down to the states, we’re going to see more action at the state level getting funneled up to the federal government.
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    A must-read. Ben Wizner discusses the current climate in the courts in government surveillance cases and how Edward Snowden's disclosures have affected that, and much more. Wizner is not only Edward Snowden's lawyer, he is also the coordinator of all ACLU litigation on electronic surveillance matters.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

In Memory Of The Liberties Lost In The War on Piracy | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Rick Falkvinge on February 2, 2015 C: 0 Opinion In order to prevent us from discussing and sharing interesting things, the copyright industry has successfully eliminated civil liberties online. But it was all down to a wrong and stupid business assumption in the first place."
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    " Rick Falkvinge on February 2, 2015 C: 0 Opinion In order to prevent us from discussing and sharing interesting things, the copyright industry has successfully eliminated civil liberties online. But it was all down to a wrong and stupid business assumption in the first place."
Paul Merrell

Beware the Dangers of Congress' Latest Cybersecurity Bill | American Civil Liberties Union - 0 views

  • A new cybersecurity bill poses serious threats to our privacy, gives the government extraordinary powers to silence potential whistleblowers, and exempts these dangerous new powers from transparency laws. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 ("CISA") was scheduled to be marked up by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday but has been delayed until after next week's congressional recess. The response to the proposed legislation from the privacy, civil liberties, tech, and open government communities was quick and unequivocal – this bill must not go through. The bill would create a massive loophole in our existing privacy laws by allowing the government to ask companies for "voluntary" cooperation in sharing information, including the content of our communications, for cybersecurity purposes. But the definition they are using for the so-called "cybersecurity information" is so broad it could sweep up huge amounts of innocent Americans' personal data. The Fourth Amendment protects Americans' personal data and communications from undue government access and monitoring without suspicion of criminal activity. The point of a warrant is to guard that protection. CISA would circumvent the warrant requirement by allowing the government to approach companies directly to collect personal information, including telephonic or internet communications, based on the new broadly drawn definition of "cybersecurity information."
  • While we hope many companies would jealously guard their customers' information, there is a provision in the bill that would excuse sharers from any liability if they act in "good faith" that the sharing was lawful. Collected information could then be used in criminal proceedings, creating a dangerous end-run around laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which contain warrant requirements. In addition to the threats to every American's privacy, the bill clearly targets potential government whistleblowers. Instead of limiting the use of data collection to protect against actual cybersecurity threats, the bill allows the government to use the data in the investigation and prosecution of people for economic espionage and trade secret violations, and under various provisions of the Espionage Act. It's clear that the law is an attempt to give the government more power to crack down on whistleblowers, or "insider threats," in popular bureaucratic parlance. The Obama Administration has brought more "leaks" prosecutions against government whistleblowers and members of the press than all previous administrations combined. If misused by this or future administrations, CISA could eliminate due process protections for such investigations, which already favor the prosecution.
  • While actively stripping Americans' privacy protections, the bill also cloaks "cybersecurity"-sharing in secrecy by exempting it from critical government transparency protections. It unnecessarily and dangerously provides exemptions from state and local sunshine laws as well as the federal Freedom of Information Act. These are both powerful tools that allow citizens to check government activities and guard against abuse. Edward Snowden's revelations from the past year, of invasive spying programs like PRSIM and Stellar Wind, have left Americans shocked and demanding more transparency by government agencies. CISA, however, flies in the face of what the public clearly wants. (Two coalition letters, here and here, sent to key members of the Senate yesterday detail the concerns of a broad coalition of organizations, including the ACLU.)
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    Text of the bill is on Sen. Diane Feinstein's site, http://goo.gl/2cdsSA It is truly a bummer.
Paul Merrell

In Hearing on Internet Surveillance, Nobody Knows How Many Americans Impacted in Data Collection | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held an open hearing today on the FISA Amendments Act, the law that ostensibly authorizes the digital surveillance of hundreds of millions of people both in the United States and around the world. Section 702 of the law, scheduled to expire next year, is designed to allow U.S. intelligence services to collect signals intelligence on foreign targets related to our national security interests. However—thanks to the leaks of many whistleblowers including Edward Snowden, the work of investigative journalists, and statements by public officials—we now know that the FISA Amendments Act has been used to sweep up data on hundreds of millions of people who have no connection to a terrorist investigation, including countless Americans. What do we mean by “countless”? As became increasingly clear in the hearing today, the exact number of Americans impacted by this surveillance is unknown. Senator Franken asked the panel of witnesses, “Is it possible for the government to provide an exact count of how many United States persons have been swept up in Section 702 surveillance? And if not the exact count, then what about an estimate?”
  • Elizabeth Goitein, the Brennan Center director whose articulate and thought-provoking testimony was the highlight of the hearing, noted that at this time an exact number would be difficult to provide. However, she asserted that an estimate should be possible for most if not all of the government’s surveillance programs. None of the other panel participants—which included David Medine and Rachel Brand of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as well as Matthew Olsen of IronNet Cybersecurity and attorney Kenneth Wainstein—offered an estimate. Today’s hearing reaffirmed that it is not only the American people who are left in the dark about how many people or accounts are impacted by the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of the Internet. Even vital oversight committees in Congress like the Senate Judiciary Committee are left to speculate about just how far-reaching this surveillance is. It's part of the reason why we urged the House Judiciary Committee to demand that the Intelligence Community provide the public with a number. 
  • The lack of information makes rigorous oversight of the programs all but impossible. As Senator Franken put it in the hearing today, “When the public lacks even a rough sense of the scope of the government’s surveillance program, they have no way of knowing if the government is striking the right balance, whether we are safeguarding our national security without trampling on our citizens’ fundamental privacy rights. But the public can’t know if we succeed in striking that balance if they don’t even have the most basic information about our major surveillance programs."  Senator Patrick Leahy also questioned the panel about the “minimization procedures” associated with this type of surveillance, the privacy safeguard that is intended to ensure that irrelevant data and data on American citizens is swiftly deleted. Senator Leahy asked the panel: “Do you believe the current minimization procedures ensure that data about innocent Americans is deleted? Is that enough?”  David Medine, who recently announced his pending retirement from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, answered unequivocally:
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  • Senator Leahy, they don’t. The minimization procedures call for the deletion of innocent Americans’ information upon discovery to determine whether it has any foreign intelligence value. But what the board’s report found is that in fact information is never deleted. It sits in the databases for 5 years, or sometimes longer. And so the minimization doesn’t really address the privacy concerns of incidentally collected communications—again, where there’s been no warrant at all in the process… In the United States, we simply can’t read people’s emails and listen to their phone calls without court approval, and the same should be true when the government shifts its attention to Americans under this program. One of the most startling exchanges from the hearing today came toward the end of the session, when Senator Dianne Feinstein—who also sits on the Intelligence Committee—seemed taken aback by Ms. Goitein’s mention of “backdoor searches.” 
  • Feinstein: Wow, wow. What do you call it? What’s a backdoor search? Goitein: Backdoor search is when the FBI or any other agency targets a U.S. person for a search of data that was collected under Section 702, which is supposed to be targeted against foreigners overseas. Feinstein: Regardless of the minimization that was properly carried out. Goitein: Well the data is searched in its unminimized form. So the FBI gets raw data, the NSA, the CIA get raw data. And they search that raw data using U.S. person identifiers. That’s what I’m referring to as backdoor searches. It’s deeply concerning that any member of Congress, much less a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, might not be aware of the problem surrounding backdoor searches. In April 2014, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged the searches of this data, which Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall termed “the ‘back-door search’ loophole in section 702.” The public was so incensed that the House of Representatives passed an amendment to that year's defense appropriations bill effectively banning the warrantless backdoor searches. Nonetheless, in the hearing today it seemed like Senator Feinstein might not recognize or appreciate the serious implications of allowing U.S. law enforcement agencies to query the raw data collected through these Internet surveillance programs. Hopefully today’s testimony helped convince the Senator that there is more to this topic than what she’s hearing in jargon-filled classified security briefings.
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    The 4th Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and *particularly describing the place to be searched, and the* persons or *things to be seized."* So much for the particularized description of the place to be searched and the thngs to be seized.  Fah! Who needs a Constitution, anyway .... 
Paul Merrell

USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk Collection For First Time, Critics Say - The Intercept - 0 views

  • After only one hour of floor debate, and no allowed amendments, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that opponents believe may give brand new authorization to the U.S. government to conduct domestic dragnets. The USA Freedom Act was approved in a 338-88 vote, with approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting against. The bill’s supporters say it will disallow bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has regularly ordered phone companies to turn over such data. The Obama administration claims such collection is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that Section 215 does not provide such authorization. Today’s legislation would prevent the government from issuing such orders for bulk collection and instead rely on telephone companies to store all their metadata — some of which the government could then demand using a “specific selection term” related to foreign terrorism. Bill supporters maintain this would prevent indiscriminate collection.
  • However, the legislation may not end bulk surveillance and in fact could codify the ability of the government to conduct dragnet data collection. “We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding. “The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.” In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
  • “While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans,” Congressman Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said in a statement explaining his vote against the bill.
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  • Not addressed in the bill, however, are a slew of other spying authorities in use by the NSA that either directly or inadvertently target the communications of American citizens. Lawmakers offered several amendments in the days leading up to the vote that would have tackled surveillance activities laid out in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Executive Order 12333 — two authorities intended for foreign surveillance that have been used to collect Americans’ internet data, including online address books and buddy lists. The House Rules Committee, however, prohibited consideration of any amendment to the USA Freedom Act, claiming that any changes to the legislation would have weakened its chances of passage.
  • The measure now goes to the Senate where its future is uncertain. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to schedule the bill for consideration, and is instead pushing for a clean reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions that includes no surveillance reforms. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have threated to filibuster any bill that extends the Patriot Act without also reforming the NSA.
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    Surprise, surprise. U.S. "progressive" groups are waging an all-out email lobbying effort to sunset the Patriot Act. https://www.sunsetthepatriotact.com/ Same with civil liberties groups. e.g., https://action.aclu.org/secure/Section215 And a coalition of libertarian organizations. http://docs.techfreedom.org/Coalition_Letter_McConnell_215Reauth_4.27.15.pdf
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Keep Dream of a Free and Open Internet Alive, Black Hat Keynoter Urges - 0 views

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    "Black Hat keynoter Jennifer Granick, director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, discusses the need for legal and policy change to defend Internet freedom."
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    "Black Hat keynoter Jennifer Granick, director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, discusses the need for legal and policy change to defend Internet freedom."
Paul Merrell

Reset The Net - Privacy Pack - 1 views

  • This June 5th, I pledge to take strong steps to protect my freedom from government mass surveillance. I expect the services I use to do the same.
  • Fight for the Future and Center for Rights will contact you about future campaigns. Privacy Policy
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    I wound up joining this campaign at the urging of the ACLU after checking the Privacy Policy. The Reset the Net campaign seems to be endorsed by a lot of change-oriented groups, from the ACLU to Greenpeac to the Pirate Party. A fair number of groups with a Progressive agenda, but certainly not limited to them. The right answer to that situation is to urge other groups to endorse, not to avoid the campaign. Single-issue coalition-building is all about focusing on an area of agreement rather than worrying about who you are rubbing elbows with.  I have been looking for a a bipartisan group that's tackling government surveillance issues via mass actions but has no corporate sponsors. This might be the one. The reason: Corporate types like Google have no incentive to really butt heads with the government voyeurs. They are themselves engaged in massive surveillance of their users and certainly will not carry the battle for digital privacy over to the private sector. But this *is* a battle over digital privacy and legally defining user privacy rights in the private sector is just as important as cutting back on government surveillance. As we have learned through the Snowden disclosures, what the private internet companies have, the NSA can and does get.  The big internet services successfully pushed in the U.S. for authorization to publish more numbers about how many times they pass private data to the government, but went no farther. They wanted to be able to say they did something, but there's a revolving door of staffers between NSA and the big internet companies and the internet service companies' data is an open book to the NSA.   The big internet services are not champions of their users' privacy. If they were, they would be featuring end-to-end encryption with encryption keys unique to each user and unknown to the companies.  Like some startups in Europe are doing. E.g., the Wuala.com filesync service in Switzerland (first 5 GB of storage free). Compare tha
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    "This June 5th, I pledge to take strong steps to protect my freedom from government mass surveillance. I expect the services I use to do the same."
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    I wound up joining this campaign at the urging of the ACLU after checking the Privacy Policy. The Reset the Net campaign seems to be endorsed by a lot of change-oriented groups, from the ACLU to Greenpeac to the Pirate Party. A fair number of groups with a Progressive agenda, but certainly not limited to them. The right answer to that situation is to urge other groups to endorse, not to avoid the campaign. Single-issue coalition-building is all about focusing on an area of agreement rather than worrying about who you are rubbing elbows with.  I have been looking for a a bipartisan group that's tackling government surveillance issues via mass actions but has no corporate sponsors. This might be the one. The reason: Corporate types like Google have no incentive to really butt heads with the government voyeurs. They are themselves engaged in massive surveillance of their users and certainly will not carry the battle for digital privacy over to the private sector. But this *is* a battle over digital privacy and legally defining user privacy rights in the private sector is just as important as cutting back on government surveillance. As we have learned through the Snowden disclosures, what the private internet companies have, the NSA can and does get.  The big internet services successfully pushed in the U.S. for authorization to publish more numbers about how many times they pass private data to the government, but went no farther. They wanted to be able to say they did something, but there's a revolving door of staffers between NSA and the big internet companies and the internet service companies' data is an open book to the NSA.   The big internet services are not champions of their users' privacy. If they were, they would be featuring end-to-end encryption with encryption keys unique to each user and unknown to the companies.  Like some startups in Europe are doing. E.g., the Wuala.com filesync service in Switzerland (first 5 GB of storage free). Com
Paul Merrell

FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on National Security Letters - The Intercept - 0 views

  • Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter. FBI agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national security purposes. The FBI at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day. The letters look like this:
  • Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:
  • That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well. More than a year ago, President Obama announced that he was ordering the Justice Department to terminate gag orders “within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.” And on Feb. 3, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a handful of baby steps resulting from its “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance [its] privacy and civil liberty protections” one of the most concrete was — finally — to cap the gag orders: In response to the President’s new direction, the FBI will now presumptively terminate National Security Letter nondisclosure orders at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close. Continued nondisclosures orders beyond this period are permitted only if a Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant Director determines that the statutory standards for nondisclosure continue to be satisfied and that the case agent has justified, in writing, why continued nondisclosure is appropriate.
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  • Despite the use of the word “now” in that first sentence, however, the FBI has yet to do any such thing. It has not announced any such change, nor explained how it will implement it, or when. Media inquiries were greeted with stalling and, finally, a no comment — ostensibly on advice of legal counsel. “There is pending litigation that deals with a lot of the same questions you’re asking, out of the Ninth Circuit,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told me. “So for now, we’ll just have to decline to comment.” FBI lawyers are working on a court filing for that case, and “it will address” the new policy, he said. He would not say when to expect it.
  • There is indeed a significant case currently before the federal appeals court in San Francisco. Oral arguments were in October. A decision could come any time. But in that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is representing two unnamed communications companies that received NSLs, is calling for the entire NSL statute to be thrown out as unconstitutional — not for a tweak to the gag. And it has a March 2013 district court ruling in its favor. “The gag is a prior restraint under the First Amendment, and prior restraints have to meet an extremely high burden,” said Andrew Crocker, a legal fellow at EFF. That means going to court and meeting the burden of proof — not just signing a letter. Or as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez put it, “To have such a low bar for denying persons or companies the right to speak about government orders they have been served with is anathema. And it is not very good for accountability.”
  • In a separate case, a wide range of media companies (including First Look Media, the non-profit digital media venture that produces The Intercept) are supporting a lawsuit filed by Twitter, demanding the right to say specifically how many NSLs it has received. But simply releasing companies from a gag doesn’t assure the kind of accountability that privacy advocates are saying is required by the Constitution. “What the public has to remember is a NSL is asking for your information, but it’s not asking it from you,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “The vast majority of these things go to the very large telecommunications and financial companies who have a large stake in maintaining a good relationship with the government because they’re heavily regulated entities.”
  • So, German said, “the number of NSLs that would be exposed as a result of the release of the gag order is probably very few. The person whose records are being obtained is the one who should receive some notification.” A time limit on gags going forward also raises the question of whether past gag orders will now be withdrawn. “Obviously there are at this point literally hundreds of thousands of National Security Letters that are more than three years old,” said Sanchez. Individual review is therefore unlikely, but there ought to be some recourse, he said. And the further back you go, “it becomes increasingly implausible that a significant percentage of those are going to entail some dire national security risk.” The NSL program has a troubled history. The absolute secrecy of the program and resulting lack of accountability led to systemic abuse as documented by repeated inspector-general investigations, including improperly authorized NSLs, factual misstatements in the NSLs, improper requests under NSL statutes, requests for information based on First Amendment protected activity, “after-the-fact” blanket NSLs to “cover” illegal requests, and hundreds of NSLs for “community of interest” or “calling circle” information without any determination that the telephone numbers were relevant to authorized national security investigations.
  • Obama’s own hand-selected “Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” recommended in December 2013 that NSLs should only be issued after judicial review — just like warrants — and that any gag should end within 180 days barring judicial re-approval. But FBI director James Comey objected to the idea, calling NSLs “a very important tool that is essential to the work we do.” His argument evidently prevailed with Obama.
  • NSLs have managed to stay largely under the American public’s radar. But, Crocker says, “pretty much every time I bring it up and give the thumbnail, people are shocked. Then you go into how many are issued every year, and they go crazy.” Want to send me your old NSL and see if we can set a new precedent? Here’s how to reach me. And here’s how to leak to me.
Paul Merrell

Memo to Potential Whistleblowers: If You See Something, Say Something | Global Research - 0 views

  • Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing creates a moral frequency that vast numbers of people are eager to hear. We don’t want our lives, communities, country and world continually damaged by the deadening silences of fear and conformity. I’ve met many whistleblowers over the years, and they’ve been extraordinarily ordinary. None were applying for halos or sainthood. All experienced anguish before deciding that continuous inaction had a price that was too high. All suffered negative consequences as well as relief after they spoke up and took action. All made the world better with their courage. Whistleblowers don’t sign up to be whistleblowers. Almost always, they begin their work as true believers in the system that conscience later compels them to challenge. “It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience,” Matthew Hoh recalled this week.“It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy.”
  • Hoh describes his record this way: “After over 11 continuous years of service with the U.S. military and U.S. government, nearly six of those years overseas, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as positions within the Secretary of the Navy’s Office as a White House Liaison, and as a consultant for the State Department’s Iraq Desk, I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of war in 2009.” Another former Department of State official, the ex-diplomat and retired Army colonel Ann Wright, who resigned in protest of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, is crossing paths with Hoh on Friday as they do the honors at a ribbon-cutting — half a block from the State Department headquarters in Washington — for a billboard with a picture of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Big-lettered words begin by referring to the years he waited before releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. “Don’t do what I did,” Ellsberg says on the billboard.  “Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.
  • The billboard – sponsored by the ExposeFacts organization, which launched this week — will spread to other prominent locations in Washington and beyond. As an organizer for ExposeFacts, I’m glad to report that outreach to potential whistleblowers is just getting started. (For details, visit ExposeFacts.org.) We’re propelled by the kind of hopeful determination that Hoh expressed the day before the billboard ribbon-cutting when he said: “I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.” The journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has astutely covered a range of whistleblower issues for years, pointed this week to the imperative of opening up news media. “There is an important role for ExposeFacts to play in not only forcing more transparency, but also inspiring more media organizations to engage in adversarial journalism,” he wrote. “Such journalism is called for in the face of wars, environmental destruction, escalating poverty, egregious abuses in the justice system, corporate control of government, and national security state secrecy. Perhaps a truly successful organization could inspire U.S. media organizations to play much more of a watchdog role than a lapdog role when covering powerful institutions in government.”
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  • Overall, we desperately need to nurture and propagate a steadfast culture of outspoken whistleblowing. A central motto of the AIDS activist movement dating back to the 1980s – Silence = Death – remains urgently relevant in a vast array of realms. Whether the problems involve perpetual war, corporate malfeasance, climate change, institutionalized racism, patterns of sexual assault, toxic pollution or countless other ills, none can be alleviated without bringing grim realities into the light. “All governments lie,” Ellsberg says in a video statement released for the launch of ExposeFacts, “and they all like to work in the dark as far as the public is concerned, in terms of their own decision-making, their planning — and to be able to allege, falsely, unanimity in addressing their problems, as if no one who had knowledge of the full facts inside could disagree with the policy the president or the leader of the state is announcing.” Ellsberg adds: “A country that wants to be a democracy has to be able to penetrate that secrecy, with the help of conscientious individuals who understand in this country that their duty to the Constitution and to the civil liberties and to the welfare of this country definitely surmount their obligation to their bosses, to a given administration, or in some cases to their promise of secrecy.”
  • Right now, our potential for democracy owes a lot to people like NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, and EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. When they spoke at the June 4 news conference in Washington that launched ExposeFacts, their brave clarity was inspiring. Antidotes to the poisons of cynicism and passive despair can emerge from organizing to help create a better world. The process requires applying a single standard to the real actions of institutions and individuals, no matter how big their budgets or grand their power. What cannot withstand the light of day should not be suffered in silence. If you see something, say something.
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    While some governments -- my own included -- attempt to impose an Orwellian Dark State of ubiquitous secret surveillance, secret wars, the rule of oligarchs, and public ignorance, the Edward Snowden leaks fanned the flames of the countering War on Ignorance that had been kept alive by civil libertarians. Only days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in a case where a reporter had been ordered to reveal his source of information for a book on the Dark State under the penalties for contempt of court (a long stretch in jail), a new web site is launched for communications between sources and journalists where the source's names never need to be revealed. This article is part of the publicity for that new weapon fielded by the civil libertarian side in the War Against Ignorance.  Hurrah!
Paul Merrell

Five Big Unanswered Questions About NSA's Worldwide Spying - 0 views

  • Nearly three years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave journalists his trove of documents on the intelligence community’s broad and powerful surveillance regime, the public is still missing some crucial, basic facts about how the operations work. Surveillance researchers and privacy advocates published a report on Wednesday outlining what we do know, thanks to the period of discovery post-Snowden — and the overwhelming amount of things we don’t. The NSA’s domestic surveillance was understandably the initial focus of public debate. But that debate never really moved on to examine the NSA’s vastly bigger foreign operations. “There has been relatively little public or congressional debate within the United States about the NSA’s overseas surveillance operations,” write Faiza Patel and Elizabeth Goitein, co-directors of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, and Amos Toh, legal adviser for David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • The central guidelines the NSA is supposed to follow while spying abroad are described in Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which the authors describe as “a black box.” Just Security, a national security law blog, and the Brennan Center for Justice are co-hosting a panel on Thursday on Capitol Hill to discuss the policy, where the NSA’s privacy and civil liberties officer, Rebecca Richards, will be present. And the independent government watchdog, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which has authored in-depth reports on other NSA programs, intends to publish a report on 12333 surveillance programs “this year,” according to spokesperson Jen Burita. In the meantime, the authors of the report came up with a list of questions they say need to be answered to create an informed public debate.
Paul Merrell

UN Report Finds Mass Surveillance Violates International Treaties and Privacy Rights - The Intercept - 0 views

  • The United Nations’ top official for counter-terrorism and human rights (known as the “Special Rapporteur”) issued a formal report to the U.N. General Assembly today that condemns mass electronic surveillance as a clear violation of core privacy rights guaranteed by multiple treaties and conventions. “The hard truth is that the use of mass surveillance technology effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the Internet altogether,” the report concluded. Central to the Rapporteur’s findings is the distinction between “targeted surveillance” — which “depend[s] upon the existence of prior suspicion of the targeted individual or organization” — and “mass surveillance,” whereby “states with high levels of Internet penetration can [] gain access to the telephone and e-mail content of an effectively unlimited number of users and maintain an overview of Internet activity associated with particular websites.” In a system of “mass surveillance,” the report explained, “all of this is possible without any prior suspicion related to a specific individual or organization. The communications of literally every Internet user are potentially open for inspection by intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the States concerned.”
  • Mass surveillance thus “amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect for the privacy of communications,” it declared. As a result, “it is incompatible with existing concepts of privacy for States to collect all communications or metadata all the time indiscriminately.” In concluding that mass surveillance impinges core privacy rights, the report was primarily focused on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty enacted by the General Assembly in 1966, to which all of the members of the “Five Eyes” alliance are signatories. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992, albeit with various reservations that allowed for the continuation of the death penalty and which rendered its domestic law supreme. With the exception of the U.S.’s Persian Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar), virtually every major country has signed the treaty. Article 17 of the Covenant guarantees the right of privacy, the defining protection of which, the report explained, is “that individuals have the right to share information and ideas with one another without interference by the State, secure in the knowledge that their communication will reach and be read by the intended recipients alone.”
  • The report’s key conclusion is that this core right is impinged by mass surveillance programs: “Bulk access technology is indiscriminately corrosive of online privacy and impinges on the very essence of the right guaranteed by article 17. In the absence of a formal derogation from States’ obligations under the Covenant, these programs pose a direct and ongoing challenge to an established norm of international law.” The report recognized that protecting citizens from terrorism attacks is a vital duty of every state, and that the right of privacy is not absolute, as it can be compromised when doing so is “necessary” to serve “compelling” purposes. It noted: “There may be a compelling counter-terrorism justification for the radical re-evaluation of Internet privacy rights that these practices necessitate. ” But the report was adamant that no such justifications have ever been demonstrated by any member state using mass surveillance: “The States engaging in mass surveillance have so far failed to provide a detailed and evidence-based public justification for its necessity, and almost no States have enacted explicit domestic legislation to authorize its use.”
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  • Instead, explained the Rapporteur, states have relied on vague claims whose validity cannot be assessed because of the secrecy behind which these programs are hidden: “The arguments in favor of a complete abrogation of the right to privacy on the Internet have not been made publicly by the States concerned or subjected to informed scrutiny and debate.” About the ongoing secrecy surrounding the programs, the report explained that “states deploying this technology retain a monopoly of information about its impact,” which is “a form of conceptual censorship … that precludes informed debate.” A June report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights similarly noted “the disturbing lack of governmental transparency associated with surveillance policies, laws and practices, which hinders any effort to assess their coherence with international human rights law and to ensure accountability.” The rejection of the “terrorism” justification for mass surveillance as devoid of evidence echoes virtually every other formal investigation into these programs. A federal judge last December found that the U.S. Government was unable to “cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack.” Later that month, President Obama’s own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies concluded that mass surveillance “was not essential to preventing attacks” and information used to detect plots “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”
  • That principle — that the right of internet privacy belongs to all individuals, not just Americans — was invoked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he explained in a June, 2013 interview at The Guardian why he disclosed documents showing global surveillance rather than just the surveillance of Americans: “More fundamentally, the ‘US Persons’ protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%.” The U.N. Rapporteur was clear that these systematic privacy violations are the result of a union between governments and tech corporations: “States increasingly rely on the private sector to facilitate digital surveillance. This is not confined to the enactment of mandatory data retention legislation. Corporates [sic] have also been directly complicit in operationalizing bulk access technology through the design of communications infrastructure that facilitates mass surveillance. ”
  • The report was most scathing in its rejection of a key argument often made by American defenders of the NSA: that mass surveillance is justified because Americans are given special protections (the requirement of a FISA court order for targeted surveillance) which non-Americans (95% of the world) do not enjoy. Not only does this scheme fail to render mass surveillance legal, but it itself constitutes a separate violation of international treaties (emphasis added): The Special Rapporteur concurs with the High Commissioner for Human Rights that where States penetrate infrastructure located outside their territorial jurisdiction, they remain bound by their obligations under the Covenant. Moreover, article 26 of the Covenant prohibits discrimination on grounds of, inter alia, nationality and citizenship. The Special Rapporteur thus considers that States are legally obliged to afford the same privacy protection for nationals and non-nationals and for those within and outside their jurisdiction. Asymmetrical privacy protection regimes are a clear violation of the requirements of the Covenant.
  • Three Democratic Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote in The New York Times that “the usefulness of the bulk collection program has been greatly exaggerated” and “we have yet to see any proof that it provides real, unique value in protecting national security.” A study by the centrist New America Foundation found that mass metadata collection “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism” and, where plots were disrupted, “traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case.” It labeled the NSA’s claims to the contrary as “overblown and even misleading.” While worthless in counter-terrorism policies, the UN report warned that allowing mass surveillance to persist with no transparency creates “an ever present danger of ‘purpose creep,’ by which measures justified on counter-terrorism grounds are made available for use by public authorities for much less weighty public interest purposes.” Citing the UK as one example, the report warned that, already, “a wide range of public bodies have access to communications data, for a wide variety of purposes, often without judicial authorization or meaningful independent oversight.”
  • The latest finding adds to the growing number of international formal rulings that the mass surveillance programs of the U.S. and its partners are illegal. In January, the European parliament’s civil liberties committee condemned such programs in “the strongest possible terms.” In April, the European Court of Justice ruled that European legislation on data retention contravened EU privacy rights. A top secret memo from the GCHQ, published last year by The Guardian, explicitly stated that one key reason for concealing these programs was fear of a “damaging public debate” and specifically “legal challenges against the current regime.” The report ended with a call for far greater transparency along with new protections for privacy in the digital age. Continuation of the status quo, it warned, imposes “a risk that systematic interference with the security of digital communications will continue to proliferate without any serious consideration being given to the implications of the wholesale abandonment of the right to online privacy.” The urgency of these reforms is underscored, explained the Rapporteur, by a conclusion of the United States Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that “permitting the government to routinely collect the calling records of the entire nation fundamentally shifts the balance of power between the state and its citizens.”
Paul Merrell

Exclusive: Inside America's Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere | The Cable - 0 views

  • The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable. The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.
  • The Brazilian and German initiative seeks to apply the right to privacy, which is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to online communications. Their proposal, first revealed by The Cable, affirms a "right to privacy that is not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, home, or correspondence." It notes that while public safety may "justify the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information," nations "must ensure full compliance" with international human rights laws. A final version the text is scheduled to be presented to U.N. members on Wednesday evening and the resolution is expected to be adopted next week. A draft of the resolution, which was obtained by The Cable, calls on states to "to respect and protect the right to privacy," asserting that the "same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy." It also requests the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, present the U.N. General Assembly next year with a report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy, a provision that will ensure the issue remains on the front burner.
  • Publicly, U.S. representatives say they're open to an affirmation of privacy rights. "The United States takes very seriously our international legal obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said in an email. "We have been actively and constructively negotiating to ensure that the resolution promotes human rights and is consistent with those obligations." But privately, American diplomats are pushing hard to kill a provision of the Brazilian and German draft which states that "extraterritorial surveillance" and mass interception of communications, personal information, and metadata may constitute a violation of human rights. The United States and its allies, according to diplomats, outside observers, and documents, contend that the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to foreign espionage.
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  • n recent days, the United States circulated to its allies a confidential paper highlighting American objectives in the negotiations, "Right to Privacy in the Digital Age -- U.S. Redlines." It calls for changing the Brazilian and German text so "that references to privacy rights are referring explicitly to States' obligations under ICCPR and remove suggestion that such obligations apply extraterritorially." In other words: America wants to make sure it preserves the right to spy overseas. The U.S. paper also calls on governments to promote amendments that would weaken Brazil's and Germany's contention that some "highly intrusive" acts of online espionage may constitute a violation of freedom of expression. Instead, the United States wants to limit the focus to illegal surveillance -- which the American government claims it never, ever does. Collecting information on tens of millions of people around the world is perfectly acceptable, the Obama administration has repeatedly said. It's authorized by U.S. statute, overseen by Congress, and approved by American courts.
  • "Recall that the USG's [U.S. government's] collection activities that have been disclosed are lawful collections done in a manner protective of privacy rights," the paper states. "So a paragraph expressing concern about illegal surveillance is one with which we would agree." The privacy resolution, like most General Assembly decisions, is neither legally binding nor enforceable by any international court. But international lawyers say it is important because it creates the basis for an international consensus -- referred to as "soft law" -- that over time will make it harder and harder for the United States to argue that its mass collection of foreigners' data is lawful and in conformity with human rights norms. "They want to be able to say ‘we haven't broken the law, we're not breaking the law, and we won't break the law,'" said Dinah PoKempner, the general counsel for Human Rights Watch, who has been tracking the negotiations. The United States, she added, wants to be able to maintain that "we have the freedom to scoop up anything we want through the massive surveillance of foreigners because we have no legal obligations."
  • The United States negotiators have been pressing their case behind the scenes, raising concerns that the assertion of extraterritorial human rights could constrain America's effort to go after international terrorists. But Washington has remained relatively muted about their concerns in the U.N. negotiating sessions. According to one diplomat, "the United States has been very much in the backseat," leaving it to its allies, Australia, Britain, and Canada, to take the lead. There is no extraterritorial obligation on states "to comply with human rights," explained one diplomat who supports the U.S. position. "The obligation is on states to uphold the human rights of citizens within their territory and areas of their jurisdictions."
  • The position, according to Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Human Rights Program, has little international backing. The International Court of Justice, the U.N. Human Rights Committee, and the European Court have all asserted that states do have an obligation to comply with human rights laws beyond their own borders, he noted. "Governments do have obligation beyond their territories," said Dakwar, particularly in situations, like the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where the United States exercises "effective control" over the lives of the detainees. Both PoKempner and Dakwar suggested that courts may also judge that the U.S. dominance of the Internet places special legal obligations on it to ensure the protection of users' human rights.
  • "It's clear that when the United States is conducting surveillance, these decisions and operations start in the United States, the servers are at NSA headquarters, and the capabilities are mainly in the United States," he said. "To argue that they have no human rights obligations overseas is dangerous because it sends a message that there is void in terms of human rights protection outside countries territory. It's going back to the idea that you can create a legal black hole where there is no applicable law." There were signs emerging on Wednesday that America may have been making ground in pressing the Brazilians and Germans to back on one of its toughest provisions. In an effort to address the concerns of the U.S. and its allies, Brazil and Germany agreed to soften the language suggesting that mass surveillance may constitute a violation of human rights. Instead, it simply deep "concern at the negative impact" that extraterritorial surveillance "may have on the exercise of and enjoyment of human rights." The U.S., however, has not yet indicated it would support the revised proposal.
  • The concession "is regrettable. But it’s not the end of the battle by any means," said Human Rights Watch’s PoKempner. She added that there will soon be another opportunity to corral America's spies: a U.N. discussion on possible human rights violations as a result of extraterritorial surveillance will soon be taken up by the U.N. High commissioner.
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    Woo-hoo! Go get'em, U.N.
Paul Merrell

Civil Society Groups Ask Facebook To Provide Method To Appeal Censorship | PopularResistance.Org - 0 views

  • EFF, Human Rights Watch, and Over 70 Civil Society Groups Ask Mark Zuckerberg to Provide All Users with Mechanism to Appeal Content Censorship on Facebook World’s Freedom of Expression Is In Your Hands, Groups Tell CEO San Francisco—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and more than 70 human and digital rights groups called on Mark Zuckerberg today to add real transparency and accountability to Facebook’s content removal process. Specifically, the groups demand that Facebook clearly explain how much content it removes, both rightly and wrongly, and provide all users with a fair and timely method to appeal removals and get their content back up. While Facebook is under enormous—and still mounting—pressure to remove material that is truly threatening, without transparency, fairness, and processes to identify and correct mistakes, Facebook’s content takedown policies too often backfire and silence the very people that should have their voices heard on the platform.  Politicians, museums, celebrities, and other high profile groups and individuals whose improperly removed content can garner media attention seem to have little trouble reaching Facebook to have content restored—they sometimes even receive an apology. But the average user? Not so much. Facebook only allows people to appeal content decisions in a limited set of circumstances, and in many cases, users have absolutely no option to appeal. Onlinecensorship.org, an EFF project for users to report takedown notices, has collected reports of hundreds of unjustified takedown incidents where appeals were unavailable. For most users, content Facebook removes is rarely restored, and some are banned from the platform for no good reason. EFF, Article 19, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Ranking Digital Rights wrote directly to Mark Zuckerberg today demanding that Facebook implement common sense standards so that average users can easily appeal content moderation decisions, receive prompt replies and timely review by a human or humans, and have the opportunity to present evidence during the review process. The letter was co-signed by more than 70 human rights, digital rights, and civil liberties organizations from South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the U.S.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Important victories on ACTA! Moving on to Final Steps | La Quadrature du Net - 0 views

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    [Submitted on 31 May 2012 - 08:53 ACTA copyright Karel De Gucht David Martin Marielle Gallo Brussels, May 31st 2012 - Votes were cast in three of the four parliamentary committees preparing the EU Parliament's final decision on ACTA. Citizens' concerns, as well as Internet innovators & start-ups' interests have been upheld in "Civil Liberties" (LIBE) and the "Industry" (ITRE) committees. Even the "Legal affairs" (JURI) committee, usually very conservative and keen to support repression on copyright issues, rejected Marielle Gallo's pro-ACTA opinion. Citizens should rejoice but keep up the pressure for the upcoming steps, up until the final vote scheduled for early July. A massive rejection of ACTA would create a political symbol of global scale.]
Paul Merrell

ACLU Demands Secret Court Hand Over Crucial Rulings On Surveillance Law - 0 views

  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a motion to reveal the secret court opinions with “novel or significant interpretations” of surveillance law, in a renewed push for government transparency. The motion, filed Wednesday by the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, asks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, which rules on intelligence gathering activities in secret, to release 23 classified decisions it made between 9/11 and the passage of the USA Freedom Act in June 2015. As ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Patrick Toomey explains, the opinions are part of a “much larger collection of hidden rulings on all sorts of government surveillance activities that affect the privacy rights of Americans.” Among them is the court order that the government used to direct Yahoo to secretly scanits users’ emails for “a specific set of characters.” Toomey writes: These court rulings are essential for the public to understand how federal laws are being construed and implemented. They also show how constitutional protections for personal privacy and expressive activities are being enforced by the courts. In other words, access to these opinions is necessary for the public to properly oversee their government.
  • Although the USA Freedom Act requires the release of novel FISA court opinions on surveillance law, the government maintains that the rule does not apply retroactively—thereby protecting the panel from publishing many of its post-9/11 opinions, which helped create an “unprecedented buildup” of secret surveillance laws. Even after National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the scope of mass surveillance in 2013, sparking widespread outcry, dozens of rulings on spying operations remain hidden from the public eye, which stymies efforts to keep the government accountable, civil liberties advocates say. “These rulings are necessary to inform the public about the scope of the government’s surveillance powers today,” the ACLU’s motion states.
  • Toomey writes that the rulings helped influence a number of novel spying activities, including: The government’s use of malware, which it calls “Network Investigative Techniques” The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to weaken or circumvent their own encryption protocols The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to disclose their source code so that it can identify vulnerabilities The government’s use of “cybersignatures” to search through internet communications for evidence of computer intrusions The government’s use of stingray cell-phone tracking devices under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) The government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans under FISA Section 702—a controversial authority scheduled to expire in December 2017 The bulk collection of financial records by the CIA and FBI under Section 215 of the Patriot Act Without these rulings being made public, “it simply isn’t possible to understand the government’s claimed authority to conduct surveillance,” Toomey writes. As he told The Intercept on Wednesday, “The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow. These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”
Paul Merrell

Lawmakers warn of 'radical' move by NSA to share information | TheHill - 0 views

  • A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is expressing alarm at reported changes at the National Security Agency that would allow the intelligence service’s information to be used for policing efforts in the United States.“If media accounts are true, this radical policy shift by the NSA would be unconstitutional, and dangerous,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake FarentholdBlake FarentholdLawmakers warn of 'radical' move by NSA to share information Overnight Tech: Netflix scores win over Postal Service Lawmakers go green for St. Patrick's Day MORE (R-Texas) wrote in a letter to the spy agency this week. “The proposed shift in the relationship between our intelligence agencies and the American people should not be done in secret.ADVERTISEMENT“NSA’s mission has never been, and should never be, domestic policing or domestic spying.”The NSA has yet to publicly announce the change, but The New York Times reported last month that the administration was poised to expand the agency's ability to share information that it picks up about people’s communications with other intelligence agencies.The modification would open the door for the NSA to give the FBI and other federal agencies uncensored communications of foreigners and Americans picked up incidentally — but without a warrant — during sweeps.  
  • Robert Litt, the general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the Times that it was finalizing a 21-page draft of procedures to allow the expanded sharing.  Separately, the Guardian reported earlier this month that the FBI had quietly changed its internal privacy rules to allow direct access to the NSA’s massive storehouse of communication data picked up on Internet service providers and websites.The revelations unnerved civil liberties advocates, who encouraged lawmakers to demand answers of the spy agency.“Under a policy like this, information collected by the NSA would be available to a host of federal agencies that may use it to investigate and prosecute domestic crimes,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel and the American Civil Liberties Union. “Making such a change without authorization from Congress or the opportunity for debate would ignore public demands for greater transparency and oversight over intelligence activities.”In their letter this week, Lieu and Farenthold warned that the NSA’s changes would undermine Congress and unconstitutionally violate people’s privacy rights.   
  • “The executive branch would be violating the separation of powers by unilaterally transferring warrantless data collected under the NSA’s extraordinary authority to domestic agencies, which do not have such authority,” they wrote.“Domestic law enforcement agencies — which need a warrant supported by probable cause to search or seize — cannot do an end run around the Fourth Amendment by searching warrantless information collected by the NSA.”
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Transparency | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

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    "Knowing "what the government is up to" is often the first step in ensuring that the government respects the civil liberties of its citizens. Transparency is especially important given the government's increasingly secretive use of new technologies for law enforcement and national security purposes. From cell phone location tracking, the use of surveillance drones, secret interpretations of electronic surveillance law, and the expanding use of biometrics, EFF wants to hold the government accountable and uphold your digital rights."
Paul Merrell

PATRIOT Act spying programs on death watch - Seung Min Kim and Kate Tummarello - POLITICO - 0 views

  • With only days left to act and Rand Paul threatening a filibuster, Senate Republicans remain deeply divided over the future of the PATRIOT Act and have no clear path to keep key government spying authorities from expiring at the end of the month. Crucial parts of the PATRIOT Act, including a provision authorizing the government’s controversial bulk collection of American phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, are due to lapse May 31. That means Congress has barely a week to figure out a fix before before lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day recess at the end of the next week. Story Continued Below The prospects of a deal look grim: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday night proposed just a two-month extension of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions to give the two sides more time to negotiate, but even that was immediately dismissed by critics of the program.
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    A must-read. The major danger is that the the Senate could pass the USA Freedom Act, which has already been passed by the House. Passage of that Act, despite its name, would be bad news for civil liberties.  Now is the time to let your Congress critters know that you want them to fight to the Patriot Act provisions expire on May 31, without any replacement legislation.  Keep in mind that Section 502 does not apply just to telephone metadata. It authorizes the FBI to gather without notice to their victims "any tangible thing", specifically including as examples "library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records containing information that would identify a person." The breadth of the section is illustrated by telephone metadata not even being mentioned in the section.  NSA going after your medical records souand far fetched? Former NSA technical director William Binney says they're already doing it: "Binney alludes to even more extreme intelligence practices that are not yet public knowledge, including the collection of Americans' medical data, the collection and use of client-attorney conversations, and law enforcement agencies' "direct access," without oversight, to NSA databases." https://consortiumnews.com/2015/03/05/seeing-the-stasi-through-nsa-eyes/ So please, contact your Congress critters right now and tell them to sunset the Patriot Act NOW. This will be decided in the next few days so the sooner you contact them the better. 
Paul Merrell

Rally your friends to support the #USAFreedomAct! - Take Action - Google - 1 views

  • The House of Representatives has passed the USA Freedom Act, which represents a significant down payment on broader government surveillance reform. We need as many people as possible speaking up to make sure that the Senate says YES to the USA Freedom Act.
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    I suppose it was too much to hope that Google would do the right thing as called for by nearly all civil liberties organizations and call for sunsetting the Patriot Act. But Google's revolving door with NSA speaks and sides with NSA. Bad Google. Truly evil.   
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Apple and Other Tech Companies Tangle With U.S. Over Data Access - The New York Times - 0 views

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    "...While that prospect has been shelved for now, the Justice Department is engaged in a court dispute with another tech company, Microsoft. The case, which goes before a federal appeals court in New York on Wednesday and is being closely watched by industry officials and civil liberties advocates, began when the company refused to comply with a warrant in December 2013 for emails from a drug trafficking suspect. ..."
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