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Paul Merrell

Google, ACLU call to delay government hacking rule | TheHill - 0 views

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    ".. 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." Fourth Amendment. The changes to Rule 41 ignore the particularity requirement by allowing the government to search computers that are not particularly identified in multiple locations not particularly identifed, in other words, a general warrant that is precisely the reason the particularity requirement was adopted to outlaw.
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

  • 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

Section 215 and "Fruitless" (?!?) Constitutional Adjudication | Just Security - 0 views

  • This morning, the Second Circuit issued a follow-on ruling to its May decision in ACLU v. Clapper (which had held that the NSA’s bulk telephone records program was unlawful insofar as it had not properly been authorized by Congress). In a nutshell, today’s ruling rejects the ACLU’s request for an injunction against the continued operation of the program for the duration of the 180-day transitional period (which ends on November 29) from the old program to the quite different collection regime authorized by the USA Freedom Act. As the Second Circuit (in my view, quite correctly) concluded, “Regardless of whether the bulk telephone metadata program was illegal prior to May, as we have held, and whether it would be illegal after November 29, as Congress has now explicitly provided, it is clear that Congress intended to authorize it during the transitionary period.”

    So far, so good. But remember that the ACLU’s challenge to bulk collection was mounted on both statutory and constitutional grounds, the latter of which the Second Circuit was able to avoid in its earlier ruling because of its conclusion that, prior to the enactment of the USA Freedom Act, bulk collection was unauthorized by Congress. Now that it has held that it is authorized during the transitional period, that therefore tees up, quite unavoidably, whether bulk collection violates the Fourth Amendment. But rather than decide that (momentous) question, the Second Circuit ducked:

  • We agree with the government that we ought not meddle with Congress’s considered decision regarding the transition away from bulk telephone metadata collection, and also find that addressing these issues at this time would not be a prudent use of judicial authority. We need not, and should not, decide such momentous constitutional issues based on a request for such narrow and temporary relief. To do so would take more time than the brief transition period remaining for the telephone metadata program, at which point, any ruling on the constitutionality of the demised program would be fruitless.

    In other words, because any constitutional violation is short-lived, and because it results from the “considered decision” of Congress, it would be fruitless to actually resolve the constitutionality of bulk collection during the transitional period.

  • Hopefully, it won’t take a lot of convincing for folks to understand just how wrong-headed this is. For starters, if the plaintiffs are correct, they are currently being subjected to unconstitutional government surveillance for which they are entitled to a remedy. The fact that this surveillance has a limited shelf-life (and/or that Congress was complicit in it) doesn’t in any way ameliorate the constitutional violation — which is exactly why the Supreme Court has, for generations, recognized an exception to mootness doctrine for constitutional violations that, owing to their short duration, are “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” Indeed, in this very same opinion, the Second Circuit first held that the ACLU’s challenge isn’t moot, only to then invokes mootness-like principles to justify not resolving the constitutional claim. It can’t be both; either the constitutional challenge is moot, or it isn’t.

    But more generally, the notion that constitutional adjudication of a claim with a short shelf-life is “fruitless” utterly misses the significance of the establishment of forward-looking judicial precedent, especially in a day and age in which courts are allowed to (and routinely do) avoid resolving the merits of constitutional claims in cases in which the relevant precedent is not “clearly established.” Maybe, if this were the kind of constitutional question that was unlikely to recur, there’d be more to the Second Circuit’s avoidance of the issue in this case. But whether and to what extent the Fourth Amendment applies to information we voluntarily provide to third parties

Paul Merrell

Privacy Day | ACLU of Oregon - 0 views

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    Privacy measures that the ACLU is pushing at the state level in Oregon. Links are to short summaries of legislation.
Paul Merrell

Invasion of the Data Snatchers | American Civil Liberties Union - 0 views

  • Invasion of the Data Snatchers

    Data snatchers?? They are NOT science fiction. And they’re closer than you think.

    New technologies are making it easier for private companies and the government to learn about everything we do - in our homes, in our cars, in stores, and within our communities. As they collect vast amounts of data about us, things are getting truly spooky!

    Our video might make you laugh, but a future without any privacy is just scary.

    Isn't it time we regained control over our personal information?

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    This 3-minute video does an excellent job of explaining the surveillance dangers from both government and private actors of the emerging Internet of Things if corrective and preventive legislation is not adopted.
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.
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