Sunday, July 31, 2011

Privacy invasion disguised as security

From the Hattiesburg American:
Since 9/11, there has been a creeping change in the way Americans have regarded their personal liberties.

When the Patriot Act was first enacted, there was a hue and cry over civil liberties, the Bill of Rights being trashed, etc.

Despite legitimate criticism by advocacy groups, the propaganda - e.g., along with government-sponsored fear, drowned out serious concern over Constitutional protections of individuals and groups.

Despite lawsuits, the steady encroachment upon civil liberties goes on unabated.

Recently a 95-year-old great-grandmother experienced a humiliating, probing search of her person by TSA agents. Even a former head of Israeli Security argued for common sense.

Routinely, First and Fourth Amendment protections are being trashed under the rubric of 'homeland security' or the so-called 'war on terrorism.'

Lawmakers decry Barr restrictions

From AINonline:
Lawmakers from both houses of Congress have joined the battle over the Department of Transportation’s decision to dismantle the Block Aircraft Registration Request (Barr) program, with 26 senators and 33 representatives telling DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in separate letters that it is “a troubling reversal of a decade-old policy” established to uphold the privacy rights of Americans.

The senators noted that in light of advances of for-profit flight tracking services, Congress included a provision in the 2000 FAA reauthorization bill enabling the Barr program. For reasons of individual security, privacy and business competitiveness, the program provides owners of general aviation aircraft the ability to prevent public dissemination of their aircraft movements.

In a June 29 letter, the senators took issue with the DOT’s claim that it needs to severely curtail Barr to promote greater transparency in government. “While all Americans support an open and transparent government process,” the lawmakers told LaHood, “the Barr program is about the preservation of personal citizens’ right to privacy and has nothing to do with shedding light on our federal government.”

Judge finds traffic stop in Bryant was unconstitutional

From The Republic:
A federal judge has found that a traffic stop by a Bryant police officer was illegal but was not the cause of a passenger's death when he ran from the officer.

Officer Jeffery Plouch's decision to stop the car just to make sure its temporary tags were legal violated the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, U.S. District Judge Price Marshall said in the ruling.

He said Plouch's 'hunch' that the tags could have been altered simply doesn't satisfy the reasonable-suspicion requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

'This vehicle had done nothing illegal. Arkansas law allows temporary tags on any vehicle, including an old Buick,' Marshal said in Friday's ruling.

Obama Admin. Fights to Renew Warrantless Wiretaps, Block Transparency

From DailyTech:
During the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, much was lost by the people of the United States, including the lives of loved ones. Perhaps the most precious treasures lost, though, were the freedoms that Americans once took for granted. Today Americans have to endure invasive 'enhanced searches' of their genital regions by Transportation Safety Administration agents and can be spied on over the phone -- without warrant -- thanks to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (FAA).

The latter 'Big Brother' legislation is slated to expire in 2012. And at a time when most expect them to be trying to negotiate a debt ceiling compromise, a group of Senators are believed to be debating something quite different. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is reportedly meeting behind closed doors. And reports indicate the topic of discussion is the renewal of the FISA Amendments.

TSA readying new behavior detection plan for airport checkpoints

The federal government is planning to introduce new behavior detection techniques at airport checkpoints as soon as next month, Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole said Thursday.

TSA already has 'behavior detection officers' at 161 airports nationwide looking for travelers exhibiting physiological or psychological signs that a traveler might be a terrorist. However, Pistole said TSA is preparing to move to an approach that employs more conversation with travelers—a method that has been employed with great success in Israel.

'I'm very much interested in expanding the behavior detection program, upgrading it if you will, in a way that allows us to….have more interaction with a passsenger just from a discussion which may be able to expedite the physical screening aspects,' Pistole said during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. 'So, we’ve looked at what works around the world, some outstanding examples and we are planning to do some new things in the near future here.'

Movie producer detained after knife slips past security at Tampa International

From the St. Petersburg Times:
A security breach at Tampa International Airport allowed a passenger with a knife in his carry-on bag to get on board a plane Sunday before police arrested him.

The man, who authorities say inadvertently carried on the weapon, is movie producer Philippe Francois Martinez.

A family member who answered the phone at his Clearwater home Sunday said the incident 'was a big mistake.'

The woman, who declined to identify herself, said Martinez was unavailable to comment because he was traveling.

Around 6:45 a.m., Transportation Security Administration personnel noticed the knife during a security screening and alerted airport police, said airport spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan.

But when officers searched the bag, they did not find the knife. They discovered they had detained the wrong passenger.

TSA implementing programs to make airport security easier, less intrusive

From the South Florida
Come fall, getting through airport security will be faster and less intrusive for many Florida passengers.

For a special group of about 2,000 trusted travelers a day, moving through checkpoints may no longer involve removing shoes or taking out laptops. But in Florida, that option will be available only at Miami International Airport and only by invitation.

Passengers who resent having Transportation Security Administration agents see their naked, albeit fuzzy, body images will get a break if they fly out of Miami, West Palm Beach, Melbourne, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Tampa. That's because the TSA plans to install a new software system on the body imaging scanners that will highlight dangerous items on a generic image.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New device detects drugs from fingerprints

From CNET:
The power of self-incrimination is now at your fingertips, thanks to a new device out of the U.K. that can test for drugs in a person's system simply by taking a fingerprint.

The technology developed by Intelligent Fingerprinting, a spin-off company from the University of East Anglia in in Norwich, England, can simultaneously confirm a subject's identity and detect the presence of a number of drugs, including cocaine, cannabis, methadone, and nicotine.

The tip-off to the presence of drugs has less to do with the actual fingerprints, and more with the sweat that is secreted through the pores of the fingertips and then detected using dyed antibodies. Those antibodies are applied to the fingertips via gold nanoparticles on the device.

Supreme court could decide Fourth Amendment issue relating to firearm searches

From the State Bar of Wisconsin:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court could decide whether a sentencing court can eliminate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights when it comes to searching for firearms during a period of extended supervision.

Yesterday, the District III Wisconsin Court of Appeals certified State v. Rowan to review a sentencing court order allowing extended supervision on condition that Tally Ann Rowan allow law enforcement to search her, her vehicle, or her residence any time without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

“There are no cases in Wisconsin that address this issue,” the appeals court noted. “Because this is a novel issue of statewide importance that is certain to recur, we hereby certify this appeal. …”

House panel approves broadened ISP snooping bill

From CNET News:
Internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers' activities for one year--in case police want to review them in the future--under legislation that a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved today.

The 19 to 10 vote represents a victory for conservative Republicans, who made data retention their first major technology initiative after last fall's elections, and the Justice Department officials who have quietly lobbied for the sweeping new requirements, a development first reported by CNET.

A last-minute rewrite of the bill expands the information that commercial Internet providers are required to store to include customers' names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses, some committee members suggested. By a 7-16 vote, the panel rejected an amendment that would have clarified that only IP addresses must be stored.

Big Brother is watching you: Every car in Royston is tracked by police

From our friends across the pond at the:
A sleepy Home Counties market town has become the first in Britain to have every car passing through it tracked by police cameras.

Royston, in Hertfordshire, has had a set of police cameras installed on every road leading in and out of it, recording the numberplate of every vehicle that passes them.

The automatic number-plate recognition system will check the plates against a variety of databases, studying them for links to crimes, and insurance and tax records, and alerting police accordingly.

There were just seven incidents of vehicle crime in the town last month, and residents believe the unmarked cameras are an invasion of their privacy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Federal court: If you're arrested, officials can take a DNA sample

From the
A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that forcing criminal suspects to provide a DNA sample upon arrest – and prior to any conviction – does not violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Third US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 8 to 6 that a federal statute authorizing the warrantless collection of DNA samples from every person entering the federal criminal justice system was “reasonable and does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

“Given the record in front of us today, we conclude that a DNA profile is used solely as an accurate, unique, identifying marker – in other words, as fingerprints for the 21st century,” wrote Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes in the majority opinion.

The six dissenting judges said forcing arrested suspects to surrender a DNA sample to the government is a “severe” intrusion of privacy.

With Modesty In Mind, TSA Rolls Out New Body Scans

From NPR:
Beginning in 2007, full-body scanners were installed at the nation's airports to address concerns that terrorists could smuggle explosives hidden in their clothing — or, in one infamous case, their underwear — that wouldn't be picked up by standard metal detectors.

The scanners produced a fairly detailed image of a traveler's body, which was viewed on monitors by TSA screeners in a separate room.

Now, the Transportation Security Administration is rolling out new technology that produces a less revealing image of travelers. The new technology uses the same scanners, but with upgraded software. Call them scanners 2.0.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Former Minnesota Governor: TSA pat downs 'Fascist' act

From PressTV:
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura lambasted at a federal court hearing 'un-American' security procedures implemented at airports across the nation in 2010.

He filed a lawsuit with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in January, claiming their use of pat down searches at airport security checkpoints is unconstitutional. Pioneer Press reported that a lawyer for Ventura argued in federal court that the searches violate his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable and unwarranted searches.

The Justice Department has filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming that the searches are legal and that they can only be challenged in a federal appeals court.

Man say he's mishandled by airport screener again

From the StamfordAdvocate:
A Michigan man with bladder cancer who suffered a rough airport pat-down that caused his urostomy bag to spill its contents on his clothing last fall said he was mishandled by a screener at the same airport earlier this month.

A security agent's aggressive pat-down in November caused the lid of Thomas Sawyer's bag to loosen, spilling urine on his shirt and pants. Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole called Sawyer to apologize and pledge an investigation into how screeners handle passengers with sensitive medical conditions.

'I thought that I had really made a difference for people flying with urostomies, I really did,' Sawyer told the Detroit Free Press on Friday. 'I'm angry this time. They can't be training them properly.'

Sawyer said he went through security July 14 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport for a flight to Orlando, Fla., when a screener disregarded his warning that he had a urostomy bag beneath his untucked shirt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More innocent people will get charged

From The Tennessean:
When talking with non-lawyers, I am increasingly taken aback by the laissez-faire attitude people have toward the government intercepting our private communications, sometimes referred to as wiretaps. I have come to the conclusion that we have such nonchalant attitudes about this government intrusion because we all take our to our right to privacy for granted. Given the government’s ever-increasing use of wiretaps, no one should assume that their privacy remains intact.

Our right to privacy comes from the Fourth Amendment, which states that people in our country have a right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Over the years, we have protected this right to the point that we assume we will never face a time when the government is intruding into our private lives in such ways as listening to our personal telephone conversations.

Legal Abracadabra: Why the TSA’s Sexual Assaults Are "Constitutional"

From the New American:
If you aren’t already convinced that judicial robes cloak the biggest set of fools and tyrants outside Congress, a decision last week from the DC Court of Appeals should finish the job.

At issue was the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) carcinogenic porno-scanners at the nation’s airports — contraptions so evil that the TSA has repeatedly, constantly lied about their dangers to both our health and modesty as passengers who submissively shed their shoes and bag their liquids revolt against this final indignity.

When the porno-scanners invaded concourses around the country last summer, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the Feds for “screen[ing] airline passengers by using advanced imaging technology [the TSA’s euphemism for ‘porno-scanners’; the agency used to call them ‘whole-body imagers,’ but that apparently contained too much truth and not enough jargon] instead of magnetometers. [EPIC] argue[s] this use of AIT violates various federal statutes and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States…”

Are Student Cell Phone Records Discoverable?

The debate over when officials can search a student's cell phone is an emerging e-discovery issue. This is illustrated in the recent case N.N. v. Tunkhannock Area School District, Civil Action No. 3:10-CV-1080, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

In this case, a student at Tunkhannock Area High School in Tunkhannock, Pa., violated a school policy requiring cell phones to be turned off and stored in lockers during the school day by placing a call from her cell phone while on school property. A teacher confiscated the phone. School officials then examined the contents of the cell phone and discovered what appeared to be inappropriate photographs stored in the phone's memory.

The phone was turned over to the police. The court opinion states that, 'Aside from one photograph taken by a female friend, the photographs were taken by [the student] alone, and were intended for the sole consumption of herself and her long-term boyfriend. The photographs were taken off school property, were saved to the cell phone, were never e-mailed or uploaded to the internet, and were not shared with other students.'

Florida Makes $63M Selling Drivers' Info

From WPLG Miami:
The state of Florida made $63 million last year selling what many think is personal information.

Local 10 has learned the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is selling people's names, addresses, dates of birth, a list of the vehicles they drive, and it's legal.

'Per federal mandate, there are companies that are entitled to this information. Insurance companies, for example, are entitled to this information. Employers are entitled to this information,' said Ann Howard of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The state is currently selling this information to companies including Lexus Nexus and Shadow Soft. Those companies gather data on people and then sell that data. The companies must sign contracts with state claiming they won't harass people.

Lawyer: Cop scanner ‘crosses line’

From the
Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state’s plans to create a Big Brother database that could map drivers’ whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that capture thousands of license plates per hour — storing that information indefinitely where local cops, staties, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose.

“What kind of a society are we creating here?” asked civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who along with the ACLU fears police abuse. “There comes a point where the surveillance is so pervasive and total that it’s a misnomer to call a society free any longer.”

The computerized scanners, known as Automatic License Plate Recognition devices, instantly check for police alerts, warrants, traffic violations and parking tickets, which cops say could be an invaluable tool in thwarting crime. The Executive Office of Public Safety has approved 27 grants totaling $500,000 to buy scanners for state police and 26 local departments. The purchases are on hold while state lawyers develop a policy for the use of a common state database all the scanners would feed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PlaneRed To Taunt Airlines, TSA

From Forbes:
Flying sucks. While usually I’d choose more elaborate and pleasant language, this industry requires me to be blunt and crass in the same way it treats its customers. For hundreds of dollars, you’ll suffer cramped quarters, torn seating, rude staff, interrogations, endless (yet ‘standard’) wait-times, and overall an experience that makes no sense on the get-what-you-paid-for scale. Even the best of the best – Virgin America – only just scrapes the pleasantries of your average cross-country train journey. PlaneRed‘s CEO, Wade Eyerly, wants to fix this shoddy state of affairs.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Woman boards plane with 3-inch knife TWICE but TSA shrug it off because explosives are 'biggest threat'

From the Mail Online:
An Indianapolis woman was shocked to discover she had been able to board a plane with a three-inch knife in her carry-on bag not once, but twice.

Sara Gallienne had not realised the blade was in her luggage until she got home.

But that hadn't stopped her successfully carrying it through TSA checkpoints at both Richmond and Providence, Rhode Island.

Wicker Bill Would Ensure Federal Airport Screeners Can Meet Changing Threats

From The State Column:
Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), today introduced the TSA Efficiency and Flexibility Act, S.1353, which would guarantee Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel could respond quickly to emerging threats. The Wicker bill prohibits TSA personnel from collective bargaining because of security concerns.

“Our security personnel need flexibility to meet the changing threats they face,” said Wicker. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service do not have collective bargaining rights for good reason. The burdensome regulations that could result from TSA collective bargaining add constraints and increase costs. At a time when states are struggling because of expensive state employee unions, allowing TSA personnel to enter into collective bargaining is the wrong policy.”

Wicker’s bill would make a previous TSA decision law, preventing more than 40,000 TSA personnel from collective bargaining. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) introduced a similar bill in the House. The TSA Efficiency and Flexibility Act maintains whistleblower and other protections for workers.

TSA to Launch Trusted Traveler Pilot Program

From Homeland Security Today:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will conduct a test of a trusted traveler program this fall, TSA chief John Pistole announced recently.

Qualifying travelers will have an opportunity to participate in a pilot phase of a known traveler program, which qualifies them for expedited screening processes at specific checkpoints within specific airports.

'These improvements will enable our officers to focus their efforts on higher risk areas,' Pistole said in a statement Thursday. 'Enhancing identity-based screening is another common sense step in the right direction as we continue to strengthen overall security, and improve the passenger experience whenever possible.'

Saturday, July 16, 2011

TSA told to get public comment on body scanners

From the Associated Press:
The public should have had the chance to raise concerns about full body scanners before the government put them in airports around the country, a federal appeals court said Friday. But now that the machines are there, the government doesn't have to stop using them.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the Transportation Security Administration to start soliciting comments about the machines, which show an image of a person's naked body.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based civil liberties group, tried to force the TSA to stop using the machines, arguing that they violated privacy and religious freedom laws as well as the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches.

Woman Gropes TSA Agent's Breast at Security Checkpoint

We hear a lot of complaints about security screeners groping airline passengers.

But now, a Colorado woman is accused of putting her hands on a TSA agent at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.

Court records show 61-year-old Yukari Mihamae grabbed the left breast of the female agent Thursday at the Terminal 4 checkpoint.

Federal Court Rules That TSA ‘Naked Scans’ Are Constitutional

From Forbes:
Last weekend, a Tennessee woman was arrested at the Nashville airport for disorderly conduct after she refused TSA security measures for her children. The woman didn’t want her two children to have to go through a whole-body-imaging scanner. When a Transportation Security Administration officer told her the machines were safe, she said, “I still don’t want someone to see our bodies naked.”

She won’t be pleased with a ruling then out of the D.C. Circuit today. This morning, the federal court ruled that the “naked scans” of air travelers do not violate Americans’ constitutional rights. Privacy rights group EPIC had sued the Department of Homeland Security, alleging violations of innocent passengers’ Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches. The court says that argument doesn’t fly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prosecutors Demand Laptop Password in Violation of Fifth Amendment

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court in Colorado today to block the government's attempt to force a woman to enter a password into an encrypted laptop, arguing in an amicus brief that it would violate her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

A defendant in this case, Ramona Fricosu, is accused of fraudulent real estate transactions. During the investigation, the government seized an encrypted laptop from the home she shares with her family, and then asked the court to compel Fricosu to type the password into the computer or turn over a decrypted version of her data. But EFF told the court today that the demand is contrary to the Constitution, forcing Fricosu to become a witness against herself.

'Decrypting the data on the laptop can be, in and of itself, a testimonial act -- revealing control over a computer and the files on it,' said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. 'Ordering the defendant to enter an encryption password puts her in the situation the Fifth Amendment was designed to prevent: having to choose between incriminating herself, lying under oath, or risking contempt of court.'

TSA: Too Stupid for America

From John Stossel's Take Blog on
Or maybe it stands for 'Thousands Standing Around.'

Under the guise of making us safer, government has greatly expanded its role in airport security.

But according a report released today, we're not very much safer. Since November 2001, there have been 25,000 security breaches in our nation's airports. And these are just the breaches that we know about. A few days ago, a man managed to fly from Boston to Newark with a stun gun.

Like most failed government programs, many people think that the solution is to throw more money at the problem, even though the first version of the TSA spent far more than the private screeners they replaced, and since then the TSA's budget has increased from $4.7 billion in 2002 to $7.8 billion in 2011.

'We were search raped by TSA officials': Wheelchair Couple tells of horrific airport ordeal

From the Mail Online:
A disabled couple were subjected to a humiliating 'search rape' by over-zealous airport security officials, it has been claimed.

Jason and Jennifer Steitler, from Florida, claim they forced up from their wheelchairs and groped under their clothes by TSA agents last week at Greater Rochester International Airport in New York.

The pat downs were so intrusive Mrs Steitler went as far as describing the experience as a 'search rape'.

Opposing view: Warrantless GPS tracking needed

The Supreme Court has agreed to review whether the government's warrantless use of a Global Positioning System device to monitor the public movements of a suspect's motor vehicle for one month was an unreasonable search in violation of the suspect's Fourth Amendment rights.

The scope and reach of the meaning of a Fourth Amendment 'search' must adapt to keep pace with the march of improved technology. Warrantless tracking of a suspect's motor vehicle through a GPS device does not in any way compromise an individual's expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. If there is no invasion of a reasonable expectation of privacy, there is no 'search' and therefore no violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Historically, although courts have been vigilant about the sanctity of the home, they have afforded significantly less protection to individuals traveling in public.

In fact, the Supreme Court has expressly held that an individual traveling on a public highway has no 'reasonable expectation of privacy in his movement.' Police monitoring of a suspect's vehicle by use of a GPS device is not a 'search' and therefore does not require probable cause.

SCOTUS Grants Review in Firearm Search Warrant Case

The Fourth Amendment guarantees our right to not be subjected to search and seizure under a “general” search warrant (i.e., a warrant not based on probable cause and not particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized).

Firearms are generally lawful to possess, and usually may not be seized without probable cause that a specific firearm was used in a crime. On August 24, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Millender v. County of Los Angeles, et al. (07-55518), confirmed that a general search warrant requesting the seizure of “all handguns, rifles or shotguns of any caliber, or any firearms capable of firing ammunition…” was unconstitutional when the police who sought the warrant were aware they were actually searching for just one specific firearm.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation (CRPAF) argued this point in an amicus (friend of the court) brief filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Mrs. Millender. A copy of the brief, along with the opinion, other case related briefs, and memorandum analyzing the opinion is posted at

Local Author's 'Take the Fourth' Takes on the Right to Privacy

From the Phoenixville Patch:
In today’s digital age, most of us are aware by now that every time we visit the Internet we are sharing information. However, to what extent and how much may shock you.

Local author Jeffrey Walton, of Schuylkill Township, takes this invasion of privacy a step further in his new book, Take the Fourth.

“I learned over the years how much information is really out there for the taking,” said Walton, who when not writing works as a development manager for one the top technology providers for the financial industry. “The amount of mundane information that can turn into statistics is pretty amazing.'

Walton explores this topic in his first novel, named in reference to the Fourth Amendment, which entitles us to our basic right to privacy. Walton takes his lead character on a fictional trip of “what if”—what if information sharing got so out of control that every move we make was trackable and accounted for by those in charge?

US cops addicted to Facebook data - Users never know

From TechEye:
US coppers are getting warrants for detailed access to users' Facebook accounts without their knowledge.

According to Reuters, since 2008, federal judges have authorised at least two dozen warrants to search individuals' Facebook accounts to the FBI, DEA and ICE. The investigations range from arson to rape to terrorism.

Facebook gives the cops a detailed package of profile and photo information that is not even available to users themselves.

It looks like the cops are getting so addicted to the amount of useful data that they can get from these profiles that they are hitting the courts for more warrants. Federal agencies were granted at least 11 warrants to search Facebook since the beginning of 2011, double the number for all of 2010.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Can Police Seize Cells?

If you are arrested, do the police have the right to look through your cellphone?

After all, they can already look through your purse, your wallet, your pockets-- or your car, if that's where you are when you're arrested.

Increasingly they're also looking through your phone, with the idea that your phone can hold evidence of a crime.

But whether they can legally do so--or should be able to legally do so--without a warrant is still a question up for debate.

DOJ: We can force you to decrypt that laptop

From CNET News (h/t @Hfuhs via @DaveMarcus):
The Colorado prosecution of a woman accused of a mortgage scam will test whether the government can punish you for refusing to disclose your encryption passphrase.

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to order the defendant, Ramona Fricosu, to decrypt an encrypted laptop that police found in her bedroom during a raid of her home.

Because Fricosu has opposed the proposal, this could turn into a precedent-setting case. No U.S. appeals court appears to have ruled on whether such an order would be legal or not under the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which broadly protects Americans' right to remain silent.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ind. first to require drug tests for job training

Indiana's decision to require drug tests for unemployed people participating in state-funded job training programs is part of a growing trend among states trying to corral dwindling resources.

Indiana's new policy gives people applying for job training one business day to undergo a urinalysis test at a site approved by the state. Tests will be conducted for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, the hallucinogen PCP and amphetamine and methamphetamine.

Workforce Development Commissioner Mark Everson says it doesn't make sense to spend state money training someone for a job when they won't be able to pass a drug test.

Indiana University law professor Ken Dau-Schmidt believes the testing violates the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches.

The U.S. Labor Department says Indiana is the first state to require drug test for job trainees.

Review of the Court’s Fourth Amendment cases

From SCOTUSblog:
The Supreme Court heard oral argument in five Fourth Amendment cases in the recently completed Term. The Court dismissed one case as improvidently granted and didn’t reach the merits of the Fourth Amendment issue in a second case. In the three cases that did reach the merits, however, the government’s side readily won: 8-0, 8-1, and 7-2. Justice Alito wrote two of the three majority opinions, and Justice Scalia wrote the third.

Help restore the 4th amendment

From Free
Randolph Holhut in the Windham County Commons reports that U.S. Representative Peter Welch, of Vermont, is cosponsoring a bill which would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using a person’s GPS information.

Because it’s easier than trailing someone in person and court approval is unnecessary, the FBI now commonly attaches GPS trackers to people’s cars. According to Wired, “The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled last year that using a GPS tracker was no different than physically trailing a suspect in public, and that such surveillance was not protected by the Fourth Amendment, even if agents placed the device on a suspect’s car while it was parked in his driveway.” (A dissenting judge argued that it was “straight out of George Orwell’s novel 1984″.) The devices have been found on the cars of environmental activists and college students.

Judge rules use of GPS to track a cheating spouse is not an invasion of privacy

Beware, all you cheating husbands and wives.

The use of a GPS device to track your whereabouts is not an invasion of privacy in New Jersey, a state appellate court panel ruled today.

Based on the battle of a divorcing Gloucester County couple, the decision helps clarify the rules governing a technology increasingly employed by suspicious spouses — many of whom hire private investigators.

“For the appellate division to say that it’s not an invasion of privacy is a wonderful thing for the private investigation business,” said Lisa Reed, owner of LSR Investigations in Flemington. “It’s been something we’ve been haggling over for some period of time.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Law Enforcement Surveillance Reporting Gap

The abstract of Christopher Soghoian's paper from the Social Science Research Network:
Third party facilitated surveillance has become a routine tool for law enforcement agencies. There are likely hundreds of thousands of such requests per year. Unfortunately there are few detailed statistics documenting the use of many modern surveillance methods. As such, the true scale of law enforcement surveillance, although widespread, remains largely shielded from public view.

Prior to the widespread adoption of the Internet and mobile phones, law enforcement agencies’ use of third party facilitated electronic surveillance was largely limited to real-time interception of communications content ('wiretapping') and non-content data (through the use of 'pen register' and 'trap and trace' orders). In order to increase its ability to perform effective oversight, Congress mandated that annual reports be created documenting the use of these surveillance powers. These reports are intended to enable policy makers as well as the general public to determine the extent to which such surveillance methods are used, and in the words of Senator Patrick Leahy, provide a 'far more reliable basis than anecdotal evidence on which to assess law enforcement needs and make sensible policy in this area.'

The existing surveillance statistics might be sufficient if law enforcement agencies’ surveillance activities were limited to wiretaps and pen registers. However, over the last decade, law enforcement agencies have enthusiastically embraced many new sources of investigative and surveillance data for which there are no mandatory reporting requirements. As a result, most modern surveillance now takes place entirely off the books and the true scale of such activities, which vastly outnumber traditional wiretaps and pen registers, remains unknown.

In this article, I examine the existing electronic surveillance reporting requirements and the reports that have been created as a result. Some of these have been released to public, but many have only come to light as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests or leaks by government insiders. I also also examine several law enforcement surveillance methods for which there are no existing legally mandated surveillance reports. Finally, I propose specific legislative reporting requirements in order to enable some reasonable degree of oversight and transparency over all forms of law enforcement electronic surveillance.

Wiretaps are increasing

From the Bleader:
Last week the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released its annual report on wiretap use by federal and state law enforcement agencies, and—to the surprise of no one who follows such Fourth Amendment-related subjects—wiretaps are increasing. In 2010, state and federal investigators received 3,194 wiretap orders—34 percent more than in 2009.

The wiretaps aren't being used for terrorism-monitoring purposes, but mostly for what Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute calls 'ordinary law enforcement purposes'—investigations into crimes involving drugs, racketeering, and the like. In fact, 84 percent of wiretap orders were given for drug investigations. In Cook and DuPage Counties, all authorized wiretaps were for narcotics investigations; same goes for the U.S. Northern District of Illinois, minus two racketeering investigations.Given that wiretaps cost an estimated average of $52,000 a pop, that's one expensive drug war. (Other reports price wiretaps between $1,000 to $500,000.)

Judge will hear challenge to laptop border searches

From CNET News:
A federal judge will hear arguments today in a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's claim that it can search travelers' laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices at the border and seize them indefinitely.

Civil liberties groups filed the suit last September, which challenges the Department of Homeland Security's policies on constitutional grounds and asks a federal district court in New York City to bar the agency from continuing its current practices.

In August 2009, Homeland Security announced that it would continue a Bush administration policy that allows laptops and electronic gear to be seized and held indefinitely even if there is no evidence of illegal activities. The complete contents of a hard drive or memory card can be shared with other government agencies and perused at length for evidence of lawbreaking.

Courts have generally upheld the ability of border agents to conduct searches, even relatively invasive ones. This legal challenge effectively says that the changes in technology -- mobile phones and PDAs are growing smaller and more capable and can carry the equivalent of entire libraries and filing cabinets of data -- require judges to craft a new rule limiting the scope of border searches that have become more invasive.

Woman Faces Jail Time for Planting Organic Vegetable Garden

Not so much an invasion of privacy issue, but more along the lines of the right to be left alone! From
A Michigan woman is being charged with a misdemeanor offense and is facing up to 93 days in jail. Her crime? Planting a vegetable garden—in her own yard. Her front yard, that is.

Like many consumers today, Julie Bass, of Oak Park, Mich., appreciates the taste and healthfulness of organic vegetables, but isn’t much of a fan of how much going organic costs at the store. So, like many health-minded consumers, she planted a vegetable garden on her property.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Texas police department puts 'eyes in the sky' with unmanned aircraft

A Texas police department is one of first to experiment with unmanned aircraft.

The Arlington Police Department is experimenting with two battery-operated, remote-controlled air crafts.

They are flying them over a restricted airspace near Lake Arlington Dam, away from populated areas.

The aircrafts weigh only 11 pounds and are 20 inches long, and come equipped with cameras that shoot video and pictures.

Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman says they would be a great asset to the city, but some residents are calling it an invasion of privacy.

Someone’s watching you

From the Deccan Chronicle:
You’re being watched. At a shopping mall, a restaurant, in the office and everywhere in between. You are possibly under surveillance and are being tracked from every angle possible.

The emergence of CCTVs, handycams and cameras has given rise to a new concern — invasion of privacy. Surveillance in everyday life is giving the creeps to people as they feel that they are being reduced to objects of suspicion.

The recent hullabaloo over a surveillance camera, which was tucked away in an X-ray room in Ernakulam Medical Centre, is just one of the recent instances that has stirred the ‘being monitored’ debate. The baby monitors found these days in every nook and corner have indeed become man’s best friend in cracking down on crime.

But are they turning into irritating prying eyes? “Cameras may be a good way to combat anti-social behaviour but they have the potential advantage of becoming nosey,” says Mathew James, a businessman, who isn’t too happy with monitoring devices.

Civil Liberties, Privacy, + Security

From NowPublic News:
If privacy is an essential component of personhood, how is personhood compromised by the information age, surveillance technologies, and other potential invasions of privacy? Similarly, what constitutes sufficient justification for the invasion of privacy by government, private individuals, or business entities? Lastly, for the purposes of constructing policy, how should policy reflect the appropriate balance in protecting privacy?' - Lisa Nelson in 'Privacy and Technology: Reconsidering a Crucial Public Policy Debate in the Post-Sept. 11 Era'

Denver Attorney H. Bryan Cunningham divides privacy issues into two buckets or baskets: (1) the relationship of citizens to its government and (2) the relationship of citizens to everyone else such as marketers, big banks, computer companies, etc. The United States and European Union view these two categories 'diametrically opposite' of each other, he said.

For example, British police have the authority to arrest and to hold suspects for up to 28 days without charging them with a crime; whereas, American police can only hold suspects for up to 48 hours, he said.

Is the rule obsolete?

From the Youngstown News:
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Mapp v. Ohio. The case originated out of Cleveland, where police were looking for a fugitive and forced their way into Dollree Mapp’s apartment without her consent. While in the apartment the police confiscated illegal material and arrested Mapp.

Forty-seven years before Mapp the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that evidence collected in federal prosecutions that violated the Fourth Amendment ban against illegal search and seizures would be excluded from trial. The exclusionary rule, as it became known, was available to all defendants in federal court. However, the rule had not been recognized or applied by all states. Ohio was one of those states that did not recognize the exclusionary rule.

Mapp v. Ohio changed the nation’s jurisprudential landscape. Mapp explicitly held that the exclusionary rule applies to the states and as a result state prosecutors could not use evidence gained by illegal or improper means to obtain a conviction.

Federal judges are short-circuiting the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures

From the Washington Examiner:
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and his clerk Stephanie Grace have written an opinion piece about the demise of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution subtitled “How technology helped make the Fourth Amendment obsolete.”

Based on Judge Kozinski’s reputation as a fine even libertarian jurist, I thought before reading the article it might be a mea or noster (our) culpa on behalf of the American judiciary, which over the past century has issued opinion after opinion destroying the force of the Fourth Amendment as a restraint on government.

I had hoped Judge Kozinski, a Ronald Reagan appointee, would have recited how judges have upheld government searches without citing to the Fourth Amendment’s requirements of warrants issued only after someone, under oath and affirmation, provided probable cause.

ACLU battles Boulder over Chautauqua Park searches

From KDVR:
The American Civil Liberties Union is -once again- taking issue with the City of Boulder’s policy of searching bags and coolers brought to Chautauqua Park on July 4th.

City officials say the searches are necessary due to the risk of fireworks sparking a wildfire in the open space park. The ACLU, however, says they violate the Fourth Amendment protecting people against unreasonable search and seizure.

In a letter to the city last month, Boulder ACLU chapter chairman Judd Golden said the practice 'does little more than flaunt the City's police power by subjecting OSMP (Open Space and Mountain Parks) visitors to 'consent or leave' unconstitutional searches,' the Daily Camera reported.

Sheriffs asked to arrest airport security agents

From WorldNetDaily:
The issue of invasive physical pat-downs by federal Transportation Security Administration agents at airports across the nation isn't going away anytime soon, with word that the Libertarian Party of Florida formally is demanding that sheriffs in the state's 67 counties arrest TSA agents for sexual battery.

The enhanced pat-down procedures – or the optional full body scans that essentially create a nude image of passengers – were imposed on travelers across America in recent months, prompting a wide range of reactions.

Just last week a state law proposed in Texas that would have created charges against federal agents who impose those physical pat-downs – described by critics and 'groping' – failed at the end of a special legislation session when representatives couldn't assemble an enhanced quorum required during the special meetings of the lawmakers.

Free to shoot?

VIDEOS and photographs, so easily posted on the Internet, have been the bane of security forces trying to quell unrest on the streets. Think Egypt, Tunisia, and Washington?

Jerome Vorus of Alexandria was walking in Georgetown last summer when he noticed some Metropolitan Police officers making a traffic stop. He began taking pictures, and when the cops noticed, they approached him and asked for his identification. According to papers filed in court, four different officers told him it was illegal to take pictures or recordings of MPD officers without permission from the public affairs office. It was 30 minutes before the officers returned Mr. Vorus' ID.

The Virginian has now filed suit, saying his First Amendment rights to take pictures in public places, as well as his Fourth Amendment right offering protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, were violated.