4th amendment

Day of Action to Demand Warrants for Email

On Thursday, December 5th, organizations including CDT, ACLU, EFF, Google, Twitter, and Tumblr are participating in a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.

ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws—it was enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. ECPA says that hundreds of government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values.

Join us in the day of action: Sign this petition telling the White House to support ECPA reform.

DC cops raid home, drag 16-year-old naked from the shower, arrest father for 2 EMPTY shell casings

This story absolutely makes my blood boil.  Washington DC police in full tactical gear recently raided the home of a businessman and after terrorizing the family, arrested the father for two empty ammunition casings. 

from Washington Times:

The police banged on the front door of Mr. Witaschek’s Georgetown home at 8:20 p.m. on July 7, 2012, to execute a search warrant for “firearms and ammunition … gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts.”

Mr. Witaschek’s 14-year-old daughter let inside some 30 armed officers in full tactical gear.
D.C. law requires residents to register every firearm with the police, and only registered gun owners can possess ammunition, which includes spent shells and casings. The maximum penalty for violating these laws is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Police based their search on a charge made by Mr. Witaschek’s estranged wife, who had earlier convinced a court clerk to issue a temporary restraining order against her husband for threatening her with a gun, although a judge later found the charge to be without merit.

After entering the house, the police immediately went upstairs, pointed guns at the heads of Mr. Witaschek and his girlfriend, Bonnie Harris, and demanded they surrender, facedown and be handcuffed.

In recalling what followed, Mr. Witaschek became visibly emotional in describing how the police treated him, Ms. Harris and the four children in the house.

His 16-year-old son was in the shower when the police arrived. “They used a battering ram to bash down the bathroom door and pull him out of the shower, naked,” said his father. “The police put all the children together in a room, while we were handcuffed upstairs. I could hear them crying, not knowing what was happening.”

Police spokesman Gwendolyn Crump would not provide further information on the events in this case.

The police shut down the streets for blocks and spent more than two hours going over every inch of his house. “They tossed the place,” said Mr. Witaschek. He provided photos that he took of his home after the raid to document the damage, which he estimated at $10,000.

The police found no guns in the house, but did write on the warrant that four items were discovered: “One live round of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition,” which was an inoperable shell that misfired during a hunt years earlier. Mr. Witaschek had kept it as a souvenir. “One handgun holster” was found, which is perfectly legal.

“One expended round of .270 caliber ammunition,” which was a spent brass casing. The police uncovered “one box of Knight bullets for reloading.” These are actually not for reloading, but are used in antique-replica, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles.

read the rest

This is an absolute outrage and a gross violation of the 2nd and 4th Amendments.  The police commander and the district attorney who signed off on this raid should be stripped of their positions and charged with harassment, theft, destruction of property, assault, and reckless endangerment of minors. They should serve time in Federal prison for such gross misconduct. 

This is the state of gun control in the US.  Police in cities like DC, New York, and Chicago will exploit any minuscule tittle in the law that gives them the vaguest excuse to harass innocent people.  Actions like these don’t make anybody safer.  They are acts of tyranny, pure and simple.

This man and his children committed no crime, yet they were treated worse than murderers and child molesters. The madness has to stop.  We must demand accountability for these officials outrageous actions. 

2 Out of Every 3 Americans Lost Fourth Amendment Protections To DHS

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

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

Don’t be silly by thinking this means only if you are physically trying to cross the international border. As we saw when discussing the DEA using license plate readers and data-mining to track Americans movements, the U.S. “border” stretches out 100 miles beyond the true border. Godfather Politics added:

But wait, it gets even better!  If you live anywhere in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey or Rhode Island, DHS says the search zones encompass the entire state.

The Fourth Amendment statesThe 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.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the entire DHS report about suspicionless and warrantless “border” searches of electronic devices. ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said “We hope to establish that the Department of Homeland Security can’t simply assert that its practices are legitimate without showing us the evidence, and to make it clear that the government’s own analyses of how our fundamental rights apply to new technologies should be openly accessible to the public for review and debate.

Meanwhile, the EFF has tips to protect yourself and your devices against border searches. If you think you know all about it, then you might try testing your knowledge with a defending privacy at the U.S. border quiz.

Feds: the 4th Amendment doesn't apply to your emails more than 180 days old

According to the Federal Government, your 4th Amendment right to privacy doesn’t apply to any electronic communications over 180 days old. This includes your email and text messages.  

from McClatchy:

If you’ve been remiss in cleaning out your email in-box, here’s some incentive: The federal government can read any emails that are more than six months old without a warrant.
Little known to most Americans, ambiguous language in a communications law passed in 1986 extends Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure only to electronic communications sent or received fewer than 180 days ago.
The language, known as the “180-day rule,” allows government officials to treat any emails, text messages or documents stored on remote servers – popularly known as the cloud – as “abandoned” and therefore accessible using administrative subpoena power, a tactic that critics say circumvents due process.
As you rush to purge your Gmail and Dropbox accounts, however, be forewarned that even deleted files still could be fair game as long as copies exist on a third-party server somewhere.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 was written at a time when most people did not have email accounts, said Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, who is leading efforts in the House of Representatives to update the law.
“The government is essentially using an arcane loophole to breach the privacy rights of Americans,” Yoder said. “They couldn’t kick down your door and seize the documents on your desk, but they could send a request to Google and ask for all the documents that are in your Gmail account. And I don’t think Americans believe that the Constitution ends with the invention of the Internet.”
Bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this month by Yoder and Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, would require government agencies and law enforcement officials to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause.

read the rest

Opposition to things like this should be bipartisan.  In fact, it should be virtually universal.  

I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment. The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants. I expect this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court and I predict the American people will win.

Sen. Rand Paul, who is joining FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe and lead counsel Ken Cuccinelli on the case.  Kibbe adds:

This class action suit isn’t about Republican versus Democrat, or progressive versus conservative. This is about defending the basic civil liberties of every American from a government that has crossed the line. FreedomWorks is participating in this suit on behalf of our community of 6 million citizens nationwide, along with any American who has a phone. If you use a phone, you should care about this case. Never in American history has there been such a warrantless gathering of citizens information. We believe it is time to put this before the courts.

Obama Fights To Allow Indefinite Detention of American Citizens Without Charge

The White House has filed an appeal in hopes of reversing a federal judge’s ruling that bans the indefinite military detention of Americans because attorneys for the president say they are justified to imprison alleged terrorists without charge.

Manhattan federal court Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in May that the indefinite detention provisions signed into law late last year by US President Barack Obama failed to “pass constitutional muster” and ordered a temporary injunction to keep the military from locking up any person, American or other, over allegations of terrorist ties. On Monday, however, federal prosecutors representing President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta filed a claim with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of eliminating that ban.

The plaintiffs “cannot point to a single example of the military’s detaining anyone for engaging in conduct even remotely similar to the type of expressive activities they allege could lead to detention,” Obama’s attorneys insist. With that, the White House is arguing that as long as the indefinite detention law hasn’t be enforced yet, there is no reason for a judge to invalidate it.

Reuters reports this week that the government believes they are justified to have the authorization to lock alleged belligerents up indefinitely because cases involving militants directly aligned against the good of the US government warrants such punishment. Separate from Judge Forrest’s injunction, nine states have attempted to, at least in part, remove themselves from the indefinite detention provisions of included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or NDAA.

In section 1021 of the NDAA, the president’s authority to hold a terrorism suspect “without trial, until the end of the hostilities” is reaffirmed by Congress. Despite an accompanying signing statement voicing his opposition to that provision, President Obama quietly inked his name to the NDAA on December 31, 2011. In May, however, a group of plaintiffs including notable journalists and civil liberty proponents challenged section 1021 in court, leading to Just Forrest to find it unconstitutional one month later.

The Complete Interactive Guide To How The NSA Spies On Everything You Do

With all the hoopla about missing airplanes, renewed wars of the cold variety, and rigged markets, it is easy to forget that America is now officially a totalitarian state of the Orwellian kind, where the population has - involuntarily - ceded all of its privacy in exchange for… something. Because it certainly isn’t security. So we are happy to provide a reminder of just this, especially since as BusinessWeek notes, it gets harder to keep track of all the bizarre ways the National Security Agency has cooked up to spy on people and governments. This may help.

Data in Motion

NSA’s spies divide targets into two broad categories: data in motion and data at rest. Information moving to and from mobile phones, computers, data centers, and satellites is often easier to grab, and the agency sucks up vast amounts worldwide. Yet common data such as e-mail is often protected with encryption once it leaves a device, making it harder—but not impossible—to crack.

Data at Rest

Retrieving information from hard drives, overseas data centers, or cell phones is more difficult, but it’s often more valuable because stored data is less likely to be encrypted, and spies can zero in on exactly what they want. NSA lawyers can compel U.S. companies to hand over some of it; agency hackers target the most coveted and fortified secrets inside computers of foreign governments.

Where the Data Goes

Much of the data the NSA compiles from all these efforts will be stored in its million-square-foot data center near Bluffdale, Utah. It can hold an estimated 12 exabytes of data. An exabyte is the equivalent of 1 billion gigabytes.

And some of the specific methods the NSA uses to spy on US citizens and the occasional offshore “terrorist”:

  • Call Recorder - The agency can intercept and store for up to a month 100 percent of a foreign country’s telephone calls, which can be sorted and played back.
  • Clone Phones - Foreign targets’ cell phones can be surreptitiously swapped for an identical model with built-in listening and data collection devices.
  • Fake Shops - Diplomats at the 2009 G-20 summit in London were tricked, with the NSA’s help, into using an Internet cafe that had been rigged to send data to British intelligence.
  • Travel Trackers - The NSA has several ways to follow the movements of intelligence targets as they get off planes, drive across borders, or move around a city, including an implant that directs a cell phone SIM card to send geolocation data via text message.
  • Special Delivery - Spies intercept computers that foreign targets buy online, fit them with devices that send data to the NSA, and box them back up for normal delivery.
  • X-Ray Vision - Radar waves beamed into a room can detect what is being typed on a keyboard or displayed on a computer screen.
  • Credit Cards - The agency tapped into the network of Visa and major banking systems to collect troves of transaction data.
  • Satellites - The NSA infiltrated German satellite communications used in remote locations such as drilling platforms—and by the country’s diplomats.
  • Gamer Spies - Agency employees join World of Warcraft and Second Life communities, hunting for criminal networks and recruiting informants. They’ve also infiltrated Microsoft’s Xbox Live network.
  • Cell Towers - Base stations mimicking cell towers siphon location data from targets’ phones. Agents can also intercept mobile calls with a shoe-box-size receiver.
  • Submarines - The agency can collect worldwide Internet traffic with a modified nuclear submarine that taps undersea fiber-optic cables—allowing spies to vacuum data from millions of users.
  • Secret Selfies - Malware planted in an iPhone can secretly activate its camera and microphone, turning it into a listening device. Malware for Windows mobile phones enables complete remote control of the handset.
  • Fake Rocks - Transmitters hidden inside rocks and other objects can receive information from NSA taps implanted in nearby computers even if they’re “air gapped” machines or networks that aren’t hooked up to the Internet—among the hardest of all digital targets.

The Stasi is spinning in its grave… with jealousy. The full interactive presentation can be found [here].

PCFIPA - Impossible To Pronounce: Still Invading Your Privacy

Lamar Smith has a new, even more terrifying bill called the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act”, which would require ISPs to log ALL of your transactions you make online for up to 18 MONTHS on the premise of catching child pornographers.This bill far over-reaches even the danger level of SOPA and PIPA, and it has already passed through its committee. 

Below are relevant articles containing information about the bill: 



This bill is in strong violation of the 4th Amendment’s unlawful search and seizure writ, and should be immediately and permanently removed from the docket under such grounds. Other means of stopping child pornographers are readily available without having to treat every citizen as guilty by logging their internet behaviour and looking for “guilty” actions. This bill grants an utterly unreasonable amount of power to government agencies and ISPs to police through the elimination of personal privacy, and this is utterly unacceptable. 

That’s why I signed a petition to The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate, which says:

“We’re calling for an immediate indefinite postponement of the upcoming vote on PCFIPA . This bill is in strong violation of the 4th Amendment’s unlawful search and seizure rights, and should be immediately and permanently removed from the docket under such grounds. " 

Something ELSE to keep an eye on in addition to ACTA, PIPA & SOPA

FBI admits ZERO major terror cases have been cracked with Patriot Act snooping

This has long been a talking point from those of us who strongly advocate that the Patriot Act and the NSA’s various domestic spying programs are an ineffective menace against the 4th Amendment rights of Americans, but it’s pretty amazing that the FBI is now admitting it. 

from Washington Times:

FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

The FBI did finally come up with procedures to try to minimize the information it was gathering on nontargets, but it took far too long, Mr. Horowitz said in the 77-page report, which comes just as Congress is trying to decide whether to extend, rewrite or entirely nix Section 215.

Backers say the Patriot Act powers are critical and must be kept intact, particularly with the spread of the threat from terrorists. But opponents have doubted the efficacy of Section 215, particularly when it’s used to justify bulk data collection such as in the case of the National Security Agency’s phone metadata program, revealed in leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden.

The new report adds ammunition to those opponents, with the inspector general concluding that no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act’s records-snooping provisions.

“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the inspector general concluded — though he said agents did view the material they gathered as “valuable” in developing other leads or corroborating information.

read the rest

It’s time to abolish the Patriot Act completely and restore the privacy rights of Americans.  Mass domestic spying does not keep us safe, it only violates the rights of ordinary hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens.

Jury won't convict deputy for no-knock raid that maimed toddler

Although Autry’s “mistakes” led directly to Fourth Amendment violations that resulted in Bou Bou’s injuries, the jury declined to hold her responsible.

“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.”

Read the Constitution before killing our kids!

There is nothing so special or immediate about the government’s interest in ensuring that TANF recipients are drug free so as to warrant suspension of the Fourth Amendment. The only known and shared characteristic of the individuals who would be subjected to Florida’s mandatory drug testing program is that they are financially needy families with children. Yet, there is nothing inherent in the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a concrete danger that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use or that should drug use occur, that the lives of TANF recipients are fraught with such risks of injury to others that even a momentary lapse of attention can have disastrous consequences.
—  Judge Mary Scriven, striking down Florida’s welfare drug-testing law as unconstitutional.
10 Great Points in Rand Paul’s Patriot Act Attack
It’s not every day that a GOP presidential candidate talks about the drug war’s ‘disparate racial impact’ while trying to run the clock out on blanket surveillance


1) Warrants need to be “individualized,” because collective law enforcement is the root of much evil.

Paul’s root opposition to the Patriot Act is that it is being used as the legal justification for the collection of bulk data against unsuspecting U.S. citizens who no one believes have committed a crime. His opposition to the reforming USA Freedom Act is that it still allows the government to compel third-party companies like Verizon to cough up 100 percent of its customer metadata.

Either way, Paul has stressed all day, this is antithetical to both the Fourth Amendment and the American tradition of individual rights. Collective guilt is what underpinned the segregationist horrors of the Jim Crow south, and of the indefensible internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The people who really need the Bill of Rights, he has said, are not the prom queens and homecoming kings, but people who are in a disfavored minority, whether ideological, religious, or racial.

2) Internet/telephone/data companies should put up “unified resistance” to federal compulsion to turn over user data.

It’s not every day that you see a sitting U.S. senator calling for straight-up civil disobedience. But in an era where the Supreme Court has yet to definitively rule on the third-party doctrine governing what intermediaries have to do when requested by the government to cough up all user data, building up a bigger cultural expectation of privacy is crucial if our credit-card data and cloud storage is going to be proferred traditional 4th Amendment protection.

3) “We’re using the Patriot Act to put [drug offenders] in prison.”

One of the least remembered scandals in the Summer of Snowden is that the Drug Enforcement Agency has been collecting bulk metadata with all the same gusto as the National Security Agency, even though the DEA is supposed to [enforce] the law on U.S. citizens who are afforded protections from the Constitution. In fact, the DEA has been using the NSA’s data. Patriot Act mission creep might not be news to Reason readers, but that makes it no less indefensible. …

5) “It was done by executive decree, it can be undone by executive decree.”

Paul has continuously bemoaned President Barack Obama’s civil-liberties switcheroo when in office, a topic he talked with me about in a September 2013 (bottom of the post). As he rightly points out, most of the actions civil libertarians are complaining about are pure inventions and executions by the executive branch. If the president cares about this stuff as much as he occasionally pretends to…, he can actually stop collecting the metadata.

6) The government is “using records to gain entrance to people, and then tak[ing] their stuff without conviction.”

The connection between civil asset forfeiture and NSA surveillance might not be immediately obvious, but Paul has done a bravura job in making the link. A government that can take your money—even if you are never charged with a crime—because it doesn’t like the way you deposit it in your bank, is a government that should not be trusted with holding all your seemingly innocuous third-party information. …

9) “The director of national intelligence…wasn’t telling the truth.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper famously lied to Congress under oath about the collection of bulk metadata on millions of Americans. All afternoon, Rand Paul has used the word “lied” to describe what Clapper did. It is bracing to watch government misbehavior called by its proper name.

10) “The presumption of innocence is an incredibly important doctrine that we shouldn’t so casually dismiss.”

The fact that this has to be said on the floor of the U.S. Senate is appalling. The fact that it is being said at least offers a little hope.

Know Your Rights - 4th Amendment

In continuation of my yesterday’s post about the 5th Amendment, here’s what you need to know about the 4th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Again, let’s start by checking the actual text of the amendment.

Technically this amendment protects us from 2 very important things - unreasonable search and seizure and the government ruling our personal belongings.
However it’s probably one of the amendment that is abused most frequently. For instance, police sometimes damage citizens’ belongings and violate personal space and search people when they feel like it. Now you have to know that you have the right to refuse consent to a search of your car, your home or yourself, unless the police have a search warrant or suspects that your car contains evidence of a crime, but police can’t pat you down for weapons. If they do all of that anyway, you have the right to film them in public.

I’m sure everyone knows who Edward Snowden is. He said that the Fourth Amendment no longer holds the same meaning it once held. 

“All of your private records, all of your private communications, all of your transactions, all of your associations, who you talk to, who you love, what you buy, what you read, all of these things can be seized and then held by the government and then searched later for any reason, hardly without any justification, without any reason, without any real oversight, without any real accountability for those who do wrong.”

It’s really not easy to live with the realization that your government is spying on every word you say, watches your every move and you pretty much have no personal space. And that right, my friends, is taken away from each and every citizen of the U.S.

#KnowYourRights   #4thAmendment   #NSA