domestic-spying

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.

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

Most people would object to the government searching their homes without a warrant. If you were told that that while you are at work, the government is coming into your home every day and searching it without cause, you might be unsettled. You might even think it a violation of your rights specifically, and the bill of rights generally.

But what if the government, in its defense, said: “First of all, we’re searching everyone’s home, so you’re not being singled out. Second, we don’t connect your address to your name, so don’t worry about it. All we’re doing is searching every home in the United States, every day, without exception, and if we find something noteworthy, we’ll let you know.”

This is the essence of the NSA’s domestic spying program. They are collecting records of every call made in the US, and every call made from the US to recipients abroad. Any number of government agencies can access this data – about who you have called any day, any week, any year. And this information is being kept indefinitely.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/20/nsa-surveillance-programme-get-worse

huffingtonpost.com
AP: NYPD Secretly Designated Entire Mosques As Terrorism Organizations

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

In response to the news, the ACLU and two other organizations have filed lawsuits against the NYPD. saying the department’s practices leave Muslims in fear of practicing their religion.

EDIT: As pointed out below, this is an AP story that ran on HuffPo. This has been edited to clarify. 

democracynow.org
"You Might Get Hit by a Car": On Secret Tape, FBI Threatens American Muslim Refusing to be Informant

“The FBI’s network of paid informants has expanded rapidly since 9/11, and now includes more than 15,000, rivaling the scale of the J. Edgar Hoover era. A guy like Naji Mansour — an expatriate working in countries where terrorists operate — would be a real catch,” writes Mother Jones reporter. 

However, the FBI wasn’t happy when Mansour refused.

Congress Says C.I.A. Hacked The Computers of Senators Reviewing Their Torture Tactics

August 2nd, 2014

A U.S. Senate committee report will conclude that the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks yielded no critical intelligence on terrorist plots that could not have been obtained through non-coercive methods, U.S. officials familiar with the document said.

Foreshadowing the impending release of a report expected to suggest that the “enhanced” techniques were unnecessary and also to accuse some CIA officers of misleading Congress about the effectiveness of the program, President Barack Obama said on Friday that the CIA “tortured some folks.” He had supposedly banned the practices soon after taking office in 2009.

Obama also defended CIA director John Brennan who has faced congressional calls for his resignation after a revelation that the agency spied on the Senate committee investigating its interrogation techniques.

Video

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.

FBI Facial Recognition Database to Include 52 Million People Whether Or Not They are Criminals

The FBI’s growing collection of facial recognition data inside its Next Generation Identification (NGI) database already includes 16 million images as of the middle of 2013, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)… The agency’s goal of expanding to 52 million images by 2015 also includes a possible 4.3 million images taken for non-criminal purposes such as applying for a job.

For the first time, U.S. law enforcement could run searches on both criminal and non-criminal faces simultaneously in the hunt for suspects. That may provide a huge boost for law enforcement. But it also means that anyone submitting a photo as part of a background check for a job, applying for a driver’s license or getting a passport could end up on a ranked list of faces when an FBI agent searches for suspects in the database.

The EFF posted records detailing NGI’s plans after obtaining them through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. NGI’s database assigns a “Universal Control Number” to every criminal or non-criminal record on file. Each record could contain fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans and facial recognition data linked to individual information such as name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, etc. NGI is built upon the FBI’s legacy fingerprint database that already includes over 100 million individual records, but previous FBI databases never combined criminal records with the records of ordinary citizens.

(via FBI’s Facial Recognition Database Will Include Non-Criminals - IEEE Spectrum)

techdirt.com
The US Government Today Has More Data On The Average American Than The Stasi Did On East Germans | Techdirt

We’ve written plenty about how the US government has been quite aggressive in spying on Americans. It has been helped along by a court system that doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the 4th Amendment and by the growing ability of private companies to have our data and to then share it with the government at will. Either way, in a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (who’s been one of the best at covering the surveillance state in the US) made a simple observation that puts much of this into context: the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans. And, of course, as we’ve already seen, much of that data seems to be collected illegally with little oversight… and with absolutely no security benefit.

To be fair, part of the reason for why this is happening is purely technical/practical. While the Stasi likely wanted more info and would have loved to have been able to tap into a digitally connected world like we have today, that just wasn’t possible. The fact that we have so much data about us in connected computers makes it an entirely different world. So, from a practical level, there’s a big difference.

That said, it still should be terrifying. Even if there are legitimate technical reasons for why the government has so much more data on us, it doesn’t change the simple fact (true both then and now) that such data is wide open to abuse, which inevitably happens. The ability of government officials to abuse access to information about you for questionable purposes is something that we should all be worried about. Even those who sometimes have the best of intentions seem to fall prey to the temptation to use such access in ways that strip away civil liberties and basic expectations of privacy. Unfortunately, the courts seem to have very little recognition of the scope of the issue, and there’s almost no incentive for Congress (and certainly the executive branch) to do anything at all to fix this.

Supreme Court Terminates Case That Would Hold AT&T Liable For Allowing The Government To Spy on Americans Without Warrants

The Supreme Court closed a 6-year-old chapter Tuesday in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s bid to hold the nation’s telecoms liable for allegedly providing the National Security Agency with backdoors to eavesdrop, without warrants, on Americans’ electronic communications in violation of federal law.

The justices, without comment, declined to review a lower court’s December decision (.pdf) dismissing the EFF’s lawsuit challenging the NSA’s warrantless eavesdropping program. At the center of the dispute was 2008 congressional legislation retroactively immunizing the telcos from being sued for cooperating with the government in a program President George W. Bush adopted shortly after the September 2001 terror attacks.

After Bush signed the legislation and invoked its authority in 2008, a San Francisco federal judge tossed the case, and the EFF appealed. Among other things, the EFF claimed the legislation, which granted the president the discretion to invoke immunity, was an illegal abuse of power.

The New York Times first exposed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of international phone calls to and from Americans in 2005. A former AT&T technician named Mark Klein later produced internal company documents suggesting that the NSA was surveilling internet backbone traffic from a secret room at an AT&T switching center in San Francisco, and similar facilities around the country. Klein’s evidence formed the basis of the now-dismissed suit, Hepting v. AT&T.

Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director, said the group was “disappointed” with the outcome because “it lets the telecommunication companies off the hook for betraying their customers’ trust.

The Bush administration, and now the President Barack Obama administration, have neither admitted nor denied the spying allegations — though Bush did admit that the government warrantlessly listened in on some Americans’ overseas phone calls, which he said was legal.

After U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker tossed the case against the telcos, the EFF sued the government instead. Walker dismissed that case, too, ruling that it amounted to a “general grievance” from the public and not an actionable claim. But a federal appeals court reversed, and sent it down to a trial judge in December.

A hearing on that case is scheduled next month in San Francisco federal court.

The Obama administration is again seeking it to be tossed, claiming it threatens to expose state secrets and would be an affront to national security. When the state secrets doctrine is invoked, judges routinely dismiss cases amid fears of exposing national security secrets.

VIDEO: Rand Paul leads bold crusade against NSA spying in EPIC Senate speech

This is as good as it gets, ladies and gentlemen.  This is not a speech from just another politician running for higher office.  This is a potent, pointed, heart-felt “give me liberty!” from a man who is sick and tired of seeing the Constitution shredded by his own government. 

here’s the video:

To Senator Paul we say, “Bravo!”  Thank you for your tireless efforts to protect the American people from a tyrannical Federal government.

People around the world stared in bewilderment at their TV and computer screens last week as confirmation of our government’s secret surveillance techniques hit the media. Libertarians, on the other hand, were largely unsurprised by the news that the NSA has been monitoring our telephone records and online data. We have been warning about this sort of intrusion into our liberties for years while being called conspiracy nuts and sensationalists, but now that the cat is officially out of the bag, we’ve seen a surprising shift in the general public’s sentiment regarding government surveillance activities.

As a result, opportunities are popping up that allow us to do our part to fight this heinous display of government overreach. Here are five such options:

1) Sign the White House petition to pardon Edward Snowden

The efficacy of petitions (especially on the White House website) has been debated in the past, but taking a minute out of your day to sign the petition calling for a presidential pardon of Edward Snowden shouldn’t hurt. The petition calls for a “full, free, and absolute pardon of any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.” As of writing this, the petition has 61,643 of the 100,000 signatures required to receive acknowledgment from the White House.

2) Donate to the CrowdTilt that will reward Snowden for his actions

There is currently a crowdfunding effort to reward Edward Snowden $15,000 for his actions, of which $13,582 has been donated so far.

From the CrowdTilt website:

“We should set a precedent by rewarding this type of extremely courageous behavior. It’s definitely apparent that legal fees may soon be a big part of his future, but I don’t care how he uses the funds raised, whether it’s for a business-class trip to Iceland or just to pay his hotel bills, it’s a reward that I believe we shoudl band together and provide him with… Whether it’s $5 or $500, his courage should be rewarded.”

3) Opt out of PRISM by checking out this list of alternate operating systems and online services

PRISM Break is designed as a means of putting people in touch with the resources they need to opt out of the NSA’s PRISM program. It provides “free alternatives to proprietary software” and gives users options for how to choose a safer web browser, web search, plugins, email service, and more. This was created not only as a way to allow users to remove themselves from the surveillance state, but also to reward companies that put an emphasis on user privacy.

4) Attend a Restore the Fourth protest 

Social media platform, Reddit, has been overwhelmingly responsive to the news that the NSA is surveilling our online and mobile interactions, and even r/politics, which just last week was a haven for Obama apologetics, has turned into a source for critical debate regarding big-government policies. As a result, a group of organizers on Reddit have put together a series of protests on the fourth of July called “Restore the Fourth.” Attendees are requested to dress nicely (your Sunday best) and to conduct themselves reasonably, so as to offset the societal judgment that was experienced by the “hippy” crowd of Occupy Wall Street. Click here for more information regarding the protests, or click here to find out where a protest is happening in your area.

5) Talk about it

It’s important that we not let this issue fade away or be replaced by another distraction from the mainstream media. This issue is of critical importance, and if approached correctly, has the potential to be a real turning point in our country’s discussion regarding domestic policy. Democrats are turning against the administration and its actions, but it’s also important to tactfully make Republicans aware of the hypocrisy they display when they challenge the issue of government surveillance only when it’s done by the opposing party.

Use social media to discuss it, engage your neighbors in conversation about the issue, or maybe wear one of our “One Nation Under Surveillance” tees so that even strangers will give your message some thought. Whatever you do, talk about what’s happening and spread the message.

privacysos.org
The FBI, COINTELPRO, and the most important robbery you've never heard of | Kade Crockford

Most people in the United States have never heard of the 1971 event the Los Angeles Times describes as “one of the most lastingly consequential (although underemphasized) watersheds of political awareness in recent American history.” Nevertheless, you’ve probably heard about the political scandal that erupted in its wake: COINTELPRO.

In March, 1971, activists calling themselves the Citizens’ Committee to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and stole more than a thousand documents. Then they released them — unredacted and in full — to the public.

Thirty-five years later, in 2008, the LA Times published a great piece on the break-in and the ensuing political firestorm:

Within a few weeks, the documents began to show up — mailed anonymously in manila envelopes with no return address — in the newsrooms of major American newspapers. When the Washington Post received copies, Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell asked Executive Editor Ben Bradlee not to publish them because disclosure, he said, could “endanger the lives” of people involved in investigations on behalf of the United States.

Nevertheless, the Post broke the first story on March 24, 1971, after receiving an envelope with 14 FBI documents detailing how the bureau had enlisted a local police chief, letter carriers and a switchboard operator at Swarthmore College to spy on campus and black activist groups in the Philadelphia area.

More documents went to other reporters — Tom Wicker received copies at his New York Times office; so did reporters at the Los Angeles Times — and to politicians including Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota and Rep. Parren J. Mitchell of Maryland.

Despite a six year, 33,000 page investigation into the robbery, the FBI never uncovered the culprits, the LA Times reports. The activists never came forward to publicly claim their responsibility for the series of political changes they helped to unleash, including the passage of the landmark Privacy Act in 1974.

The revelations were astonishing to many Americans: the FBI was engaged in extensive political surveillance and disruption of activist groups. Though mostly directed at left-wing organizations and anti-war deserters, the Bureau also spied on a couple of right-wing groups.

Noam Chomsky summarized what the Citizens’ Committee reported about the FBI’s investigative priorities in the early 1970s:

According to [The Citizens’ Committee’s] analysis of the documents in this FBI office, 1 percent were devoted to organized crime, mostly gambling; 30 percent were “manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural matter”; 40 percent were devoted to political surveillance and the like, including two cases involving right-wing groups, ten concerning immigrants, and over 200 on left or liberal groups. Another 14 percent of the documents concerned draft resistance and “leaving the military without government permission.” The remainder concerned bank robberies, murder, rape, and interstate theft.

In other words, the documents revealed that a whopping 77% of the FBI’s investigative records in the Media, PA office concerned political surveillance, including inquiries directed at Vietnam war deserters.

From the LA Times:

Found among the Media documents was a new word, “COINTELPRO,” short for the FBI’s “secret counterintelligence program,” created to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the U.S. Under these programs, beginning in 1956, the bureau worked to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles,” as one COINTELPRO memo put it, “to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.”

The Media documents — along with further revelations about COINTELPRO in the months and years that followed — made it clear that the bureau had gone beyond mere intelligence-gathering to discredit, destabilize and demoralize groups — many of them peaceful, legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups — that the FBI and Director J. Edgar Hoover found offensive or threatening.

The public was shocked to learn what the FBI had been up to in secret. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been. After all, this was the same FBI director who called the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program the “greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.”

How much has changed since then within the ranks of the FBI? We can’t be sure unless we can see what’s really going on inside the institution, but you can imagine how little the institutional culture has changed by reading how the FBI describes Hoover’s tenure during COINTELPRO on its website:

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Bureau took on investigations in the field of civil rights and organized crime. The threat of political violence occupied many of the Bureau’s resources as did the threat of foreign espionage.

That’s certainly one way of looking at it. [++]

U.S. Postal Service is taking pictures of your mail. No, really
  • 160B pieces of mail were photographed for law enforcement by the United States Postal Service last year, as part of the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program revealed during the FBI’s investigation of ricin letters sent to President Obama. The program was apparently implemented in secret after the anthrax scare of 2001, and calls for photographs of the cover of any/every piece of paper mail processed by the United States Postal Service. Sure makes zip codes seem quaint, doesn’t it? source
CISPA is back with a new name, and it's even more dangerous to Americans' privacy

Remember CISPA?  It was the internet spying bill that would give the NSA even more access to American’s private internet conversations without search warrants. The bill got stalled in Congress after major outrage from privacy groups (both left and right) as well as hundreds of major internet corporations who went to bat for their customers.  

Well, CISPA is back…and with a new name: CISA (aren’t they just so creative?)   

from ACLU:

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.

read the rest

It’s time to get on the phone and start forcing members of Congress to publicly commit to opposing this bill. 

If you’ve never contacted your Congressman or Senator before, it’s never too late to start.

This is the number for the Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

This link contains the phone numbers of every member of Congress

Here are the social media contacts every member of the Senate.

Here are the social media contacts for every member of the House.

You’ve got the tools…now get to work!

Illinois Passes New Bill Criminalizing The Recording Of Police And Other Gov't Officials

Illinois Passes New Bill Criminalizing The Recording Of Police And Other Gov’t Officials

In an age with almost universal access to smart phones and other digital devices, the Illinois legislature has sent outgoing Governor Pat Quinn a bill that may criminalize the recording of confrontations with police and other government officials.

At the same time, the proposed law would give law enforcement officers license to record whatever conversations they want, without any prior judicial…

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nytimes.com
NY Times: Drug Agents Use Vast Phone Trove, Eclipsing NSA's

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

You probably shouldn’t read this story, unless you feel like being at least a little bit angry this afternoon. If the report is true, AT&T has been providing decades worth of call logs to the Drug Enforcement Agency, and that includes all calls which passed through AT&T switches. Even if one or more parties wasn’t an AT&T customer. It’s estimated that four billion calls are saved to the Hemisphere Project database each day.

NSA bracing for another major Snowden-style leak of classified information.

There are reports today that the NSA is aware of another major breach in classified information about their domestic spying operations and expects those leaks to be published in the near future. 

from Free Beacon:

The National Security Agency, still reeling from massive leaks caused by Edward Snowden, is preparing to be hit with another major loss of secrets, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The leaks are expected to be published in the near future by a news outlet that was not further identified by the officials familiar with details of the compromise. The NSA is aware of the news outlet’s forthcoming disclosures and is taking steps to try and minimize any damage they will cause.
According to the officials, the latest NSA disclosure of secrets is not the result of an insider stealing documents, as occurred in the case of fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Instead, the leaks will reveal certain NSA technical cyber intelligence gathering capabilities. The officials did not provide details about the leaks.
Certain techniques used by the NSA in cyber operations became known to technicians at a non-U.S. cyber security firm operating from Mexico. The company then contacted a news outlet with the details it uncovered.
A report detailing the breach could be made public as early as this weekend.

read the rest

I’m curious to see what this new round of leaks entails.  We already know that the NSA pretty much scoops up everything.  What else is there?

ANYONE WANTING TO GET INVOLVED:

IRC: #stopprism at (web) segachannel.net:9090 and (client) sega.tsukihi.me

Twitter: @_stopprism where we’re trending #nothingtohide, #NSA, #stopPRISM, and #restorethefourth

Tumblr: stopprism.tumblr.com, check out the Getting Involved page

Facebook: Stop Prism, using one of the enemy’s most widespread networks against it

Thank you for caring.

Thank you for not succumbing.

Thank you for resisting with us.