We’re Petitioning Seattle’s Federal Court To Unseal Electronic Surveillance Orders

Screenshot 2017-11-20 at 11.24.51 AM

By Steven Hsieh for The Stranger – It’s now easier than ever for cops to snoop on Americans without their knowledge. Using technology known as pen registers and trap and trace devices, law enforcement can collect a wealth of data on internet and cell phone users, including who they call and email and what websites they visit. Through a federal law called the Stored Communications Act, police agencies can also force tech companies to hand over online communications records telling them all kinds of personal information. All it takes to conduct electronic surveillance is a court order. Notably, pen register and trap and trace requests require a lower burden of proof than wiretaps, for which cops need a warrant. Rather than showing probable cause, police only need to demonstrate that the personal data they’re requesting is somehow relevant to a criminal investigation. On top of that, under current court practices, it’s impossible to know how often judges grant electronic surveillance requests—much less how cops justify their surveillance, the forms of electronic surveillance permitted, and the companies compelled to assist with that surveillance. Federal court records related to electronic surveillance requests are filed under seal, and in many instances, they’re kept that way indefinitely. Even after police wrap up whatever criminal investigation they cited as a basis for their snooping. Law enforcement conducts Internet and cell phone surveillance under complete secrecy, free from public scrutiny that could prevent them from abusing this power.

Liberty Act Presents Another “Fake Fix” To Controversial NSA Spying Program

Cybersecurity_Webf1

By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News – Ever since Edward Snowden helped reveal the true extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive spying program, U.S. politicians have attempted to “fix” the program’s gross violations of the Fourth Amendment with legislation. While some legislative efforts were “fake fixes,” others were well-meaning but have fallen short, as legislators still lack key information regarding how the government interprets and uses Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Section 215 of the Patriot Act to legally justify its dragnet collection of citizen phone records and other information. Indeed, over the past four years, Congress has been stonewalled by the NSA in its attempts to learn more about the program. The NSA has repeatedly refused even to estimate how many Americans are spied on by the agency’s most invasive programs and has even refused to reveal whether it spies on members of Congress or other elected officials in the United States. Despite the NSA’s failure to cooperate, Congress is again attempting to rein in the agency’s internet surveillance program, as its key legislative underpinning is set to expire by year’s end. The newly introduced bill, titled the USA Liberty Act, seeks to address the worst of the program’s abuses while also reauthorizing some aspects of the program to continue for another six years.

10th Amendment Center Activist Pushes Back Against Local Gov Bullying Tactics

FOIA-1024x613-1-1024x613

By Staff of Activist – The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky will represent Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Michael Maharrey in a lawsuit filed against him by the City of Lexington after he attempted to obtain documents relating to surveillance cameras owned and operated by the Lexington Police Department (“LPD”). “Honestly, I think it’s a bullying tactic more than anything,” Maharrey said. “I think the city thought it could just slap me with a lawsuit and I’d go away. Newsflash – I’m not going away.” The LPD denied Maharrey’s request citing a statute that exempts certain documents relating to homeland security, along with a second statute exempting certain “investigative reports.” On appeal, the Kentucky attorney general’s office rejected both exemptions claimed by the LPD and ordered it to turn over the records. At that point the city sued Maharrey. “One of the fundamental principles of our government is transparency. The public has a right to know the actions of government officials and disseminate that information to others. City officials appear to be shirking their responsibility to provide records they are obligated to by law, simply because they don’t want the public to have access to them,” ACLU of Kentucky Attorney Heather Gatnarek said. Maharrey has been involved in efforts at the Tenth Amendment Center to address the growing federal surveillance state through state and local action for several years.

How These Librarians Are Changing How We Think About Digital Privacy

1048877_1_1016-library-lion_standard

By Eoin O’Carroll for The Christian Science Monitor – In August, New York University and the Library Freedom Project – an organization that trains librarians on using privacy tools to protect intellectual freedom – received a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency. Its purpose: to train librarians to implement secure protocols on their own web services, and to teach members of the community to evade the prying eyes of governments, corporations, and criminal hackers. According to the Library Freedom Project’s website, the group aims to create what it calls “a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the communities they serve.” As society’s sole public space dedicated to collecting and sharing information, public libraries have long been a flashpoint for conflicts over censorship, surveillance, and secrecy. The digital age has accelerated these conflicts, placing librarians squarely between the government’s and corporations’ desire to pursue their interests and the public’s desire to learn how to seek information in private. “Libraries teaching this stuff can really have a big effect on getting them into wider adoption,” says Alison Macrina, the project’s founder and director. “There are a lot of libraries. They reach a lot of people. They are a place where a lot of people already get introduced to new technologies.”

Is FBI Setting Stage For Increased Surveillance Of Black Activists?

web17-blackactivists-1160x768-v01

By Thaddeus Talbot, Hugh Handeyside, and Malkia Cyril for ACLU and Center for Media Justice – A recently leaked FBI “Intelligence Assessment” contains troubling signs that the FBI is scrutinizing and possibly surveilling Black activists in its search for potential “extremists.” The report, which the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division prepared, identifies what it calls “Black Identity Extremists” as security threats. Their “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans … will very likely serve as justification” for violence against law enforcement officers, the report claims. Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act requestwith the Center for Media Justice seeking other records regarding the FBI’s surveillance of Black people on the basis of a supposed shared ideology, including records using the term “Black Identity Extremists.” The report is disturbing on several levels, starting with the label “Black Identity Extremist.” Its definition of the term is so confusing as to be unintelligible: “The FBI defines black identity extremists as individuals who seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society and some do so in furtherance of establishing a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States.”

ACLU-DC Seeks Protection For Personal Facebook Accounts Against Inauguration Day Search Warrants

Screenshot 2017-10-03 at 9.46.09 AM

By Staff of ACLU – Two of the warrants would require Facebook to disclose to the government all information from the personal Facebook profiles of local DisruptJ20 activists Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour from November 1, 2016 through February 9, 2017. Although the warrants claim to seek only evidence in support of the government’s prosecutions of January 20 demonstrations, they demand—among other things—all private messages, friend lists, status updates, comments, photos, video, and other private information solely intended for the users’ Facebook friends and family, even if they have nothing to do with Inauguration Day. The warrants also seek information about actions taken on Facebook, including all searches performed by the users, groups or networks joined, and all “data and information that has been deleted by the user.” The third search warrant was issued for the “DisruptJ20” Facebook page (now called “Resist This”), administered and moderated by Emmelia Talarico. Although the page is public, the warrant would require the disclosure of non-public lists of people who planned to attend political organizing events and even the names of people who simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented on, or otherwise engaged with the content on the Facebook page. During the three-month span the search warrant covers, approximately 6,000 Facebook users liked the page.

Stop The Border Surveillance Bill

biometrics

By Adam Schwartz for EFF – EFF opposes a new federal bill that would dramatically expand dragnet biometric and other surveillance of U.S. citizens and immigrants alike at and near the U.S. border. Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 1757, styled the Building America’s Trust Act, in August. EFF’s opposition letter objects to the following provisions of the bill: Biometric Border Screening. The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect biometric information from all people who exit the U.S., including U.S. and foreign citizens. This would entrench and expand DHS’s existing program of facial recognition of all international travelers who take certain outgoing flights from U.S. airports. EFF opposes such biometric border screening, given the sensitivity of biometric information, the threat it will be stolen or misused, and the hazard of mission creep. Collection of Immigrants’ DNA. The bill would require DHS to collect DNA and other biometric information from “any individual filing an application, petition, or other request for immigration benefit or status.” EFF has long opposed dragnet biometric surveillance of immigrants. DNA surveillance raises special concerns, because DNA can expose sensitive information about familial history and health issues.

Trump Administration Urges Congress To Renew Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

1438197406728 (1)

By Aaron Kesel for Activist Post – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is urging Congress to “promptly” reauthorize section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats also signed the letter, addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Section 702 of FISA “allows the Intelligence Community, under a robust regime of oversight by all three branches of government, to collect vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States,” Sessions and Coats wrote. They added: “Reauthorizing this critical authority is the top legislative priority of the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community. As publicly reported by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, information collected under one particular section of FAA, Section 702, produces significant foreign intelligence that is vital to protect the nation against international terrorism and other threats.”

D.C. Judge Approves Government Warrant For Data From Anti-Trump Website

Trump protested from Day 1 MIKE COPPOLA for GETTY IMAGES

By Robert Iafolla for Reuters – WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A District of Columbia Superior Court judge on Thursday approved a government warrant seeking data from an anti-Trump website related to Inauguration Day protests, but he added protections to safeguard “innocent users.” Chief Judge Robert Morin said DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based web-hosting company, must turn over data about visitors to the website disruptj20.org, which is a home to political activists who organized protests at the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president in January. Morin, who will oversee review of the data, said the government must explain what protocols it will use to make sure prosecutors do not seize the data of “innocent users.” The U.S. Justice Department said it sought the records connected to the site because of concerns that it helped facilitate the planning of protests on Inauguration Day, when more than 200 people were arrested for rioting and vandalizing businesses in downtown Washington. DreamHost resisted the request, saying the scope of the warrant was too broad and trampled on the rights of 1.3 million visitors to the site, many of whom were simply expressing their political views.

Global Coalition From Five Nations Demands “Five Eyes” Respect Encryption

Flickr/ Yuri Samoilov

By Staff of RSF – “Massive surveillance operations conducted by the Five Eyes partnership inherently put the human rights of people around the world at risk. The joint communique commits to human rights and the rule of law, but provides no detail as to how these powerful, secretive spy agencies plan to live up to those commitments. We call for public participation and meaningful accountability now; otherwise, those commitments are empty.” – Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now. “Our political leaders are putting people around the world at greater risk of crime when they call for greater powers to weaken our digital security. Security experts and cryptographers are as united in their views on encryption as scientists are on climate change. Politicians need to listen to them before they make decisions that could put us all at risk.” – Jim Killock, ORG. “Attempting to undermine the free use and development of strong encryption technology is not only technologically misguided, it is politically irresponsible. Both law enforcement and intelligence agencies have access to more data—and more powerful analytical tools—than ever before in human history. Measures that undermine the efficacy or public availability of encryption will never be proportionate when weighed against their profound threat to global human rights: encryption is essential to the preservation of freedom of opinion, expression, dissent, and democratic engagement.

NSA’s Use Of ‘Traffic Shaping’ Allows Unrestrained Spying On Americans

radome

By Zack Whittaker for Zero Day – By using a “traffic shaping” technique, the National Security Agency sidestepped legal restrictions imposed by lawmakers and the surveillance courts. A new analysis of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden details a highly classified technique that allows the National Security Agency to “deliberately divert” US internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans. According to the new analysis, the NSA has clandestine means of “diverting portions of the river of internet traffic that travels on global communications cables,” which allows it to bypass protections put into place by Congress to prevent domestic surveillance on Americans. The new findings, published Thursday, follows a 2014 paper by researchers Axel Arnbak and Sharon Goldberg, published on sister-site CBS News, which theorized that the NSA, whose job it is to produce intelligence from overseas targets, was using a “traffic shaping” technique to route US internet data overseas so that it could be incidentally collected under the authority of a largely unknown executive order. US citizens are afforded constitutional protections against surveillance or searches of their personal data. Any time the government wants to access an American’s data, they must follow the rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, a Washington DC-based court that authorizes the government’s surveillance programs.

US Authorities Tapped 3 mln Phones In Single Wiretap Order In 2016

Bob Strong / Reuters

By Staff of RT – It took US authorities a single wiretap order to intercept and record over 3 million phone calls and messages last year, the Wiretap Report 2016, published by the United States Courts, revealed. The intercepts were carried out over the course of two months by an undisclosed government agency, which applied for the wiretap order in late 2015, according to the report, brought to media attention by the ZDNet website. “The federal wiretap with the most intercepts occurred during a narcotics investigation in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and resulted in the interception of 3,292,385 cell phone conversations or messages,” the Wiretap Report 2016 reads. The phone tapping was authorized to facilitate the capture of 26 individuals, suspected of illegal drug-related activities in Pennsylvania. It cost the US tax payers $335,000 and resulted in around a dozen arrests being made, the report said. However, none of those detained were convicted or taken to court as the surveillance failed to produce any compelling evidence. The ineffectiveness of wiretapping is well known, Albert Gidari, director of privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, told ZDNet.

New TSA Policy May Lead To Increased Scrutiny Of Reading Material

tsa_search_by_joel_franusic_-_crop

By Jay Stanley for ACLU – The TSA is testing new requirements that passengers remove books and other paper goods from their carry-on baggage when going through airline security. Given the sensitivity of our reading choices, this raises privacy concerns. Tests of the policy are underway in some small airports around the country, and DHS Secretary John Kelly recently said that “we might, and likely will” apply the policy nationwide. “What we’re doing now is working out the tactics, techniques, and procedures, if you will, in a few airports, to find out exactly how to do that with the least amount of inconvenience to the traveler,” he told Fox News. The policy may also apply to food items. The rationale for the policy change given by Kelly and the TSA is that the imposition of growing fees for checked baggage by the airlines has prompted passengers to more densely pack their carry-ons, and that this has made it harder for screeners to identify particular items amid the jumble of images appearing on their screens. Laptops must already be pulled out separately because they are regarded as a heightened threat and can be better examined if they are not scanned in a bag with many other objects.

TigerSwan Private Security Takes On Popular Movement

Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

By Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri for The Intercept – BY THE TIME law enforcement officers began evicting residents of the Oceti Sakowin Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on February 22, the brutal North Dakota winter had already driven away most of the pipeline opponents. With protesters’ numbers dwindling, along with nationwide attention to their cause, it would have been a natural time for the private security company in charge of monitoring the pipeline to head home as well. But internal communications between TigerSwan and its client, pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners, show that the security firm instead reached for ways to stay in business. “The threat level has dropped significantly. This however does not rule out the chance of future attack,” states a document dated February 24, two days after the eviction began. “As with any dispersion of any insurgency, expect bifurcation into splinter groups, looking for new causes.” Indeed, TigerSwan appeared to be looking for new causes, too. As The Intercept has reported, the security firm’s sweeping surveillance of anti-Dakota Access protesters had already spanned five months and expanded into Iowa, South Dakota, and Illinois.

Local Movements Demand Disclosure Of Police Technologies

Reflections of pedestrians in a window of a restaurant on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, in an area known as Little Morocco that was under surveillance by the New York City Police Department, January 7, 2016. The department has agreed to even greater oversight of its intelligence-gathering programs as it tries, for the second time, to settle a lawsuit over its surveillance of Muslims. (Photo: Uli Seit / The New York Times)

By Candice Bernd for Truthout – President Trump issued a proclamation on May 15 dedicating last week to law enforcement officers, saying he would make it a “personal priority” to ensure police are “finally treated fairly.” Meanwhile, around the country, a different set of priorities is taking shape: Cities, counties and even one state are working to push legislation that would force police agencies to disclose their acquisition and use of surveillance technologies to local lawmakers and communities. At least 19 cities have introduced ordinances that would force transparency in local police departments’ acquisition and use of secretive surveillance technologies, which are disproportionately used to target communities of color. A statewide bill in Maine, sponsored by State Sen. Shenna Bellows, would take similar steps. The measures being introduced around the country mandate that the acquisition and/or use of local police surveillance tools like “Stingray” cellphone tracking equipment, automated license plate readers, facial recognition technology and closed-circuit television cameras, among other surveillance tools…