Category Archives: Privacy Watch

William Rivers Pitt: Arrest Me

Arrest Me
By William Rivers Pitt for truthout.

Crazy, right?
Ask Andrew J. O’Conner of Santa Fe, New Mexico if it sounds crazy. Mr. O’Conner, a former public defender from Santa Fe, was arrested in a public library and interrogated by Secret Service agents for five hours on February 13th.
His crime?
He said “Bush is out of control” on an internet chat room, and was arrested for threatening the President.
Ask Bernadette Devlin McAliskey of Ireland if it sounds crazy. She was recently passing through Chicago from Dublin, where she passed security, when she heard her name called over a loudspeaker. When she went up to the ticket counter, three men and one woman surrounded her and grabbed her passport. McAliskey was informed that she had been reported to be a “potential or real threat to the United States.”
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey has spent the better part of her life struggling for the Irish nationalist cause. She did not lob Molotov cocktails at police. Instead, she became a member of British Parliament at age 21, the youngest person ever elected to that post. In 1981 she and her husband were shot by a loyalist death squad in their home. She has traveled to America on a regular basis for the last thirty years, and has been given the keys to the cities of San Francisco and New York.
Upon her detention in Chicago last month, McAliskey was fingerprinted and photographed. One of the men holding her told her that he was going to throw her in prison. When she snapped back that she had rights, she was told not to make the boss angry, because he shoots people. “After 9/11,” said one officer, “nobody has any rights.”

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Traveller Receives Nasty Little Note From TSA Luggage Inspector

Suitcase surprise: Rebuke written on inspection notice
By Susan Gilmore for the Seattle Times.

Seth Goldberg says that when he opened his suitcase in San Diego after a flight from Seattle this month, the two “No Iraq War” signs he’d picked up at the Pike Place Market were still nestled among his clothes.
But there was a third sign, he said, that shocked him. Tucked in his luggage was a card from the Transportation Security Administration notifying him that his bags had been opened and inspected at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Handwritten on the side of the card was a note, “Don’t appreciate your anti-American attitude!”
“I found it chilling and a little Orwellian to have received this message,” said Goldberg, 41, a New Jersey resident who was in Seattle visiting longtime friend Davis Oldham, a University of Washington instructor.
Goldberg says that when he took his suitcase off the airplane in San Diego, the zipper pulls were sealed with nylon straps, which indicated TSA had inspected the luggage. It would be hard, he said, for anyone else to have gotten inside his bags.
TSA officials say they are looking into the incident. “We do not condone our employees making any kind of political comments or personal comments to any travelers,” TSA spokeswoman Heather Rosenker told Reuters. “That is not acceptable.”

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Black Boxes Already Commonplace In Austin Taxicabs

Today I saw this article on BoingBoing and my friend Cam and I were discussing it while riding in a Taxicab to downtown Austin. (I’m still here for SXSW 2003.)
I mentioned that cab companies around the country already keep information on every pick-up and drop off that takes place, and that the information is already available to the cops without a subpoena or anything. The cops often need a witness or something when a crime has been committed, and can then ask whatever cabby might have been in the area at that time (like in Law and Order). (I gleaned these facts some time ago from my cabbies back home in San Francisco.)
Our Austin cab driver told us that they’ve had black boxes in Austin for years. That the cops know exactly where every driver is at all times within 10 feet (theoretically), and that they can tell everytime the meter is started or paused, idling, etc., and when the engine turns off and on, etc.
The only way to drive anonymously is to turn everything off inside the car: the meter, blackbloxes, gps, etc. None of the other devices will work without the black box on. (Note: the car itself will operate without the monitoring equipment on.)
Of course, if you turn everything else off, then that in itself looks suspicious (we all mused).
It would appear that the devices currently installed within all of the cabs in Austin, TX already go far above and beyond those described in this WSJ article.
Here’s the WSJ article on the subject written by William M. Bulkeley:
Taxis Soon May Acquire Their Own ‘Black Boxes’

The devices, somewhat like the “black boxes” in commercial airliners, will sense a crash and automatically report data on speed, location, brake pressure and number of passengers to a crash-records depository run by International Business Machines Corp., Armonk, N.Y.
Ralph Bisceglia, director of American Transit, said it expects to get “important feedback on auto-safety features,” and to combat fraud. For example, if a cab driver claims he “was under the speed limit and the passenger claims he was speeding, the box will tell you,” he said.
The program illustrates the growing interest of insurers and fleet owners in using “telematics” in vehicles to remotely monitor what drivers do, where they go and how the vehicle is performing.

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Santa Cruz Librarians Attempt To Deal With Patriot Act’s “Secret Warrants”

Libraries post Patriot Act warnings
Santa Cruz branches tell patrons that FBI may spy on them

The signs, posted in the 10 county branches last week and on the library’s Web site, also inform the reader that the USA Patriot Act “prohibits library workers from informing you if federal agents have obtained records about you.”
“Questions about this policy,” patrons are told, “should be directed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20530.”
…Section 215 of the act allows FBI agents to obtain a warrant from a secret federal court for library or bookstore records of anyone connected to an investigation of international terrorism or spying.
Unlike conventional search warrants, there is no need for agents to show that the target is suspected of a crime or possesses evidence of a crime. As the Santa Cruz signs indicate, the law prohibits libraries and bookstores from telling their patrons, or anyone else, that the FBI has sought the records.

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Ashcroft Authorizes Unprecedented Number of “Emergency Searches”

From the “how ’bout telling me something I don’t knowU.S. Expands Clandestine Surveillance Operations
The number of secret searches approved by Ashcroft since the 9/11 attacks is triple those authorized in the previous 20 years.
By Richard B. Schmitt for the LA Times.

The Justice Department has stepped up use of a secretive process that enables the attorney general to personally authorize electronic surveillance and physical searches of suspected terrorists, spies and other national-security threats without immediate court oversight.
Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday he has authorized more than 170 such emergency searches since the Sept. 11 attacks — more than triple the 47 emergency searches that have been authorized by other attorneys general in the last 20 years.
A 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enables the FBI and other investigators to conduct intelligence operations under the supervision of a secret federal tribunal known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Over the years, the number of such FISA applications has grown — and civil liberties’ groups and defense lawyers have complained that the law has become a tool to dilute suspects’ constitutional rights.
Now, Justice Department officials are pushing the law’s limits even further. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, officials have seized on a provision that allows them to launch emergency searches signed only by the attorney general. The department must still persuade the secret court that the search is justified — but officials have 72 hours from the time the search is launched, and such requests are almost always granted.
Ashcroft’s tally was more fuel for critics of the law who contend that it already operates in the shadows.
“That is a startling increase,” said Timothy Edgar, a legislative counsel for the ACLU.

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You Too Can Die For Oil

So we can give up all of our freedoms, and create hassles and holdups in every aspect of our daily lives, and there’s still really no way to protect ourselves from becoming “soft targets” once the war has begun.
Sounds like another good reason to NOT START THE WAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Sounds like an even better reason to NOT GIVE UP ALL OF OUR FREEDOMS since it won’t make us any safer anyway.
I have a real problem with articles like this. Parts of it regarding the use of Total Information Awareness are informative, but the rest of it just adds to the hysteria.
Are we drawing up roadmaps for the terrorists now?
Writers and officers are thinking up horrific potential disasters, and printing them up, with details about which places would be best to blow up in order to cause the largest amounts of casualties — and for what purpose? To let us know how bad it could be if we don’t let our freedoms be compromised? To add to the re-freakening of America, perhaps?
At the risk of adding to the hysteria. I bring this article to you.
Fortress America
By Matthew Brzezinski fo the NY Times

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Patriotism Perverted: UnPatriot II (Domestic Security Enhancement Act)

Patriotism Perverted

By Dan Gillmor for the San Jose Mercury News.

The Bush administration’s hostility to our fundamental liberties is unrelenting. Not content with ramming the contemptibly named “USA Patriot Act” through a sadly compliant Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the White House and its forces are lining up for another whack at the Bill of Rights.
Draft legislation from Attorney General John Ashcroft’s law-enforcement gnomes is making the rounds. It’s apparently being called the “Domestic Security Enhancement Act,” but think of it as “UnPatriot II.”
Read the draft on the Center for Public Integrity’s Web site. Then read the FindLaw Web site’s analysis by Anita Ramasastry, an assistant law professor at the University of Washington School of Law and associate director of the Shidler Center for Law, Commerce & Technology.
The legislation, Ramasastry warns, is “a wholesale assault on privacy, free speech and freedom of information.” She does not exaggerate.

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Visa Database Being Handed Over To The Cops

State Department Link Will Open Visa Database to Police Officers
By Jennifer Lee for the NY Times.

Law enforcement officials across the country will soon have access to a database of 50 million overseas applications for United States visas, including the photographs of 20 million applicants.
The database, which will become one of the largest offering images to local law enforcement, is maintained by the State Department and typically provides personal information like the applicant’s home address, date of birth and passport number, and the names of relatives…
For all the ambitious technological proposals being debated in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks, the new unified system was cobbled from existing networks and has required little new spending. “These are the networks that people are already using,” said Roseanne Hynes, a member of the Defense Department’s domestic security task force. “It doesn’t change jobs or add overhead.”
A primary feature of the system is the State Department’s enormous visa database, whose seven terabytes give it a capacity equivalent to that of five million floppy disks. Until now, that database has been shared only with immigration officials.
“There is a potential source of information that isn’t available elsewhere,” said M. Miles Matthew, a senior Justice Department official who works with an interagency drug intelligence group. “It’s not just useful for terrorism. It’s drug trafficking, money laundering, a variety of frauds, not to mention domestic crimes.”

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Bush Administration Preparing To Spy On Internet Users

Bush Administration to Propose System for Monitoring Internet
By John Markoff and John Schwartz for the NY Times.

Stewart Baker, a Washington lawyer who represents some of the nation’s largest Internet providers, said, “Internet service providers are concerned about the privacy implications of this as well as liability,” since providing access to live feeds of network activity could be interpreted as a wiretap or as the “pen register” and “trap and trace” systems used on phones without a judicial order.
Mr. Baker said the issue would need to be resolved before the proposal could move forward.
Tiffany Olson, the deputy chief of staff for the President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, said yesterday that the proposal, which includes a national network operations center, was still in flux. She said the proposed methods did not necessarily require gathering data that would allow monitoring at an individual user level.

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Send An Anti-TIA Letter To Somebody Who Might Care

I just send a letter to Orrin G. Hatch (Judiciary Comittee Chair) via the EFF’s Action Center asking him as chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, to permit either the Technology and Terrorism Subcommittee or the
full Judiciary Committee to hold oversight hearings on Total Information Awareness. A copy was also sent to my Representative, Nancy Pelosi.
I timed it and it took me less than a minute. (Including having them send me a new password.)
Very Cool. (I’d like a round of applause please for Ren Bucholtz, EFF Activisit.)
Think I’ll go back and send another one. (This time asking to cut TIA funding.)
(This could be habit forming.)