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Obama Wants Warrantless Access to Internet Activity Records

Obama Wants Warrantless Access to Internet Activity Records

Washington Post
July 29, 2010

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau’s authority. “It’ll be faster and easier to get the data,” said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. “And for some Internet providers, it’ll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL.”

Read Full Article Here

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Australian travellers to be searched for porn

Australian travellers to be searched for porn

The Age
May 20, 2010

Australian customs officers have been given new powers to search incoming travellers’ laptops and mobile phones for pornography, a spokeswoman for the Australian sex industry says.

Fiona Patten, president of the Australian Sex Party, is demanding an inquiry into why a new question appears on Incoming Passenger Cards asking people if they are carrying “pornography”.

Patten said officials now had an unfettered right to examine travellers’ electronic devices, marking the beginning of a new era of official investigation into people’s private lives. She questioned whether it was appropriate to search people for legal R18+ and X18+ material.

Australian customs officers have been given new powers to search incoming travellers’ laptops and mobile phones for pornography, a spokeswoman for the Australian sex industry says.

Fiona Patten, president of the Australian Sex Party, is demanding an inquiry into why a new question appears on Incoming Passenger Cards asking people if they are carrying “pornography”.

Patten said officials now had an unfettered right to examine travellers’ electronic devices, marking the beginning of a new era of official investigation into people’s private lives. She questioned whether it was appropriate to search people for legal R18+ and X18+ material.
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“Is it fair that customs officers rummage through someone’s luggage and pull out a legal men’s magazine or a lesbian journal in front of their children or their mother-in-law?” she said.

“If you and your partner have filmed or photographed yourselves making love in an exotic destination or even taking a bath, you will have to answer ‘Yes’ to the question or you will be breaking the law.”

Customs confirmed the new reference to “pornography” on the Incoming Passenger Cards and the search powers, acknowledging that searches conducted by officers may involve the discovery of “personal or sensitive possessions”.

A spokesman said officers were trained to apply “tact and discretion” in their dealings with passengers.

“Including an express reference to pornography is intended to enhance the interception of prohibited pornography at the border, by making passengers aware that some forms of pornography may be a prohibited import,” the spokesman said.

The “pornography” question has appeared on the cards since September last year. The change was only spotted by Patten earlier this month and it had received little to no coverage in the media.

Colin Jacobs, chairman of the lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the change appeared to have sneaked under the radar “without any public consultation about the massive privacy issues”.

“It’s hard to fathom what the pressing concern could be that requires Australia to quiz every entrant to the country on their pornography habits, as if visitors would be aware of the nuances of the Australian classification scheme,” he said.

“If this results in Customs trawling through more private information on laptops searching for contraband, I would say the solution is way worse than the problem.”

Patten said if the question was designed to stop child pornography being smuggled into the country then the question should have been asked about “child pornography”, without encompassing regular porn.

Hetty Johnson, chief executive of child protection group Bravehearts, agreed with Patten that the question was too broad. She said it should only apply to illegal pornography.

“If it said child porn I’d be 100 per cent behind it – if you’re carrying child pornography then you deserve everything you get,” she said in a phone interview.

The issue has echoes of the 1956 detention of famed British conductor and composer Sir Eugene Goossens who had his bag searched upon his return from Europe.

He was carrying material that was considered, at the time, pornographic and his reputation was subsequently ruined, forcing him to flee the country.

“The term pornography is not referred to at all in the federal Classification Act, which customs relies on to classify their material,” Patten said.

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The Obama DOJ’s warrantless demands for e-mails

The Obama DOJ’s warrantless demands for e-mails

Salon
April 15, 2010


I want your emails.

A very significant case involving core privacy protections is now being litigated, where the Obama Justice Department is seeking to obtain from Yahoo “all emails” sent and received by multiple Yahoo email accounts, despite the fact that DOJ has never sought, let alone obtained, a search warrant, and despite there being no notice of any kind to the email account holders:

    In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon, the coalition says a search warrant signed by a judge is necessary before the FBI or other police agencies can read the contents of Yahoo Mail messages — a position that puts those companies directly at odds with the Obama administration.

As part of a case conducted largely under seal and thus hidden from public view, the DOJ demanded these emails from Yahoo without any effort to demonstrate probable cause to believe the email user was involved in the commission of any crime, but instead merely based on the vague claim that there is “reasonable grounds to believe” the emails “are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” If the DOJ position were accepted, Americans would have substantially less privacy protections in their email communications.

Federal law is crystal clear that a search warrant is required for the Government to obtain any emails that have been stored less than 180 days — one that requires a showing of probable cause and that the documents sought to be described with particularlity. In contrast to the nation’s largest telecoms’ eager cooperation with Bush’s illegal surveillance programs, Yahoo — to its credit — refused to turn over any such emails to the Government without a search warrant. As a result, the DOJ is now seeking a federal court Order compelling the company to comply with its demands, and a coalition of privacy groups and technology companies — led by EFF and including Google — have now filed a brief supporting Yahoo’s position. Both Yahoo and that coalition insist that federal law as well as the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protection bar the Obama DOJ from acquiring these emails without a search warrant.

Read Full Article Here

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Americans gave up liberty for homeland security

Americans gave up liberty for homeland security
This educational video made in 1948 should remind us all how America has lost so much freedom since 9/11 when the American people believed the government that Alqaeda hates our liberties and that we should let them wiretap without a warrant and violate your privacy for the good of the homeland and that we must wage expensive wars or the terrorists might hit us again. Benjamin Franklin once said “If you give up your liberty for a bit of security, then you deserve to lose both”. Watch the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVh75ylAUXY

 



Senate panel approves Patriot Act renewal

Dem-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee extends PATRIOT Act provisions

Capitol Hill Blue
October 9, 2009

Key US lawmakers passed legislation Thursday extending three key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, the sweeping intelligence bill enacted after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Backing a White House request, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure 11 votes to 8 to extend until 2013 three clauses that would have expired by 31 December. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

The provisions include the “roving wiretap” clause, used to monitor mobile communications of individuals using multiple telephone lines, and the “lone-wolf” provision, which enables spying on individuals suspected of terrorist activity but with no obvious connection to extremist groups.

Lawmakers also extended the life of controversial section 215, known as the “library records provision” that allows government agencies to access individual’s library history.

The committee had earlier met in a closed-door meeting with members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community on ensuring their actions would not impede investigations already underway.

The senators also debated freeing up law enforcement actions that have been hampered by legislation and court rulings since the first program was launched by former president George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11, which enabled collecting sensitive information for years without a court order.

Republicans senators have remained critical of placing restrictions on the intelligence community, saying they should more of a free hand in the early stages of investigations.

But their Democratic counterparts have decried the fact that the provisions still do not in their view adequately respect the privacy of ordinary Americans.

Democratic Senator Russ Feingold said he feared handing a “blank check” to law enforcement agencies and criticized the Democrat-controlled committee for not passing safeguards that even Republicans supported during the Bush administration.

“Among the most significant problems is the failure to include an improved standard for Section 215 orders, even though a Republican controlled Judiciary Committee unanimously supported including the same standard in 2005,” he said in a media advisory.

“But what was most upsetting was the apparent willingness of too many members to defer completely to behind the scenes complaints from the FBI and the Justice Department, even though the administration has yet to take a public position on any of the improvements that I and other senators have proposed. … [While] I am left scratching my head trying to understand how a committee controlled by a wide Democratic margin could support the bill it approved today, I will continue to work with my colleagues to try to make improvements to this bill.”

Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office said the rights group was “disappointed” that further moves were not made to protect civil liberties.

“This truly was a missed opportunity for the Senate Judiciary Committee to right the wrongs of the PATRIOT Act,” he said.

“We urge the Senate to adopt amendments on the floor that will bring this bill in line with the Constitution.”

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Telephone Companies Are An Arm Of Government Admits DOJ

Telephone Companies Are An Arm Of Government Admits DOJ

Wired News
October 9, 2009


AT&T was the first of many telcos sued for helping the NSA spy on Americans without warrants

The Department of Justice has finally admitted it in court papers: the nation’s telecom companies are an arm of the government — at least when it comes to secret spying.

Fortunately, a judge says that relationship isn’t enough to squash a rights group’s open records request for communications between the nation’s telecoms and the feds.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wanted to see what role telecom lobbying of Justice Department played when the government began its year-long, and ultimately successful, push to win retroactive immunity for AT&T and others being sued for unlawfully spying on American citizens.

The feds argued that the documents showing consultation over the controversial telecom immunity proposal weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act since they were protected as “intra-agency” records:

“The communications between the agencies and telecommunications companies regarding the immunity provisions of the proposed legislation have been regarded as intra-agency because the government and the companies have a common interest in the defense of the pending litigation and the communications regarding the immunity provisions concerned that common interest.”

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffery White disagreed and ruled on September 24 that the feds had to release the names of the telecom employees that contacted the Justice Department and the White House to lobby for a get-out-of-court-free card.

“Here, the telecommunications companies communicated with the government to ensure that Congress would pass legislation to grant them immunity from legal liability for their participation in the surveillance,” White wrote. “Those documents are not protected from disclosure because the companies communicated with the government agencies “with their own … interests in mind,” rather than the agency’s interests.”

The feds were supposed to make the documents available Friday, but in a motion late Thursday, the Obama administration is asking for a 30-day emergency stay (.pdf) so it can file a further appeal.

Read Full Article Here

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Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely

Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely

John Byrne
Raw Story
September 24, 2009

President Barack Obama has quietly decided to bypass Congress and allow the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects without charges.

The move, which was controversial when the idea was first floated in The Washington Post in May, has sparked serious concern among civil liberties advocates. Such a decision allows the president to unilaterally hold “combatants” without habeas corpus — a legal term literally meaning “you shall have the body” — which forces prosecutors to charge a suspect with a crime to justify the suspect’s detention.

Obama’s decision was buried on page A 23 of The New York Times’ New York edition on Thursday. It didn’t appear on that page in the national edition. (Meanwhile, the front page was graced with the story, “Richest Russian’s Newest Toy: An N.B.A. Team.”)

Rather than seek approval from Congress to hold some 50 Guantanamo detainees indefinitely, the administration has decided that it has the authority to hold the prisoners under broad-ranging legislation passed in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Former President George W. Bush frequently invoked this legislation as the justification for controversial legal actions — including the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.

“The administration will continue to hold the detainees without bringing them to trial based on the power it says it has under the Congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use force against forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” the Times‘ Peter Baker writes. “In concluding that it does not need specific permission from Congress to hold detainees without charges, the Obama administration is adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.”

Constitutional scholar and Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald discussed the policy in a column in May. He warned that the ability for a president to “preventively” detain suspects could mushroom into broader, potentially abusive activity.

“It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding,” Greenwald wrote. “That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain. Far more significant, ‘preventive detention’ allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally ‘dangerous’ by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they ‘expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden’ or ‘otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans’). That’s what ‘preventive’ means: imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be ‘combatants.’”

“Once known, the details of the proposal could — and likely will — make this even more extreme by extending the ‘preventive detention’ power beyond a handful of Guantanamo detainees to anyone, anywhere in the world, alleged to be a ‘combatant,’” Greenwald continues. “After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based — namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain “dangerous” people even when they can’t prove they violated any laws — there’s no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly ‘dangerous’ combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.”

The Obama Administration appears to have embraced “preventive detention” in part because of problems with how Guantanamo prisoners’ cases — and incarceration — were handled under President Bush. Military prosecutors have said that numerous cases could not be brought successfully in civilian courts because evidence was obtained in ways that wouldn’t be admissible on US soil. The Bush Administration originally sought to try numerous detainees in military tribunals, but the Supreme Court ruled that at least some have the rights to challenge their detention in US courts.

Baker notes that Obama’s decision to hold suspects without charges doesn’t propose as broad an executive authority claimed by President Bush.

“Obama’s advisers are not embracing the more disputed Bush contention that the president has inherent power under the Constitution to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely regardless of Congress,” Baker writes.

In a statement to Baker, the Justice Department said, “The administration would rely on authority already provided by Congress [and] is not currently seeking additional authorization.”

“The position conveyed by the Justice Department in the meeting last week broke no new ground and was entirely consistent with information previously provided by the Justice Department to the Senate Armed Services Committee,” the statement added.

Roughly 50 detainees of the more than 200 still held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are thought to be affected by the decision.

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