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Archive for the ‘civil liberties’ tag

FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over U.S. cities

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see U. All of you!

A police state? Whoever could imagine such a thing in the United States of America? Civil liberties? Ha! The Bill of Rights is no longer required because the War on Terra has usurped them.

This is the real legacy of disgraced former Congressman Dennis Hastert: willingly gutting the Constitution to please the Neo Cons and Dick Cheney, and his little puppy GWB.

Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies.

The Associated Press traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department inspector general report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.


Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public.

(click here to continue reading FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over Chicago, other U.S. cities – Chicago Tribune.)

You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film

In other words, we are all assumed to be guilty of something, and thus can be monitored and spied upon without need for quaint antiques like warrants or probable cause.

Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a “cell-site simulator” — or Stingray, to use one of the product’s brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

The FBI has recently begun obtaining court orders to use this technology. Previously, the Obama administration had been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology’s use in open court.

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?
Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

Up in the sky! Look! It’s a bird! A plane! It’s the FBI!

Another Crappy Photo of a Prop Plane
Another Crappy Photo of a Prop Plane

From Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett last year:

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

Even having encryption on a phone, such as the kind included on Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6, doesn’t prevent this process.


Also unknown are the steps taken to ensure data collected on innocent people isn’t kept for future examination by investigators. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that over-collection of data by investigators, and stockpiling of such data, was a violation of the Constitution.

The dirtbox and Stingray are both types of what tech experts call “IMSI catchers,’’ named for the identification system used by networks to identify individual cellphones.

The name “dirtbox’’ came from the acronym of the company making the device, DRT, for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., people said. DRT is now a subsidiary of Boeing. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment.

“DRT has developed a device that emulates a cellular base station to attract cellphones for a registration process even when they are not in use,’’ according to a 2010 regulatory filing Boeing made with the U.S. Commerce Department, which touted the device’s success in finding contraband cellphones smuggled in to prison inmates.


(click here to continue reading Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program – WSJ.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

and a follow up by the same reporter:

The Central Intelligence Agency played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of U.S. cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.

The CIA and the U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the U.S. through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said.

Today, the Justice Department program, whose existence was reported by The Wall Street Journal last year, is used to hunt criminal suspects. The same technology is used to track terror suspects and intelligence targets overseas, the people said.

The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.

Some law-enforcement officials are concerned the aerial surveillance of cellphone signals inappropriately mixes traditional police work with the tactics and technology of overseas spy work that is constrained by fewer rules. Civil-liberties groups say the technique amounts to a digital dragnet of innocent Americans’ phones.

(click here to continue reading CIA Aided Justice Department Secret Program to Spy on U.S. Cellphones – WSJ.)

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle
City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

Remember when the CIA was banned on spying on Americans, and from conducting operations on American soil? Ah, those were the days…

To civil libertarians, the close involvement of America’s premier international spy agency with a domestic law-enforcement arm shows how military and espionage techniques are now being used on U.S. citizens.

“There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” said Andrew Crocker of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a lawsuit seeking more details about the program and its origins.

The Truth Is Not So Comfortable
The Truth Is Not So Comfortable

Written by Seth Anderson

June 3rd, 2015 at 11:33 am

REAL ID Boondoggle Continues

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Complex Citizen
The continuing saga of the Complex Citizen.

Sigh. The REAL ID boondoggle isn’t dead yet. Doesn’t it sound like everything the Big Govment’ haters rail against? And yet, it was passed “in the wake of 9/11”…

Currently, Illinois licenses and identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by the Real ID Act, which passed in 2005 in the wake of 9/11. If the Department of Homeland Security does not grant Illinois an extension, residents would need additional identification like a passport or face additional security checks to get on planes.

The act aims to thwart efforts by terrorists, con artists and immigrants in the country illegally to obtain government-issued identification. Arguments about costs, privacy and whether the additional information would actually reduce threats have delayed implementation of the law for more than a decade.

A major feature of Real ID is the verification of birth certificates, which Illinois currently does not require. The information is electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared easily among states and the federal government.

“It’s a large database that allows us to verify birth certificates and death certificates, things of that nature,” said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White. “It’s quite costly. We estimate, in order to utilize it and have all the birth certificates verified for Illinois drivers, it would cost about $3.75 million each year.”

White’s office estimated it would cost $100 to $150 million just for staffing, equipment and data storage. A Real ID driver’s licenses could cost an estimated $75 in Illinois. A license currently costs $30 for ages 21-68, according to CyberDrive Illinois.

That cost would largely be shouldered by Illinois drivers and taxpayers. The Homeland Security estimates it could cost $4 billion nationwide to implement the act.

States and territories were initially required to implement the program by May 2008, but the federal government delayed its start four times. Twenty-one states and four territories have been granted extensions to meet the law’s standards; 22 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented the act, according to a Jan. 30 Homeland Security statement.

Seven states — Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York — have no plans to implement Real ID. Residents of five of those states will not be able to board airplanes without additional identification like a passport starting in 2016; New York and Minnesota have driver’s licenses with enhanced security measures that will allow their residents to board airplanes, according to Homeland Security.

(click here to continue reading State eyes more secure driver’s license to avoid flying restrictions – Chicago Tribune.)

Back Seat Drivers
Back Seat Drivers

Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), a long-time opponent of the bill, says:

“I viewed Real ID as yet another unfunded federal mandate on state governments already facing tough budgets for important priorities,” Martinez said. “The proposition of a creation of a ‘one size fits all’ ID card necessary to travel was of great concern.”

 and the price of implementation to the states is steep:

Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License who helped draft the law’s provisions on driver’s licenses as a congressional committee staffer, said Illinois would have to construct or renovate buildings that issue licenses in order to meet security criteria, which could prove challenging.

The law prompted some states, like Wisconsin and Texas, to consolidate facilities. In Tennessee, licenses are issued from a single, secure location, he said. That means applicants get their license via mail instead of in person.

“Real ID required states to move from a business model where licensing was a revenue source to a business model where money needs to be invested in it to ensure it was done more securely,” Zimmer said. “The new model is security first, and security comes with a price.”

May Day rally 2007
Line at the REAL ID DMV station

price, confusion, long lines, and of course, privacy theft concerns:

Critics of Real ID have complained that it is a blatant invasion of privacy and would make people vulnerable to identity theft.

Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said a government database of citizens and some of their personal information smacks of Big Brotherism and would be a gold mine for identity thieves.

“One of the troubling things is that the system to protect our data will no longer be dependent about what happens here in Illinois,” Yohnka said. “What happens in Mississippi or Maine or Montana will be a conduit to get to our data. If hackers can get into those systems, they can get to the national system.”

He noted that the state’s database of driver’s licenses has fought off tens of thousands of improper access attempts.

“From a pragmatic point of view, all this furor over something that doesn’t provide safety and security is ridiculous,” Yohnka said.

It’s the Future…

Sounds great! Can’t wait! Especially since I had such a bitch of a time getting my passport due to bureaucratic SNAFU ingrained in that system. 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 1st, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Ansel Adams Act

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Photography is Not A Crime
Photography is Not A Crime.

An unexpected surprise from Tea Party stalwart, Steve Stockman of the 36th district of Texas. [edit – Rep Stockman is no longer in office]

To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Ansel Adams Act”.


Congress finds as follows: (1) In recent years, the Federal Government has enacted regulations to prohibit or restrict photography in National Parks, public spaces, and of government buildings, law enforcement officers, and other government personnel carrying out their duties. (2) In recent years, photographers on Federal lands and spaces have been threatened with seizure and forfeiture of photographic equipment and memory cards, and have been arrested or threatened with arrest for merely recording what the eye can see from public spaces. (3) Even in the absence of laws or regulations, Federal law enforcement officers, other government personnel, and private contractors have been instructed to prohibit photography from public spaces, and threatened photographers with arrest or seizure of photographic equipment. (4) Arresting photographers, seizing photographic equipment, and requirements to obtain permits, pay fees, or buy insurance policies are abridgments of freedom of speech and of the press. (5) The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”. (6) Still and motion photographs are speech. (7) The photography by Ansel Adams and other famous photographers helped bring home to Americans the beauty and fragility of our natural resources. (8) Ansel Adams’ photographs helped build public support to make Yosemite into a National Park. (9) Future “Ansel Adams” must not have their paths blocked, regulated and made more expensive with fees and fines, or be threatened with arrest and seizure of their equipment.


(a) In General.–It is contrary to the public policy of the United States to prohibit or restrict photography in public spaces, whether for private, news media, or commercial use. (b) Should a Federal agency seek to restrict photography of its installations or personnel, it shall obtain a court order that outlines the national security or other reasons for the restriction. Such court order shall allow restrictions of photography when such photography may lead to the endangerment of public safety or national security. Nothing in this Act shall restrict Federal agencies from taking lawful steps to ascertain whether or not photography may consist of reconnaissance for the purpose of endangerment of public safety or national security or for other unlawful activity. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to repeal, invalidate, or supersede section 795 of title 18, United States Code. (c) Prohibition on Fees, Permits, or Insurance.–No Federal Government agency shall require fees, permits or insurance as a condition to take still or moving images on Federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or commercial use. (d) Prohibition on the Seizure and Forfeiture of Photographic Equipment.–Federal law enforcement officers or private contractors shall not seize any photographic equipment or their contents or memory cards or film, and shall not order a photographer to erase the contents of a camera or memory card or film.

(click here to continue reading Text – H.R.5893 – 113th Congress (2013-2014): Ansel Adams Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress.)

Since it is something proposed by Rep. Stockman, I’m suspicious of the fine print, but from a brief glance, this is a welcomed law. 

Protecting Boeing from Evil Photographers
Protecting Boeing from Evil Photographers

I wonder if it will curtail the propensity of certain security firms from blocking photography. Boeing is the most obvious culprit, but there are other buildings where a photographer is nearly always harassed from taking a photo, even when standing on the public sidewalk.


In the United States, the work of photographers and photojournalists is protected under the 1st Amendment which states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. And, in a perfect world, the constitutional rights granted by the amendment would never be violated. But, perfect the world is not and it seems like photographers are being unjustly accosted on a regular basis.

Think of all the news stories you’ve read that pretty much read the same: a photographer from Any City, USA was arrested, threatened with arrest, threatened with seizure of equipment, or otherwise harassed for exercising their First Amendment right of taking photos in a public place. A quick search on DIYP alone using the “Photography Is Not A Crime” keyword yields you a dizzying amount of such stories. Not to mention the motions made by the Federal Government, which restrict and sometimes prohibit photography in National Parks.

(click here to continue reading The Ansel Adams Act Goes To Congress; Details Clear Laws Protecting 1st Amendment Rights Of Photographers – DIY Photography.)


edit, and I don’t know how I missed this, but this bill was put on the floor in the 113th Congress, and Steve Stockman didn’t win election to the 114th Congress, so I’m guessing the dream is dead…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 9th, 2015 at 12:57 pm

CPD Sued to Force Release Proof of Cell Phone Spying

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 City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle, probably with a Stingray device (taken at a Haymarket Riot Demonstration).

Remember those quaint old days when the United States had a Bill of Rights? And civil liberties were commonly respected?1

Attorney Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy filed a suit against the Chicago Police Department last week. 

The Chicago Police Department was sued Friday to force release of evidence that the department has purchased equipment that allows them to covertly scan people’s cell phones for detecting telephone numbers dialed and texted, tracking their location, and cell phones’ unique device identification numbers.

Cell site simulators, also known as IMSI catchers or stingrays, masquerade as cellphone towers to obtain data secretly from nearby cellular user devices.

“Many believe that Chicago Police have already deployed this kind of technology at protests,” said Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, which represents Chicago resident Freddy Martinez in the suit.  “Local police departments in other states have widely used the technology, and have kept it secret, even to the courts, and even when it has been used to obtain evidence in a criminal case.”

“If the Chicago Police aren’t running afoul of the Fourth Amendment, they should have nothing to hide,” said Mr. Martinez. “This information will allow the public to learn the extent to which Chicago Police have this technology, and once we have that, we’ll pursue more information about how it is being used and whether Chicago Police are routinely using it to violate the Constitution.”

Mr. Martinez filed a FOIA request with Chicago Police looking for records documenting the purchase of this equipment.  “FOIA and the Illinois Constitution are clear that all records related to the use of public funds are subject to disclosure,” said Topic, “yet Chicago Police have stonewalled Mr. Martinez for months.”

(click here to continue reading CPD Sued to Force Release Proof of Cell Phone Spying | Blog | Loevy & Loevy.)

and as Mr. Martinez says:

“Should federal, state, or local law enforcement be allowed to trick your cell phone into sharing information like your location, the numbers your called or texted, or your unique device ID without your consent?” asked Martinez. “Should they be deploying this kind of technology in secret? We don’t think so.”

Copies of the suit, No. 2014CH09565, are available here: Freddie Martinez v. Chicago Police Department.

Officer with Blackberry
CPD Officer with Blackberry

From the suit, some additional background material, some of which we’ve blogged about, some not.

Read the rest of this entry »

  1. as long as you were a white property owner []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 9th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Video caught Chicago cop beating handcuffed woman

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City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle
City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

This cannot keep happening. Something drastic has to be done to dial back our over-militarized police forces. Disclaimer: of course not all police are brutal thugs, but if you have a package of blueberries, and several are rotten, what do you do? Discard the whole box or carefully pick out each and every bad one?

The Chicago police vice squad burst through the door of the Noble Square neighborhood massage parlor last summer and grappled with the shrieking manager as a security camera rolled.

Footage of the incident released Monday showed that Jianqing Klyzek was on her knees and cuffed behind her back within seconds. As Klyzek continued to scream, an officer standing behind the petite woman slapped her in the head while another threatened to hit her with a Taser “10 f—ing times.” Then another officer got in her face and began to rant.

“You’re not a f—— American,” the officer yelled at Klyzek, according to the video. “I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the f— you came from!”

The disturbing surveillance footage is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed last week accusing the Chicago Police Department and 10 officers of brutality and a hate crime. Police officers can be seen on the video searching for the surveillance tape, but they were unsuccessful because it was recorded off-site, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged that police unjustly charged Klyzek with battery for allegedly biting and scratching officers as they tried to subdue her. The case was thrown out by a Cook County judge at a preliminary hearing, but the police then pursued a felony indictment in which one of the officers lied to a Cook County grand jury, according to the suit.
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said prosecutors dropped the felony charge in January after Klyzek’s attorney gave them a copy of the security video. Prosecutors didn’t know of its existence at the time of the grand jury investigation, she said.

Klyzek’s attorney, Torreya Hamilton, told reporters Monday that she believed the officers involved should be fired for treating Klyzek like “she was less than human.”
“I can’t see how they have any business wearing the uniform,” Hamilton said at a news conference at her law offices in the Loop. “She’s 5-foot-2 and weighs 110 pounds. She was handcuffed and sitting on the ground and was struck from behind…This was not reasonable force.”

(click here to continue reading Lawyer: Video caught cop beating handcuffed woman – chicagotribune.com.)

Not that it matters in the slightest, but Ms. Klzek is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

A lot of this is Daley’s legacy, but Rahm has been in office long enough that he cannot avoid responsibility for abuses in the Chicago Police Department. Same with Eric Holder…

Police Line - Do Not Cross
Police Line – Do Not Cross

Being a police officer may be a challenging job, but if you cannot handle living in a country with civil liberties, perhaps you should move to Somalia, or in Bundyville, Utah.

A man has died two weeks after police used a Taser on him as he was arrested in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood.

Dominique Franklin Jr., 23, who had lived in the 21000 block of Olivia Avenue in Sauk Village, was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 4:49 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

(click here to continue reading Man dies after Chicago police use Taser during arrest – chicagotribune.com.)

This is a national problem, we keep stepping closer to being a full-on police state…

Salinas, CA police killed a man earlier today, claiming to the local media that they were in fear for their lives after he had waved a pair of garden shearers in their direction, indicating he was going to shred them to pieces.

But then a witness posted a video online, contradicting those claims, showing the man trying to walk away from the cops as they move in on him barking orders with their guns drawn.

(click here to continue reading California Cops Kill Man Claiming Self-Defense; Citizen Video Indicates Otherwise (Updated with Longer Video) | Photography is Not a Crime: PINAC.)

None Shall Pass
None Shall Pass

or for another random example:

After beating a man into a a coma last week, Florida deputies turned their attention to a citizen who had video recorded the beating, placing him in handcuffs and confiscating his phone, forcing him to sign a waiver that would give them the right to copy the footage.

Shaun Mahoney tried his best to maintain possession of his phone, but eventually complied after several hours in handcuffs when St. Lucie County deputies told him if he did not sign the waiver, they would take his phone anyway, but maintain possession of it for an unlimited amount of time.

That was a lie, of course, as they had no right to seize his phone in the first place.

But that is a lie they know they can get away with considering cops are never disciplined for unlawfully seizing phones as “evidence,” even though the U.S. Department of Justice made it clear there are very strict guidelines in doing this.

The deputies lied about a number of other things as well, including claiming that 29-year-old Tavares Docher was violently resisting them, leaving them no choice but to continually beat him.

But the video shows them punching him repeatedly while restraining his arms behind his back, yelling at him to “stop resisting,” even though it was clear he was not resisting.

In fact, Mahoney started recording after stepping out of a CVS Pharmacy and seeing one deputy planting his foot on the side of Docher’s face, squishing it into the asphalt, which is why he is lying in a pool of blood.

(click here to continue reading Florida Deputies Seize Phone from Man after he Records them Beating Suspect into Coma | Photography is Not a Crime: PINAC.)

Transformers 3 Police and Bus wreakage
Police and Bus wreakage

Warrants, huh? What are they good for?

Cook County probation officers have for years quietly teamed up with law enforcement to go into probationers’ homes without warrants, looking for guns, drugs and information and leading to questionable and illegal searches, the Tribune has found.

Operating with little oversight, in some cases their actions have triggered accusations that drugs were planted, money was stolen and probationers were threatened with jail if they refused to become informants for Chicago police or the FBI.

The impact has been lasting for some: a promotion missed, a job lost, a dying brother unvisited, months spent in jail.

Although police and probation officers cooperate in other cities, legal experts said such arrangements should have detailed policies to avoid illegal searches that could allow criminals to go free when evidence is thrown out, expose police and others to lawsuits and lead to civil rights violations.

The Cook County Circuit Court’s probation department, however, has not developed rules and regulations for cooperating with law enforcement agencies, has no policies defining “reasonable suspicion” and has only vague guidelines on how officers should carry out their searches. Officers said probationers have had their homes tossed for as little as missing one curfew.

“The fundamental point that is at stake here is an essential guarantee of privacy,” said David Rudovsky, a Pennsylvania civil rights and criminal defense lawyer who specializes in illegal searches and seizures.

“Without that, you really have a police state.”

Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who oversees the probation department, has been repeatedly warned since at least 2005 about potential problems during searches, according to interviews and documents.

The concerns stemmed from the activities of the gun-carrying probation units supervised by Deputy Chief Philippe Loizon, a veteran probation officer who has built alliances with police and the FBI, at times over his bosses’ objections.

(click here to continue reading Warrantless searches draw criticism – chicagotribune.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 21st, 2014 at 7:57 am

Police Keep Quiet About Stingray A Cellphone Surveillance Tool

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

Ahh, our National Security State keeps chugging along, snatching us up in its tentacles…

Police across the country may be intercepting phone calls or text messages to find suspects using a technology tool known as Stingray. But they’re refusing to turn over details about its use or heavily censoring files when they do.

Police say Stingray, a suitcase-size device that pretends it’s a cell tower, is useful for catching criminals, but that’s about all they’ll say.

For example, they won’t disclose details about contracts with the device’s manufacturer, Harris Corp., insisting they are protecting both police tactics and commercial secrets. The secrecy – at times imposed by nondisclosure agreements signed by police – is pitting obligations under private contracts against government transparency laws.

Even in states with strong open records laws, including Florida and Arizona, little is known about police use of Stingray and any rules governing it.

A Stingray device tricks all cellphones in an area into electronically identifying themselves and transmitting data to police rather than the nearest phone company’s tower. Because documents about Stingrays are regularly censored, it’s not immediately clear what information the devices could capture, such as the contents of phone conversations and text messages, what they routinely do capture based on how they’re configured or how often they might be used.

(click here to continue reading POLICE KEEP QUIET ABOUT CELL-TRACKING TECHNOLOGY, BY JACK GILLUM, News from The Associated Press.)

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes on Cellphones

Note that this works on everyone’s cellphones, regardless if you are a criminal suspect, or just a teenage girl texting your friends. Who needs warrants, right? The old United States that celebrated civil liberties as a constitution right has been superseded by 9-11 and the War on Terra.

ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler writes:

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential. The devices, likely made by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are called “stingrays,” and unfortunately this is not the first time the government has tried to hide their use.

So the ACLU and ACLU of Florida have teamed up to break through the veil of secrecy surrounding stingray use by law enforcement in the Sunshine State, last week filing a motion for public access to sealed records in state court, and submitting public records requests to nearly 30 police and sheriffs’ departments across Florida seeking information about their acquisition and use of stingrays.

As two judges noted during the oral argument, as of 2010 the Tallahassee Police Department had used stingrays a staggering 200 times without ever disclosing their use to a judge to get a warrant.

Potentially unconstitutional government surveillance on this scale should not remain hidden from the public just because a private corporation desires secrecy. And it certainly should not be concealed from judges. That’s why we have asked the Florida court that originally sealed the transcript to now make it available to the public. And that’s also why we have asked police departments throughout Florida to tell us whether they use stingrays, what rules they have in place to protect innocent third parties from unjustified invasions of privacy, and whether they obtain warrants from judges before deploying the devices.

Although secret stingray use has increasingly been exposed by the press (and by the ACLU), public details are still scant. Our new work in Florida is part of national efforts to understand how law enforcement is using these devices, and whether reforms are needed to protect our privacy from law enforcement overreach.

(click here to continue reading Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked | American Civil Liberties Union.)

Transformers 3 Soldier extra
Soldier on a Cellphone (Transformers 3)


Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2014 at 9:04 am

Komen’s Ambiguous Apology

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Katha Pollitt notes how insincere Susan G. Komen For the Cure of Anti-Choice Women Foundation’s apology is. In other words, their apology is mealy-mouthed double talk, carefully crafted by their new PR firm, Oglivy, to try to avert some attention, but nothing really changed.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation must have been totally unprepared for the firestorm provoked by its announcement that it was severing its long relationship with Planned Parenthood, which for at least five years had been receiving grants to provide low-income women with breast exams and mammogram referrals. Komen showed itself to be both dishonest and ridiculous: there was its initial long silence over the decision, followed by a flurry of flimsy and inconsistent explanations—first it was that Planned Parenthood was being investigated by Representative Cliff Stearns; then it was a change in criteria for funding. And what PR genius advised it to childishly delete negative comments on its Facebook page? Result: Planned Parenthood was deluged with donations to keep its breast care services going, including a $250,000 matching grant from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; twenty-two senators signed a critical statement; there were resignations among staffers and open rebellion among volunteers. Andrea Mitchell’s interview with Nancy Brinker on MSNBC was as close to open distaste as that very polite journalist ever gets. Mitchell is herself a breast cancer survivor, and the expression on her face as she questioned Brinker was as if she were steeling herself to pick up a dead mouse.

The massive show of prochoice strength worked. Friday morning Komen released a statement apologizing for its decision and acknowledging the unfairness of cutting off PP because of the Stearns investigation: “We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.

(Forget for the moment that Brinker denied the investigation had anything to do with the ban on PP). This is excellent news: Komen has in essence admitted that the Stearns probe is politically motivated, which must sting recently hired senior VP for public policy Karen Handel, who publicly favored defunding PP when she ran as a Palin-endorsed candidate in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

But the rest of the statement is less clear. It continues:

We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

This has widely been taken to mean Komen has backed down completely, i.e., will return to making grants to PP. But look more closely: that is not what it says. Komen says only that it will fund “existing grants”—that means, it will fund grants it has already formally agreed to make. Well, it is legally required to do that, isn’t it? It can’t rescind a grant on the basis of a rule made after the grant was offered. The original banning always referred to the future, and as to that, Komen says only that PP can apply for funding, not that Komen will continue to make grants to it as it has for many years. Nothing prevents Komen from altering its criteria in ways designed to exclude PP—for example, as Brinker suggested to Mitchell, deciding against funding breast care outside of mammogram centers.

And what about the bit about allowing affiliates “to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities?” Does that mean affiliates will be free to refuse to support PP, setting the stage for state and local anti-choice takeover efforts? It’s all rather unclear, and much too soon to declare victory and go home. It could mean a lesson well learned—but it could be just spin. After all, Handel, whoever hired her and whoever approved the original ban on PP are still there.

(click here to continue reading Komen’s Ambiguous Apology | The Nation.)

Party Girls On the Go
Party Girls On the Go

By the way, the Tea-Bagger hack, Karen Handel, handpicked by Nancy Brinker, resigned today:

In her resignation letter, Handel insists that “the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization.”

But as Bassett also reported, according to a source at Komen: Komen’s been dealing with the Planned Parenthood issue for years, and you know, some right-wing groups would organize a protest or send out a mailing every now and then, but it was on a low simmer […[ What Karen’s been doing for the past six months is ratcheting up the issue with leadership. Every time someone would even mention a protest, she would magnify it, pump it up, exaggerate it. She’s the one that kept driving this issue.

There really is no question that Karen Handel joined Komen last year with an agenda to defund Planned Parenthood. That was part of her platform during her failed, Sarah Palin-endorsed run for governor in Georgia; it was clearly part of her mission at Komen too. For the past week, Brinker has insisted that Handel had nothing to do with the decision, and that the decision had nothing to do with politics.

But it has become increasingly clear that Nancy Brinker is lying. And now Handel has confirmed it.

(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Someone from Susan G. Komen for the Cure is lying. And her name is Nancy Brinker..)

Little Pink House
Little Pink House

karoli of Crooks and Liars adds:

I’m certain we will be hearing about how Handel’s resignation is the result of a witch hunt sparked from the left’s outcry. However, I note that there was nothing political about Komen until they chose to rebuke Planned Parenthood based upon an investigation opened for nothing other than political purposes. Mitt Romney’s leap onto the bandwagon is evidence of how such a decision played out, as is Komen’s decision to involve Ari Fleischer in the planning and execution of their strategy.

When you hear the screams and shrieks from the right wing, just remember that the Komen Foundation had been pressured for years to withdraw their support from Planned Parenthood, but until the arrival of Karen Handel, they hadn’t actually done it. At one point, Komen had actually issued a statement in support of their grant decisions to Planned Parenthood. Here is an excerpt:

The grants in question supplied breast health counseling, screening, and treatments to rural women, poor women, Native American women, many women of color who were underserved — if served at all — in areas where Planned Parenthood facilities were often the only infrastructure available. Though it meant losing corporate money from Curves, we were not about to turn our backs on these women. Somehow this position translated to the utterly false assertion that SGK funds abortions.

And somehow, when Karen Handel came on the scene, this all flipped around so that those women suddenly didn’t seem as important. Who politicized what, again?

(click here to continue reading Karen Handel Resigns From Komen Foundation | Crooks and Liars.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack

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Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

I’ve been following the Chris Drew travesty fairly closely. Why should police be treated differently than other citizens? If Illinois law was on the books in California, for instance, would Scott Olsen be a household name? Or other Occupy incidents, like the various pepper spraying videos? If police are doing their job, they shouldn’t be worried about a spectator videoing their actions, and if they are doing something questionable, citizens should be able to collect evidence of police wrongdoing.

Anyway, there are rumblings that the law could be thrown out as vague, or unconstitutional.

When a Cook County jury in August acquitted a woman of violating Illinois’ strict eavesdropping law, an unassuming man with wire-rimmed glasses and wispy white hair sat in the gallery, quietly taking notes.

Chris Drew had good reason to keep an eye on the case — he’s facing trial on the same felony charge of eavesdropping on a public official, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

An artist whose ’60s upbringing instilled a deep respect for questioning authority, Drew, 61, is accused of making an illegal audio recording of Chicago police during a 2009 arrest for selling art on a downtown street without a permit.

Drew intended the incident to be a test of the city’s permit laws. But now his case has wound up at the forefront of a much bigger effort to challenge the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping law, which makes it illegal to audio-record police without their consent, even when they’re performing their public duties.

“He’s become the accidental eavesdropping activist,” Drew’s lawyer, Joshua Kutnick, joked in a recent interview.

Illinois is one of a handful of states in which it is illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved and has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country.

Opposition to Illinois’ law has been gaining traction for months as several cases have been tossed out of court.

In August, while Drew watched, Tiawanda Moore, 21, was acquitted of illegally recording two Chicago police internal affairs investigators whom she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. One juror later told the Tribune that he and his fellow panelists considered the case “a waste of time.”

The next month, a Crawford County judge ruled the law unconstitutional and dismissed eavesdropping charges against a man accused of recording police and court officials without their consent.


(click here to continue reading Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack – chicagotribune.com.)

Officer with Blackberry
Officer with Blackberry

For instance, Ralph Braseth, a Loyola University journalism professor had a run-in with the Chicago Police while filming a documentary. The officers arrested him, and erased his footage.

Braseth has since filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority, which forwarded the case to Chicago police internal affairs investigators.

While Braseth said he understands why some police officers don’t like to be recorded, he said Illinois’ eavesdropping law “should have been done away with a long time ago.”
“The citizens of Chicago employ the police officers, and they are acting as agents for our government,” Braseth said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s my job to police the police, but I think it’s a good idea for them to know that that can happen at any time. It’s one of the checks and balances that we have. It’s so fundamental.”

Even the Faux Walls have eyes
Even the Faux Walls have eyes

Meanwhile, the court has ruled it is ok for corporations to spy on you:

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program.

Thursday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision regarding the 2008 law.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies’ customers.

The court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity’s role in helping the government gather intelligence.

“It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies … and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, ‘the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with National Security Agency on intelligence gathering.

(click here to continue reading Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case – CBS News.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 2nd, 2012 at 10:35 am

Naomi Wolf: arrested at Occupy Wall Street

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Sheriff's Line Do Not Cross
Sheriff’s Line Do Not Cross

The police and their insistence upon their own power being ultimate, no matter the legality of the situation, is troubling.

Naomi Wolf, author and political consultant was attending an event sponsored by the Huffington Post, and ended up getting arrested. She reports:

I went up [to the phalanx of NYPD cops] and asked them why [the OWC folks were moved away from the event]. They replied that they had been informed that the Huffington Post event had a permit that forbade them to use the sidewalk. I knew from my investigative reporting on NYC permits that this was impossible: a private entity cannot lease the public sidewalks; even film crews must allow pedestrian traffic. I asked the police for clarification – no response.

I went over to the sidewalk at issue and identified myself as a NYC citizen and a reporter, and asked to see the permit in question or to locate the source on the police or event side that claimed it forbade citizen access to a public sidewalk. Finally a tall man, who seemed to be with the event, confessed that while it did have a permit, the permit did allow for protest so long as we did not block pedestrian passage.

I thanked him, returned to the protesters, and said: “The permit allows us to walk on the other side of the street if we don’t block access. I am now going to walk on the public sidewalk and not block it. It is legal to do so. Please join me if you wish.” My partner and I then returned to the event-side sidewalk and began to walk peacefully arm in arm, while about 30 or 40 people walked with us in single file, not blocking access.

Then a phalanx of perhaps 40 white-shirted senior officers descended out of seemingly nowhere and, with a megaphone (which was supposedly illegal for citizens to use), one said: “You are unlawfully creating a disruption. You are ordered to disperse.” I approached him peacefully, slowly, gently and respectfully and said: “I am confused. I was told that the permit in question allows us to walk if we don’t block pedestrian access and as you see we are complying with the permit.”

He gave me a look of pure hate. “Are you going to back down?” he shouted. I stood, immobilized1, for a moment. “Are you getting out of my way?” I did not even make a conscious decision not to “fall back” – I simply couldn’t even will myself to do so, because I knew that he was not giving a lawful order and that if I stepped aside it would be not because of the law, which I was following, but as a capitulation to sheer force. In that moment’s hesitation, he said, “OK,” gestured, and my partner and I were surrounded by about 20 officers who pulled our hands behind our backs and cuffed us with plastic handcuffs.

(click here to continue reading Naomi Wolf: How I was arrested at Occupy Wall Street | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Police
Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Police

and this bit is extremely troubling:

Another scary outcome I discovered is that, when the protesters marched to the first precinct, the whole of Erickson Street was cordoned off – “frozen” they were told, “by Homeland Security”. Obviously if DHS now has powers to simply take over a New York City street because of an arrest for peaceable conduct by a middle-aged writer in an evening gown, we have entered a stage of the closing of America, which is a serious departure from our days as a free republic in which municipalities are governed by police forces.

The police are now telling my supporters that the permit in question gave the event managers “control of the sidewalks”. I have asked to see the permit but still haven’t been provided with it – if such a category now exists, I have never heard of it; that, too, is a serious blow to an open civil society. What did I take away? Just that, unfortunately, my partner and I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007: first they come for the “other” – the “terrorist”, the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you – while you are standing on a sidewalk in evening dress, obeying the law.

  1. sic, UK spelling []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 20th, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

links for 2011-08-15

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Rasputin with Bachman Eyes

Written by swanksalot

August 15th, 2011 at 7:01 am

GPS and the 4th Amendment

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Shoveling snow apparently optional
Shoveling snow apparently optional

Our erosion of civil liberties continues apace, the police increasingly don’t even bother to get warrants before they put you in their surveillance net. For instance, in the case of suspect Antoine Jones, the police installed a GPS tracking device on his (or his wife’s) Jeep.

Jordan Smith reports on this troubling case:

When are electronic or other forms of surveillance of an individual considered a search under the Fourth Amendment — thus requiring a valid warrant to conduct such surveillance in a manner that protects the individual from “unlawful search and seizure”?

How the U.S. Supreme Court answers that question, in a case on its docket for the term starting in October, will have far-reaching implications for the power of government and for the privacy of individuals, according to lawyers and privacy rights advocates.

If the Court holds that warrants are not required for this type of surveillance, it could mean “the technological death of the Fourth Amendment,” warns Arkansas-based attorney John Wesley Hall, a leading Fourth Amendment expert…

The officers obtained a judicial warrant providing for a 10-day tracking period inside the District of Columbia. However, they actually installed the device after the 10-day window had expired — the reasons have not been brought out in court — and they did so while the Jeep was parked in a public lot in Maryland. The GPS data provided a 24/7 record of all of Jones’ movements in the Jeep over the next month — including, at times, the movements of his wife and family.

(click here to continue reading Big Brother is tracking you: GPS and the 4th Amendment – Obama’s Supreme Court Nominees | Supreme Court Justices – Salon.com.)

ACLU Constitution Free Zone
ACLU Constitution Free Zone

I’d be very surprised if the Roberts Court rules against the police, shocked in fact. Even the fact that some gun rights organizations have filed briefs decrying this destruction of the Fourth Amendment will probably not sway the Court, if history is any guide.

As Leckar1 told the Crime Report, a beeper is a “simple sense-augmenting device,” while a GPS tracking device, designed by the government for military use and only made available since 2000 for civilian applications, is “not sense augmenting; it’s sense supplanting.”

And that is one of the main reasons that in order to pass the Fourth Amendment’s legal standard a warrant is needed to conduct GPS surveillance, Leckar argues.
The “D.C. Circuit was correct to hold that pattern information is dramatically more intrusive than mere information about an individual’s discrete journeys,” his brief argued. “Indeed, the distinction between discrete bits of information and patterns of conduct is well-accepted.”

To privacy and Fourth Amendment advocates, the distinction is crucial.

In a brief supporting Jones before the D.C. Circuit, the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the ACLU, and which they are expected to revive before the Supremes, argued that GPS technology now gives police extraordinary new powers to remotely track individuals over long periods in both public and private realms.

“Without a warrant requirement, an individual’s every movement could be subject to remote monitoring, and permanent recording, at the sole discretion of any police officer,” the brief said.
Gun Owners of America, Inc., Gun Owners Foundation, and several other conservative groups have already filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging it to restore “the Fourth Amendment to its original text and purpose.”

  1. veteran attorney Stephen Leckar, who represents Jones []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2011 at 8:14 am

Illinois Eavesdropping Act Should be Overturned

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Let Me Show You How to Eagle Rock

Police should be held to the same standards as citizens: and not allowed to hide behind this archaic, pre-digital law. I fail to see why the police are afraid of being recorded, unless they plan on bending the law in some way and don’t want to be caught. Other states don’t have this same law, and seem to be doing just fine…

The Illinois Eavesdropping Act has been on the books for years. It makes it a criminal offense to audio-record either private or public conversations without the consent of all parties, Mr. Schwartz said. Audio-recording a civilian without consent is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison for a first-time offense. A second offense is a Class 3 felony with a possible prison term of five years.

Although law-enforcement officials can legally record civilians in private or public, audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The A.C.L.U. filed its lawsuit after several people throughout Illinois were charged in recent years with eavesdropping for making audio recordings of public conversations with the police. The A.C.L.U. argued that the act violates the First Amendment and hinders citizens from monitoring the public behavior of police officers and other officials.

On Jan. 10, a federal judge in Chicago dismissed the suit for the second time. Mr. Schwartz said the A.C.L.U. would appeal. Andrew Conklin, a spokesman for Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, said, “We did feel the A.C.L.U.’s claims were baseless and we’re glad the court agreed with us.” Beyond that statement, Mr. Conklin said, “we have no comment because we have these two cases pending.”

(click to continue reading Eavesdropping Laws Mean That Turning On an Audio Recorder Could Send You to Prison – NYTimes.com.)


Written by Seth Anderson

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:12 am

E-Mail and Letters Should Have Equal Legal Protection

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Soviets Lithuania

Seems like a simple question, but law enforcement doesn’t want to accept that electronic communications have replaced handwritten documents. There shouldn’t be a distinction based solely on the medium the communication uses. If I have a safe in my house with personal documents,1 the police need a warrant to open it. Why should my email folder be any different?

The question boils down to this: Should personal information that people store online, from e-mail messages to photos to location updates, be treated the same as telephone calls or paper documents stored in a person’s home?

Right now, they often aren’t, in part because the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which governs surveillance of what people do online, was written in 1986 — well before Twitter direct messages, Facebook status updates or Foursquare check-ins.

And Web users generally do not understand when and how law enforcement can access their information, said Ryan Calo, director of the consumer privacy project at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society.

“People have no idea that with a relatively small amount of process, people can get all this information that they’ve been storing for more than 180 days,” Mr. Calo said. “If they were to go and look at a privacy policy, it would say, ‘We comply with lawful requests for your information,’ but you don’t know what that means.”

(click to continue reading Should E-Mail and Letters Have Equal Legal Protection? – NYTimes.com.)

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the US currently has a reactionary majority, and will predictably side with the police over civil liberties, every time. There’s always hope…

So far, updates to the law have been piecemeal. For example, last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, considering a fraud case, ruled that law enforcement cannot access e-mail messages stored online without a warrant because they are protected by the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches.

  1. which I actually don’t, but I want one to store my passport and some similar papers in case of fire or other calamity []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 13th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Russ Feingold Loss is a Loss for All of Us

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Watching - Polapan

More on why Russ Feingold losing his seat to a Tea Party Know Nothing is a travesty…

Civil liberties advocates lost a Senate stalwart Tuesday night when Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) was defeated by Ron Johnson, a little-known plastics manufacturer whose shibboleths against health care reform and government spending tapped into populist anger.

For years, Feingold was one of the few — and sometimes the only — voice in the Senate skeptical of the government’s increasing demands for domestic surveillance power and control of the internet. He was one of 16 Senators who voted against the Communications Decency Act of 1996, an internet censorship bill later struck down by the Supreme Court, was the only Senator in 2001 to vote against the USA Patriot Act, and he introduced a measure to censure President Bush for his illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

“Senator Feingold was a true champion of civil liberties,” said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, D.C. “He spoke out against the Patriot Act and the dramatic growth of government surveillance programs when many other Senators stood by silently. His voice and his commitment to the Constitutional rights of all Americans will be missed.”

In 1997, before many Americans were online, Feingold set out to repeal the CDA, which criminalized sending “indecent materials” to minors on the net, even before the Supreme Court heard the case.

“One can be a speaker, a publisher and a listener using the internet,” Feingold said, years before the term Web 2.0 became trendy. “The threat of the Communications Decency Act is its undeniable ability to stifle this free-flowing speech on the Net.”

Feingold was a maverick in his own party, strongly opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and voting against the TARP bank bailouts. Unlike many Democrats, however, he embraced his vote on health care reform, saying there was nothing wrong with helping to get the uninsured health care.

(click to continue reading Civil Liberties Watchdog Feingold Loses Senate Seat | Threat Level | Wired.com.)


Written by Seth Anderson

November 3rd, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Legal Victory for Photographers

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Damn, I love the ACLU. Contribute to them if you can spare a few pennies. I should make a t-shirt with this phrase: The federal government acknowledges that there are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit photography outside federal buildings. Photography is not a crime!

crime plus 8 mailbox

In settling a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the federal government today recognized the public’s right to take photographs and record videos in public spaces outside federal courthouses throughout the nation.

The settlement comes after the NYCLU sued the federal government in April on behalf of a Libertarian activist who was unlawfully arrested by federal officers after exercising his First Amendment right to record digital video outside of a federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

“This settlement secures the public’s First Amendment right to use cameras in public spaces without being harassed,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “While we understand the need for heightened security near federal buildings, any rule that results in the arrest of people for exercising their First Amendment rights is clearly unconstitutional. We’re pleased the federal government finally recognizes this fact.”

Plaintiff Antonio Musumeci was arrested on Nov. 9, 2009 after using a hand-held camera to record a protestor in a public plaza outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

During the arrest, federal officers forced Musumeci to the pavement and confiscated video from his camera. Musumeci, a software developer for an investment bank, was detained for about 20 minutes and issued a ticket for violating a federal regulation. That charge was later dismissed.

On two subsequent occasions, federal officers threatened Musumeci with arrest after trying to record protests at the courthouse.

“The courthouse plaza is public property paid for by taxpayers, and the public should not be prohibited from using video cameras there. Now people now can freely express their First Amendment right there without being harassed and arrested by federal officers,” said Musumeci, a resident of Edgewater, N.J.

In the settlement approved today by a federal judge in Manhattan, the federal government acknowledges that there are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit photography outside federal courthouses. It agreed to provide federal officers written instructions emphasizing the public’s right to photograph and record outside federal courthouses. The settlement has even broader implications, though.

“Not only will this settlement end harassment of photographers outside federal courthouses, it will free people to photograph and film outside of all federal buildings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “The regulation at issue in this case applies to all federal buildings, not only courthouses, so this settlement should extend to photography near all federal buildings nationwide.

(click to continue reading NYCLU Settlement Ends Restriction on Photography Outside Federal Courthouses | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State.)


Written by Seth Anderson

October 20th, 2010 at 8:32 am