Here’s a statistic for you: It’s been 31 days since the release of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, but the number of fatal police encounters is already over 100 and counting. That’s an average of more than three people killed each day in March by police in America. Continue reading
(RT) -The American Civil Liberties Union has released documents confirming that police license plate readers capture vast amounts of data on innocent people, and in many instances this intelligence is kept forever.
According to documents obtained through a number of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by ACLU offices across the United States, law enforcement agencies are tracking the whereabouts of innocent persons en masse by utilizing a still up-and-coming technology. Continue reading
The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.
“This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.”
The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which was the recipient of a secret FISA Court order published by The Guardian last week. The order required the company to “turn over on ‘an ongoing daily basis’ phone call details” such as who calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. The lawsuit argues that the government’s blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU’s phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization’s ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.
“The crux of the government’s justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone’s data now and ask questions later,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country.”
The ACLU’s 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which authorized the so-called “warrantless wiretapping program,” was dismissed 5–4 by the Supreme Court in February on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been monitored. ACLU attorneys working on today’s complaint said they do not expect the issue of standing to be a problem in this case because of the FISA Court order revealed last week.
Yesterday, the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act Section 215. The ACLU is also currently litigating a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed in October 2011, demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government’s use and interpretation of Section 215.
“There needs to be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. “If we don’t say this is too far, when is too far?”
Attorneys on the case are Jaffer and Abdo along with Brett Max Kaufman and Patrick Toomey of the ACLU, and Arthur N. Eisenberg and Christopher T. Dunn of the NYCLU.
An interactive graphic examining the secret FISA Court order revealed last week is available here.
Today’s complaint is at: aclu.org/national-security/aclu-v-clapper-complaint
(Baltimore Sun) -A federal judge has ordered Baltimore police to halt a “veritable witch hunt” into the personal life of a man who alleges that his camera was seized as he filmed an arrest.
In a ruling unsealed Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Gauvey said the department must pay $1,000 for a “not so subtle attempt to intimidate the plaintiff” in a civil suit against the department.
She took issue with tactics employed against Christopher Sharp, who sued the department two years ago, alleging that officers deleted images from his phone after he recorded a female friend being beaten by officers at the 2010 Preakness Stakes.
The U.S. Justice Department has sided with Sharp, and the case has led to new department policies upholding the rights of citizens to record police.
But according to court records, the department continued to challenge Sharp’s credibility in the civil case — contacting his ex-wife and former employers and seeking to determine “whether or not the plaintiff is a drug addict,” according to a court filing by the department.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is helping to represent Sharp, and argued in court filings that the efforts were intimidation and harassment.
Gauvey agreed, saying that the police inquiries were “an appalling and apparent attempt to squeeze the plaintiff with questions that would almost certainly never be permitted in court.”
In an unusual move, Gauvey ordered the payment and said the department’s attorneys would have to seek court permission for further contact with anyone as they seek to gather information in the case.
City Solicitor George Nilson said he believed the requests for information on Sharp had been “benign” and “legitimate,” but that the city is unlikely to fight the ruling.
He said the city will continue to dispute Sharp’s allegations, saying that the plaintiff has been “utterly unable” to identify the officer who he alleges took his phone despite having been provided hundreds of names and pictures of police working that day.
“Tell us who it was,” Nilson said.
In court filings, the Police Department’s chief legal counsel, Mark Grimes, had argued that Sharp and his lawyers were trying to “handcuff the BPD in its pursuit of facts.”
“In short, Mr. Sharp believes that the defendants are not entitled to a defense,” Grimes wrote.
The ACLU’s legal director, Deborah Jeon, welcomed the judge’s ruling.
“We very much appreciate the court’s recognition that overzealous and unprofessional litigation tactics such as those engaged in by BPD counsel here have no place in any case — let alone in a Maryland civil rights case,” Jeon said in a statement.
Sharp alleges that images of the arrest, along with family photos, were erased from the phone by police.
The Justice Department’s civil rights division has urged the court to find in Sharp’s favor, saying that seizing and destroying recordings without a warrant violates constitutional guarantees of due process and protections against illegal searches.
After weighing in on the Baltimore incident, the Justice Department has sided with plaintiffs in similar cases.
Baltimore police dispute the ACLU’s contention that what happened to Sharp is part of a pattern of abuse and contend that policy changes have been sufficient to guide officers on citizens’ rights to record. Officials said other cities have contacted Baltimore for guidance in drafting their policies.
But Justice Department attorneys said Baltimore’s policy changes did not go far enough.
The day after the new policy became public, police officers were caught on video threatening to arrest a man for loitering in Federal Hill. The man had been recording them as they held someone on the ground.
The ACLU had said a lawsuit could have been avoided if police had worked to develop clearer policies and had acknowledged that Sharp should have been able to record the incident. But the Police Department did not respond to that request, prompting the lawsuit in August 2011.
“It was the Police Department’s refusal to admit it was wrong that made me take this to court, and the department’s lawyers have done everything they could to make that process more difficult,” Sharp said in a statement released by the ACLU.
The issue of recording police garnered attention in 2010 when a motorcyclist was charged in Harford County with videotaping on a helmet-mounted camera his interaction with a state trooper who had pulled him over at gunpoint for speeding. The man was acquitted and the Maryland attorney general’s office later issued an opinion advising police agencies that people have a right to record officers.
In August 2012, police told Sharp of their intention to subpoena medical records related to a hair follicle test and served subpoenas for Sharp’s phone records and information from a previous employer, Laurel Park racetrack. In addition, they contacted his ex-wife, her current boyfriend and her mother, which his attorneys described as “running amok in Sharp’s personal life.”
Gauvey said the contacts with people in Sharp’s personal life were not necessarily improper, as it was possible that Sharp had shared his version of the Preakness incident with them. But excerpts of the depositions “presented a picture of defense counsel ‘working [the] plaintiff over’ — asking irrelevant and personal questions about his custody arrangements for his young son and his divorce proceedings.”
A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney who is not involved in Sharp’s case but who has filed numerous lawsuits against the city, called Gauvey’s decision “unusual, but very positive.”
Homeland Security required that this Predator drone, built by General Atomics, be capable of detecting whether a standing human at night is “armed or not.”
(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
(CNET) -The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.
The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department’s unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States’ northern and southern borders but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.
Homeland Security’s specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify “signals interception” technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and “direction finding” technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s requirements for its drone fleet through the Freedom of Information Act and published it this week. CNET unearthed an unredacted copy of the requirements that provides additional information about the aircraft’s surveillance capabilities.
(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
Concern about domestic use of drones is growing, with federal legislation introduced last month that would establish legal safeguards, in addition to parallel efforts underway from state and local lawmakers. The Federal Aviation Administration recently said that it will “address privacy-related data collection” by drones.
The prospect of identifying armed Americans concerns Second Amendment advocates, who say that technology billed as securing the United States’ land and maritime borders should not be used domestically. Michael Kostelnik, the Homeland Security official who created the program, told Congress that the drone fleet would be available to “respond to emergency missions across the country,” and a Predator drone was dispatched to the tiny town of Lakota, N.D., to aid local police in a dispute that began with reimbursement for feeding six cows. The defendant, arrested with the help of Predator surveillance, lost a preliminary bid to dismiss the charges.
“I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners,” says Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”
Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency declined to answer questions about whether direction-finding technology is currently in use on its drone fleet. A representative provided CNET with a statement about the agency’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that said signals interception capability is not currently used:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not deploying signals interception capabilities on its UAS fleet. Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices.
CBP’s UAS program is a vital border security asset. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and day-and-night cameras, the UAS provides real-time images to frontline agents to more effectively and efficiently secure the nation’s borders. As a force multiplier, the UAS operates for extended periods of time and allows CBP to safely conduct missions over tough-to-reach terrain. The UAS also provides agents on the ground with added situational awareness to more safely resolve dangerous situations.
During his appearance before the House Homeland Security committee, Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who recently left the agency, testified that the drones’ direction-finding ability is part of a set of “DOD capabilities that are being tested or adopted by CBP to enhance UAS performance for homeland security.” CBP currently has 10 Predator drones and is considering buying up to 14 more.
If the Predator drones were used only to identify smugglers or illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders, or for disaster relief, they might not be especially controversial. But their use domestically by other government agencies has become routine enough — and expensive enough — that Homeland Security’s inspector general said (PDF) last year that CBP needs to sign agreements “for reimbursement of expenses incurred fulfilling mission requests.”
“The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground,” says Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws.”
A Homeland Security official, who did not want to be identified by name, said the drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition. The official also said that because the unarmed drones have a long anticipated life span, the department tries to plan ahead for future uses to support its border security mission, and that aerial surveillance would comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other applicable federal laws.
The documents show that CBP specified that the “tracking accuracy should be sufficient to allow target designation,” and the agency notes on its Web site that its Predator B series is capable of “targeting and weapons delivery” (the military version carries multiple 100-pound Hellfire missiles). CBP says, however, that its Predator aircraft are unarmed.
Gene Hoffman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s the chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said CBP “needs to be very careful with attempts to identify armed individuals in the border area” when aerial surveillance touches on a constitutional right.
“In the border area of California and Arizona, it may be actively dangerous for the law-abiding to not carry firearms precisely due to the illegal flow of drugs and immigrants across the border in those areas,” Hoffman says.
CBP’s specifications say that signals interception and direction-finding technology must work from 30MHz to 3GHz in the radio spectrum. That sweeps in the GSM and CDMA frequencies used by mobile phones, which are in the 300MHz to 2.7GHz range, as well as many two-way radios.
The specifications say: “The system shall provide automatic and manual DF of multiple signals simultaneously. Automatic DF should be able to separate out individual communication links.” Automated direction-finding for cell phones has become an off-the-shelf technology: one company sells a unit that its literature says is “capable of taking the bearing of every mobile phone active in a channel.”
Although CBP’s unmanned Predator aircraft are commonly called drones, they’re remotely piloted by FAA-licensed operators on the ground. They can fly for up to 20 hours and carry a payload of about 500 lbs.
(CAV News) Connecticut- The 17-year-old student Seth Groody, who wore a T-shirt that opposed homosexuality, will be allowed by the Wolcott public school system to wear shirts in the future expressing his views.
School officials today confirmed that they recognize the students freedom of speech (of course that is when a powerful organization lends its muscle in his defense) and freedom of expression.
The ACLU notified the school last year, after learning that the school forced Groody to remove his shirt or face expulsion.
His shirt had a slash going through a rainbow, which Groody designed himself. On the back of his shirt was a man and woman holding hands with the text, “Excessive Speech Day.”
He chose to wear the shirt on the day the school was holding the “Day Of Silence” event, which is held to bring awareness around the nation on bullying people because of their sexual orientation or preference.
The ACLU said the school violated his constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression.
The school avoided court action by assuring the organization that it would allow the student to wear shirts expressing his opinion and views in the future.
Source: Hartford Courant
Written by: Derek Wood
Citizens Awareness Vanguard on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CitizensAV?ref=hl
(IntelHub) -The United States Supreme Court will not let Americans challenge a provision in a foreign intelligence law that lets the federal government secretly eavesdrop on the intimate communications of millions of Americans.
On Tuesday, the top justices in the US said the country’s highest court will not hear a case in which Amnesty International and a slew of co-plaintiffs have contested a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA, that lets the National Security Agency silently monitor emails and phone calls.
Under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the NSA is allowed to conduct electronic surveillance on any US citizen as long as they are suspected of conversing with any person located outside of the United States.
That provision was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, but Congress voted to re-up the bill and it was put back on the books for another five years.
Along with human rights workers and journalists, Amnesty International first challenged the FAA on the day it went into effect, arguing that the powers provided to the NSA under the FISA amendments likely puts the plaintiffs and perhaps millions of other Americans at risk of surveillance.
Now years later, though, they are finally being told that they cannot challenge the law that, while meant to collect foreign intelligence, puts every person in the country at risk of being watched.
“Under the FAA, the government can target anyone — human rights researchers, academics, attorneys, political activists, journalists — simply because they are foreigners outside the United States, and in the course of its surveillance it can collect Americans’ communications with those individuals,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on behalf of the plaintiffs in a legal brief filed last year with the court.
Amnesty, et al have been pursuing an injunction against the NSA in their lawsuit, which names former NSA-Chief James Clapper is a co-defendant. Because the plaintiffs cannot prove that they’ve actually been targeted under the FAA, however, the case is been stalled endlessly.
In last year’s filing, the ACLU acknowledged that an appeals court panel agreed in 2011 that “plaintiffs have good reason to believe that their communications, in particular, will fall within the scope of the broad surveillance that they can assume the government will conduct,” and the full body of US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit later refused the government’s attempts to have them reconsider.
“But instead of allowing the case to be heard on the merits, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to review the case,” the ACLU’s Ateqah Khaki, wrote. “Our brief urges the Court to affirm the appeals court’s decision.”
On Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court dismissed the claims that the plaintiffs were being watched under the FAA. Amnesty and others had argued that the presumed surveillance they were subjected to has caused them to go out of their way to maintain working relationships with clients, forcing them to travel abroad to communicate without the fear of being monitored.
In the suit, the plaintiffs have said that because they communicate “with people the Government ‘believes or believed to be associated with terrorist organizations,’ ‘people located in geographic areas that are a special focus’ of the Government’s counterterrorism or diplomatic efforts, and activists who oppose governments that are supported by the United States Government,” they’ve undertaken “costly and burdensome measures” to protect the confidentiality of sensitive communications.
“This theory of future injury is too speculative,” Justice Samuel Alito said in announcing the 5-4 decision, calling it “hypothetical future harm.”
“In sum, respondents’ speculative chain of possibilities does not establish that injury based on potential future surveillance,” the court ruled. “[R]espondents’ self-inflicted injuries are not fairly traceable to the Government’s purported activities under [the FAA] and their subjective fear of surveillance does not give rise to standing.”
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined Alito in the ruling. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan all dissented.
(ArsTechnica) -Just before issuing the 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama signed an executive order on cybersecurity—creating a series of “best practices” between “critical infrastructure” corporations and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
“It is the policy of the United States Government to increase the volume, timeliness, and quality of cyber threat information shared with US private sector entities so that these entities may better protect and defend themselves against cyber threats,” the order states.
According to The Hill, a draft version of this framework will be due in 240 days and the final will be published within a year from now.
The order comes after Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) failed in Congress last year—although it may be poised for a comeback. While many civil libertarians were concerned that CISPA did not have adequate privacy protections, some have shown some cautious optimism about the new order.
“The executive order says that privacy must be built into the government’s cybersecurity plans and activities, not as an afterthought but rather as part of the design,” said Center for Democracy and Technology President Leslie Harris in a statement.
“By explicitly requiring adherence to fair information practice principles, the order adopts a comprehensive formulation of privacy. The annual privacy assessment, properly done, can create accountability to the public for government actions taken in the name of cybersecurity.”
Others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed.
“The president’s executive order rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don’t negatively impact civil liberties,” Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, added, in a statement. “For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information.”
(EFF) -In an amazing victory for privacy advocates and drone activists, yesterday, Seattle’s mayor ordered the city’s police agency to cease trying use surveillance drones and dismantle its drone program. The police will return the two drones they previously purchased with a Department of Homeland Security grant to the manufacturer.
EFF has been warning of the privacy dangers surveillance drones pose to US citizens for more than a year now. In May of last year, we urged concerned citizens to take their complaints to their local governments, given Congress has been slow to act on any privacy legislation. The events of Seattle proves this strategy can work and should serve as a blueprint for local activism across the country.
Back in early 2012, the Seattle city council was told that the Seattle police agency had obtained an authorization to fly drones from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But they did not find out from the police; they found out from a reporter who called after the council after he saw Seattle’s name on the list obtained by EFF as part of our lawsuit against the FAA.
City council was understandably not happy, and the police agency was forced to appear before the council and apologize. It then vowed to work with the ACLU of Washington and the FAA to develop guidelines to make sure drones wouldn’t violate Seattle citizens’ privacy. But as long as the guidelines weren’t passed in a binding city ordinance, there’d be no way to enforce them.
After a townhall meeting held by police, in which citizens showed up in droves and angrily denounced the city’s plans, some reporters insinuated that city counsel members’ jobs could be on the line if they did not pass strict drone legislation protecting its citizens privacy.
Documents obtained by MuckRock and EFF in October as part of our 2012 drone census showed that the Seattle police were trying to buy two more drones despite the controversy. But that ended yesterday as the Mayor put a stop to the program completely.
Critics of the privacy protests said the participants were exaggerating the capabilities of the Seattle drones, given they would only fly for less than an hour at a time and are much smaller than the Predator drones the military flies overseas and Department of Homeland Security flies at home.
But while Seattle’s potential drones may not have been able to stay in the air for long, similar drones have already been developed and advertised by drone manufacturers with the capability to stay in the air for hours or days at a time. In fact, Lockheed Martin has been bragging about a drone that weights 13.2 pounds (well within the FAA’s weight limits) that can be recharged by a laser on the ground and stay in the air indefinitely.
Since the Seattle protests have heated up, similar complaints have been heard at local city counsels and state legislatures across the country. At least thirteen states are now considering legislation to restrict drone use to protect privacy, and there are also members of Congress on both sides of the aisle pushing the same thing.
Here in the Bay Area, we’ve experienced a similar situation. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office tried to sneak through drone funding without a public hearing and told the county board of supervisors it only wanted to use the drone for emergency purposes. Yet in internal documents obtained by EFF and MuckRock as part of our 2012 drone census, the Sheriff’s Office said it wanted to use the drone for “suspicious persons” and “large crowd control disurbances.”
When EFF and ACLU held a press conference pointing out this discrepancy, the county backtracked and is now attempting to write privacy guidelines that could potentially be turned into binding law. We will keep you updated on further developments.
But regardless, it’s important that privacy advocates take the lesson from Seattle and apply it all over the country. This is an important privacy victory, and like we said back in May, local governments will listen to our concerns, so let’s make our voice heard.
(Wired) -The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.
The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.
The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.
The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.
According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.
Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union suggest that “reasonable suspicion” should be the rule, at a minimum, despite that being a lower standard than required by the Fourth Amendment.
“There should be a reasonable, articulate reason why the search of our electronic devices could lead to evidence of a crime,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a telephone interview. “That’s a low threshold.”
The DHS watchdog’s conclusion isn’t surprising, as the DHS is taking that position in litigation in which the ACLU is challenging the suspicionless, electronic-device searches and seizures along the nation’s borders. But that conclusion nevertheless is alarming considering it came from the DHS civil rights watchdog, which maintains its mission is “promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties.”
“This is a civil liberties watchdog office. If it is doing its job property, it is supposed to objectively evaluate. It has the power to recommend safeguards to safeguard Americans’ rights,” Crump said. “The office has not done that and the public has the right to know why.”
Toward that goal, the ACLU on Friday filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding to see the full report that the executive summary discusses.
Meantime, a lawsuit the ACLU brought on the issue concerns a New York man whose laptop was seized along the Canadian border in 2010 and returned 11 days later after his attorney complained.
At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where they removed his laptop from his luggage and “ordered Mr. Abidor to enter his password,” according to the lawsuit.
Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.
He was handcuffed and then jailed for three hours while the authorities looked through his computer while numerous agents questioned him, according to the suit, which is pending in New York federal court.
(TheHill) -Unmanned drones are best known for their ability to hunt down suspected terrorists abroad, but they might have an entirely different use: movie-making.
Hollywood’s lobbying group is pressing the Obama administration to allow filmmakers to use drones for aerial shots.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) revealed in a lobbying disclosure report this week that it had urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow filmmakers to fly unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. The group had previously disclosed lobbying on the issue in a report last October.
Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the MPAA, explained that putting a camera on an unmanned aircraft can be cheaper, safer and more useful than relying on a helicopter or a crane to get a difficult shot.
“You can innovate in a number of different, interesting ways to shoot a scene [using unmanned aircraft],” Gantman said.
The FAA is currently drafting rules to allow private groups to apply to fly drones. The agency aims to begin issuing private drone licenses by 2015.
Although businesses are currently barred from operating drones, police departments around the country have already begun exploring the technology, which can be a cost-effective way to gain a bird’s-eye view of a scene.
The FAA estimates that as many as 30,000 private and government drones could be flying in U.S. skies by the end of the decade.
Some privacy advocates are sounding alarms that there aren’t enough legal safeguards in place to prevent drones from being used for mass surveillance.
They are urging Congress to enact legislation that would set nationwide restrictions on the use of drones.
Gantman emphasized that Hollywood would not be using the same technology that the CIA uses overseas. He said that unmanned aircraft used by filmmakers would mostly be small and would stay on the movie set.
“This is line-of-sight, on the set, used to take shots from above, beside different scenes,” he said.
(LAWeekly) -A secretive cellphone spy device known as StingRay, intended to fight terrorism, was used in far more routine LAPD criminal investigations 21 times in a four-month period during 2012, apparently without the courts’ knowledge that the technology probes the lives of non-suspects who happen to be in the same neighborhood as suspected terrorists.
According to records released to the First Amendment Coalition under the California Public Records Act, StingRay, which allows police to track mobile phones in real time, was tapped for more than 13 percent of the 155 “cellular phone investigation cases” that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year.
As L.A. Weekly first reported in September, LAPD purchased StingRay technology sometime around 2006 with federal Department of Homeland Security funds. The original DHS grant documents said it was intended for “regional terrorism investigations.”
But the newly released LAPD records show something markedly different: StingRays are being deployed for burglary, drug and murder investigations.
Yet LAPD still refuses to answer questions about the spy technology or the legal interpretation that Chief Charlie Beck‘s office thinks give his department such powers.
Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, says the documents released by LAPD acknowledge “that they do have this technology, and that they’re using it. … But the documents are ambiguous about whether or not the procedure requires a warrant or other judicial permission … ”
The portable StingRay device impersonates a cellphone tower, electronically fooling all nearby mobile phones — not just the suspect’s phone — to send their signals into an LAPD computer. That signal reveals to police the location of phones in real time.
But the technology sucks up the data of every cellphone in the area, and these innocent phone owners never know police are grabbing their information.
Security researcher Chris Soghoian last year warned that StingRays can jeopardize privacy: “If the government shows up in your neighborhood, essentially every phone in the neighborhood is going to check in with the government. … It’s almost like Marco Polo — the government tower says ‘Marco,’ and every cellphone in the area says ‘Polo.’ ”
Privacy advocates are troubled by StingRay’s “self-service” aspects: Police can use the technology to get around the now-routine process of requesting location data from cellphone service providers. Carriers like Sprint and AT&T usually require that LAPD get a court order.
StingRay could let police bypass the service providers entirely, and secretly.
LAPD won’t comment on whether that’s what it is doing.
As with other emerging technologies, there’s disagreement over how StingRays should fit into privacy laws, which weren’t written with such sophisticated gadgets in mind. The courts have not yet weighed in.
The records suggest that LAPD doesn’t explicitly describe StingRay but instead seeks a judge’s permission to use a “pen register/trap and trace” — which is technology from landline days that functions like a caller ID, can’t zero in on a person’s real-time location like StingRay, and doesn’t grab dozens or hundreds of innocent phone users in its web.
Equating StingRay with a “pen register/trap and trace,” Lye says, is like applying for a search warrant for someone’s home and then searching the entire apartment complex. “The government has the duty of candor when it goes to the court,” she says. “If in fact they got court orders 21 times, and these were the court orders they sought, they were in no way disclosing the technology they were using — and that is very troubling.”
Scheer says the First Amendment Coalition is preparing requests for more information in hopes of clearing up what LAPD is telling judges — and how often L.A. cops use the spy device without bothering to get a judge’s approval.
(TheHill) -President Obama’s gun-control recommendations have created a lobbying free-for-all on Capitol Hill.
Groups not typically associated with the debate over gun rights have taken a strong interest in the proposals that the White House put forward. Civil rights activists, mayors, psychiatrists, scientists and teachers are among those who plan to dispatch lobbyists to try and shape the debate.
Some of the interested parties have little, if anything, to say about Obama’s headline-grabbing proposals on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Instead, they are focusing on some of the smaller elements of Obama’s plan that might have a better shot at passing Congress.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the gun-control bill outlined by the president would touch so many areas of policy that it simply can’t be ignored.
“This is something we have to keep our eyes on. If it was a straight assault-weapons ban, [then] maybe not. But this is so many things wrapped into one proposal,” said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington office.
The ACLU is specifically concerned about an increased police presence in schools. Obama’s plan would provide $150 million for a new program that would allow schools and law enforcement agencies to hire more counselors, social workers and police officers for schools.
“We are finding all over the country that it is more likely that minority kids as well as kids with disabilities will be arrested for things that are usually handled by school administrators,” Murphy said. “They are getting criminal records, which then contributes to the unemployment rate.”
In addition to lobbying lawmakers, Murphy said ACLU staff would be meeting with White House aides next week to discuss the security plan.
The NAACP Legal and Educational Fund is similarly critical of the security initiative. Leslie Proll, director of the group’s Washington office, said more cops in schools would not reduce gun violence.
“What we are going to try to do on the Hill is to steer legislators away from the idea that an increased police presence in schools is an effective remedy to reducing gun violence,” Proll said.
But the Fraternal Order of Police has a different view. The 325,000-member police union will support more federal funding for police officers and will lobby for expanding background checks for gun sales. The police association will also support more funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
“Unless you have an [ATF] fully functional and funded, it doesn’t matter what laws you have because there will be no one to enforce them. Let’s get them to the point that they can enforce what’s on the books today before anything else,” said Jim Pasco, the police union’s executive director.
Members of the Fraternal Order of Police will fly to Washington at the end of February to lobby lawmakers on the proposals, Pasco said.
“We will brief them, provide them with talking points, the whole nine yards,” Pasco said.
The police union has yet to take a position on the proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, according to Pasco.
Other aspects of Obama’s plan enjoy strong support. The Union of Concerned Scientists praised the president’s executive order directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence and is urging Congress to follow suit.
“Ideally, Congress should be working to amplify that message that research on guns should be done,” said Celia Wexler, senior Washington representative for the group. “We want to engage our members in the public health sphere and want them to talk about this. We want to make sure the importance of research about gun violence is part of the conversation moving forward.”
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) supports the president’s move to finalize regulations ensuring parity between mental and physical health coverage. In a statement last week, Dilip Jeste, APA’s president, said the group “intends to play an active role during congressional discussions about the president’s proposed policies, particularly as they impact access to psychiatric treatment.”
Obama also has backing from some of his union allies in the gun-control fight.
The National Education Association (NEA) has emailed members in support of the president’s proposal and hosted a meeting in Washington last week for a coalition of groups that want action on gun violence. The 3 million-member union is planning to fly NEA members to Washington for a lobbying blitz to talk gun control and other issues during the first week of February.
Kim Anderson, director of NEA’s Center for Advocacy and Outreach, said the education union might sponsor television ads on gun control as well.
“We certainly hope that members of Congress understand that they need to act swiftly,” Anderson said. “Classrooms all across the country are talking about this issue.”
But perhaps the heaviest lobbying of all will come on the president’s proposals on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which are strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association.
The U.S. Conference on Mayors is vocally in favor of gun-control limits. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, president of the group, has been making the rounds to talk to lawmakers.
“This is a big issue for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. We will take it up and you will hear from us in the future,” Nutter said. “Public safety is one of the critical elements for all of us as mayors. You can’t have a great city if people don’t feel safe.”
(EndTheLie) -Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, said that he thinks the House Judiciary Committee could move to regulate the use of drones for surveillance over the United States after a conversation with Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, potentially assisting nationwide efforts to regulate drone use.
This is incredibly important given the fact that drones are already being used quite often in the U.S., the military is sharing data captured by drones with law enforcement, the Pentagon identified 110 potential drone bases in the U.S., the National Guard uses drones in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security has embraced small spy drones, and even the Federal Aviation Administration realizes there are significant privacy concerns.
Poe said that he discussed the privacy risks inherent in the use of drones domestically with Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, on Tuesday, according to The Hill.
“I think that’s on his agenda, to have some kind of drone legislation during the Congress,” said Poe after an event at the National Press Club held to discuss drones.
An aide also told The Hill that the issue is a priority for Goodlatte as he begins his first term as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
During the last session of Congress, Poe penned the Preserving American Privacy Act, which would have restricted drone use to law enforcement agencies and would require them to be investigating a felony.
While this falls far short of the mark many would hope for in that it doesn’t outright block law enforcement from using drones unless a probable cause warrant has been issued, one might argue that it’s better than nothing.
Poe stated that he plans to re-introduce legislation similar to that he introduced last session in concert with another member of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.
“I think what we need to do is make sure there are some definite guidelines for law enforcement,” Poe said.
However, Poe said that the legislation should include exceptions allowing police to conduct surveillance without obtaining a warrant during emergencies.
While such an exception could be viable, it would require explicit definition of the types of emergencies in which warrantless surveillance could be conducted. Even then, it would likely be easily abused.
“It’s my opinion that Congress should take the lead on this issue, rather than wait for cases to occur, and those cases end up in different courts throughout the country,” Poe said.
During the discussion at the National Press Club, a panel of legal scholars and privacy experts pointed out the ambiguity of the constitutional limits on drone surveillance which would – or arguably would not – be imposed by courts in the future.
“Traditionally, courts have granted people limited privacy protections when they are in public spaces,” writes Brendan Sasso for The Hill. “The persistent tracking made possible by drones poses new constitutional questions for the courts, the experts said.”
“Gretchen West, executive vice president for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, a drone lobbying group, said that drones currently have only limited technical capabilities to conduct surveillance,” according to The Hill.
It’s worth noting that this is the same lobbying group that has bragged about taking a major role in crafting drone legislation.
Indeed, even The Hill reports that West “noted that her organization has created privacy guidelines for drone makers and argued that the FAA is poorly suited for regulating privacy issues.”
This same argument has been presented by a group of leaders in the aviation industry in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in which they claimed that the FAA should only be concerned with safety rather than privacy.
Yet without strict privacy controls at the federal, state and local level, this radically invasive drone use will continue and can only get worse as time goes on.
“The current state of the law is inadequate to address the threat … as drone technology becomes cheaper, the threat to privacy will become more substantial,” said Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, according to the Washington Times.
“This is a natural space for Congress to step in and say that we have a new technology, and we’re worried about its privacy implications,” said Orin Kerr, a professor of law at George Washington University Law School.
“Ultimately, we don’t have to accept new technologies and let them go and see how they work. We can try and regulate the privacy implications at the outset,” Kerr added.
(Courthouse News) -llinois has finally abandoned a controversial eavesdropping law that made it a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to record law-enforcement officers while they were on duty.
The law, originally passed in 1961, criminalizes the nonconsensual recording of most oral communication without the consent of all parties. It permits the taking of photos, notes and silent video of a conversation. Subsequent amendments carved out immunity for law-enforcement officers and for audio recordings related to news reporting, but enhanced the punishments for private citizens who record of police officers.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in August 2010, citing concerns that its members would face prosecution while carrying out the organization’s “police accountability program.” This program involves recording officers who are performing their duties in public places, with special attention given to recording political protests and demonstrations.
Illinois State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez bristled against the pre-enforcement action that sought to enjoin application of the law against citizens who record on-duty police officers.
U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon initially called the ACLU’s claim “an unprecedented expansion of the First Amendment,” which she noted “does not protect the right to audio record.”
But a divided panel of the 7th Circuit reversed in May 2012, issuing a temporary injunction that prevents enforcement against citizens who record police officers.
Alvarez petitioned the Supreme Court to intercede, but the justices denied certiorari in late November.
On remand, U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman permanently enjoined the embattled portions of the law.
Noting the 7th Circuit’s finding “that the application of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act to the ACLU program triggers at least intermediate scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Coleman deemed the law facially invalid.
Because the conversations in question are public, the state’s privacy justification fails.
“This court finds that there are no public interest justifications for the act as it applies to the ACLU program,” Coleman wrote. “Accordingly, this court must also find that the eavesdropping statute as applied to the ACLU program is not narrowly tailored to any public interest justification.”
Alvarez has announced that she will not appeal the ruling.
(NaturalNews) If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you’ve got nothing to
worry about, right?
That seems to be the pervasive logic of an increasing
number of government officials and agencies that have forgotten the uniquely
American legal principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.
How else to explain the acceptance and widespread employment of technology that
gathers potential evidence on everyone indiscriminately, whether they’ve
been suspected of creating a crime or not?
According to the Electronic
Freedom Frontier, a group that advocates for privacy rights in the digital
age, “In the amount of time it takes to get lunch, the government can now
collect your DNA and extract a profile that identifies you and your family
members” using a device called a Rapid DNA Analyzer, which can “process DNA in
90 minutes or less.”
Guilty until proven…innocent?
EFF says these machines are not the imagination of science fiction writers.
Rather, the group says they are “an operational reality” and are currently being
marketed to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies all around the
The device, according to GE Life Sciences, in conjunction
with NetBio, Inc., “is a self-contained unit with all the
accessories you need to conduct a full DNA analysis.” Designed for field use by
non-scientific personnel, the laser printer-sized machines will soon
“revolutionize the use of DNA
by making it a routine identification and investigational tool.”
applications include criminal forensics, military human identification,
biothreat detection, and clinical diagnostics. NetBio believes that widespread
use of RDA, particularly in the field and at the point of care, will improve
both the safety, and health of society,” says a description of its machine by
Well, what’s the big deal? After
you, you haven’t done anything wrong – have you? What’s a little DNA
between a citizen and their government?
The fact is, the potential for
abuse with a machine like this is endless. Such technology merely feeds into the
tyrant’s mentality that, “in the name of public safety,” you are, by definition,
a rebel and a threat if you don’t automatically comply, hence the mindset, “You
must be hiding something.”
It’s as if the Fourth Amendment’s privacy
protections have never existed.
EFF lays out additional
DNA samples contain such sensitive, private and personal
information that their indefinite storage and unlimited sharing create privacy
risks far worse than other types of data. The United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) stated in a 2008 Note titled DNA Testing to Establish
Family Relationships in the Refugee Context that DNA testing “can have serious
implications for the right to privacy and family unity” and should be used only
as a “last resort.” The UNHCR also stated that, if DNA is collected, it “should
not be used for any other purpose (for instance medical tests or criminal
investigations) than the verification of family relationships” and that DNA
associated with the test “should normally be destroyed once a decision has been
Who would verify that such samples, in fact, are
destroyed once the “suspect” from whom it was taken was cleared by
authorities (for doing…nothing)? The agencies themselves? Given our
government’s history of privacy abuses, why should any of us trust
What’s more the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well
as the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, has
earmarked substantial funds to develop a Rapid DNA capability, and for
more “much broader purposes than just verifying refugee applications,” as the
agencies have stated, according to EFF.
Devices already being
“The agency notes that DNA should be collected from all
immigration applicants – possibly even infants – and then stored in the FBI’s
criminal DNA database,” EFF says. “The agency also supports sharing immigrant
DNA with ‘local, state, tribal, international, and other federal partners’
including the Department of Defense and Interpol on the off-chance the refugee
or asylum seeker could be a criminal or terrorist or could commit a crime or act
of terrorism in the future.”
All on the off-chance that someone,
sometime, somewhere, may commit a crime.
Security Administration falls under the purview of DHS; we could see the
deployment of some sort of Rapid DNA Analyzer at airports as part of a new
regulatory requirement in order to board an airplane. Then, of course, the
government would have your DNA sample forever.
DHS began testing the
devices in the summer of 2011, according to NextGov.com.
This “guilty until proven innocent” law
enforcement mentality is not the kind of justice system our founding
(ACLU) – GRAND JUNCTION – The Colorado ACLU announced today a settlement agreement with the Colorado State Patrol that will resolve a federal court lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of Jason Alan Kemp, who was shot and killed at his Grand Junction home in 2010 when he refused to allow state troopers into his home without a warrant.
To settle the lawsuit, the State Patrol will pay over $1 million to Jason’s family and will also implement new training modules for all current and future officers to include specific instruction on the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment and its limited exceptions. The new training will also emphasize de-escalation tactics and the limits on officers’ permissible use of force. The agreement provides for ACLU lawyers to review the new training curriculum and to attend and monitor training sessions.
“ACLU lawyers were prepared to prove not only that state troopers violated the Constitution when they unjustifiably kicked in Jason Kemp’s front door and shot and killed him, but also that supervisors all the way up the chain of command were responsible for recklessly deficient training that was the ultimate cause of this needless and preventable death,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “To its credit, the State Patrol has now agreed to major policy and training reforms—which ACLU will monitor–aimed at ensuring that all state troopers are thoroughly instructed on the limits of their constitutional authority. It is our hope that these reforms will prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.”
According to the lawsuit, troopers Kirk Firko and Ivan Lawyer were investigating a minor accident that resulted, at most, in minimal damage to a neighbor’s lawn. They suspected Jason Kemp was responsible and that he may have been driving under the influence of alcohol. When they knocked at his door, Kemp told the troopers to get a warrant. Instead of seeking a warrant, the troopers proceeded to break down Kemp’s front door, with guns drawn. When the door gave way, trooper Lawyer fired his weapon, killing the unarmed Kemp at the scene.
“Jason was killed because he did what every American has the right to do,” Silverstein said. “He insisted that police comply with the Fourth Amendment and obtain a warrant before entering a person’s home.”
In some cases, courts allow law enforcement to enter a home without a warrant if so-called “exigent circumstances” are present. In the settlement agreement, the State Patrol affirmed—and agreed to instruct all state patrol officers—that the risk that blood alcohol evidence might dissipate “does not constitute exigent circumstances sufficient to allow warrantless entry.” Similarly, state patrol officers also will be taught that a suspected DUI that results in no personal injury does not justify warrantless entry into a home.
According to the ACLU, discovery as the suit proceeded revealed systemic problems within the Colorado State Patrol. “The more we learned about the circumstances surrounding Jason’s death, the more it became clear that the poor decision-making by state troopers on the scene that resulted in Jason’s death reflected deep institutional failures in trooper supervision and training,” said Rebecca Wallace, ACLU Staff Attorney. “We uncovered compelling evidence that high-ranking supervisors had fostered a culture that encouraged the use of overly aggressive law enforcement tactics, even when those tactics posed a very real risk to public safety.”
The settlement agreement provides for comprehensive training on the Fourth Amendment at the Academy level, as well as on-the-job training related to investigations that lead troopers to homes, with a specific focus on DUI investigations in the home. This training is to be reviewed and monitored by the ACLU.
In 2011, a Mesa County grand jury indicted Firko and Lawyer for their actions in connection with Jason’s death, but the criminal charges were ultimately dismissed. “The result of the criminal cases meant that the ACLU’s civil action was the family’s only path to justice for Jason Kemp,” said Paul Karlsgodt, the ACLU Cooperating Attorney who led the litigation team. “And only through settlement was it possible to achieve these major changes in training and policy. The Colorado State Patrol is to be commended for coming to the negotiating table with a willingness to make significant changes aimed at preventing this kind of tragedy in the future.”
Statements of the parents of Jason Alan Kemp:
Connie Kemp, mother of Jason Alan Kemp
Ms. Kemp says, “I want to thank Baker Hostetler for working pro bono in cooperation with the Colorado ACLU to protect the public and provide hope for all the families affected by injustice against them. We are gratified that the legal costs incurred by this long, arduous fight have been donated to the ACLU. I want to say thank you to the ACLU on behalf of my son Jason and encourage the public to continue to support the Colorado ACLU. They collectively empower every citizen of Colorado.”
Keith Kemp, father of Jason Alan Kemp
Mr. Kemp says, “Many of our constitutional rights are in place to protect us from the government. The Colorado State Patrol are to protect and serve. Instead they violated the constitution and in the process ended Jason’s life. Jason died asserting his constitutional rights. Because the criminal charges filed against the state troopers were dismissed, this lawsuit was the only way to shine light on the injustice Jason suffered. The ACLU was instrumental in having the state of Colorado and the CSP change their way of doing business. With the ACLU’s vigilance, I hope no more lives will be lost.”
“It’s a huge shift,” Principal Greg Harkness said Thursday. It’s an unprecedented step among Kansas City area schools.
“But it’s one we need to do,” he said.
Not because the private Jesuit school has any extraordinary drug and alcohol abuse problems, Harkness said.
But because the school wants to help its students take a stand against illegal substances, and aid those at risk of abuse.
The new policy, announced Thursday, came after two years of research and discussion and retriggered an ongoing debate on the roles schools can and should play to influence their students’ lives.
Many members of Rockhurst’s junior class in the all-male school were involved in the conversations between school staff, trustees and parents as the policy was shaped.
Students in those meetings, like 17-year-old Matthew Brocato, anticipated some of the concerned reactions among students hearing the news for the first time, because he went through the same emotional swirl.
“When you hear ‘drug testing,’ you think cops,” Brocato said. “At first you’re taken aback. Is it for the better?”
But the purpose isn’t to punish students, he said. The school wants to help.
The first time a student tests positive, there will be no disciplinary consequences, but a confidential meeting will be held with a school counselor and the student’s parents.
A second positive test would go to the dean of students for possible discipline.
What students are learning through the process is that, while the pressure to use drugs or alcohol may sometimes be high, the actual amount of use among Rockhurst teens is not as high as many students think.
A testing policy will make it easier for students to turn down offers for drugs or beer.
“It’s helping the students out,” 16-year-old Dante Pennipede said. “I’ve seen kids succumb to peer pressure. This gives another reason not to.”
Rockhurst officials aren’t aware of any other Kansas City area schools that test all of their students. The nearest model they found was Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, an all-male religious private school that has been testing its students for six years.
Public schools’ drug-testing policies are restricted by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures. Supreme Court decisions have upheld public school policies that administer drug tests in limited ways, such as on students participating in extracurricular activities and students who drive themselves to school.
Several area public schools have limited testing policies.
Private schools, however, can test all students, just as private businesses can test prospective or current employees.
Organizations that oppose random drug testing of students argue that some research shows such policies do little to deter drug use.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance’s 2006 report argued that drug testing is not worth the cost.
Schools risk false-positive drug tests, they say. The tests take dollars away from other prevention programs. They can undermine trust and drive away students who might otherwise have gotten help in other school programming.
“Nothing prohibits it,” said Doug Bonney, the legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “But it is a colossal waste of money.”
Like Rockhurst, Christian Brothers College High School weighed many of these concerns when it opted to test its students six years ago, said the school’s president, Mike England.
“In our mind, it was a student health issue,” he said. “It would be in the best interest of our students to give them a reason to say ‘no.’”
The St. Louis school has used the testing company Rockhurst will use, Psychemedics, to take hair samples from students to detect drug use and evidence of binge drinking.
Families pay an annual fee of $60 per student to cover the program’s costs, England said. As with Rockhurst’s plan, Christian Brothers does not discipline students if they test positive for drugs or alcohol once, but tries to provide support.
Students who test positive a second time are asked to withdraw, England said, which he estimated happens three to five times a year.
The school saw a dip in enrollment from about 1,000 students to 930 after it started the program in the 2007-2008 school year, he said. Some of the decline might have been a reaction to the policy, but the declining economy also probably hurt enrollment.
But support for the policy overall has been strong, he said, and the drug testing is continuing. More than 99 percent of the tests this year were negative, he said.
Harkness said Rockhurst’s costs will be similar to Christian Brothers’ and that the fees can be covered under the existing fee structure for families.
The school’s leaders determined the testing would be a valuable aid in helping students in a world that is much different than when Harkness was a 1981 Rockhurst graduate, he said.
Family life is different. Both parents more often are working. Students’ lives are more programmed with after-school commitments. Students are coping with more intense competition for college while managing 700 Facebook friends.
“It’s profoundly different,” Harkness said. “A lot is riding on them.”
(Gothamist) – The NYCLU filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD today on behalf of a Brooklyn woman who was arrested and allegedly shoved by cops when she refused to stop filming a stop-and-frisk in her neighborhood in June. Hadiyah Charles, a health policy advocate for marginalized communities who was recognized as a Champion of Change by President Obama, was returning home to her Bed-Stuy apartment on the evening of June 5th when she spotted officers frisking three young men who appeared to be fixing a bicycle on the sidewalk. Charles started filming the cops with her cell phone, which is perfectly legal as long as one doesn’t “interfere” with police action. Just don’t try telling that to cops.
Charles says that when she asked the officers why the youths were being frisked, she was told it was “police business.” After inquiring a second time, officers told her the young men knew why. But they told her they had no idea why they were being patted down. At this point, Charles started taking video of the incident with her smartphone. Noticing this, the officers allegedly told her to step back repeatedly, far beyond any “reasonable distance” from the officers. One of the cops, Pamela Benites, allegedly followed Charles, ordering her to back further and further away, and finally shoved her when she wouldn’t stop, according to the lawsuit.
After being shoved, Charles says she asked to file a complaint. Instead, she says she was handcuffed and taken to the 79th Precinct station house, where she was detained in a cell for 90 minutes and then released with a disorderly conduct summons. At point during her detention, she says Officer Benites made derisive comments, including calling her a “street lawyer” and telling her, “This is what happens when you get involved.” Fearful that she would be detained longer if she stayed to file a complaint, Charles left the station house with her phone and purse at the first opportunity. According to an NYCLU spokesperson, she eventually lost her phone, and video of the incident disappeared with it.
The disorderly conduct charge against Charles was dropped in October. Her lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the NYPD, and the NYCLU was eager to take legal action on her behalf. “New Yorkers have a constitutional right to film police activity in public,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “This right is especially important in neighborhoods of color, like Bedford-Stuyvesant, that are the epicenters of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. It empowers residents to expose abuse policing and hold the NYPD accountable for violating people’s rights.”
NYPD officers have been repeeatedly criticized for violating witnesses’ and reporters’ constitutional right to document their conduct in public, and NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn says, “The NYPD should be training its officers to respect people’s constitutional right to film police activity in public. Good policing has nothing to fear from citizen oversight. Good policing embraces transparency.”
(Alternet) -Since the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties depends on high levels of public apathy, some of the most dangerous privacy breaches take place incrementally and under the radar; if it invites comparisons to Blade Runner or Orwell, then someone in the PR department didn’t do their job. Meanwhile, some of the biggest threats to privacy, like insecure online data or iPhone GPS tracking, are physically unobtrusive and therefore easily ignored. And it’ll beat least a year or two until the sky is overrun by spy drones.
So when a method of surveillance literally resembles a prop or plot point in a sci-fi movie, it helps to reveal just how widespread and sophisticated commercial and government monitoring has become. Here are five recent developments that seem almost unreal in their dystopian creepiness.
1. Buses and street cars that can hear what you say.
You can’t really go anywhere in America without being tracked by surveillance cameras. But seeing what people do is not enough; according to a report by the Daily, cities all over the country are literally bugging public transportation.
In San Francisco, city officials have plans to install surveillance cameras that record sound on 357 buses and trolley cars, the Daily reported. Eugene, Oregon and Columbus, Hartford and Athens, Georgia, also have audio recording plans in the works. The systems have the capacity to filter background noise and hone in on passengers’ conversations.
Officials have said that the system is merely intended to help resolve disputes between bus riders. San Francisco officials did not comment, but the Daily found a similar justification in procurement documents for the technology. “The purpose of this project is to replace the existing video surveillance systems in SFMTA’s fleet of revenue vehicles with a reliable and technologically advanced system to increase passenger safety and improve reliability and maintainability of the system.”
It’s nice that the Department of Homeland Security, which covered the entire cost of San Francisco’s system, is so committed to ensuring pleasant bus rides for passengers.
2. Mannequins that can see you.
A handful of retailers in the US and Europe are installing mannequins in their stores that can determine customers’ age, gender and race, Bloomberg reported last month. Don’t worry, the face recognition-equipped camera is hidden, so there is no way to tell whether the giant plastic dolls in the store are watching you as you shop. The company that developed the mannequins (named EyeSee) sells their attributes thusly:
This special camera installed inside the mannequin’s head analyzes the facial features of people passing through the front and provides statistical and contextual information useful to the development of targeted marketing strategies. The embedded software can also provide other data such as the number of people passing in front of a window at certain times of the day.
They are also developing audio technology that can pick up key words from customer conversations to help them tailor their marketing plans. A screen that displays advertising geared specifically to each customers’ demographic is also in EyeSee’s future.
Really, wouldn’t the ideal marketing scenario be if human customers were replaced by mannequins programmed to buy everything the other mannequins were selling?
3. Biometric time clocks.
For too long, employers lacked the ability to extract every second of labor from their workers with scientific precision. Thanks to the wonders of face recognition technology, many employees in low-wage workplaces are now required to log in to work on face recognition readers instead of using key cards or codes. Biometric time clocks like FaceIn, most commonly used at construction sites, create an avatar of the workers’ face that the machine keeps forever and that ages alongside the employee. Allegedly, it can tell twins apart.
Meanwhile, many fast food restaurants and retailers have started using biometric time clocks that record digital fingerprints, like the creepily named U.are.U digital fingerprint reader, to prevent employees from coming in late or giving out discounts.
4. Tagging children.
It’s probably best to train people in robotic discipline early, and many US schools, aided by surveillance technology vendors, are on it. Last month, a Texas sophomore sued her school district for making students carry RFID chips that tracked their movements, but that’s just the start. School administrators all over the country use CCTV cameras, RFID chips, and GPS tracking to moniter where students go and what they do, as David Rosen reported for AlterNet. One pilot program for middle schoolers used GPS to make sure kids aren’t late:
Each school day, the delinquent students get an automated “wake-up” phone call reminding them that they need to get to school on time. In addition, five times a day they are required to enter a code that tracks their locations: as they leave for school, when they arrive at school, at lunchtime, when they leave school and at 8pm. These students are also assigned an adult “coach” who calls them at least three times a week to see how they are doing and help them find effective ways to make sure they get to school.
5. Biometric databases.
Federal agencies ranging from the DoD to the FBI to the DHS are revamping their databases to include iris scans, voice patterning, measures of gait, face recognition, and records of scars and tattoos. They also have a mandate to indiscriminately share this information between agencies and with unnamed foreign entities.