Tag Archives: Injustice

Outrage Grows Over Justice Department Seizure of Associated Press Phone Records

bad-copCritics condemn Holder’s secret subpoena as an ‘abuse of power.’

When the news broke yesterday afternoon it was at first hard to believe, yet, when one thought about it for a bit, it seemed all too part of a pattern. The Associated Press itself broke the news that the US Department of Justice had notified AP last Friday that it had secretly obtained telephone records for more than twenty separate telephone lines assigned to AP journalists and offices (both cell and home phone lines).

Their report continued, “AP is asking the DOJ for an immediate explanation of the extraordinary action and for the records to be returned to AP and all copies destroyed. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt protested the massive intrusion into AP’s newsgathering activities in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder…. Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual and largely unprecedented.”

Of course, the Obama administration has aggressively gone after leakers and brought six cases against whistleblowers, more than previous administrations combined.

Pruitt (who I met several times a few years back when he headed McClatchy), wrote:

There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know. We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.

Kathleen Carroll, the longtime AP executive editor, said on MSNBC this morning: “I’ve been in this business more than thirty years and our First Amendment lawyers and our lawyers inside the AP and our CEO is also a well-known First Amendment lawyer—none of us have seen anything like this.”  Glen Greewwald at The Guardian hits the DOJ, as you might expect.

While no explanation was given, speculation quickly centered on an AP scoop from last May about a foiled terror plot coming out of Yemen, involving plans to blow up an airliner bound for the United States.

Response was swift and angry—from left and right (the latter perhaps mainly happy to have another Obama “scandal” to exploit), all the way to The Daily Showlate in the dayBen Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project called it an “abuse of power.” The Newspaper Association of America, a leading trade group, declared, “These actions shock the American conscience and violate the critical freedom of the press protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Others defended the move, noting that it had been handled through proper channels—that is, a judge had approved it. The White House said it had no involvement in the action at all.

This New York Times story offers a fair look. Ex–newspaper reporter Charles P. Pierce calls for Eric Holder’s resignation. Here’s a tough response from EFF, including:

It is disturbing enough that the government appears to have violated its own regulations for subpoenas to the news media. However, this revelation also shows that we have a severe problem in protecting the privacy of our communications. It is critical to update our privacy laws and our understanding of the Constitution, and reflect the realities of what law enforcement can determine from our records and other metadata about our communications stored with our communications providers, be they phone companies, ISPs or social networks.

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DOJ: We Don’t Need Warrants For E-mail, Facebook chats…

The new threat to Americans is the government itself.  The DOJ thinks that it is above the law and the Constitution that rules this land.  The United States Department of Justice and FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans, emails, Facebook chats, twitter, direct messages and other private files.  I will say it again.  Enough is enough.  We the ‘People’ need to take a stand against the government that no longer serves the people, but is more out to rule and dictate the people by illegal means.

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The headlines in today’s news are very frightening.  In this day and age where the government is trying to take our guns, police are violating our rights and the government fails to obey and adhere to the Constitution itself.  These are scary times my friend.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.

Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they’re not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access to e-mail correspondence.

The U.S. attorney for Manhattan circulated internal instructions, for instance, saying a subpoena — a piece of paper signed by a prosecutor, not a judge — is sufficient to obtain nearly “all records from an ISP.” And the U.S. attorney in Houston recently obtained the “contents of stored communications” from an unnamed Internet service provider without securing a warrant signed by a judge first.

“We really can’t have this patchwork system anymore, where agencies get to decide on an ad hoc basis how privacy-protective they’re going to be,” says Nathan Wessler, an ACLU staff attorney specializing in privacy topics who obtained the documents through open government laws. “Courts and Congress need to step in.”

The Justice Department’s disinclination to seek warrants for private files stored on the servers of companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft continued even after a federal appeals court in 2010 ruled that warrantless access to e-mail violates the Fourth Amendment. A previously unreleased version of an FBI manual (PDF), last updated two-and-a-half years after the appellate ruling, says field agents “may subpoena” e-mail records from companies “without running afoul of” the Fourth Amendment.

The department did not respond to queries from CNET Tuesday. The FBI said in a statement that:

 

 In all investigations, the FBI obtains evidence in accordance with the laws and Constitution of the United States, and consistent with Attorney General guidelines. Our field offices work closely with U.S. Attorney’s Office to adhere to the legal requirements of their particular districts as set forth in case law or court decisions/precedent.

 

Not all U.S. attorneys have attempted to obtain Americans’ stored e-mail correspondence without a warrant. The ACLU persuaded a judge to ask whether warrantless e-mail access has taken place in six of the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ offices — including the northern California office that’s prosecuted an outsize share of Internet cases. The answer, according to assistant U.S. attorney Christopher Hardwood, was “no.”

Still, the position taken by other officials — including the authors of the FBI’s official surveillance manual — puts the department at odds with a growing sentiment among legislators who insist that Americans’ private files should be protected from warrantless search and seizure. They say the same Fourth Amendment privacy standards that require police to obtain search warrants before examining hard drives in someone’s living room, or a physical letter stored in a filing cabinet, should apply.

After the IRS’s warrantless e-mail access policy came to light last month, a dozen Republican and Democratic senators rebuked the agency. Their letter (PDF) opposing warrantless searches by the IRS and signed by senators including Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said: “We believe these actions are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Steven Miller, the IRS’ acting commissioner, said during a Senate hearing that the policy would be changed for e-mail. But he left open the possibility that non-email data — Google Drive and Dropbox files, private Facebook and Twitter messages, and so on — could be accessed without a warrant.

Albert Gidari, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm who represents technology companies, said since the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2010 ruling in U.S. v. Warshak, the Justice Department has generally sought court warrants for the content of e-mail messages, but is far less inclined to take that step for non-email files.

Before the Warshak decision, the general rule since 1986 had been that police could obtain Americans’ e-mail messages that were more than 180 days old with an administrative subpoena or what’s known as a 2703(d) order, both of which lack a warrant’s probable cause requirement and are less privacy protective. Some e-mail providers, including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook, but not all, have taken the position after Warshak that the Fourth Amendment mandates warrants for e-mail all over the country.

The 180-day rule stems from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was adopted in the era of telephone modems, BBSs, and UUCP links, and long before gigabytes of e-mail stored in the cloud was ever envisioned. Since then, the appeals court ruled in Warshak, technology had changed dramatically: “Since the advent of e-mail, the telephone call and the letter have waned in importance, and an explosion of Internet-based communication has taken place. People are now able to send sensitive and intimate information, instantaneously, to friends, family, and colleagues half a world away… By obtaining access to someone’s e-mail, government agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities.”

A phalanx of companies, including Amazon, Apple, AT&T, eBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Twitter, as well as liberal, conservative, and libertarian advocacy groups, have asked Congressto update ECPA to make it clear that law enforcement needs a warrant to access private communications and the locations of mobile devices.

In November, a Senate panel approved the e-mail warrant requirement, and acted again last month. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose district includes the heart of Silicon Valley,introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

The political pressure, coupled with public petitions and increased adoption of cloud-based services, has had an effect. In 2011, James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general,warned that requiring search warrants to obtain stored e-mail could have an “adverse impact” on criminal investigations. By March 2013, however, Elana Tyrangiel, an acting assistant attorney general, indicated that the department would acquiesce on some privacy reforms.

“They dropped their opposition in Congress, but they’re going to try to wiggle out from under the Fourth Amendment whenever possible,” says the ACLU’s Wessler. “They probably realize that they couldn’t figure out a way to respond to hard questions from Congress anymore.”

Separately, the New York Times reported Tuesday evening that the Obama administration may embrace the FBI’s proposal for a federal law mandating that tech companies build in backdoors for surveillance. CNET reported last year that the FBI has asked the companies not to oppose such legislation, and that the FBI has been building a case for a new law by collecting examples of how communications companies have stymied government agencies.

Last week, FBI former counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN that, in national security investigations, the bureau can access records of a previously-made telephone call. “All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not,” he said. Clementeadded in an appearance the next day that, thanks to the “intelligence community” — a likely reference to the National Security Agency — “there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.”

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Another Blant Act Of Profiling Motorcycle Club Members As Gang Members and Terroist

Should Foreign Hells Angels Be Allowed in the United States?

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has filed a lawsuit against several federal agency heads, claiming the group’s foreign members have been wrongfully banned from entering the United States.

Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas are named as defendants in the lawsuit, as the lawsuit claims their executive rules could be violating the Hells Angels’ constitutional rights.

The federal lawsuit contends that several foreign Hells Angels members applied for visas last year to attend one of the club’s major events in New Hampshire, and they were denied, based on their membership with the Hells Angels.

According to the lawsuit, “[m]any members” of the Hells Angels don’t have criminal records, and the club says it’s not a “criminal organization.”

On the other hand, the lawsuit recognizes that Homeland Security and the Department of State made an agreement to define the Hells Angels as a “known criminal organization” in the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual — thus making them ineligible to obtain a visa.

But the Hells Angels’ lawsuit claims this rule flies in the face of the congressional immigration legislation that allows immigration officials to deny visas for security reasons.

“Defendants will deny visas to all aliens based solely on their membership in a Hells Angels charter without further analysis into whether or not that individual seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in unlawful activity,” the lawsuit states.

The Hells Angels are ultimately seeking a permanent injunction against the rules that are keeping its members from getting visas — which would likely apply to other biker gangs listed by the State Department, like the Outlaws, Bandidos, and Mongols, as well as street gangs like MS 13 and the 18th Street gang.

Source: Valley Fever
Hells Angels Napolitano

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UPDATE – COPBLOCK

Cop Block Founder Guilty on Three Counts of Felony Wiretapping

It didn’t take long for a New Hampshire jury to find Adam “Ademo Freeman” Mueller guilty on three counts of felony wiretapping today, meaning he will spend three months in jail.

Mueller is already serving a 60-day sentence for an unrelated incident, so this sentence will likely be tacked on.

Although he could have been slapped with 21 years in prison, he ended up receiving a one-year sentence with nine months suspended, according to Twitter updates provided by fellow Cop Block members attending the trial.

He also received five years probation, which could land him in state prison for up to three years if violated.

Twitter updates also indicate it took about 30 minutes for the jury to reach its verdict.

While I wasn’t at the trial, it would probably have helped if he had retained an attorney instead of representing himself.

But Mueller has had success doing that in the past. However, even veteran lawyers would never risk representing themselves.

His crimes stem from phone calls he made to police and school officials which he recorded but did not inform them he was doing so. He then posted a video of the calls on the internet, which you can see above.

I called Cop Block co-founder Pete Eyre for more details but he did not answer because he is busy writing his own story on the verdict. I will try to update this when I get more information.

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Off The Path – Cop Block

Trial Starts Today for Cop Block Founder Facing 21 Years in Prison for Wiretapping Charges

In the age of citizen journalism where any citizen can pick up a camera and hold officials accountable, there are not many who have pushed the envelope are far as Adam “Ademo Freeman” Mueller.

The co-founder of Cop Block has found himself incarcerated numerous times over the years for his insistence on recording public officials in their public capacities.

He is incarcerated right now, serving 60 days on a resisting arrest charge, which actually is a result of a clerical screw-up.

But none of those stints in jail come close to his latest legal case in which he is facing up to 21 years in prison for felony wiretapping.

His trial, which begins today in Manchester, New Hampshire, has the potential to establish case law for years to come.

An acquittal will send the message that public officials do not have an expectation of privacy when they are speaking as public officials to a citizen on a telephone call.

A guilty verdict will send the message that police can record us without our consent but we can’t record them.

That, after all, is what law enforcement officials from all levels have been vying for all along.

We’ve seen so many wiretapping cases over the years, only for them to get thrown out of court because they usually consist of a citizen recording a cop in public where police have no expectation of privacy.

In fact, Mueller was acquitted on wiretapping charges last year in an incident where he was video recording cops in public in Massachusetts.

But this case is a little different in that he recorded a public official over the phone without specifically informing them that he was recording.

It wasn’t as if he recorded anything confidential, embarrassing or even that revealing. They basically gave him little or no comment and hung up the phone.

But in this age of citizen journalism, public officials will do all they can to keep citizens in check if it helps them from being kept in check.

The case stems from an incident at a New Hampshire high school where a student video recorded a police officer beating up another student.

School officials ordered the student to delete the footage and he acted as if he did, but kept the clip showing the beating and gave it Cop Block, who turned it into a national story.

Mueller than recorded a video of himself calling the Manchester Police Department and the West High School in the same city, seeking comment about the incident from officials.

He didn’t inform them that he was recording, but he did identify himself from Cop Block and it was clear that he was seeking official comment because he didn’t beat around the bush with informalities.

The cop hung up the phone on him in a matter of seconds and it is believed police record all incoming calls into the station.

And the school official answered a few questions in a manner that it was clear she was speaking on the record before hanging up the phone.

The New Hampshire wiretapping law, which specifically states that police can record citizens without their consent, states the following:

A person is guilty of a class B felony if, except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter or without the consent of all parties to the communication, the person:

(a) Willfully intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any telecommunication or oral communication;

To fully interpret the law, we must read the legal definitions of the terms used.

I. “Telecommunication” means the transfer of any form of information in whole or in part through the facilities of a communications common carrier. “Telecommunication” does not include any communication made through a tone-only paging system or from a tracking device.

II. “Oral communication” means any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting in expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation.

III. “Intercept” means the aural or other acquisition of, or the recording of, the contents of any telecommunication or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device.

In layman’s terms, a person is guilty of wiretapping if he records a conversation with a person who is under the impression that the call is not being recorded.

It was clear from the conversation that Mueller was seeking on-the-record comments and it was clear from the responses of both police and the school official that they were well aware of that.

We’ve seen how cops act when they don’t believe they are being recorded and when they are aware they are being recorded. It’s the difference between night and day.

Furthermore, these are all tax-funded public officials who were called at their tax-funded public institutions while working for their tax-funded salaries.

It may have been a little different if Mueller had called them at home after hours.

Mueller, who is representing himself, plans to use the Glik vs Boston landmark decision as one of his arguments, even though that stemmed from a case in which a man was openly video recording cops in a public park.

But if you read through the decision, you can see where it can apply in his case.

Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218 (1966).

Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'” First Nat’l Bank, 435 U.S. at 777 n.11 (alteration in original) (quoting Thomas Emerson, Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment (1966)). This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.

It was obvious from Mueller’s questions that he was seeking information to disseminate to the public.

And while some may argue that he conducted himself unethically by not informing them he was recording, the fact that he publicized his conversations shows that he was acting as transparent as possible. Nobody can accuse him of twisting their statements to his advantage.

Perhaps prosecutors are aware of this, which is why have already offered him several plea deals, which he has refused.

In fact, prosecutor Michael Valentine visited Mueller in jail and told him that if the jury found him guilty, he would ask the judge for a six-month sentence to be following by a two-year probationary “good behavior” period that could land Mueller in prison for up to two years if violated, the same conditions that he offered in the plea deal which shows Mueller had nothing to lose by rejecting the plea deals.

Don’t be surprised if they offer him even a better deal before the trial even starts.

Another fact that could possibly work in Mueller’s favor is the fact that New Hampshire passed a jury nullification law in June, which would allow defense attorneys to inform juries that they have the right to acquit citizens who violate laws that they find objectionable.

This would be a perfect case for jury nullification, especially in a libertarian-minded state like New Hampshire.

The only problem is that the law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2013.

But that didn’t stop Mueller’s supporters from standing outside the courthouse last week to hand out jury nullification pamphlets to potential jurors.

And court officials didn’t seem to have a problem with that, according to the Union Leader.

The pamphlets provided information about jury nullification, and a hung jury, which is when a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict and the defendant is either retried, or the case is dropped.

Clerk of Court John Safford said some of the people called for jury duty had been handed the pamphlets, but nothing was made of it by court officials.

The Union Leader, which is Manchester’s main newspaper, also reported on the new law last month, which means there is a decent chance the jurors will already know about their right to acquit a defendant of a law that allows public officials to remain unaccountable.

And that’s what this case is all about. There was no invasion of privacy, which is what the wiretapping laws were created to protect.

This was simply a journalist seeking statements from public officials at a public institution on the public’s dime.

That is not only protected by recent case law. It is protected by the First Amendment.

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