Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged terrorism

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On Christmas Eve, the NSA released 12 years worth of internal reports that included information revealing they illegally withheld reports and were the subject of a FOIA lawsuit in 2009.

According to Bloomberg:

The heavily-redacted reports include examples of data on Americans being e-mailed to unauthorized recipients, stored in unsecured computers and retained after it was supposed to be destroyed, according to the documents. They were posted on the NSA’s website at around 1:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

In a 2012 case, for example, an NSA analyst “searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting,” according to one report. The analyst “has been advised to cease her activities,” it said.

The NSA released the documents in response to an ACLU lawsuit.

In the FY2006 1Q page 8 section c, there is this bit of information:

(TS//SI//NF) As a result of receiving advanced training on USSID SP0018 and associated SIGINT directives, an NSA intern reported that a co-worker had misused the SIGINT system to target his foreign girlfriend [REDACTED]. The OIG is investigating the alleged violation and will report the outcome of the inquiry.

If agents are so easily corruptible that they are willing to track people illegally because of a personal interest, what else are they willing to do?

If you read in between the redactions, what you’re seeing is the processes of handling database queries that are scraping information they shouldn’t.

The heavily redacted reports are available in multiple PDFs on the NSA website.

For more information on how this works, watch the PBS Frontline documentary United States of Secrets or read the Harvard Law Review article “Data Mining, Dog Sniffs, and the Fourth Amendment.”

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Chicago police have announced they plan to stop rush hour public transit riders before they pass through turnstiles and screen their bags for explosives. There is no threat. The police see this as a proactive approach to terrorism that doesn’t exist.

There is “no known terrorist threat” that prompted the new procedure slated to begin the week of Nov. 3, Nancy Lipman, Chicago police commander for public transportation, said Friday at a news conference announcing the initiative.

So, there is no threat, yet the city of Chicago is going to toss out civil liberties just because they can.

Chicago police spokesman Marty Maloney says the security measure is a “proactive, protective measure.”

Proactive and protective of whom? There is no threat.

“We know that surface transportation has been targeted in other places in the past [Madrid, New York, London, Russia] and want to take whatever precautions possible,” Maloney told RedEye.

So, surface transportation has been targeted in one other American city, but three others in Europe are being tossed in to add a fear factor and justification for the city of Chicago.

Amtrak and the New York City and Washington transit stations employ a similar screening measure, Lipman said.

This is akin to, “if all your other friends are doing it, you might as well do it, too.”

Chicago police say they will randomly select one rail station each day to set up the screening table outside the rail turnstiles during rush hour. Lipman said most of the stations will be downtown but other stops will be included as well.

Soon after the tables are put up, thousands of people will find out about it via the Internet and newly created apps and most people will avoid this stop.

A team of four to five officers will man the table, which will have two explosives testing machines.

Police will approach riders, whom they have randomly selected by picking a random number that morning, Lipman said.

For example, if police pick the number 10, they will ask the 10th person who enters the station, then the 20th and so on, Lipman said.

Police say they will swab the outside of the bags but will not open them during the test.

They won’t open them, for now. As soon as everyone complies with this “randomness” the test will require searches of bags.

Riders who pass the test are free to enter the turnstiles. Officers will ask to inspect the bags of riders who fail the test. Police say the machines are testing the presence of explosives, not drugs.

Again, for now. This has been done before.

The whole process should take “less than a minute,” Lipman said during the Friday press conference at the Clinton stop on the Green and Pink lines. “We expect it to have no impact on a customer’s commute time.”

Riders who refuse to have their bag swabbed won’t be allowed to get on the train—in fact they’ll be ordered to leave the station. But they can head to another station to board the train, police said.

Because this is being done during rush hour, it will probably be just as easy to leave the train station and return a few moments later and the police won’t notice simply because there’s too many people.

Or, if police suspect the rider is involved in “further suspicious activity, and if we determine that probable cause exists to stop him/her for questioning, we might do so,” Maloney said.

“Further suspicious activity” is conveniently not described and intentionally vague. All for your safety of course. This won’t be abused.

Riders who say no to the swabbing but try to enter that station’s turnstiles face arrest, police say.

And your free movement within the United States is restricted in the name of a non-existent threat to your safety.

The screenings at stations will occur “several times a week,” police said.

Good luck, Chicago. Please fight against this ridiculousness.

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Julian Sanchez joins Trevor Burrus and Matthew Feeney for a discussion on the surveillance state. If the government’s been spying on us for decades, what’s new now? Why is bulk data collection so particularly nefarious? What is metadata anyway, and what does the government do with it? Does the government actually catch terrorists through mass surveillance? Why do people treat terrorism differently from other violent crimes? The defenders of surveillance always say “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of” —does this justification hold water?

Julian Sanchez is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, where he studies issues at the busy intersection of technology, privacy, and civil liberties, with a particular focus on national security and intelligence surveillance.

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The San Jose and Davis police departments are returning their military equipment obtained from the government.

Citing fears after seeing images of Ferguson, the city of Davis, California is set to return its armored vehicle.

The police wanted to keep the vehicle. The city said no.

The Davis Police Department now has 60 days to get rid of a $689,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle, which police acquired through a U.S. Defense Department program, and must consider other rescue vehicle options.

The Davis Police Department took possession of the free vehicle two weeks ago through the Defense Department’s 1033 program — administered by the California Office of Emergency Services — which is aimed at repurposing federal and military equipment for local law enforcement.

Through the program, the police department has obtained a number of free surplus military hardware, including body armor, binoculars, riot helmets and training rifles.

San Jose police will be returning its mine-resistant armored truck.

San Jose police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol told KCBS the decision was made based on concerns for potential damage to the department’s image and community relationships.

“We want to keep their trust. We don’t want them to feel we are going off on another path with our police department,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable about the tools that we use.”

Used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop transport, or MRAP, became a focus for debate after a military surplus vehicle and equipment were used at protests in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

According the San Jose Mercury News, Redwood City, South San Francisco, and Antioch, have decided to keep their armored transports.

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