Who Has The Right To Know Where Your Phone Has Been? : All Tech Considered : NPR

Who Has The Right To Know Where Your Phone Has Been? : All Tech Considered : NPR:

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Surveillance and Civil Liberties

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Shayana Kadidal titled “Surveillance and Civil Liberties.”  Kadidal is the senior managing attorney of the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative Center for Constitutional Rights.  This is based on the notes I took during the seminar about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.  The telecom procedural history has been left out because I am not sure I fully understand it.

After the Watergate scandal during the Nixon era, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  This allowed the government to legally acquire warrants for covert surveillance within the United States.  Since covert surveillance must be – prepare to be shocked – covert, such permissions could not be acquired through normal methods requiring disclosure as this would defeat the entire purpose.  To get such a warrant under FISA, a select panel of judges would have to approve the warrant ex parte, ideally so such surveillance could not be used all willy-nilly on everyone.  Also of relevance, certain communications were privileged and could not be recorded.  Lawyer-client conversations, for example, would require the surveillance team to stop recording and check back every minute to see if the conversation had moved past privileged material.  Sounds invasive, right?  The government can get a warrant ex parte and spy on someone without their knowledge.  Of course, if they knew they were being spied upon they may take precautions to avoid anything incriminating.  Now think of national security and terrorism.  Still feel like this is invasive?  Let us keep going, then.

NSA surveillance as we know it became a public issue when the New York Times published an article on the topic in late 2005.  Back then, if one party was out of the US and one was in the US and either party had suspected ties to terrorism, the NSA had permission to monitor the call without a warrant.  It is not entirely clear why the Bush administration sanctioned such drastic measures, but it probably means they wanted conversations outside of what would have been allowed under FISA.  Post-September 11th fears were high and with the goal of preventing another terrorist attack the government could get away with pretty much anything.  Not only did this new monitoring pose a concern for any person with foreign ties, it also created issues for lawyers.  Remember how lawyer-client conversations were off-limits?  Not anymore.  So for lawyers to ensure their conversations with their clients were not being monitored – in this case, trust issues are a good thing – they had to make sure conversations happened face-to-face.  As one can imagine, these counter-measures cost a lot in both monetary and other ways.  In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit because of this NSA chilling effect.  The same year, a similar case was brought forth by a small Islamic group who had proof they were under NSA surveillance – the government accidentally gave them a top secret document which turned out to be a transcript of an international telephone conference with board members and lawyers.  When they brought it forth as evidence, the government seized the document claiming it was a state secret and that even if they were guilty of a crime, this evidence could not be used.  With the government able to have any proof dismissed as state secrets, the case fell apart.  So too did the ACLU`s attempt – the judge required proof but the government was willing to have any proof removed as evidence.  A catch-22, if you will.

In 2008 the Bush administration passed the FISA Amendment Act, which gave the government greater authority but claimed to have safeguards to protect American citizens.  One hour after the Act was signed into law the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Act and took the issue up to the Supreme Court.  Despite valiant attempts to once more argue against all this NSA surveillance, the ACLU lost in a 5-4 vote.  The Supreme Court declared the issue would come up later in a criminal case and would be decided then.  Has this happened yet?  Of course not.  Similar surveillance programs have been running under different names with different legal authorities for decades.  Essentially, the focus keeps shifting like a shell game (three shells, one small object, mix them up and guess where it is).  If the program was turned down by a judge, the NSA would just go to Congress and have the law changed.  Now, with the Patriot Act, the government has the right to a lot more.

The most common data collected is metadata – essentially, all your communication records.  Telecom companies have been recording this for decades, and now the government has full access to who you called, when, and for how long.  All they do not have access to is the content of your conversation.  Think of it like an envelope – everything on the outside is fair game, on record, and can be accessed without a warrant.  If this is not enough, the government can seize corporate records under Section 215.  This means all your phone, internet, credit, banking, email, cloud storage, etc. records can be accessed so long as the government can convince the corporation to grant them access.  All the government needs is a subpoena.  The government does not believe the fourth amendment applies to metadata because of third-party data – and therefore your permission is not needed.  Are there any clear lines to mark out the boundaries of third-party data?  No.  There is a lot of contention about this issue with no resolution in sight.

As recent media reports have shown, there is no clear idea of who and what the government is after.  For civilians, this is more than vaguely reminiscent of Big Brother or those dreaded Communist states of the Cold War.  But more importantly, what about protected conversations like lawyers and clients or journalists and their sources?  In these relationships – perhaps more than most – trust is required.  How can there be trust when the government is monitoring every conversation?  Only when a client is under indictment is the conversation with their lawyer privileged.  Compare this back to the post-Watergate FISA.  At least then they had to have some proof of terrorist connections and reason to go after specific people.

The most common excuse for not caring is that Americans have nothing to fear.  However, polling data indicates that while the public is apathetic towards surveillance targeted at foreign nationals and potential terrorist threats, people are outraged by the idea the government would spy on them.

Can there be a more chilling message to conform than “America is not open to spying on ordinary people”?



Some more reading on the topic (from the ACLU)



Returned South Koreans 'entered North Korea via China'

This is yet another case of "escaped" North Koreans returning to North Korea.  Not that long ago, I read an article about a man who was shot by South Koreans trying to swim back to North Korea.  My reaction then and now is, "Why?"  I thought North Korea was a place people did whatever they could to escape, not a place people tried to return to later.

Why is this?  Why would people want to return to North Korea?  Is it - perhaps - that North Korea is not as bad as we in the "free West" believe?  Or is it a psychological factor we have not yet taken into account?  Perhaps it is something else altogether.  Quite frankly, I am baffled.

If anyone has any idea why this is, please tell me.  Honestly, I am very intrigued by this but have not found sufficient information on the matter.

BBC News - Returned South Koreans 'entered North Korea via China':

Homeless Veterans

There is no purple heart for post-traumatic stress.

Nothing pains me more than seeing homeless veterans.  In the morning I boot up my computer and open my web browser to read the news - BBC, NPR, Twitter, Human Rights Watch.  My day starts with how people are destroying each other around the world.  Yet, nothing upsets me more than homeless veterans.

Veterans are the brave men, women, and other individuals who fought for their country.  Whether or not I support the war or the reasons they fought, I support the individuals.  The way they are treated when they return home is more than disturbing.  They need help - lots of help.  War is traumatic and assistance veterans receive when they return is inadequate.


I would continue on this subject but I have an episode of Bones running in the background and it is one where they are trying to identify the remains of a homeless man.  They discover he actually perished from the injuries he sustained on September 11 when he helped save three lives at the Pentagon.  He was a homeless veteran of the first Iraq war who suffered brain damage from being in a munitions depot that blew up.  His friends died; he was the only survivor.  September 11 always makes me cry, as do soldiers.  And it makes me wonder about the people we as a society overlook.

Racing Pigeons Doped

This is not at all related to human rights.  In fact, this is not really all that relevant to a whole lot.  But, it is rather hilarious and today is Thursday, so happy Thursday!

In Belgium, racing pigeons were doped before races.  I kid you not.  Belgium has racing pigeons.  They race pigeons.  According to the BBC, it is a very lucrative sport.  Yea.  Racing pigeons.  I do not know about you, but when I see a flock of pigeons the idea of seeing which one is the fastest does not cross my mind.  But hey, that is just me.

Pigeons race.  Okay, it is a strange sport but why not.  No one gets hurt, like in dog fighting - right?  Well, no.  Apparently, they are being drugged before the races.  Yes, people are giving their pigeons performance-enhancing drugs.  Namely, cocaine and painkillers.

This raises a couple of questions for me.  First, who does that?  Second, what had to happen for someone to realize the pigeons were being doped?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24658278

The Arms Treaty Matters

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

This is true, but it is much easier to dodge a rock than it is to dodge a rocket launcher.  If you remove a lot of the dangerous weapons and arms militant, terrorist organizations use around the world then guess what!  Less people will be killed with them!  Does this mean they will stop killing people?  No, no it does not.  But does this make it a lot harder to inflict the same kind of death toll as they do now?  Yes, yes it does.

Imagine, if you will, a situation like the one in the Kenyan mall in which the attackers did not have guns.  They still could have inflicted a lot of damage, death, and pain with other weapons - a machete, for example - but they would have to get a lot closer to the victims first.  They would have had a much better chance at getting out alive.

So tell me now, why does the Arms Treaty not matter?

http://controlarms.org/en/

  

The Arms Treaty Matters

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

This is true, but it is much easier to dodge a rock than it is to dodge a rocket launcher.  If you remove a lot of the dangerous weapons and arms militant, terrorist organizations use around the world then guess what!  Less people will be killed with them!  Does this mean they will stop killing people?  No, no it does not.  But does this make it a lot harder to inflict the same kind of death toll as they do now?  Yes, yes it does.

Imagine, if you will, a situation like the one in the Kenyan mall in which the attackers did not have guns.  They still could have inflicted a lot of damage, death, and pain with other weapons - a machete, for example - but they would have to get a lot closer to the victims first.  They would have had a much better chance at getting out alive.

So tell me now, why does the Arms Treaty not matter?

http://controlarms.org/en/

  

The Arms Treaty Matters

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

This is true, but it is much easier to dodge a rock than it is to dodge a rocket launcher.  If you remove a lot of the dangerous weapons and arms militant, terrorist organizations use around the world then guess what!  Less people will be killed with them!  Does this mean they will stop killing people?  No, no it does not.  But does this make it a lot harder to inflict the same kind of death toll as they do now?  Yes, yes it does.

Imagine, if you will, a situation like the one in the Kenyan mall in which the attackers did not have guns.  They still could have inflicted a lot of damage, death, and pain with other weapons - a machete, for example - but they would have to get a lot closer to the victims first.  They would have had a much better chance at getting out alive.

So tell me now, why does the Arms Treaty not matter?

http://controlarms.org/en/

  

Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Today the world is talking about the US drone strikes in Pakistan as the Prime Minister is visiting the US president.  This is not because the PM is visiting - though the timing does coincide rather nicely - but rather drones are blowing up the news feeds (pardon the pun) because Amnesty International released a report calling for the investigation of potential war crimes.

War crimes.  Yes, that terrible, heinous accusation we usually save for dictators has been lobbied against the US president for the use of unmanned drones.  Two days ago the fear was drones are becoming the dreaded robots of sci-fi stories; now we are back to discussing the killing of civilians.

As you may or may not know, not ever drone strike hits an appropriate target.  Whether this is planned or not I have no comment or statement; I am only going by the reported evidence.  In case you were focused on other important issues over the past few months - the world has been busy violating human rights everywhere - there have been several drone strikes that killed civilians.  Some of them even seem to have been targeted.  Now, the US president has assured the world drone strikes will only be used against members of terrorist organizations (like Al-Qaeda) and the purpose is to reduce casualties, etc.  To an extent, this sounds reasonable, but of course the greatest fear was and still is accuracy.  What if the target is wrong?  There is no pilot to make a last minute judgement call and avoid a strike; this is all done remotely.  If civilians get in the way, well, too bad for them.

Is this fair at all?  No.  Not at all.  Civilians should never be caught in the cross-fire of war.  They already have to suffer the social, economic, and other consequences of war - why must we add a fear of being killed by a remote controlled robot to the list?

Killing civilians is a war crime.  If a dictatorship did the exact same thing, the world would be up in arms against it.  The US does it, and now we have people calling for an investigation.  Will this happen?  I do hope so.  If such atrocities are occurring - and I do seriously hope they are not - they must be investigated and prevented.  It matters.  So US, please do something about this.  Look into it.  Make sure it never happens again.

USA must be held to account for drone killings in Pakistan | Amnesty International:

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Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Today the world is talking about the US drone strikes in Pakistan as the Prime Minister is visiting the US president.  This is not because the PM is visiting - though the timing does coincide rather nicely - but rather drones are blowing up the news feeds (pardon the pun) because Amnesty International released a report calling for the investigation of potential war crimes.

War crimes.  Yes, that terrible, heinous accusation we usually save for dictators has been lobbied against the US president for the use of unmanned drones.  Two days ago the fear was drones are becoming the dreaded robots of sci-fi stories; now we are back to discussing the killing of civilians.

As you may or may not know, not ever drone strike hits an appropriate target.  Whether this is planned or not I have no comment or statement; I am only going by the reported evidence.  In case you were focused on other important issues over the past few months - the world has been busy violating human rights everywhere - there have been several drone strikes that killed civilians.  Some of them even seem to have been targeted.  Now, the US president has assured the world drone strikes will only be used against members of terrorist organizations (like Al-Qaeda) and the purpose is to reduce casualties, etc.  To an extent, this sounds reasonable, but of course the greatest fear was and still is accuracy.  What if the target is wrong?  There is no pilot to make a last minute judgement call and avoid a strike; this is all done remotely.  If civilians get in the way, well, too bad for them.

Is this fair at all?  No.  Not at all.  Civilians should never be caught in the cross-fire of war.  They already have to suffer the social, economic, and other consequences of war - why must we add a fear of being killed by a remote controlled robot to the list?

Killing civilians is a war crime.  If a dictatorship did the exact same thing, the world would be up in arms against it.  The US does it, and now we have people calling for an investigation.  Will this happen?  I do hope so.  If such atrocities are occurring - and I do seriously hope they are not - they must be investigated and prevented.  It matters.  So US, please do something about this.  Look into it.  Make sure it never happens again.

USA must be held to account for drone killings in Pakistan | Amnesty International:

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Criminal Law in Three Sentences

"There are some people that we, as society, fear.  In order to control these people that would harm society, we have an outline of statutes that say you cannot do this and if you do we are going to punish you.  We are going to punish you by locking you up and killing you."

This quote is taken directly from one of my criminal law lectures.  It beautifully sums up criminal law in three sentences.