Archive | Surveillance State

SCOTUS takes cellphone tracking case

The U.S. Supreme Court

This will be interesting. Is it search and seizure? We’ll see:

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide how much privacy Americans are entitled to in cellphone tracking data that can reflect their location and movement.

The justices announced Monday that they will rule on whether a search warrant should be required before authorities obtain information from mobile-phone companies that can reflect a user’s approximate movements in the past. The method traces which phone tower a device was connected to and which set of antennas on the tower were used.

The case was brought by a man convicted in a string of armed robberies in Michigan based on “cell site location information” the FBI obtained with a court order, but without a warrant requiring probable cause. The Trump administration had urged the justices not to hear the case, which will likely be argued in the fall, but civil liberties and privacy advocates encouraged the court to take up the issue.

Lower courts have generally ruled that a warrant is not required for such data because it is voluntarily shared by users with third parties, namely the telephone companies. Critics say the precedents behind those decisions are outdated in light of the realities of life in the digital age.

What the NSA has on Trump

Intelligence Chiefs Tell Trump to Take a Hike

Former NSA analyst John Schindler writes about an unusual townhall held by director Mike Rogers this week:

This week’s town hall event, which was broadcast to agency facilities worldwide, was therefore met with surprise and anticipation by the NSA workforce, and Rogers did not disappoint. I have spoken with several NSA officials who witnessed the director’s talk and I’m reporting their firsthand accounts, which corroborate each other, on condition of anonymity.

In his town hall talk, Rogers reportedly admitted that President Trump asked him to discredit the FBI and James Comey, which the admiral flatly refused to do. As Rogers explained, he informed the commander in chief, “I know you won’t like it, but I have to tell what I have seen”—a probable reference to specific intelligence establishing collusion between the Kremlin and Team Trump.

Rogers then added that such SIGINT exists, and it is damning. He stated, “There is no question that we [meaning NSA] have evidence of election involvement and questionable contacts with the Russians.” Although Rogers did not cite the specific intelligence he was referring to, agency officials with direct knowledge have informed me that DIRNSA was obviously referring to a series of SIGINT reports from 2016 based on intercepts of communications between known Russian intelligence officials and key members of Trump’s campaign, in which they discussed methods of damaging Hillary Clinton.

NSA employees walked out of the town hall impressed by the director’s forthright discussion of his interactions with the Trump administration, particularly with how Rogers insisted that he had no desire to “politicize” the situation beyond what the president has already done. America’s spies are unaccustomed to playing partisan politics as Trump has apparently asked them to do, and it appears that the White House’s ham-fisted effort to get NSA to attack the FBI and its credibility was a serious mistake.

It’s therefore high time for the House and Senate intelligence committees to invite Admiral Rogers to talk to them about what transpired with the White House. It’s evident that DIRNSA has something important to say. Since Mike Rogers is said to have kept notes of the president’s effort to enlist him in Trump’s personal war with the FBI, as any seasoned Beltway bureaucrat would do, his account ought to be impressively detailed.

Can customs and border officials search your phone? These are your rights

McCaskill Gets Firsthand Look at Security Efforts Along U.S.-Mexico Border

A NASA scientist heading home to the U.S. said he was detained in January at a Houston airport, where Customs and Border Protection officers pressured him for access to his work phone and its potentially sensitive contents. Last month, CPB agents checked the identification of passengers leaving a domestic flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy… Continue Reading →

Wikileaks again proves to be useful to Russia

With their latest leaks, seemingly timed to help Donald Trump while he’s under fire:

The documents not only describe these programs in some detail, but also provide step-by-step instructions on how to create and install the software or devices. WikiLeaks’ introduction, which summarizes the gist of these documents, criticizes the CIA for creating these malware programs, noting that once they’re out in the world, they can spread and be exploited by other users, including criminals. The irony is that, by providing the working papers for these programs, WikiLeaks has made that task much easier.

Again, there is nothing in these documents, nothing even in the WikiLeaks introduction, to suggest that the CIA uses any of these devices to spy on American citizens. Assuming that is the case, there is nothing improper about any of these programs. This is what spy agencies do: They spy. And in an age when information is stored or transmitted on digital devices, they spy on those digital devices.

The WikiLeaks documents are likely to have three effects: They will blow legitimate U.S. cyberintelligence operations; they will instruct other spy agencies, criminals, and mischief-makers on how to do what the CIA does; and they will provide yet another propaganda victory for Russia.

At a moment when nearly everyone is criticizing Russia for hacking the U.S. presidential election, the Russians can point to these documents and say, “See? The Americans do this, too.” It’s true that U.S. intelligence agencies have been hacking for decades, longer than the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Israelis, French, and others have been hacking. The process described in these documents—implanting devices or malware inside consumer electronics, then triggering those devices or tracking the malware—is also nothing new.


McConnell’s investigation isn’t enough

Dear President the United States Mr. Donald Trump , First Lady Mrs. Melania Trump ,Dear Vice President Mr.Mike Pence and Senate Majority Mr. Mitch McConnell

This morning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shrugged off calls for a Select Committee to investigate intelligence agencies’ meddling in the election while reassuring everyone that he was sure North Carolina Senator Burr would convene an investigation via regular order. Calling the allegations of Russian meddling “disturbing,” McConnell said the intelligence panel should take the lead,… Continue Reading →

Time to switch browsers

Googles DNI fund puts 24M into 124 news projects across Europe

This is a very important (and long) story that all of us should read:

Albright’s map also provides a clue to understanding the Google search results I found. What these rightwing news sites have done, he explains, is what most commercial websites try to do. They try to find the tricks that will move them up Google’s PageRank system. They try and “game” the algorithm. And what his map shows is how well they’re doing that.

That’s what my searches are showing too. That the right has colonised the digital space around these subjects – Muslims, women, Jews, the Holocaust, black people – far more effectively than the liberal left.

“It’s an information war,” says Albright. “That’s what I keep coming back to.”

But it’s where it goes from here that’s truly frightening. I ask him how it can be stopped. “I don’t know. I’m not sure it can be. It’s a network. It’s far more powerful than any one actor.”

So, it’s almost got a life of its own? “Yes, and it’s learning. Every day, it’s getting stronger.”

The more people who search for information about Jews, the more people will see links to hate sites, and the more they click on those links (very few people click on to the second page of results) the more traffic the sites will get, the more links they will accrue and the more authoritative they will appear. This is an entirely circular knowledge economy that has only one outcome: an amplification of the message. Jews are evil. Women are evil. Islam must be destroyed. Hitler was one of the good guys.

What if someone hacked Julian Assange’s emails?

Ecuador confirms restrict access to the internet Julian Assange

To understand the exposure of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails by Wikileaks, it may be helpful to try a few simple thought experiments. What if the National Security Agency stole tens of thousands of emails from a politician in another country – or better yet, from a different politician here – and then published them… Continue Reading →

Connecticut cracking down on out of state car registrations

Bob Dylan's 115th Dream

Yeah, not so much. While Connecticut has a very high media income, there are a lot of poor people. And if they’re registering in another state, they are trying to comply as best they can:

City officials in Waterbury, Conn. recently announced an aggressive crackdown on residents who register their cars out of state to avoid Connecticut’s high vehicles taxes. In a state where municipal taxes are collected annually on all motor vehicles, some residents who work or have family in neighboring states have opted to register their cars out of state. In attempt to squeeze every last penny for the state’s dwindling coffers, the city’s police department, in conjunction with the tax authority, has contracted with a private firm to photograph and track parked vehicles every night.

The city’s move is drawing criticism from some who say the plan is a violation of their civil rights. For car owners who live in Waterbury – regardless of where the automobile is registered – the city’s new plan could be a privacy nightmare. Once tracking data is compiled and suspect vehicles are identified, the police will assign light-duty officers to investigate and issue citations. Penalties can include back taxes and fines up to $1,000.

Municipal Tax Services, a central Connecticut-based company, will begin assisting the city by deploying vehicles equipped with high-speed cameras. As the company’s private patrol cars cruise the city each night, they will be taking photos of every vehicle parked on city’s streets – including the license plates. The company will then build a database and profile the parking patterns of all vehicles to determine which cars are suspected of using out-of-state registrations to dodge taxes.

While residents in Washington, D.C. may not be trying to avoid taxes, there is a similar scenario playing out on this city’s streets. Pursuant the District’s Registration of Out-of-State Automobiles – or ROSA – regulation, the Department of Public Works does monitor the streets for vehicles that do not comply with District registration requirements.

Washington’s program is far less intrusive than the one currently being implemented in Connecticut. According to the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, any vehicle parked or operated in the District for 30 consecutive days must be registered and display a valid DMV inspection sticker and tags. During normal work rounds, DPW personnel make note of any vehicle not in compliance twice in a 30-day period.

Once an offending vehicle is identified, DPW may issue a warning to notify the owner of compliance violations. Owners then have the option of requesting a ROSA exemption as a recurring visitor to the District. ROSA exemptions may be obtained in person, by mail, or online at the DMV website and apply only to the ROSA enforcement and no other parking provisions.

In Connecticut, the city of Waterbury will be actively collecting license plates and storing them by the location where they were photographed.

Peter Billings commented, “While there is an element of Big Brother to the program, vehicle owners who rely on street-side parking may have little recourse when it comes to objections to the city’s intrusive activity.”

An “element” of Big Brother? Ya think?

The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed numerous iterations of Fourth Amendment claims in the criminal context, but the situation in Waterbury, Conn. carries no criminal aspect. It is a civil matter concerning the tax authority – and while a penalty may be imposed for violating the vehicle registration rules, it is not one imposed by a criminal court.

Though residents may face obstacles in raising a Fourth Amendment challenge, the Supreme Court has issued some case law that may hold promise. In 2012 the Court held that installing a GPS on a car for a month was a Fourth Amendment violation because, while anyone could watch where the vehicle travelled, the accumulation of the observations and data over time was excessively intrusive.

Additionally, there are two fundamental rights in the Connecticut surveillance issue that might tentatively be addressed in the context of the First Amendment. They include the right to privacy, and the closely related right of anonymity – a form of privacy that comes with being in public places, but correlates to freedom from identification. Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested in a 2012 concurring opinion that a new definition of privacy may be warranted to address the growing encroachment of technology and “whether people reasonably expect that their movements will be recorded and aggregated.”
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