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Finally, a legal challenge to US warrantless wiretapping that beats the Catch-22


Last October, the Justice Department made a seemingly cosmetic change to its procedures related to NSA surveillance: requiring prosecutors to tell defendants when the evidence against them originated with a warrantless wiretap (remember that the NSA made a practice of handing warrantless wiretapping data over to the DEA and other agencies, who would then request a warrant in order to create a plausible, public source of evidence).

But that change made all the difference. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that you couldn't sue the government over warrantless wiretapping unless you had direct evidence that you'd been spied on. The catch? The only way to get evidence that you'd been spied on was to sue the government, which you couldn't do without evidence.

The first defendant to be notified that the case against him was built on warrantless wiretaps is an Uzbek human rights activist who lives in Colorado, named Jamshid Muhtorov. Under the new rules, Muhtorov now has the evidence he needs to challenge the government's program of warrantless surveillance -- and that's just what he's doing. The ACLU has taken his case, and have filed a motion [PDF] challenging the evidence against him.

A win for Muhtorov would be a win for America, and for everyone who believes that you can't fight crime while ignoring the law.

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Humiliating airport pat-down for breast cancer survivor: an update on Lori Dorn's JFK incident

The health blog "Well" at the New York Times covers the case of Lori Dorn, a 44-year-old New York woman and friend of Boing Boing who learned in March that she had breast cancer. Over the weekend, I blogged here at Boing Boing about a horrible experience she had going through the TSA screening at JFK airport.

After tests revealed a high genetic risk for cancer, Ms. Dorn underwent a bilateral mastectomy in April as well as a grueling chemotherapy treatment that just ended in September. As part of her breast reconstruction, tissue expanders were implanted to stretch her skin before placement of a permanent breast implant.

But Ms. Dorn says that last week, on her way to San Francisco to visit friends, she was treated with hostility and humiliated after the tissue expanders were detected by a body scanning machine at Kennedy Airport in New York. She said the workers from the Transportation Security Administration would not let her retrieve a medical card explaining the implants, a situation she wrote about on her blog.

You can read Lori's first person account here, and my previous blog post is here. As Lori explains there and to the New York Times reporter, she went through a scan at the screening point, and wasn't even opposed to being patted down—she just wanted a chance to explain her medical situation and be taken to a private area for the physical pat-down. She said that was never offered. The TSA has since issued a statement.