UC Berkeley issues first-ever university transparency report


April writes, "The University of California-Berkeley has become the first university in the United States to publish a set of transparency reports that detail government requests for student, faculty, and staff data." Read the rest

Campus cops: all the powers of real cops, none of the accountability


Michael from Muckrock writes, "Want some transparency from your local police? Then public records law is probably on your side if you're in the US -- unless you happen to be a college student. MuckRock's Shawn Musgrave looks at the broad exemptions that give campus police almost all the rights and powers of regular cops, without any of the public accountability."

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For the first time ever, a judge has invalidated a secret Patriot Act warrant


Calyx is a privacy-oriented ISP. In 2004, the FBI brought its owner, Nicholas Merrill, a National Security Letter -- one of the USA Patriot Act's secret search warrants, which comes with a gag order prohibiting the recipient from ever disclosing its existence.

Merrill has fought the gag order for 11 years, refusing to give up despite government attempts to get the case booted and to run up the court costs beyond Merrill's ability to pay.

He had a partial victory in 2010, when he and the ACLU won a court victory that allowed him to disclose some elements of the NSL, but left important details -- including the categories of information the FBI believes it can request under an NSL -- still secret. This latest victory overturns that restriction.

The judge in this case, Judge Victor Marrero, also presided over a 2007 case that overturned part of the Patriot Act, requiring investigators to go through the courts in order to get NSLs. In his Calyx decision, he condemned the government's secrecy as "extreme and overly broad."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision invalidated the gag order in full, finding no “good reason” to prevent Merrill from speaking about any aspect of the NSL, particularly an attachment to the NSL that lists the specific types of “electronic communication transactional records” (“ECTR”) that the FBI believed it was authorized to demand. The FBI has long refused to clarify what kinds of information it sweeps up under the rubric of ECTR, a phrase that appears in the NSL statute but is not publicly defined anywhere.

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Interactive map of the swathes of England owned by offshore tax-dodgers

Whole regions of England are now owned by holding companies in tax-havens "from Panama to Luxembourg, and from Liechtenstein to the South Pacific island of Niue." Read the rest

NSA whistleblower James Bamford profiles Edward Snowden

Bamford was the first-ever NSA whistleblower, whose bravery led to the Church Commission and the unprecedented curbs on the agency's spying powers -- his long, sympathetic Wired profile of Snowden is full of insight and wisdom. Read the rest

Help crowdfund a relentless tsunami of FOIA requests into America's private prisons

Michael from Muckrock writes, "Investigative news site MuckRock is taking a broad look at how private prisons have rewritten state and local laws to ensure that they profit at the expense of inmates, staff, and taxpayers, even as reports indicate that promised savings are almost non-existent." Read the rest

FBI used Burning Man to field-test new surveillance equipment

The FBI's 2012 file on its Burning Man surveillance, obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, reveals that America's domestic spy agency for at least five years, and has been using the event as an opportunity to try out its latest toys, with help from Pershing County sheriff's deputies. Read the rest

The FBI kept files on author Ray Bradbury: "Definitely slanted against the United States"

Michael from Muckrock writes, "The FBI followed Ray Bradbury's career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare." Read the rest

Car information security is a complete wreck -- here's why

Sean Gallagher's long, comprehensive article on the state of automotive infosec is a must-read for people struggling to make sense of the summer's season of showstopper exploits for car automation, culminating in a share-price-shredding 1.4M unit recall from Chrysler, whose cars could be steered and braked by attackers over the Internet. Read the rest

America does a better job of tracking bee deaths than deaths in police custody

Michael from Muckrock writes, "The federal government has a pretty good picture of where bees are dying across America, with two federal agencies collaborating on a systematic, scientifically-rigorous, long-term look at the problem, particularly important given the danger that colony collapse disorder presented." Read the rest

Google covertly lobbied against net neutrality in India

The company emailed members of the Government Relations committee of the Indian ISP association, asking them to support Facebook's Internet.org program, which delivers "a poor Internet for poor people." Read the rest

MPAA loves fair use so much they don't want to share it with the rest of the world

The Hollywood studios always claim to be "pro-fair-use" but when the US Trade Representative made a move to put fair use into the Trans Pacific Partnership, the MPAA sent a scathing, furious letter to the Obama administration condemning "the inclusion of fair use' in free trade agreements" as "extremely controversial and divisive." Read the rest

Defector from Kremlin's outsourced troll army wins 1 rouble in damages

Lyudmila Savchuk was fired from St Petersburg's Internet Research -- the Kremlin's troll factory -- for talking to the media about her job posting messages rubbishing Putin's opponents to Internet forums. Read the rest

LAPD & Chicago bought "Stingrays on steroids" with asset-forfeiture & DHS money

The military surveillance devices known as "Dirtboxes" have been in secret operation for more than a decade, tracking citizens' locations and intercepting their calls, breaking the encryption on hundreds of calls at once. Read the rest

NSA kremlinology: spooks outsourced lawbreaking to AT&T

Last weekend's bombshell report on AT&T's enthusiastic cooperation with NSA mass surveillance revealed that the NSA categorized many of its most egregious spying programs as "Partner [AT&T] Controlled." Read the rest

AT&T was the NSA's enthusiastic top surveillance partner

All the phone companies helped the NSA commit mass surveillance, but the agency singled out Ma Bell as "highly collaborative" with an "extreme willingness to help." Read the rest

Pre-crime: DHS admits that it puts people on the no-fly list based on "predictive assessment"

A DoJ filing in an ACLU lawsuit in Oregon admits that you can be put on a no-fly list based on "predictive assessments about potential threats," as opposed to threatening or dangerous things you've actually said or done. Read the rest

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