TSA "Quiet Skies" surveillance program targets innocent U.S. citizens

Assigned to covertly observe and, if necessary, violently protect air travelers on flights which include passengers on a TSA terrorist watch list or on routes that are considered to have a higher probability of coming under attack in a terrorist action, federal air marshals have been a fixture on many flights since the September 11th attacks of 2001. That we seldom hear about the work that air marshals do is a very good thing. It means that we’re safe as we travel and that they’re very good at keeping a low profile as part of doing their job. It’s a gig that anyone should be proud to do. However, the pride that comes with quietly and professionally protecting folks may be in for a bit of tarnish thanks to a disturbing new program launched by the TSA called Quiet Skies.

As part of Quiet Skies, air marshals are being asked to step off of the flights that they’ve been assigned to protect to undertake a new detail: gathering intelligence on civilians who aren’t on a terrorist watchlist – regular folks like you and me. Unlike ICE, which giddily has accepted a larger number of troubling new powers and responsibilities from the federal government, the air marshals are voicing their concern with the new marching orders being given to them.

From The Boston Globe:

Since this initiative launched in March, dozens of air marshals have raised concerns about the Quiet Skies program with senior officials and colleagues, sought legal counsel, and expressed misgivings about the surveillance program, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Globe.

Read the rest “TSA "Quiet Skies" surveillance program targets innocent U.S. citizens”

Apple bends to Chinese government demands... again

One of the best reasons to buy a piece of Apple hardware, in my opinion, is the company’s history of protecting the privacy of its customers.

Provided you're not a customer living in China.

You may recall that, a while back, iOS users in China lost the ability to download most VPN clients to their phones and tablets from the iTunes App Store—the Chinese government doesn’t like their citizens to be able to anonymously access the Internet or view the world through the lens of unapproved news sources. So, Virtual Private Networks were kicked to the curb. According to 9to5mac, Apple is once again showing the Chinese government their soft underbelly, in the name of being able to continue to sell their hardware in the country.

According to 9to5mac, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has decided that they’d like Callkit—a developer framework that lets devs bake VoIP capabilities into their apps for iOS—to not be a thing for applications available to its citizens. You likely use Callkit-backed apps on a regular basis, without even knowing it. When your iPhone displays you the name or number of who’s calling you on Skype? That’s Callkit, doing it’s thing. The Chinese government doesn’t dig on Callkit because of the fact that it’s difficult, if not impossible to intercept and monitor calls made using it. Last summer, Skype was removed from the Apple’s Chinese App Store portal, likely for this very reason.

Look. Before anyone swoops in to say that I’m anti-Apple I wrote this post on a MacBook. Read the rest “Apple bends to Chinese government demands... again”

EFF Border Search Pocket Guide

From our friends at EFF: "A handy guide designed to be printed, folded, and carried in your pocket while traveling."

See also:

EFF presents: a guide to protecting your data privacy when crossing the US border Read the rest “EFF Border Search Pocket Guide”

To Do in L.A.: 'God's Eye View' author Barry Eisler in conversation with Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin

Xeni here, professional fangirl. I have long been a fan of Barry Eisler, former CIA covert operations guy turned novelist, and did we mention he's also a martial arts master? The dude is a walking futuristic spy story protagonist, and would fit neatly inside one of his own books. The latest of these is The God's Eye View, and I'll be discussing it with him on stage in Santa Monica, CA, Monday, February 22, 2016 at 8:00pm. It's an intimate venue. Buy your tickets before they sell out. Read the rest “To Do in L.A.: 'God's Eye View' author Barry Eisler in conversation with Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin”

How guards and prosecutors retaliate against solitary confinement prisoners who blow the whistle

The Dallas Six is a group of prisoners who were beaten, shocked and gassed by prison guards who had previously beaten them in retaliation for complaints about abuse in solitary confinement. Read the rest “How guards and prosecutors retaliate against solitary confinement prisoners who blow the whistle”

WATCH: More private companies gather license plate data

It's no secret that license plate data is big business. Here's a demo of how these companies gather data as they troll parking lots and public streets gathering indiscriminate license plate info, looking for matches on other databases. Read the rest “WATCH: More private companies gather license plate data”

Time's infamous "cyberporn" scare story author looks back 20 years later

In 1995 Time magazine published a cover story about online pornography that gave grandstanding politicians an excuse to try to censor the Internet. The politicians would have succeeded, if it weren't for the efforts of civil libertarians, especially Mike Godwin, who was staff counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation at the time.

The "Cyberporn" article was written by Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who relied almost exclusively on a research paper that was completely fraudulent. Elmer-DeWitt is now a writer for Fortune, and he wrote an essay about how his "Cyberporn" article nearly ruined him:

The problem with the story, which I sensed as I was writing it but was too green, too ambitious, too scared of losing my cover slot to address, was the news hook—the “report coming out this week” that I’d pitched to the editors as a Time Magazine exclusive guaranteed to make a splash.

The report—an undergraduate research paper published in a law journal—made a splash all right, but not the kind that reflected well on me or the magazine.

It was immediately attacked from several quarters. By civil liberties groups who saw it as an assault on free speech. By academics who saw through its tissue thin methodology. By sociologists who disputed its most provocative thesis, duly reported in Time, that the market for online porn was driven by a demand for images that couldn’t be found in the average magazine rack: Pedophilia (nude photos of children), hebephilia (youths) and paraphilia—a grab bag of “deviant” material that includes images of bondage, sadomasochism, urination, defecation, and sex acts with animals.

Read the rest “Time's infamous "cyberporn" scare story author looks back 20 years later”

DEA takes $16,000 cash from black man on train, leaves him penniless

The takeaway from this story: never consent to a warrantless search.

On April 15 a DEA agent boarded a passenger train in Albuquerque and began grilling people about where they were going and why. Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old black man, told the agent he was going to LA to make a music video. The agent asked Rivers if he could search his bags, and Rivers, bless his naive heart, consented. The agent didn't find drugs or weapons, but he found $16,000 in cash, so he took it, simply because a black man with that much money must be a drug dealer.

Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the Albuquerque Journal writes,

Rivers was left penniless, his dream deferred.

“These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me,” Rivers said in his email. “I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that.”

Other travelers had witnessed what happened. One of them, a New Mexico man I’ve written about before but who asked that I not mention his name, provided a way for Rivers to get home, contacted attorneys – and me.

“He was literally like my guardian angel that came out of nowhere,” Rivers said.

Joseph Rivers has a GoFundMe campaign to replace the $16,000. Read the rest “DEA takes $16,000 cash from black man on train, leaves him penniless”

ACLU makes app that sends phone video of police misconduct directly to ACLU servers

Police officers and federal agents who commit crimes on the job don't like people recording them. They have been known to confiscate or destroy people's phones in an attempt to destroy evidence of their criminal behavior. Mobile Justice CA is an iPhone and Android app that streams video straight to the ACLU servers as it's being recorded, so that the recorded evidence can't be destroyed along with your phone. It also has a Witness feature that "allows you to know if people around you are getting stopped by the law enforcement... This feature is especially useful for community groups who monitor law enforcement activity." Read the rest “ACLU makes app that sends phone video of police misconduct directly to ACLU servers”

Cops can’t hold suspects without probable cause: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that it is unconstitutional to hold a suspect without probable cause, even if it's for less than 10 minutes.

In Rodriguez v. United States a man named Dennys Rodriguez was pulled over by police in Nebraska for driving erratically. The officer asked Rodriguez if could walk his drug-sniffing dog around Rodriguez' car. Rodriguez said no. The officer called for a backup officer and detained Rodriguez for “seven or eight minutes” until the other officer arrived. The first officer then got his dog and did a walk-around the car. The dog detected drugs and Rodriguez was charged with possessing methamphetamine.

According to the Supreme Court, though, that search of Rodriguez’s car was illegal, and the evidence gathered in it should not be used at trial. While officers may use a dog to sniff around a car during the course of a routine traffic stop, they cannot extend the length of the stop in order to carry it out.

“[T]he tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s ‘mission’ — to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop,” Ginsburg ruled. “Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are — or reasonably should have been — completed.”

The three staunchest civil liberties foes of the court – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy – predictably disagreed with the ruling. Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion: “But because [the police officer] made [the suspect] wait for seven or eight extra minutes until a dog arrived, he evidently committed a constitutional violation. Read the rest “Cops can’t hold suspects without probable cause: Supreme Court”

Chinese Supreme Court makes service providers liable for "human flesh search engine"

Chinese Internet services are blessed and cursed with mobs who track down the personal details of people suspected of corruption or just bad public behavior, shaming them in a way that is highly public and indelible. Read the rest “Chinese Supreme Court makes service providers liable for "human flesh search engine"”

High school teacher faces discipline for Informing students about their rights

Reason Hit & Run: "A high school social studies teacher in Batavia, Illinois, faces disciplinary action for informing students of their Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a survey asking about illegal drug use." Read the rest “High school teacher faces discipline for Informing students about their rights”

Curious press release from phone encryption service

Seecrypt costs $3 a month and allows subscribers to make encrypted phone calls to each other. It promises a "100% protected network through encryption between two callers anywhere in the world." Sounds interesting and useful for keeping government snoops away. However, the press release issued today tells a somewhat different story:

“Seecrypt will pro-actively assist law enforcement agencies to prevent criminal activity being carried out using this encryption service. Our technology is designed to restore privacy rights for legitimate usage," stated Seecrypt CEO Mornay Walters. “Seecrypt's Privacy Network has been designed so that it can terminate access rights immediately for any individual identified by law enforcement or other governmental authorities as suspected of improper use.”

Does that mean that if someone is using Seecrypt and the government starts investigating them the service simply shuts off? If so, it's a great way for criminals to learn that they are under investigation.

Or does it mean that Seecrypt will let the suspect make calls without letting them know that the encryption has been disabled?

Or, does it mean Seecrypt will do something else that I can't think of? I emailed SeeCrypt to find out and will share my answer when I get it.

More from the press release:

Seecrypt advisor and former assistant director, U.S. Secret Service, Anthony Chapa added, “Seecrypt’s impressive technology provides a new level of protection to company executives and individual citizen’s privacy rights, while not compromising international and U.S. investigative efforts surrounding serious criminal activity. There are techniques that law enforcement and intelligence organizations have available, and with the help of Seecrypt would not impede their mission.”

Given the Obama administration's alarming record of surveillance, I think any investigative journalists thinking of using this service should make sure they really are "100% protected."

UPDATE: SeeCrypt's response: "In response to your email and on background: In conjunction with law enforcement, we have the option to terminate a user's access rights." SeeCrypt should market itself as a service that lets you find out if you are under government surveillance! Read the rest “Curious press release from phone encryption service”

Don't ever speak to the FBI without a tape recorder running and a lawyer present

The ACLU of Massachusetts made this video of civil liberties and civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate explaining how to protect yourself from FBI agents who will interview you, then claim you lied so they can threaten you with imprisonment (unless you agree to become their puppet).

The message from Robel’s prosecution and Silverglate’s advice is clear: do not talk to the FBI without your lawyer present. If Harvey’s decades long experience is any indication, chances are that the agents will politely decline to interview you if you and your attorney insist on creating an accurate record of an FBI interrogation.

Privacy SOS: On "false statements" and FBI interrogations

(Thanks, Tim!) Read the rest “Don't ever speak to the FBI without a tape recorder running and a lawyer present”

Security guards attack man for shooting video of subway track

Security guards put man in choke hold for shooting a video.

Texas judge questions tools that grab cellphone data from innocent people

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Texas judge is asking questions about whether investigators are providing courts with sufficient detail details on technlogies that allow them to grab data on all cellphones in a given area, including those of people who are most certainly innocent of any crime. Snip:

One of the investigative tools in question is something called a “cell tower dump,” which allows law enforcement to get information on all the phones in a given area at a given time.

In two cases, Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley rejected federal requests to allow the warrantless use of “stingrays” and “cell tower dumps,” two different tools that are used for cellphone tracking. The judge said the government should apply for warrants in the cases, but the attorneys had instead applied for lesser court orders.

Among the judge’s biggest concerns: that the agents and U.S. attorneys making the requests didn’t provide details on how the tools worked or would be used — and even seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.

Read the rest “Texas judge questions tools that grab cellphone data from innocent people”

F*cking cops cracking down on curse words

[Video Link] Here's Reason TV's Net Nanny of the month award:

June's busybodies want to shield your eyes from bikinis and remind you that they're not above ripping your garden out (even if you are complying with city codes).

But top dishonors go to the police chief who admitted on camera that his officers had "more important things to do," but still championed a measure that fines folks for swearing in public.

Presenting Reason.tv's Nanny of the Month for June 2012: Middleborough, Massachusetts Police Chief Bruce Gates!

Bikini Banners and F*cking Cops Cracking Down on Curse Words! Read the rest “F*cking cops cracking down on curse words”

More posts