Ricardo Palacios, a 74-year old rancher, had gotten used to Customs and Border Protection officials tromping across his south Texas ranch lands without permission over the years. But finding a wireless surveillance camera set up in one of his trees? Not OK. Upon discovering the device, Palacios removed it immediately. It wasn't long after that he started receiving calls from CBP and the Texas Rangers demanding that he turn the camera over to them or face charges.
Having taken enough of their shit, instead of turning the camera over, Palacios gave the feds something else instead: a lawsuit.
According to Ars Technica, Palacios, who's been a lawyer for 50 years, named the two agencies and a CBP agent in a lawsuit that accuses them of violating his constitutional rights, by trespassing on his land, and setting up cameras where ever they damn well please. It's an important case: CBP claims it has a right, within a 100-mile radius of the American border, to stop people (including U.S. citizens, which flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment,) search cars and personal belongings in the name of border security, without a warrant. But this doesn't allow them to go traipsing on to private property in the name of their duties without permission. They're only allowed to do that within 25 miles of the border.
Palacios' ranch? It's 35 miles away from the edge of the U.S./Mexican border. This alone would be enough to warrant a suit against the government. But there's more:
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As Palacios alleges in the civil complaint, his interactions with CBP began in April 2010 when his two sons were stopped at a checkpoint along I-35.
After finding wet tea leaves in a garbage can, a SWAT team in Kansas City raided a family home looking for marijuana, terrorizing the family for hours. The cops found nothing, and when the family sued, the "federal district judge who heard the case dismissed it, declaring that the police had probable cause and had acted reasonably," reports to George Leef in Forbes.
The family appealed to the Tenth Circuit:
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[T]he panel of judges ruled that the district judge was in error in his dismissal. Each of the judges wrote part of the opinion, but the sizzling stuff was penned by Judge Carlos Lucero. Rarely will you find an opinion in which a judge so reams out the police for misconduct.
Judge Lucero begins, “Law-abiding tea drinkers and gardeners beware: One visit to a garden store and some loose tea leaves in your trash may subject you to an early-morning, SWAT-style raid, complete with battering ram, bulletproof vests, and assault rifles. Perhaps the officers will intentionally conduct the terrifying raid while your children are at home, and keep the entire family under armed guard for two and a half hours while concerned residents of your quiet, family-oriented neighborhood wonder what nefarious crime you have committed. This is neither hyperbole nor metaphor – it is precisely what happened to the Harte family in the case before us.”
At no step in this investigation, the judge continues, was there any probable cause, “Not at the garden shop, not at the gathering of the tea leaves, and certainly not at the analytical stage where the officers willfully ignored directions to submit any presumed results to a laboratory for analysis.”
Summing up this astounding case, Judge Lucero states, “The defendants caused an unjustified governmental intrusion into the Hartes’ home on nothing more than junk science, an incompetent investigation, and a publicity stunt.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's new Law Enforcement Technology Primer for Civilian Oversight Bodies is a short, easy-to-understand guide for non-technical people that explains the new surveillance technology that local law-enforcement agencies are increasingly relying upon, often in secret, and without any civilian oversight. Read the rest
The case against Jae Shik Kim -- a South Korean exec caught selling weapons components to Iran -- has collapsed because the prosecutors abused the rule allowing them to search laptop hard-drives without a warrant when someone is at a "border crossing" (in this case, LAX). Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest