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Current Topic: Civil Liberties

RE: Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans' text messages
Topic: Civil Liberties 8:01 am EST, Dec  4, 2012

Hijexx wrote:

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to record and store information about Americans' private text messages for at least two years, according to a proposal that police have submitted to the U.S. Congress.

This is just laziness on LEA's part. You want text messages for someone? Get a warrant and start tapping. This is as stupid as "ISP's have to keep 100% of all logs for years in the event that we need 0.01% of the logs, well, maybe at some point... or not, and who cares what it costs them!"

Bottom line, the telephone system should not be converted into an always on surveillance system that watches everyone.

RE: Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans' text messages

RE: Kill The Bill
Topic: Civil Liberties 8:28 am EST, Nov 17, 2011

noteworthy wrote:
A father-son exchange:

Where did it come from?
I don't know.
We're not going to kill it, are we Papa?
No. We're not going to kill it.

SOPA seems to have been inspired by Joe Lieberman's "request" last December that Visa and Mastercard shut off donations to the non-profit organization that funds Wikileaks. They look to institutionalize that capability - to make us all little "Joe Liebermans" who can censor the Internet at will based on any unsubstantiated allegation that some crime has been committed. (Its like a super DMCA, because, you know, there is no problem at all with people filing inappropriate DMCA takedown notices.)

Quoting James Otis's speech on the Writs of Assistance:

"What a scene does this open! Every man prompted by revenge, ill humour, or wantonness to..."

...shut down his neighbor's website, may issue a SOPA letter. ...

"Others will ask it from self-defence; one arbitrary exertion will provoke another, until society be involved in tumult and blood."

RE: Kill The Bill

ACLU Challenges Laptop Searches and Seizures at the Border
Topic: Civil Liberties 12:20 am EDT, Sep  8, 2010

We are not saying that the government can never search or seize electronic devices at the border, but only that border agents should have some suspicion that the search will turn up evidence of wrongdoing before looking through all the private information that people have stored in their devices. Americans travel internationally more than in the past, and usually with private information and intimate details of our lives condensed in small, electronic devices. We hope that the court will recognize that Americans don't give up their right to privacy at the border, and strike down the DHS's policy as unconstitutional.

This is it - the final Constitutional showdown. I wish I wasn't sitting on the sidelines but I'm not sure how to get involved in a meaningful way. Anyone know how to submit a friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court? Can anyone do that?

ACLU Challenges Laptop Searches and Seizures at the Border

DHS Secretary Napolitano Announces New Directives on Border Searches of Electronic Media
Topic: Civil Liberties 4:37 pm EDT, Aug 28, 2009

Thanks to two other MemeStreams users I learned that the new Obama flavor DHS laptop search policies are out and that the ACLU is suing DHS for more specific information.

I read through all of this stuff.

The most important take away is that Obama is continuing the civil liberties excesses of the Bush years. That impression is no longer theoretical. This isn't some lawsuit that they were already up to their ears in when he took office. This is administration policy that was radically expanded during the Bush years which Obama's team took the time to review, reconsider, and rewrite. This is Obama on civil liberties. Its not pretty.

While I'm glad that DHS took the step of publishing this information it will not resolve the substantive policy debate in any way.

Janet Napolitano seems to disagree:

“The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders.”

In fact, with one minor exception that I'll discuss, there is no "civil liberty" acknowledged here, so this policy cannot be said to strike any sort of balance.

These documents explain that DHS randomly seizes laptops, cellphones, and cameras and "detains" them for indepth forensic analysis in search of evidence of any crime. They will usually keep these items for less than 5 days but they can keep them for extended periods of time. By randomly I mean without any suspicion at all. They literally pick you out of the line at random.

We're told that DHS will store the electronics in a secure location and destroy any copies when they are done with them, but anything else would be totally irresponsible. The mere fact that they aren't leaving your laptop in an insecure location doesn't balance your civil liberties interests!

The privacy impact study does take the time in its introduction to acknowledge that "the... central privacy concern is the sheer volume and range of types of information available on electronic devices as opposed to a more traditional briefcase or backpack." It almost sounds like they are off to a good start, but the document never directly addresses the privacy implications of having Customs officers forensically examine that information, which includes detailed records of personal correspondence, work product, web surfing history, photographs and music collections, etc. That is the central concern here and the document steps around it with a creepy degree of bureaucratic blindness:

CBP and ICE have identified six privacy risks associated with the examination, detention, retention, and/or seizure of a traveler’s electronic device or information during a border search: (1) t... [ Read More (0.5k in body) ]

DHS Secretary Napolitano Announces New Directives on Border Searches of Electronic Media

Obama fails to deliver revisited laptop policy on time.
Topic: Civil Liberties 12:33 am EDT, Jun 27, 2009

Senator, if I give you a timeframe and don't meet it you will be unhappy with me but let me suggest within the next 45 days.

Its been more than 45 days. I am unhappy.

Obama fails to deliver revisited laptop policy on time.

NSA spied on journalists, other Americans 24/7 | Capitol Hill Blue
Topic: Civil Liberties 8:37 am EST, Jan 22, 2009

Tice, appearing on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, says Americans were targeted under the pretense of profiling them for elimination from the NSA's high-tech surveillance programs but -- in fact, the agency was keeping tabs on the day-to-day lives of American citizens who have no connection with terrorism.

Tice specifically identified journalists as a target of the expanded NSA spying but said others groups were targeted as well.

The revelations begin....

NSA spied on journalists, other Americans 24/7 | Capitol Hill Blue

RE: The Privilege of the Grave
Topic: Civil Liberties 11:54 am EST, Dec 18, 2008

(Unfortunately for non-subscribers this essay is currently behind the paywall.)

The fact that I even had to look this up is a testament to the absurdity of our intellectual property system:

A work that was created on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death...

Works Originally Created before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered by That Date

These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case would the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047.

Unfortunately, this is still confusing. This work was created by an author who died in 1910. 1910 plus 70 is 1980. So, this work ought to be in the public domain. Therefore it is a disservice that it has been placed behind the New Yorker's pay wall, and you've the right to republish it in full on MemeStreams.

However, this is where it gets odd. The law provides that in no case would the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002. So, its not 1980, its 2002. I guess.

But it gets even more bizarre. If the work was published sometime between 1978 and 2002, apparently the term of copyright would not expire until 2047. Thats lifetime of the author plus 135 years! Presumably because the New Yorker waited until 2008, the copyright expired in 2002, which is lifetime of the author plus 92 years. Doesn't it seem counter intuitive that by waiting to publish this the New Yorker shortened the length of its copyright protection? No less counter intuitive, perhaps, than the notion that intellectual property rights ought to be held for centuries in the first place.

Do we need to get a lawyer in order to find out whether or not we can republish this thing?

RE: The Privilege of the Grave

Google’s Gatekeepers
Topic: Civil Liberties 9:39 am EST, Dec  1, 2008

Jeffrey Rosen:

The question of free speech online isn’t just about what a company like Google lets us read or see; it’s also about what it does with what we write, search and view.

Google’s claim on our trust is a fragile thing. After all, it’s hard to be a company whose mission is to give people all the information they want and to insist at the same time on deciding what information they get.

“We’re at the dawn of a new technology. And when people try to come up with the best metaphors to describe it, all the metaphors run out. We’ve built this spaceship, but we really don’t know where it will take us.”

This a long article that touches on a number of things including Joe Lieberman's request that YouTube remove jihadist videos even if they were protected by U.S. law as well as the Global Network Initiative about which I need to do more reading.

Google’s Gatekeepers

American Civil Liberties Union : Constitution Free Zone
Topic: Civil Liberties 8:32 am EDT, Oct 23, 2008

Using data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the ACLU has determined that nearly 2/3 of the entire US population (197.4 million people) live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.

The government is assuming extraordinary powers to stop and search individuals within this zone. This is not just about the border: This " Constitution-Free Zone" includes most of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.

My understanding is that they cannot perform a border search when they are not at the border unless its fairly clear that you did cross the border. This ACLU information suggests otherwise but doesn't substantiate that suggestion as far as I can tell.

American Civil Liberties Union : Constitution Free Zone

What's Really At Risk At A Federal Obscenity Trial? About Four Years In Prison
Topic: Civil Liberties 11:10 am EDT, Oct  6, 2008

We know that if you publish pornographic material on the Internet, federal prosecutors can choose to bring trial against you almost anywhere in the nation. And if Paul F. Little's (a/k/a "Max Hardcore") prosecution is any guide, figure a conviction means about 4 years in the pen, minimum security.

But then, you can argue he got off easy -- the 20 counts of obscenity Little was convicted of carried a potential penalty of 100 years.

There is very little press coverage of this sentencing other than some commentary by Glenn Greenwald. I don't agree with Greenwald. He includes pictures of Abu Ghraib and somehow neglects to mention that people were sentenced to long prison terms over than incident, a fact (among several others) which undermines his point. I didn't read a lot of the attached thread but no one seems to pick up on that. There is, however, a lot of noise about the pornographer in question being a really bad guy who does really bad things and who needed to go down.

I don't know anything about this guy or his porn. However, he wasn't convicted for assaulting or abusing actresses. He was convicted for making consensual porn with adults. He was convicted of obscenity, something that hasn't happened in this country for many years, AFAIK. Something which has been used in very recent history by moralists as a weapon to attack disfavored ideas and groups of people.

After the election in 2004 the Bush administration demanded that obscenity prosecutions be dusted off in order to hand a bone to the conservative base who reelected him. This is one of those prosecutions. It was a success. One of two things will happen from here. Either a new president will put an end to this project, or it will continue to expand, including a greater scope of ideas into the realm of prohibition until it again becomes a serious threat to freedom of expression.

I expect that a McCain/Palin presidency would allow this program to expand. I'm not sure about an Obama/Biden ticket. It seems the sort of thing that the Biden/Clinton wing of the democratic party would strongly support but it might not end up on Obama's priority list. So, its worth paying attention to. It might end here, but it might not, and if it doesn't, it will inevitably become a serious problem.

What's Really At Risk At A Federal Obscenity Trial? About Four Years In Prison

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