Category: Law

NSA bulk phone records collecting to expire – at least for a while – we hope


“What do we do, now?”

Even as the Senate remains at an impasse over the future of US domestic surveillance powers, the National Security Agency will be legally unable to collect US phone records in bulk by the time Congress returns from its Memorial Day vacation…

The administration, as suggested in a memo it sent Congress on Wednesday, declined to ask a secret surveillance court for another 90-day extension of the order necessary to collect US phone metadata in bulk. The filing deadline was Friday, hours before the Senate failed to come to terms on a bill that would have formally repealed the NSA domestic surveillance program…

It represents a quiet, unceremonious end to the most domestically acrimonious NSA program revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, in a June 2013 exposé in the Guardian – effectively preempting a bid by GOP leader Mitch McConnell to retain it. But McConnell and other Senate Republicans intend to continue their fight to preserve both that program and other broad surveillance powers under the Patriot Act…

I hope no one expected leading Republicans to support unfettered privacy for Americans other than themselves.

“The Senate is in gridlock, but the tides are shifting,” Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office said Saturday. “For the first time, a majority of senators took a stand against simply rubber-stamping provisions of the Patriot Act that have been used to spy on Americans…

It is unclear how the House will vote if its choices are pushed to the extremes that the Senate impasse has set up: all the post-9/11 domestic surveillance powers under the Patriot Act or none of them.

The NSA and the Obama administration have conceded that the bulk domestic phone records collection has never stopped a terrorist attack. Even though the administration has taken as a fallback position the line that the FBI surveillance powers under Section 215 are crucial for domestic counterterrorism, a Justice Department inspector general’s report issued on Thursday “did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders.”

I was heartened by the actions of a New Mexico Senator I haven’t followed as well or as long as I have Tom Udall. That is Martin Heinrich. I wasn’t surprised by Rand Paul’s grandstand opposition. After all, he’s running for president. Heinrich has nothing to run for other than re-election and that is with a base that is highly dependent on government funding for every military-industrial gewgaw since the invention of the Cold War.

Apprehensive as I am of Democrats who talk like they’re prepared to stand up for working class families and constitutional rights, civil rights and civil liberties – Martin Heinrich appears ready to walk the walk, as well.

Court rules Notre Dame can’t cut off students’ birth control

A federal appeals court held that the Supreme Court’s decision limiting access to birth control in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby does not permit the University of Notre Dame to shut down their health plans that help the school’s students pay for contraceptive coverage — or, at least, the court held that Notre Dame cannot obtain a court order permitting them to do so right now. This is the latest of Notre Dame’s multiple trips to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Though the court held in 2014 that Notre Dame must comply with an extraordinarily modest obligation under federal law, the Supreme Court asked the Seventh Circuit to reconsider the case in light of Hobby Lobby. For now, the Seventh Circuit concluded, Hobby Lobby does not entitle Notre Dame to the relief that it seeks…

What a can of worms the corrupt wing of SCOTUS has opened. The original victory legalizing birth control over the objections of religious ideologues stood stable and strong for decades until this batch of conservative liars joined the court.

…Justice Sonia Sotomayor…nearly accused her conservative colleagues of lying in Hobby Lobby when they permitted another religious school, Wheaton College, to temporarily opt out of the fill-out-the-form option as well. “Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.”

Notre Dame, however, seeks relief that is even more arcane than the issue in Wheaton College. Wheaton College concerns whether the law grants religious objectors such a sweeping right to refuse to follow the law that they can even refuse to fill out a form that the government provides in order to exempt religious objectors from having to follow the law. Notre Dame, by contrast, has already filled out the form, a fact that led the Seventh Circuit to express “puzzlement about what exactly the university wanted us to enjoin.”…

Notre Dame, in other words, wants the right to force private companies to stop conducting business with its students, presumably by telling those companies that it will refuse to continue to do business with them itself unless those companies agree to stop helping Notre Dame students pay for contraception. Notre Dame is quite literally seeking to impose its religious beliefs on other parties who do not share them…

As the Wheaton College order suggests, a majority of the Supreme Court is open to the argument that permitting a religious objector to fill out a form that exempts them from the law can still be an impermissible burden on that objector’s faith. If the justices go this far, it is unclear that it will even be possible to prevent organizations like Notre Dame from cutting off their workers’ and students’ access to contraceptive health plans.

Dragging us back to the time when religious ideology was allowed to supersede the civil law of the land. Absurd, criminal, about as backwards a decision as one might expect from the minds of those who would not have supported our revolutionary separation from state religion in the first place.

NRA/Biker Jamboree in Waco, Texas – 192 arrested, 9 dead


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Jerry Larson

Texas police announced on Monday that 192 people will face organized crime charges following the Waco bike-gang shooting where nine people were killed and 18 were injured.

Nine people were shot to death after rival biker gang members opened fire at the Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill in Central Texas on Sunday. The incident initially started as a fist fight, which then turned into a battle with knives, clubs and chains, and later, guns.

One witness described the scene as a “war zone.”…

According to police, three rival biker gangs began fighting at the Waco restaurant while multiple officers were out in the parking lot arranging protection for residents. The fight started in the restaurant and spilled outside…

The officers were in the area because they had anticipated possible trouble at the restaurant — which has been the scene of ongoing tensions between bikers in recent weeks…

Police immediately secured the scene. District attorney Abel Reyna told police two weeks ago that trouble had been brewing among the biker gangs for some time.

“Thank goodness the officers were here, and took the action that they needed to take to save numerous lives,” Swanton said.

The officers at the scene engaged the gunmen in the fight — firing their weapons, as well. However, Waco police said no officers were wounded in the gun battle…

No doubt the NRA will provide legal aid for the bikers involved in the shoot-out. Gangs like these are only defending the same rights and policies that concern the NRA – nowadays. Although they don’t get the same cut in gun sales profits the NRA does.

Ancestry.com sharing DNA data with coppers — without a warrant

Would you find it frightening— perhaps even downright Orwellian — to know that a DNA swab that you sent to a company for recreational purposes would surface years later in the hands of police? What if it caused your child to end up in a police interrogation room as the primary suspect in a murder investigation?

In an extremely troubling case out of Idaho Falls, that’s exactly what happened.

Police investigating the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge targeted the wrong man as the suspect, after looking to Ancestry.com owned Sorensen Database labs for help. The labs look for familial matches between the murderers DNA and DNA submitted for genealogical testing after failing to find a match using traditional methods.

The cops chose to use a lab linked to a private collection of genetic genealogical data called the Sorenson Database (now owned by Ancestry.com), which claims it’s “the foremost collection of genetic genealogy data in the world.” The reason the Sorenson Database can make such an audacious claim is because it has obtained its more than 100,000 DNA samples and documented multi-generational family histories from “volunteers in more than 100 countries around the world.” Some of these volunteers were encouraged by the Mormon Church—well-known for its interest in genealogy—to provide their genetic material to the database. Sorenson promised volunteers their genetic data would only be used for “genealogical services, including the determination of family migration patterns and geographic origins” and would not be shared outside Sorenson….

Despite this promise, Sorenson shared its vast collection of data with the Idaho police. Without a warrant or court order, investigators asked the lab to run the crime scene DNA against Sorenson’s private genealogical DNA database. Sorenson found 41 potential familial matches, one of which matched on 34 out of 35 alleles—a very close match that would generally indicate a close familial relationship. The cops then asked, not only for the “protected” name associated with that profile, but also for all “all information including full names, date of births, date and other information pertaining to the original donor to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy project.”

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The for-profit theatrics of riot control

The unrest in Baltimore after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray after he was critically injured in police custody has reopened longstanding debates over public-order policing. Where does protest end and rioting begin? What counts as violence? Is property damage ever legitimate? Listening to Fox News analyze the meaning of the word “thugs,” it feels as if we are doomed to repeat Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “Riots are the language of the unheard” until we are blue in the face…

Riot control largely arose out of the repression of rebellious peasants and slaves. Early forms of policing in the U.S. included slave patrols that searched residences, broke up gatherings and monitored roads. A more structured practice for dealing with urban minority unrest after the Civil War was imported from white European colonial experience. In 1829, U.S. cities began to adopt parts of the British policing model, creating organized departments with full-time officers…

We saw…space-based control practices play out in Baltimore on April 27. As Mother Jones reported, in the Modawmin neighborhood, where violence started that day, police shut down the local subway stop, forced people to disembark buses and corralled students into a police-controlled space. With public transportation cut off and streets blocked by heavily armored, shield-barrier police lines, people were trapped — forced to fight or attempt to flee, risking arrest and further brutality.

Such acts of entrapment and suffocation are most visible when tear gas is also deployed, as police did in Modawmin, along with pepper balls. While pepper balls and spray tanks filled with tear gas are modern inventions, the practice of poisoning the air to control populations has been used by U.S. law enforcement for nearly a century…

As journalist Belén Fernández has noted, these bodily and spatial policing practices reflect Israeli military and police training for controlling the occupied territories. Baltimore Police Department representatives have received training overseas from Israeli experts. Training happens at home as well, from former Israel Defense Forces soldiers such as B.K. Blankchtein, who educated officers at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission from 2008 to 2011.

Private companies specializing in Israeli enforcement also train Baltimore officers in control techniques. The Israeli Tactical School operates a number of programs in Maryland, including the Warrior Weekend, fashioned after training at the Israeli Counter Terror School. For $1,500, participants receive tactical education in, as the company’s website puts it, “the Israeli Individual Warrior doctrine designed to win the fight against all odds.”

But these Israeli-imported practices of controlling public space are not an isolated phenomenon. The riot control industry is a transnational enterprise, with competitions, workshops and products around the world. Selling myths of security in the form of violent technology, it profits from racial fears, police vulnerability and the militarization of public space…

The riot control market is driven by the increase in the demand for these systems amongst law enforcement agencies due to the economic crisis and political unrest prevailing in the nations, which results into riots or protests by the public against any authority.

When that authority is the police, there are sales opportunities on all sides.

RTFA for more detail. Your friendly neighborhood patrol cop is getting this training whether you approve or not.

And taxpayers get to pick up the tab.

Minnesota declares state of emergency over bird flu outbreak

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency over a bird flu outbreak that has killed more than 2.5 million turkeys in Minnesota and has for the first time this week stricken a Minnesota chicken farm.

The governor’s order activates an emergency operations plan to support the state’s response to the epidemic. It also calls for National Guard personnel to be ordered to duty as needed, but the governor is not calling up troops.

He’s now called up the National Guard as support for the whole operation – especially providing water tankers for the foam spray used to kill the birds.

Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producer, and 45 commercial farms have now been hit by the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus, including one more announced Thursday. Also, the first Minnesota outbreak in a “back yard flock” of poultry — 151 birds — was reported Thursday in Pipestone County.

And a farmer in northwestern Minnesota said Thursday that his egg-laying operation with 300,000 chickens has been stung by the flu.

“This is a moving target, and the number of farms affected has continued to increase,” Dayton said. “We don’t know what the ceiling will be.”

Dayton said the order will tighten lines of authority in state and local government and allow his office to properly coordinate planning between the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management…

The bird flu poses a low risk to human health and the H5N2 strain currently spreading across North America has not caused any illnesses in people. The 140 people in Minnesota who have worked directly with sick birds have been monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. None has tested positive for bird flu.

State officials reiterated Thursday that the bird flu is not a food safety risk either. Sickened birds are destroyed, and turkey shipments are tested, said Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture. “The poultry on grocery store shelves is safe and will continue to be safe…”

The bird flu has appeared in 16 states, including striking a 3.8 million hen farm in northern Iowa — the largest single outbreak nationwide — and two more egg-laying operations in Wisconsin, which has also declared a state of emergency. Now, Minnesota’s egg industry, the eighth largest in the nation, has become a victim.

Still, pretty scary. Most farmers rely on composting the dead birds to rid infection dangers while providing some cost relief. None are allowed to restock their farms until they can prove the virus is absent.

Court upholds racial profiling charge against Arizona sheriff

An appeals court has upheld key findings in a 2013 ruling that deputies under Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio systemically committed racial profiling of Latinos

It wasn’t immediately known whether the ruling by the three-judge appeals panel would affect a contempt-of-court hearing scheduled by Judge Snow…on Arpaio’s acknowledged violations of court orders in the case.

Arpaio’s appeal didn’t contest Snow’s ruling on the immigration patrols known as “sweeps” in which deputies flooded an area over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Instead, the sheriff appealed the judge’s conclusions on only regular traffic patrols…

The decision by Snow marked the first time that the sheriff’s office known for immigration enforcement had been found to have racially profiled people. The judge is requiring Arpaio’s officers to video-record traffic stops, collect data on stops and undergo training to ensure they aren’t acting unconstitutionally.

Hard for some folks to admit; but, creeps like Arpaio stay in office through the grace of voters supporting the bigoted practices of sleazy coppers. Arizona remains the Mississippi of the West for good reason.

Secret deal between FBI and police hides spying from the courts

Innovation = police state
Innovation + Police State = Lots of profits + no oversight

The FBI is taking extraordinary and potentially unconstitutional measures to keep local and state police forces from exposing the use of so-called “Stingray” surveillance technology across the United States, according to documents obtained separately by the Guardian and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Multiple non-disclosure agreements…revealed in Florida, New York and Maryland this week show federal authorities effectively binding local law enforcement from disclosing any information – even to judges – about the cellphone dragnet technology, its collection capabilities or its existence.

In an arrangement that shocked privacy advocates and local defense attorneys, the secret pact also mandates that police notify the FBI to push for the dismissal of cases if technical specifications of the devices are in danger of being revealed in court.

The agreement also contains a clause forcing law enforcement to notify the FBI if freedom of information requests are filed by members of the public or the media for such information, “in order to allow sufficient time for the FBI to seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels”.

The strikingly similar NDAs, taken together with documents connecting police to the technology’s manufacturer and federal approval guidelines obtained by the Guardian, suggest a state-by-state chain of secrecy surrounding widespread use of the sophisticated cellphone spying devices known best by the brand of one such device: the Stingray.

“The device has the ability to pull content, so all the sudden your text messages are at risk, your phone calls are at risk, and your data transmission, potentially,” said John Sawicki, a former police officer who consults attorneys on technological evidence, of the Stingray device made by Harris Corporation…

The ACLU has shown that at least 48 agencies across 20 states likely use the devices. Documents obtained by the Guardian show police from states as such as Texas, Florida, Washington, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Illinois,Arizona, and California utilize the devices.

The Florida agreement – obtained from the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office by the Guardian after a series of Stingray-related Freedom of Information Act requests sent over the past seven months – reads in part:

“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will, at the request of the FBI, seek dismissal of the case in lieu of providing, or allowing others to use or provide, any information concerning the Harris Corporation wireless collection equipment/technology, its associated software, operating manuals, and any related documentation.”

Law enforcement agencies that sign NDAs similar to the one in Hillsborough County are barred from providing “any information” about the Stingray-style devices in search warrants, pre-trial hearings, testimony, grand jury proceedings, in appeals or even in defense discovery. Per the agreement, police can only release the “evidentiary results” obtained with the device.

RTFA. Just in case you mistakenly thought you lived in a country where constitutional freedoms were honored and the government is working to bring a new level of transparency to law enforcement.

California Deputies caught on camera beating a suspect

Cops beat crook on camera
Cops too dumb to realize that News Choppers may have cameras

An alleged horse thief went down in a swarm of San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies Thursday while an NBC helicopter captured the brutal scene from above.

NBC reports the cops began chasing the man when he fled the scene of a search warrant—apparently in a Dodge minivan. Eventually he abandoned the car and continued his escape on stolen horseback.

Officers were eventually able to tase him off the horse—and thus commenced a two-minute beatdown so large some officers had to step back to let other officers get a chance to hit and kick the man.

The group surrounding the man grew up to five sheriff’s deputies as several appeared to kick, hit, and punch him dozens of times over a two-minute period. In the two minutes after the man was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 12 times and punched him 29 times. Eleven blows appeared to be to the head as seen from aerial footage…

After the frenzy subsided, the man reportedly lay still, without any medical attention, for more than half an hour. A sheriff’s spokesperson tells NBC two officers were treated for dehydration and one may have been kicked by the horse.

I’m surprised the deputies didn’t shoot and kill the horse.

Dumb cop crook of the day

What are the chances of two men who say they were carrying a large amount of cash and transporting marijuana being pulled over twice by police on the same day on interstate highways in New Mexico…?

At the I-40 stop by a State Police officer, the men in the green 1995 Nissan sedan with Arizona plates claimed have to been hauling marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. They said they’d already been stopped a few hours earlier by another officer, hundreds of miles northeast, on Interstate 25 near the New Mexico/Colorado border.

That officer, they said, confiscated their marijuana and seized more than $10,000 from them without giving them a receipt or issuing a citation. But he did give them “$600 back in order to pay for their travel expenses on their way back to Arizona,” says an FBI statement filed in federal court.

The two men described the officer who took their pot and money as driving a “new, white Ford Explorer with blue writing on the side” and that the officer “had mentioned something about a DEA (federal Drug Enforcement Administration) investigation…”

After that, the FBI and State Police started an undercover investigation…Vidal Sandoval, of Cimarron, was arrested without incident on March 13 at the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office in Raton by FBI agents and State Police officers. His charge, previously reported as aiding and abetting a drug trafficking crime, is actually attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, online court records show…

On Dec. 15, two undercover agents from the FBI and State Police, respectively, drove around Cimarron where Sandoval was known to patrol. Their undercover vehicle contained “a hidden compartment in the rear of the vehicle under carpeting and outfitted with several air fresheners, which are commonly used to mask the smell of narcotics, and a digital scale of the type often used to weigh narcotics.”

The agents had $8,000 cash with them and, at about 4:40 p.m., Sandoval pulled the agents over for speeding on N.M. 64. The threesome conversed mainly in Spanish, and Sandoval searched the car and found the hidden compartment. One of the agents was placed in the back seat of Sandoval’s patrol car while Sandoval made a phone call.

During the call, Sandoval told the other party that county dispatch did not know that he was out on a traffic stop, according to the FBI’s affidavit, and then asked the other party to pretend that he was a DEA agent.

Sandoval handed the phone to the undercover agent who, via the phone’s caller ID function, identified the caller as a former police chief in northeast New Mexico, named in the court documents but whom the Albuquerque Journal is not identifying in this article because the ex-chief has not been charged…That person told the undercover officer on the cell phone he was with the DEA.

Sandoval made another call to the same person and again handed the phone to the undercover agent, who was told by the “DEA agent” that cash found by Sandoval would be seized.

Sandoval then turned off his in-car and lapel recorders, and said “he wanted to be part of the criminal narcotics activity (the agent) was involved in and would let him pass through the area undisturbed with money and/or drugs in the future if they provided him with a portion of the profits,” the investigators’ affidavit says. Sandoval returned $500 to the agent and kept $7,500, and the agents left.

Three more of these sham drug deals and guarantees of safe passage for a cut of the cash – Sandoval was busted.

Sandoval was an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff last year. In a campaign statement to a weekly newspaper, he said, “I want to modernize the report taking and record keeping as well as the chain of custody and security of evidence.”

Sandoval pleaded not guilty…

Protect and serve…drug dealers passing through New Mexico.