Tagged: illegal

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.

Safe sex in the slammer

“Do you guys want condoms?” Deputy Javier Machado, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, asks a dormitory full of prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail. “If you want condoms you need to get in line. If not, I need you on your bunk.”

A worker with the county’s Public Health Department places a box full of brightly colored condoms on a table and begins to hand them out, three at a time. Waiting in line, one prisoner loudly declares that he’s getting the condoms “for someone else,” drawing laughter from the others. The distribution takes only a matter of minutes, but the weekly act is hardly typical.

While Los Angeles has been handing out condoms in the county jail for more than a decade, it remains one of just a handful of jail and prison systems that do so. In September, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown took a step toward making condoms more widely available, signing a bill that will introduce them at the state’s 34 adult prisons. As in most states, the jails in California are short-term facilities run by county sheriffs, while the prison system, which holds prisoners after they’ve been sentenced, is managed by the state government.

With its new law, California is only the second state, after Vermont, to distribute condoms to inmates in state prisons…

Providing condoms to prisoners is controversial because many state laws prohibit sex between inmates…But some prisons and jails have decided to allow prisoners to have condoms as a way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“It definitely is a balance,” says Capt. Joseph Dempsey at the Men’s Central Jail. “The Sheriff’s Department has taken the position that public health outweighs the concerns about sex in jail.” According to Dempsey, if prisoners are caught having sex, a criminal report will still be filed. But if the sex is consensual, he says, it is “not very likely” the district attorney will prosecute the inmates involved.

If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.’

I’m not close enough to California to know if good sense will prevail. The Morality Police are certainly active on the Left Coast even if they don’t rule as much as they might, say, in Texas or Mississippi.

But, like Captain Dempsey said, “If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.”

ComputerCOP: lousy “Internet Safety Software” coppers are giving to families

For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online…

As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.

The way ComputerCOP works is neither safe nor secure. It isn’t particularly effective either, except for generating positive PR for the law enforcement agencies distributing it. As security software goes, we observed a product with a keystroke-capturing function, also called a “keylogger,” that could place a family’s personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption. That means many versions of ComputerCOP leave children (and their parents, guests, friends, and anyone using the affected computer) exposed to the same predators, identity thieves, and bullies that police claim the software protects against.

Furthermore, by providing a free keylogging program—especially one that operates without even the most basic security safeguards—law enforcement agencies are passing around what amounts to a spying tool that could easily be abused by people who want to snoop on spouses, roommates, or co-workers.

Producers of many versions of this crap software include bald-faced lies about capabilities, safety and legality as FAQs. Often, of course, coppers distributing this crap are disingenuous enough to think they’re providing a real public service.

They ain’t.

This is a long well-researched article about law enforcement being hustled, mostly by outsiders. Misconceptions and incompetence about what is legal and ethical also play a role within policing agencies. RTFA and, perhaps, consider checking out the local heat and updating them – if they’ve been suckered.

Thanks, Mike

Oklahoma Republican politics means you don’t have to obey the president – but, you do have to obey the governor!

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Monday that passes a statewide ban on raising the minimum wage and prohibits cities from legislating to establish mandatory employee benefits like vacations or sick leave…Opponents view the law as retaliation against grass roots organizers gathering signatures in the capital to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

After Fallin signed the bill, her office released a statement claiming that “most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs.”

Fallen said, “Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers.”

You decide if she’s ignorant or a liar. The average minimum wage earner is a single mom in her 30’s.

A major paper published last year covered by the Washington Post found that economists agree that raising the minimum wage actually reduces poverty.

Reducing poverty is one of those goals that you never hear addressed by Republicans except as some kind of supposed inevitability from their favorite dribble-down economics. Which hasn’t worked anywhere on Earth, yet.

They will get righteous about protecting profits, though.

US banks can accept legal marijuana money – if you believe?

The Obama administration has sought to lessen the fear of prosecution for banks doing business with licensed marijuana companies, further encouraging US states such as Colorado and Washington that are experimenting with legalising the drug.

The Justice and Treasury departments outlined the policy in writing to federal prosecutors and financial institutions nationwide…

The guidance stopped short of promising immunity for banks, but made clear that criminal prosecution for money laundering and other crimes was unlikely if they met a series of conditions…

Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges, and they therefore refuse to open accounts for marijuana-related businesses, the AP news agency reported.

The guidance was intended to increase the availability of banking services, such as savings and checking accounts, to marijuana shops that typically deal in cash. Forced to deal in cash because of federal policy…

US Attorney General Eric Holder said last month that the administration was planning ways to accommodate marijuana businesses so they would not always be dealing in cash.

“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,” Holder said on January 23…

The American Bankers Association expressed scepticism that the guidance would make much difference…Marijuana sales still violate federal law, so banks are still at risk, said Rob Rowe, a lawyer with the trade group.

“Compliance by a bank will still require extensive resources to monitor any of these businesses, and it’s unlikely the benefits would exceed the costs,”…

I asked my favorite banker about this – and received the same answer given by Rowe. As long as the Feds base their practices on existing law, there’s no one willing to be the test case after being arrested for violating federal banking regulations. Even if the DOJ says go ahead – we won’t bust you.

Why should a bank trust pronouncements from a political body unwilling or unable to change their own regulations?

General who setup Gitmo prison says – “Shut it down!”

2013-12-12T151903Z_1_CBRE9BB16L500_RTROPTP_2_GUANTANAMO-PRISIONERS

The U.S. general who opened the Guantanamo detention camp said Thursday it was a mistake and should be shut down because “it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Marine Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in a column published in the Detroit Free Press.

Lehnert, now retired from the military and living in Michigan, was the first commander of the task force that opened the detention camp in January 2002 at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

He said the United States opened it “because we were legitimately angry and frightened” by the September 11 hijacked plane attacks in 2001 and thought the captives sent there would provide “a treasure trove of information and intelligence.”

He quickly became convinced that most of them never should have been sent there because they had little intelligence value and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes, he wrote.

“We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture,” Lehnert wrote. “Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States…”

He added, “It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.”

But, that’s OK – because any attempt to redress legitimate grievances, to make things right by battlefield prisoners and kidnap victims held in violation of international law – will be met with disdain and denial by our Congress. The one body in US government which stinks worse than the Guantanamo prison camp.

The Nullification Party

…How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case – as well as two Senate elections – think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.

When ideologies become as calcified, as cocooned and as extremist as those galvanizing the GOP, the American system of government cannot work. But I fear this nullification of the last two elections is a deliberate attempt to ensure that the American system of government as we have known it cannot work. It cannot, must not work, in the mindset of these radicals, because they simply do not accept the legitimacy of a President and Congress of the opposing party. The GOP does not regard the president as merely wrong – but as illegitimate. Not misguided – illegitimate. This is not about ending Obamacare as such (although that is a preliminary scalp); it is about nullifying this presidency, the way the GOP attempted to nullify the last Democratic presidency by impeachment.

Except this time, of course, we cannot deny that race too is an added factor to the fathomless sense of entitlement felt among the GOP far right. You saw it in birtherism; in the Southern GOP’s constant outrageous claims of Obama’s alleged treason and alliance with Islamist enemies; in providing zero votes for a stimulus that was the only thing that prevented a global depression of far worse proportions; in the endless race-baiting from Fox News and the talk radio right. And in this racially-charged atmosphere, providing access to private healthcare insurance to the working poor is obviously the point of no return…

I regard this development as one of the more insidious and anti-constitutional acts of racist vandalism against the American republic in my adult lifetime. Those who keep talking as if there are two sides to this, when there are not, are as much a part of the vandalism as Ted Cruz. Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.

…If we cave to their madness, we may unravel our system of government, something one might have thought conservatives would have opposed. Except these people are not conservatives. They’re vandals.

This time, the elephant must go down. And if possible, it must be so wounded it does not get up for a long time to come.

I agree. Too much work getting in winter’s firewood to spend on elaboration of my own. But, Andrew Sullivan says it well enough for now.

The silliness of TV Talking Heads blathering about middle ground and negotiations are as ignorant as ever. When half the proposed negotiations is illegal and refutation of our constitutional rights to democracy – the topic is moot. Ended. As over as Romney’s career as a national politician.

A woman is killed every hour in India over dowry

One woman dies every hour in India because of dowry-related crimes, women’s rights activists have said.

The National Crime Records Bureau said that 8,233 women were killed across India last year because of disputes over dowry payments given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.

The conviction rate in dowry-related crimes remained a low 32 percent, according to statistics the bureau published last week.

Women’s rights activists and police said that loopholes in dowry prevention laws, delays in prosecution and low conviction rates have led to a steady rise in dowry-related crimes.

Dowry demands have become even more insistent and expensive following India’s economic boom, said Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist.

Suman Nalwa, a senior New Delhi police officer dealing with crimes against women, said dowry practices extended to all classes in society.

Even highly educated people don’t say no to dowry,” she said.

Though the giving or receiving of a dowry is illegal under Indian law. Another demeaning icon of Indian culture is maintained by ignorance among the populace – and no enforcement, no real effort by the government to lift people up from the past.

EU takes tough stance on Israeli settlements

The European Union has dealt a harsh blow to the Israeli settlement enterprise in a directive that insists all future agreements between the EU and Israel must explicitly exclude Jewish colonies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

The move, described by an Israeli official as an “earthquake”, prompted furious criticism from the Israeli prime minister over “external diktats”.

But it was hailed by Palestinians and their supporters as a significant political and economic sanction against settlements.

The EU guidelines will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included. Israeli institutions and bodies situated across the pre-1967 Green Line – including the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed — will be automatically ineligible.

In order to secure agreements with the EU in the future, the Israeli government will be required to concede in writing that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.

The directive, part of the 2014-20 financial framework, covers all areas of co-operation between the EU and Israel, including economics, science, culture, sports and academia…

The directive follows a decision by EU foreign ministers last December that “all agreements between the state of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967″. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Overdue, of course. Something the United States should emulate, of course.

Sooner or later, something approaching historic justice must begin to govern the economic relationship between Israel and the countries providing a stipend for a guilty conscience.

Italy upholds verdict on CIA agents in rendition and torture case


Imam Abu Omar, now living in Egypt

Italy’s highest appeals court has upheld guilty verdicts on 23 Americans, all but one of them CIA agents, accused of kidnapping a terror suspect.

Their case related to the abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan in 2003.

The man, known as Abu Omar, was allegedly flown to Egypt and tortured.

The Americans were tried in absentia, in the first trial involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA’s practice of transferring suspects to countries where torture is permitted.

The practice has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.

The group of Americans – 22 of whom were CIA agents and one an Air Force pilot – are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.

Italy has never requested their extradition but they will be unable to travel to Europe without risking arrest…

The court upheld the sentences of the lower court which had sentenced all of them to seven years in prison, apart from Seldon Lady [CIA station chief], who was given a nine-year sentence.

The Court of Cassation also ruled that five senior Italian secret service agents – including the former head of the country’s military intelligence agency – should be tried for their role in the kidnapping.

I have no idea if Abu Omar was connected to terrorism or not. What I do know is that my government, the government of the United States of America broke every relevant law on civil liberties with the rendition and torture program run under the governance of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Anyone associated with that program – especially including the thugs whose only defense is that they were just obeying orders – is equally guilty in my eyes and I am certain in the judgement of history.