Archive for April 6th, 2012

San Francisco ordinance to limit local police and FBI collaboration

Friday, April 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm by

sfpdThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance this week to protect residents’ civil rights and curb the collaboration between the San Francisco Police Department and the FBI. The ordinance is still awaiting the Mayor’s approval.

The ordinance is to “ensure that today and in the future, at least our San Francisco employees will never engage in this type of racist profiling which does not make our city any safer but instead engenders mistrust, fear, and frankly anger and frustration,” explained Supervisor Jane Kim at a rally this week.

Brought forward by the Coalition for a Safe San Francisco, a local coalition that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee helped to organize, the ordinance alters a 2007 agreement between the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and the FBI that created their Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

Shrouded in secrecy, the agreement was revealed to authorize new surveillance rules that were unlawful by both city and state standards. The FBI’s agreement with the city police—the boilerplate for agreements between the FBI and city police across the country—allowed the SFPD to spy on people and groups without any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

This has led to an increase of profiling against South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and immigrant communities, say civil rights advocates.

“Let’s be frank, said a recent piece in the San Francisco Advocate. “When there isn’t reasonable suspicion, what the police are relying on is unreasonable suspicion—racial and religious profiling. So much for Mayor Moscone’s ’right to be left alone’.”

The civil rights ordinance seeks to stop this and other profiling practices by requiring the JTTF to have the same standards as the rest of the city and providing more civilian oversight. A nearly identical law was passed in Portland with great success, and BORDC is sponsoring similar efforts across the country.

News Digest 4/6/12

Friday, April 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Privacy pillaged in Britain’s “snooping” proposal

Friday, April 6, 2012 at 11:39 am by

Big Brother is Watching YOUAs the Washington Post‘s Anthony Faiola and and Ellen Nakashima keenly expressed in their piece about Britain’s new “snooping” proposal, privacy rights are often threatened “here in the post-Sept.11 world” (emphasis added). And when we talk of government-sanctioned surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations, what a world it is.

Britain’s government has recently announced the drafting of a plan that authorizes broad surveillance measures, permitting law enforcement and intelligence agencies to gather information about Britons’ e-mails, text and multimedia messages, phone calls, Skype calls, game downloads, and Internet browsing histories. Though specifics of the plan have not yet been revealed, Faiola and Nakashima point out,

[A]s it stands, key aspects of the proposal may go beyond the kind of surveillance now authorized in the United States, where privacy advocates were quick to raise concerns about the plan — especially given the heavy traffic of transatlantic communication.

This assessment implies that the new measures would violate basic privacy rights of British citizens and, further, would afford corporations and government agents a new level of unchecked power. We’ve seen parallels in the US, with corporations receiving government-authorized pardons for the illegal release of clients’ information for “intelligence-gathering” purposes of secret government programs. As Shahid Buttar, BORDC’s executive director, put it, “the revelation of today’s domestic spying scandal culminated in congressional permission for previously illegal acts committed by executive officials.”

In Britain,  some Internet companies and lawmakers responded to the announcement of the proposal with concern. Britain’s Internet Service Provides Association stated, “It is important that proposals to update government capabilities to intercept and retain communications data are proportionate, respect freedom of expression and the privacy of users.” Conservative lawmaker David Davis stated, “They are talking about doing this with no real judicial control…This is unfettered access. This kind of data mining can lead to innocent people being pursued.”

Britons have also stated their concern about the government’s proposal, comparing the measures of surveillance and “snooping” to George Orwell’s 1984. Faiola and Nakashima cite a study by British police officials “indicating that a person strolling around London is captured on film by at least 68 cameras on any given day.” This alone sounds like a partial realization of Orwell’s Big Brother society—and what now, with the government’s new proposal?