Posts Tagged ‘NSA’

USA FREEDOM Act doesn’t do enough: should it be passed?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 8:35 am by

“Some members of Congress have recently suggested that NSA [Nation Security Agency] reform could undermine national security and hamper our nation’s efforts targeting violent extremist networks. These concerns are entirely misplaced.”

cu4ogThis language, from a letter drafted by a coalition of civil rights organizations, including the BORDC, is just the beginning of a debate around the USA FREEDOM Act. Two letters have recently gone out about the act. Each letter poses a very differing opinion than the other.  One letter states that since the FREEDOM Act doesn’t even begin to adequately address the serious issues of privacy and surveillance in the U.S., it shouldn’t be passed, especially since it would reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act for an additional 2.5 years.  The other letter also points out the inefficiency of the FREEDOM Act, but instead suggests, that even though it isn’t a perfect start, it is still a start in fighting for privacy of U.S. citizens. (more…)

We told Congress to enact real surveillance reform. Who’s with us?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 10:45 am by

ReaganToday, dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum urged Congress to enact substantial reforms to surveillance authorities. The coalition supports the proposed USA FREEDOM Act while emphasizing the need to impose in the next congressional session further limits on surveillance practices beyond those currently under consideration in Congress.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) sent a letter to Congress on behalf of dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum, comprising a diverse array of organizations representing millions of Americans from every region of the country. The letter explains that while the USA FREEDOM Act will be a step in the right direction, it does not go nearly far enough to protect fundamental constitutional rights.

[UPDATE: The letter was covered, and quoted at some length, by media outlets including the Hill.]

If you’re concerned about mass surveillance, read it to inform what you might request your Senators to do once they return to Washington for the lame duck session next month.

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Government surveillance in public spaces: is your data safe?

Friday, September 5, 2014 at 11:41 am by

big brotherBy Zack Youngren

Zack Youngren is a student at Northeastern University and front end web developer at a medium sized software company. He studies computer science and has particular interests in data analytics, privacy, and legislation surrounding information technology.

Significant public thought and scrutiny is being placed on the collection of data, including what is being collected and by what means. Should the government be collecting photos of your license plates? The metadata of your phone calls? The contents of your online exchanges? Over the past year since the Snowden leak, more thought has been given to what the government does with that data, insofar as storage and security, protecting it from not only people who might wish to access it illegally, but also from people with legitimate access that would use it for illegitimate means. (more…)

Missouri to vote on protection of digital privacy, but will the Feds respect it?

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am by

yes on 9On August 5, Missouri voters will decide in a referendum whether to expand its state constitution’s privacy protections to electronic communications and data. This follows the overwhelming approval of the measure by Missouri’s state legislature, where the state House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 114-28 and the state Senate had only one dissenting vote.

The ballot question, known as Amendment 9, would change the Missouri State Constitution to read:

“Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”

The proposed revision comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision this past June regarding the privacy status of cell phones. In the US Supreme Court decisions in  Riley v. California and US v. Wurie, the court unanimously ruled that police must acquire a warrant to search a person’s cell phone. The cases involved arrested suspects whose cell phones were searched without warrant and the evidence found used against them in prosecution.  Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.” (more…)

How the NSA’s surveillance programs undermine Internet security

Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 11:41 am by

Over the last year, nearly all the news and outrcy about the National Security (NSA) has focused on its programs to collect phone records and spy on Internet communications.  However, the NSA is also engaging in secretly undermining essential encryption tools and standards and, among other things,  putting backdoors into computer hardware and software products.

Not only have they stockpiled the vulnerabilities in commercial software we use every day rather than attempting to fix those security flaws, they have been putting spyware into computers around the world by impersonating popular sights like Facebook and LinkedIn.  They have even gone so far as to hack into Google and Yahoo’s private data links.

Congress has finally started paying attention to these disturbing actions.  In June, the House voted to approve two amendments to defund the NSA’s attempted to undermine encryption standards and to insert surveillance backdoors into the communications technologies we rely on.  Repesentatives Zoe Lofgren and Alan Grayson sponsored these amendments. (more…)

PCLOB flops on Internet spying

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm by

Today, the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released a major report on the National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance programs. Earlier this year, the PCLOB took a strong stance against telephony spying under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, correctly describing it as both illegal and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, the PCLOB’s latest report is a vast disappointment, failing to reflect the same independence apparent in its first report and deferring to the government despite stronger calls for reform from Congress, as well as a recent Supreme Court decision, that should have emboldened the PCLOB.

BORDC is hardly alone in expressing disappointment in the PCLOB’s findings. The American Library Association’s Adam Eisgrau noted that “despite the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, the Board essentially endorses the use of general warrants to search through the content of unimaginable numbers of communications of millions of Americans….”

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The Court finally shows up for work (Part II)

Monday, June 30, 2014 at 8:12 am by

Part I of this series explained the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California, and why it represents so dramatic an evolution from prior cases where the Court failed to grasp the implications of digital technology for the privacy values pervading the Bill of Rights. This follow-up post explains the social forces animating the decision, with crucial implications for any number of social issues going forward.

Where it came from: is the Court “in front,” or behind?

It remains important to recognize how a broader social debate made possible last week’s decision in Riley v. California. Only in examining the influence of mass debate on elite legal discourse can we understand how digital privacy — or other contested rights — will evolve in the future.

A long-running debate among legal theorists questions whether, and how, courts are influenced by broader public debates beyond the courtroom. On the one hand, courts are inherently reactive institutions.

On the other hand, courts have occasionally advanced justice while the political branches remain mired in majoritarian prejudice: in Brown vs Board, the Court — not Congress — forced desegregation on the South, just as Goodridge v. Dep’t of Public Health placed a Massachusetts court near the front of the marriage equality movement (disclosure: I was part of the legal team representing the mayor of new Paltz, NY in a 2004 marriage equality case).

Brown vs. Board is relevant not only in demonstrating an example of the Court’s occasional proactivity, but also in rejecting “separate but equal” systems for people of different races. Lost in most commentary about the Riley decision has been an awareness of its serious implications for race, which in turn help reveal whether Riley reflects a Court “out in front,” or instead, one lagging behind American society.

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“The fault line is shifting”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm by

Earlier this week, BORDC’s Shahid Buttar appeared on The Big Picture with host Thom Hartmann to explain what he described as a “game changer” on congressional NSA reform, and to relate how members of Congress found “an alternative outlet for their outrage” about NSA spying.

Shahid explained that:

The last thing that had happened in Congress was a very meager version of the USA Freedom Act passing the House, and that could ultimately [do] more harm than good. The amendments to the House Defense Appropriations bill last week…reflected essentially a response by members of Congress who were frustrated by the White House and the Republican leadership of the House gutting the USA Freedom Act, and finding an alternative outlet for their outrage….

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The House should slow down on a flawed intelligence authorization bill

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm by

This post was originally published by Daniel Schuman from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on June 23, 2014 and is shared with permission.

On Friday, House leaders placed the Senate’s Intelligence Authorization bill on a fast track that would avoid substantive consideration by the full House, including the ability of representatives to offer amendments. The bill, introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair and surveillance-enthusiast Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), was passed by the Senate on June 11 and does not reflect the deep concerns many have regarding the behavior of the intelligence community. A floor vote should be deferred until the House has a full opportunity to work its will, including a rigorous debate on the legislation and the opportunity to consider amendments on the House floor.

Friday afternoon’s Whip Notice contained a notice by the Office of the Majority Leader that the Intelligence Authorization bill would be considered for “suspension” as early as Tuesday. Generally speaking, only non-controversial bills are put on suspension. For suspension bills, just 40 minutes of debate is allowed, with no opportunity for amendment unless an amendment is included in the motion to suspend. Because of these limits on debate, motions to suspend require a two-thirds affirmative vote to pass. The Intelligence Authorization bill should not be considered under suspension; the usual process likely was bypassed after House leaders grew alarmed by successful votes to put limits on the NSA through floor amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act.

What is there to hide?

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NSA? The Postal Service is watching you, too

Monday, June 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm by

With the ongoing debate about mass spying by the NSA, many Americans are reconsidering their reliance on telephone and electronic communications. But is it safe to trust the US Postal Service (USPS)? You may not want to know….

In 2013, the Postal Inspection Service processed tens of thousands of mail covers, and also “photograph[ed] the exterior of every piece of paper mail” processed by the USPS through the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program revealed last year.

Last July, the New York Times explained that “Snail mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.”

A Postal Service Inspector General report released last month suggests that even the more restrained mail cover program should raise concerns.

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