Tag Archives: NSA

3 Deaf Mice: Obama, the Court of Appeals & Local Law Enforcement

yes we scan

In the wake of the Court of Appeals decision which ruled that surveillance on wireless service such as a cell phones and other mobile devices required a warrant, specifically in cases where law enforcement agencies were using a phone tracker with cell tower pings, there now seems to be even more to the story.

The Obama administration is advising local law enforcement agencies to keep everything on the hush hush regarding their surveillance equipment. Specifically, the administration has asked that details surrounding the functionality of the equipment remain “unknown” to the public. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the new technology is fairly unknown and with that unknown comes the uncertainty of whether or not it violates some Constitutional rights. (You know, that pesky 4th amendment.)

“These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement to the Associated Press. “If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them.” The ACLU is currently fighting for the release of such documents and has spearheaded efforts to put pressure on Congress to rein in unconstitutional surveillance practices.

What many may find even more disturbing is the idea that the producers of such surveillance equipment designed this technology with secrecy clauses in regards to the FEC and have required local agencies to operate the equipment in cooperation with the FBI.

Is your tin foil hat buzzing just a little at this point?!

The FBI states that information cannot be shared because if it were, ‘they’ would no longer be able to “protect” us from terrorism. Yes. They really said that. Some states, such as Florida, have tried to trump the federal silencing through loose open-records laws, however, the U.S. Marshal’s Service confiscated the obtained documents.

So, to sum up…not only do we not know why or where such devices are being used, we don’t even know how the equipment that has been designed secretly and specifically to infringe upon our rights operates. We don’t know how much this equipment costs, we don’t know who all has them nor do we know with whom they are sharing information. And now we have an administration instructing local law enforcement agencies to “keep it that way”.

Are you worried yet?

Electronic Location Tracking: An Opportunity to Limit Warrantless Searches

spying

That pesky Constitution. It really is stirring up some controversy these days and slipping back into legislation across the states.

I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. We all have. “Cellphone data spying. It’s not just the NSA” and “DC, Maryland and Virginia cops spying on cell phone data” or more recently “Reports: NSA and GCHQ are spying on virtual worlds, gathering data on gamers“. Private entities are speaking out against the measures, too. They’re everywhere. Literally. Every day it seems we wake to another breaking story about privacy infringements and agency tracking tactics with only stagnant blank stares from legislators on the federal level. Frustration ensues but nothing happens.

So I present to you HB699 authored by State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus). HB699 essentially details “relating to searches with warrants, so as to narrow the circumstances of when location information for electronic devices may be disclosed without a search warrant; to provide for definitions; to provide for exceptions; to provide for a civil penalty and enforcement; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes”. You can read the full text of the bill here, but HB 699 essentially tightens the reins on the out-of control location spying and tracking by law enforcement without a warrant. My favorite part of the bill is the part where it provides punishment parameters for the government entities that violate the statute and allows for suppression of such evidence in court. (I will agree that there is no ‘price’ for our freedoms being compromised but this bill certainly does more to protect our liberties than current practices by law enforcement agencies.)

There is a slight problem, though. As of pre-filing on November 25th, it was a lonely Mr. Pezold and Rep. Scot Turner (R-21) as official signers on the bill.  I find it interesting that a bill like HB41, dealing with water and sewer fees, has more signers than one that strengthens our Constitutional rights and it’s perplexing to me that 1) there aren’t more bills to protect our 4th amendment rights, and 2) that fellow legislators aren’t calling Representative Pezold to help with the initiative. Personally, I want to know where every elected official stands on this, through the House and Senate and up to the Governor. And you should want to know, too. If they don’t support it…primary. It’s time to stop foregoing liberties because “everyone else” is doing it. The justification for “security” that is most often used in these instances is not applicable. A warrant suffices- and they’re not that hard to get, but at least it’s through a process. HB 699 will cease the circumvention of our 4th amendment rights when it comes to location tracking on electronic devices.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already said the use of such devices does constitute a search.  Montana has similar legislation too HB699 and other states have worked to push electronic privacy initiatives, but we’re a long way from where we should be. It’s time for Georgia to step up. Call your legislators. Tell your friends to call their legislators. It matters. It’s not often that we get good bills anymore and HB699 needs support. This bill is a #McWin.