(Conor Friedersdorf) Outside the U.S. government, President Obama’s order to kill American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without due process has proved controversial, with experts in law and war reaching different conclusions. Inside the Obama Administration, however, disagreement was apparently absent, or so say anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post. “The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday, according to administration officials,” the newspaper reported. “The document was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing al-Awlaki, the officials said.”
Isn’t that interesting? Months ago, the Obama Administration revealed that it would target al-Awlaki. It even managed to wriggle out of a lawsuit filed by his father to prevent the assassination. But the actual legal reasoning the Department of Justice used to authorize the strike? It’s secret. Classified. Information that the public isn’t permitted to read, mull over, or challenge.
Why? What justification can there be for President Obama and his lawyers to keep secret what they’re asserting is a matter of sound law? This isn’t a military secret. It isn’t an instance of protecting CIA field assets, or shielding a domestic vulnerability to terrorism from public view. This is an analysis of the power that the Constitution and Congress’ post September 11 authorization of military force gives the executive branch. This is a president exploiting official secrecy so that he can claim legal justification for his actions without having to expose his specific reasoning to scrutiny. As the Post put it, “The administration officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis used to authorize targeting al-Awlaki, or how they considered any Fifth Amendment right to due process.”
Obama hasn’t just set a new precedent about killing Americans without due process. He has done so in a way that deliberately shields from public view the precise nature of the important precedent he has set. It’s time for the president who promised to create “a White House that’s more transparent and accountable than anything we’ve seen before” to release the DOJ memo. As David Shipler writes, “The legal questions are far from clearcut, and the country needs to have this difficult discussion.” And then there’s the fact that “a good many Obama supporters thought that secret legal opinions by the Justice Department — rationalizing torture and domestic military arrests, for example — had gone out the door along with the Bush administration,” he adds. “But now comes a momentous change in policy with serious implications for the Constitution’s restraint on executive power, and Obama refuses to allow his lawyers’ arguments to be laid out on the table for the American public to examine.” What doesn’t he want to get out?
(John Nickerson) A city teenager was charged with disorderly conduct Sunday night after police say he challenged officers’ authority and refused to put his pants on.
Luis Perez, 18, of 52 Congress St., was held in lieu of $5,000 bond. Perez’s 54-year-old mother, in whose house Perez lives, called police to report her son was swearing at her during a family altercation about Luis Perez‘s lack of cleanliness.
According to Sgt. Simon Blanc, the mother told police she leaves her home clean and orderly before working 12 hours a day as a nanny. The home is a mess when she returns, and Luis Perez invites over people whom she doesn’t know, she told police.
On Sunday night, she complained to her son after she arrived to find a messy home and one of his friends visiting, she told police. She said her son became confrontational and swore at her, Blanc said. When she said she would call police, Perez swore and said he did not care, Blanc said.
Police, escorted to his room, discovered Perez under blankets without pants, talking on a cellphone.
When asked to go downstairs and talk to his mother, Perez said he was not coming out and that police were invading his privacy. He said police were breaking the law by coming into his room and he wouldn’t put his pants on, Blanc said.
He said he was in his “drawers” and “he has rights,” Blanc said.
While police tried to determine the problem between son and mother, Perez continued to be uncooperative and hostile toward his mother, Blanc said.
Perez’s mother explained to police that she could no longer live this way because she was afraid of her son and said she wanted him out of the house.
Luis Perez yelled more and was placed under arrest.
Perez threatened to speak to his lawyer and told police what they were doing was not right. As he was being escorted out of the house in handcuffs, however he asked police for a second chance and to be released, Blanc said.
Navy Recruiter Harasses and Threatens Young Woman & Her Cancer Stricken Grandmother With Arrest for Choosing Not To Join
(CN) – A Texas grandmother can push ahead with her emotional-distress complaint alleging that a Navy recruiter added her name to Homeland Security’s terrorist watch list, a federal judge ruled.
In a federal lawsuit filed in October 2010, Vivian Chisholm asked the Southern District of Texas to declare “that she is not a terrorist” and remove her name from Homeland Security’s terrorist watch list.
The complaint primarily attributes Chisholm’s distress to the actions of Humble, Texas-based recruiter Petty Officer Lancelot Coley, but Coley is not named as a defendant.
She claimed her granddaughter, Maigan Brewer, joined the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program in high school but requested an entry-level separation from the program five months later, as was her right to do.
In response to the student’s request for the separation, Petty Officer Coley yelled “vulgar remarks” at Brewer, according to the complaint. He allegedly threatened to alter Brewer’s Social Security card to limit where she could work, arrest her for breach of government contract and report her as AWOL.
Brewer became frightened and asked her cancer-stricken mother to intercede, but Coley simply responded with more “verbal threats, yelling and hostile screaming,” according to the complaint. Chisholm said that is when she stepped in.
After confirming her granddaughter’s right to a separation with the office of state Sen. Glenn Hager, Chisholm said she called the petty officer. Coley “became very irate,” called Chisholm a liar, and began “yelling verbal threats that he was going to file dishonorable discharge, charges of failure to fulfill a governmental contract, and would disable plaintiff’s granddaughter from working in any field and blemish her record for life,” according to the complaint.
Chisholm said she tried to speak to Coley’s supervisor when the petty officer called her daughter on her cellphone during cancer treatments and yelled some more.
“Plaintiff got down on her knees and fervently begged Petty Officer Lancelot C. Coley for his supervisor’s name and phone number for several minutes,” the complaint says, noting that Coley “provided plaintiff with the requested information only after his ego was satisfied.”
But the supervisor, Chief Petty Officer Steve Crawford, was also “vulgar, rude, and disrespectful,” according to the complaint.
After Chisholm tried to reach Crawford’s supervisor, Coley allegedly threatened to involve the Humble Police Department and the Montgomery Sheriff’s Department, and to have Homeland Security arrest the grandmother as a terrorist.
Chisholm said she made calls to the Navy’s offices in Austin and San Antonio, while Coley repeatedly insisted that her name was on the terrorist watch list.
The Naval Inspector General eventually sent Chisholm a letter confirming that it verified her claims and had taken corrective actions, according to the complaint.
Chisholm said she has “nightmares of being arrested by Homeland Security and placed in a cell with actual terrorists.” She lists this among numerous other symptoms that plague her in a 12-page complaint.
The United States moved for summary judgment, but U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon refused on Aug. 12.
Tasked with the burden of demonstrating that Chisholm’s complaint lacked a genuine issue of material fact, the United States came up short, according to the eight-page ruling.
“Chisholm alleges Officer Coley threatened to ruin Maigan’s career,” Harmon wrote. “He threatened to have Chisholm arrested by the Humble Police Department, threatened to have the Montgomery Sheriff’s Department issue a warrant for her arrest, and claimed to have placed her on Homeland Security’s terrorist watchlist.”
“The United States does not deny these allegations,” she added.
“The court finds that, in a post-September 11th world, a naval officer’s unreasonable threat to place a private person on Homeland Security’s terrorist watchlist may be considered extreme and outrageous, exceeding ‘all possible bounds of decency,'” Harmon wrote.
“Chisholm maintains she suffers depression, anxiety, fear of going to airports, and short term memory loss,” Harmon wrote. “Chisholm’s fear is directly connected to Officer Coley’s threat to place her on the terrorist watchlist.”
“Drawing all reasonable inferences in Chisholm’s favor, the court finds the United States has failed to meet its burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial,” Harmon concluded.
Chisholm is now represented by Stephen Schechter of Boerne, Texas.
(PUBLIC INTELLIGENCE) This manual provides preplanning guidance for handling emergency situations, which include the full spectrum from civil disobedience through hostile disturbances to violent acts of terrorism. It discusses the concept of operations in planning for these crisis situations and offers an outline for preparation, execution and resolution of mass disturbances. Air National Guard units will use this manual as guidance. The use of name or mark of any specific manufacturer, commercial product, commodity or service in this publication does not imply endorsement by the Air Force.
Civil disturbances present unique challenges to the armed forces. The roles and missions of the armed forces inherently make the Department of Defense (DoD) a likely target for civil disturbances both at home and abroad. The disturbances may range from peaceful demonstrations and rallies outside a main gate to full scale riots that include burning and looting government property inside the perimeter fence. The information, technology and weapon systems entrusted to our care require absolute protection. The challenge arises in dealing with civil disturbance situations. Attempting to understand, predict and control crowd behavior is a highly technical field that requires specialized training.
3.1. Defined. Civil disturbances arise from acts of civil disobedience. These acts occur most often when participants in mass acts of civil disobedience become antagonistic towards authority and authorities must struggle to take the initiative from an unruly crowd. In the extreme, civil disturbances include acts of criminal terrorism. Civil disturbances, in any form, are prejudicial to public law and order. The commander is responsible for maintaining law and order on the military installation. Commanders respond to disturbances using installation resources. Violence and disorder by any individual or group of individuals will not be tolerated.
AIR FORCE MANUAL 31-201, VOLUME 6
- 98 pages
- May 17, 2002
- 12.11 MB
(AP) The idea to cut wireless communications to quell a brewing protest – a tactic that has put San Francisco’s subway system in the middle of a global free speech debate – first came to the agency’s chief spokesman in the middle of the night.
Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Linton Johnson said Tuesday that he was lying awake early Thursday when he was struck by the thought of shutting off power to the agency’s wireless networks.
He sent an e-mail to BART police, who had asked employees for all ideas – “good or bad, constitutional or unconstitutional,” Johnson said.
BART Police Deputy Chief Ben Fairow responded that he liked the idea, and interim general manager Sherwood Wakeman, formerly the agency’s top lawyer, signed off on the plan, Johnson said.
BART’s board of directors was told of the tactic before 5 p.m. Thursday when it was deployed, he said.
The tactic is now at the center of a growing debate in the United States – and around the world – over whether BART officials acted properly to ensure commuter safety or overreached and violated free speech rights when it became the first U.S. governmental agency to shut off wireless service to disrupt protest.
The action has been compared unfavorably to Hosni Mubarek’s attempt to shut down the Internet in Egypt before protesters forced him from office.
On Tuesday, Johnson said he had no regrets and BART reserved the right to cut power again if faced with the same circumstances.
The agency kept the power on during a rowdy protest Monday that prompted the brief closure of four San Francisco stations during the evening commute.
Johnson said that’s because “the information we had Monday didn’t meet the constitutional standards” to cut communications like it did last week.
On Thursday, protest organizers posted instructions for the demonstration on websites and on Twitter, indicating more instructions would be issued electronically just before the demonstration was to start.
The demonstration was planned after BART police shot and killed Charles Hill, a 45-year-old transient, on July 3. BART police said he lunged at officers with a knife.
On Monday, organizers simply called for protesters to gather on the Civic Center station platform at 5 p.m. Cutting communications wouldn’t have helped police control the situation, Johnson said.
That demonstration was called in response to the communication cut last week. About 50 demonstrators massed on the platform with free speech signs chanting “no justice, no peace.” One protester was walking around with a toy phone shouting “can you hear me now.”
While Johnson’s idea has drawn criticism from some civil libertarians and free speech advocates, others inside and out of the agency supported the decision.
BART board president Bob Franklin said cutting communications led to a safe, uninterrupted commute Thursday night after the protest failed to materialize.
Franklin said doesn’t see BART ever again shutting the wireless network to quell a brewing protest. That’s because he believes future protesters won’t rely on their cell phones to organize, knowing BART has the capability to cut communications in its station.
“I don’t see a need to do it again,” Franklin said.
In an interview Tuesday, Franklin defended the agency’s actions to cut communications, saying it was legal and appropriate to ensure commuter safety.
“It stopped the protest,” Franklin said of the action.
Franklin said BART’s lawyers also believe its strategy Monday was a legal way to ensure safety on its crowded platforms.
Nonetheless, Franklin said he expects BART will get hit with a lawsuit, even though he thinks the issue of cutting communications to quell potentially dangerous demonstrations needs to be decided on a national level.
“It’s an interesting issue of free speech,” Franklin said. “The debate is now well beyond BART.”
Civil libertarian groups have backed away from threats to legally challenge BART over the issue, even though advocates fear other government agencies will use similar tactics if the practice isn’t challenged in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union met with BART’s police chief Monday even as demonstrators protested the agency’s previous action to block wireless reception.
After the meeting, ACLU attorney Michael Risher said the organization had no plans to immediately file a lawsuit and he was disappointed that he didn’t extract a pledge from BART to refrain from similar tactics in the future. He planned to keep meeting with the agency.
“While the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is not currently in the process of filing a lawsuit against BART for shutting down wireless service, we have not entirely ruled out the possibility,” ACLU spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer said Tuesday. “This is a rapidly evolving situation. We are in conversation with BART, and our analysis will change depending on BART’s actions going forward.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, too, said it was unlikely to file a lawsuit over the disabling of wireless reception for three hours.
Still, the shutdown of wireless towers in stations near the protest Thursday raised questions about the role that social networks play in helping people, from Egypt to London, organize online. In the U.S., with its history of free speech, critics are saying BART’s move was unconstitutional.
Elijah Sparrow, one of the protesters Monday night, called the demonstration “one of the defining battles of the 21st century over who is going to control communication.”
BART’s actions Thursday night prompted a Federal Communications Commission investigation, and a hacking group organized an attack on one of the agency’s websites on Sunday, posting personal information of more than 2,000 passengers online. The group Anonymous called for a disruption of BART’s evening commute Monday.
BART officials said they were working on a plan to block any efforts by protesters to disrupt the service, which carries 190,000 passengers during the morning and evening commutes every day.
BART experienced several large protests that turned into riots after a white transit officer shot unarmed black commuter Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009. Johannes Mehserle resigned from BART and was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
(MASS LIVE) The amateur videographer with the colorful vocabulary who memorialized the alleged 2009 police beating of Melvin Jones III during a traffic stop may be charged with illegal wiretapping.
One of four police officers disciplined for the incident on Nov. 27, 2009, Michael Sedergren, has filed an application for a criminal complaint against videographer Tyrisha Greene. Sedergren, who was suspended for 45 days, claims it was illegal for Greene to videotape him without his consent.
Greene made a 20-minute film that included Jones, who is black, being struck repeatedly by a white officer with a flashlight while a group of other white officers stood by without intervening. The video also included an expletive-filled commentary by Greene, 29, who sounded alarmed by the scene that unfolded on Rifle Street.
(Christopher Soghoian) According to an official DOJ report, the use of “emergency”, warrantless requests to ISPs for customer communications content has skyrocketed over 400% in a single year.
The 2009 report (pdf), which I recently obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request (it took DOJ 11 months (pdf) to give me the two-page report), reveals that law enforcement agencies within the Department of Justice sought and obtained communications content for 91 accounts. This number is a significant increase over previous years: 17 accounts in 2008 (pdf), 9 accounts in 2007 (pdf), and 17 accounts in 2006 (pdf).
When Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in 1986, it permitted law enforcement agencies to obtain stored communications and customer records in emergencies without the need for a court order.
In such scenarios, a carrier can (but is not required to) disclose the requested information if it, “in good faith, believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay of communications relating to the emergency.” Typically, belief means that a police officer states that an emergency exists.
With the passage of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, Congress created specific statistical reporting requirements for the voluntary disclosure of the contents of subscriber communications in emergency situations. In describing his motivation for introducing the requirement, Senator Lungren stated that:
“I felt that some accountability is necessary to ensure that this authority is not being abused… This information [contained in the reports] I believe should be highly beneficial to the Committee, fulfilling our oversight responsibility in the future … this is the best way for us to have a ready manner of looking at this particular section. In the hearings that we had, I found no basis for claiming that there has been abuse of this section. I don’t believe on its face it is an abusive section. But I do believe that it could be subject to abuse in the future and, therefore, this allows us as Members of Congress to have an ability to track this on a regular basis.”
The current reports are deeply flawed
The emergency request reports are compiled and submitted by the Attorney General, and only apply to disclosures made to law enforcement agencies within the Department of Justice. As such, there are no statistics for emergency disclosures made to other federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Secret Service, as well as those made to state and local law enforcement agencies.
Furthermore, although 18 USC 2702 permits both the disclosure of the content of communications, as well as non-content records associated with subscribers and their communications (such as geo-location data), Congress only required that statistics be compiled for the disclosure of communications content. It is not clear why Congress limited the reports in this way.
Because the reporting requirements do not apply to disclosures made to law enforcement agencies outside the Department of Justice, and do not include the disclosure of non-content communications data and other subscriber records, the reports reveal a very limited portion of the scale of voluntary disclosures to law enforcement agencies.
Likewise, although Congress intended for these reports to assist with public oversight of the emergency disclosure authority, the Department of Justice has not proactively made these reports available to the general public. The reports for 2006 and 2007 were leaked to me by a friend with contacts on the Hill. I obtained the 2008 and 2009 reports via FOIA requests — and disgracefully, it took DOJ 11 months to provide me with a copy of the 2-page report for 2009.
The emergency requests documented in these reports only scratch the surface
A letter (pdf) submitted by Verizon to Congressional committees in 2007 revealed that the company had received 25,000 emergency requests during the previous year. Of these 25,000 emergency requests, just 300 requests were from federal law enforcement agencies. In contrast, the reports submitted to Congress by the Attorney General reveal less than 20 disclosures for that year. Even though no other service provider has disclosed similar numbers regarding emergency disclosures, it is quite clear that the Department of Justice statistics are not adequately reporting the scale of this form of surveillance. In fact, they underreport these disclosures by several orders of magnitude.
The current reporting law is largely useless. It does not apply to state and local law enforcement agencies, who make tens of thousands of warrantless requests to ISPs each year. It does not apply to federal law enforcement agencies outside DOJ, such as the Secret Service. Finally, it does not apply to emergency disclosures of non-content information, such as geo-location data, subscriber information (such as name and address), or IP addresses used.
As such, Congress currently has no idea how many warrantless requests are made to ISPs each year. How can it hope to make sane policy in this area, when it has no useful data?
(EFF) Two weeks ago, the Mexican newspaper El Milenio reported on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPC) initiative to monitor social media sites, blogs, and forums throughout the world. The document, obtained by El Milenio through a U.S. Freedom of Information Act request, discloses how OPC’s National Operations Center (NOC) plans to initiate systematic monitoring of publicly available online data including “information posted by individual account users” on social media.
The NOC monitors, collects and fuses information from a variety of sources to provide a “real-time snap shot of the [U.S.] nation’s threat environment at any moment.” The NOC also coordinates information sharing to “help deter, detect, and prevent terrorist acts and to manage [U.S.] domestic incidents.” The NOC has initiated systemic monitoring of publicly available, user-generated data to follow real-time developments in U.S. crisis activities such as natural disasters as well as to help corroborate data received through official sources with ‘on-the-ground’ input.
The monitoring program appears to have its basis in a similar program used by NOC in its Haitian disaster relief efforts, where information from social media sources provided a vital source of real-time input that assisted NOC’s response, recovery and rebuilding efforts surrounding the 2009 earthquake. The new initiative attempts to leverage similar information sources in assessing and responding to a broader range of crisis activities, including terrorism, cybersecurity, nuclear and other disasters, health epidemics, domestic security, and border threats. While the addition of real-time social media sources can be extremely beneficial in disaster relief-type efforts, the breadth of activities covered by the initiative as well as the keywords and websites scheduled for systemic monitoring raise potential concerns, and the safeguards put in place by the initiative may not be sufficient to address these.
The NOC report entitled, “Privacy Impact Assessment of Public Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative”, reveals that NOC’s team of data miners are gathering, storing, analyzing, and sharing “de-identified” online information. The sources of information are “members of the public…first responders, press, volunteers, and others” who provide online publicly available information. To collect the information, the NOC monitors search terms such as “United Nations”, “law enforcement”, “anthrax”, “Mexico”, “Calderon”, “Colombia”, “marijuana”, “drug war”, “illegal immigrants”, “Yemen”, “pirates”, “tsunami”, “earthquake”, “airport”, “body scanner”, “hacker”, “DDOS”, “cybersecurity”, “2600” and “social media”. The report also contains a list of sites targeted for monitoring, including numerous blogs and news sites, as well as Wikileaks, Technorati, Global Voices Online, Facebook and Twitter. As the report was released in January 2011, this monitoring may already be taking place.
While the monitoring envisioned by the report is broad in scope, the initiative includes a number of safeguards that attempt to address privacy concerns. But these safeguards do not go far enough. Furthermore, while the NOC is attempting to limit the circumstances under which agents are permitted to collect or disclose personal data, these limitations only apply to DHS agents operating under this specific initiative. DHS “may use social media for other purposes including…law enforcement, intelligence, and other operations…” Other U.S. government agencies and initiatives have different rules and regulations that are subject to change.
With respect to the safeguards, NOC agents on social networks are prohibited from “post[ing] information, actively seek[ing] to connect…, accept[ing]… invitations to connect, or interact[ing] with others” including, presumably, responding to messages sent by other users. It is not clear, however, that this prohibition is sustainable in light of the NOC’s objective. For example, NOC agents are authorized to “establish user names and passwords to form profiles and follow relevant government, media, and subject matter experts on social media sites.” Social networking sites are premised on the concept of “interacting with others.” Distinctions such as ‘following’ a user on Twitter and ‘connecting’ with such a user are not clear-cut.
Genuine attempts are being made to limit monitoring to publicly available information while excluding private sources. For example, agents may be prohibited from collecting information found on Facebook profiles which are restricted to “friends only.” However, problems may arise with respect to more ambiguous “semi-public” spaces that are emerging in many online venues. If NOC agents are authorized to “follow” a user on Twitter, are they allowed to “friend” a Facebook (or Google+) user whose profile contains purely public “relevant government, media, and subject matter”? What about information posted by other people following that user under the extended “friends of friends” setting? The NOC initiative may find it difficult to navigate such distinctions.
Monitoring of purely public online information to assess situational threats can also lead to abuse. During the G20 meeting in Toronto, Canada, police monitoring of real-time on the ground social media interactions was used to locate and arrest large numbers of peaceful protesters. As noted by Constable Drummond, a law enforcement agent deeply involved in Canadian G20 social media surveillance efforts:
“…people have a tendency to have tunnel vision when posting things on sites, feeling faceless and untraceable. It is with those postings that we were able to use our talent and use the information posted to our advantage. It allowed our officers to monitor public sites that protestors were using to share information.”
In the lead up to G20 in Pittsburgh, two individuals were arrested for broadcasting police positions on twitter in an attempt to help peaceful protesters. In the UK, Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant, was convicted of “menacing” for posting a joke on his twitter feed which was taken by government agents to be an airport security threat. As Chambers used the NOC listed search term ‘airport’ in his joke, it may have come to NOC’s attention had it been tweeted in the U.S.
The report reminds individuals that if they do not want the NOC to collect their public data, they should not make it public in the first place: “[a]ny information posted publicly can be used by the NOC.” It places the responsibility of protecting privacy on end users, stating that “primary account holder[s] should be able to redress any [privacy] concerns through the third party social media service [and] should consult the privacy policies of the services they subscribe to for more information.” Moreover, DHS considers publication of the report as sufficient ‘notice’ to users that their public data may be monitored.
Unfortunately, following these policies is not as simple as it seems. Studies have shown that privacy policies are “hard to read” and are “read infrequently”, and even educated Facebook users who were concerned about privacy had trouble limiting data sharing with third parties. Moreover, they are nearly always subject to change. Facebook’s privacy policies have morphed continuously over the years, and have eroded privacy by making previously private information publicly available to everyone. Due to constantly shifting privacy settings, it is not clear that the NOC’s definition of ‘public’ and ‘private’ align with user expectations.
Once NOC has identified useful raw online data for the DHS, attempts are made to “extract only the pertinent, authorized information and put it into a specific web application.” The report explicitly emphasizes that the data extracted from the raw information is to be “free of personal identifiable information”, and efforts are made to carry out this objective. The report claims that if personal data is collected beyond what is authorized, the NOC will immediately redact this information. This “de-identified” information will be shared with federal and state governments when “appropriate”, as well as with the private sector and foreign governments as “otherwise authorized by law.”
This raises concerns, however, as there is significant research (read here, here, here, and here) demonstrating that de-identification is not always effective. With enough information, individuals can often be “re-identified” through complex computational systems. The details of the actual techniques of the de-identification process deserve broader debate that is open to public scrutiny.
This newly discovered initiative is part of a broader trend of monitoring and using online information in various investigative contexts. What should users both inside and outside the US learn from these discoveries? As always Internet users should certainly think carefully before posting information about themselves on public sites and remember that privacy policies are constantly subject to change. Not only do we know that the government is watching, we have some clues as to how it is doing it.
Department of Homeland Security Office of Operations Coordination & Planning Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring & Situational Awareness Initiative Update 1/6/2011:
(NPR) South Korea’s communications regulator fined Apple’s local operation 3 million won ($2,830) for what it says is the illegal collection of iPhone user location information.
The Korea Communications Commission announced Wednesday in a statement it has ordered Apple Korea to pay the fine for violating the country’s location information laws.
The amount is insignificant for Apple — the Cupertino, California-based tech giant earned $7.31 billion in its fiscal third quarter — but South Korea’s decision to impose the fine might influence regulators elsewhere.
Apple Inc. has faced various complaints and criticisms since revelations in the U.S. in April that iPhones were storing the locations of nearby cellphone towers and Wi-Fi hot spots for up to a year. Such data can be used to create a rough map of the device owner’s movements.
“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone,” Steve Park, the company’s local spokesman, said after the release of the KCC statement. “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”
South Korean media reported that the fine was the first to be imposed on Apple over the location information issue. Park said he did not know if that was true.
The KCC also demanded that both Apple and Google Inc. ensure that user location information on their mobile phones be saved in an encrypted form.
“We are currently reviewing the KCC’s decision,” Google said in a statement. The Internet search company said it has been “cooperating closely” with the commission. Google was not fined.
Mountain View, California-based Google acknowledged in April that phones running its Android software store some location data directly on phones for a short time from users who have chosen to use GPS services.
Apple and Google have said they only record the location of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers to improve service, and tracking can be turned off. Apple said a “bug” caused the iPhone to keep location data even when tracking was disabled.
The fine is Apple’s latest legal problem in South Korea. In May, a court ruled in favor of a South Korean lawyer who filed a lawsuit against the company alleging privacy violations over user location information and awarded him 1 million won in damages.
The lawyer, Kim Hyeong-seok, has been planning a class-action suit in a South Korean court against Apple over the issue.
(KIROTV) The Renton City Prosecutor wants to send a cartoonist to jail for mocking the police department in a series of animated Internet videos. The “South-Park”-style animations parody everything from officers having sex on duty to certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications. While the city wants to criminalize the cartoons, First Amendment rights advocates say the move is an “extreme abuse of power. “Only KIRO Team 7 Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne holds a key document that really lays bare the city’s intent. The document was quietly filed in King County Superior Court last week. It’s a search warrant accusing an anonymous cartoon creator, going by the name of Mr. Fiddlesticks, of cyberstalking (RCW 9.61.260). The Renton Police Department and the local prosecutor got a judge to sign off as a way to uncover the name of whoever is behind the parodies. Halsne talked with three nationally respected legal experts who believe the use of the cyberstalking statute is likely stomping on the constitution. The series of web-based short cartoons feature a mustachioed street cop and a short-haired female bureaucrat. The dry, at times, witty banter between the two touches on some embarrassing insider secrets, some of which seem to match up with internal affairs investigations on file within Renton PD.
Cartoon Character of Officer: “Is there any reason why an anonymous video, with no identifying information that ties it to the department or city is being taken more seriously than officers having sex on duty, arguing with outside agencies while in a drunken stupor off duty, sleeping while on duty, throwing someone off a bridge, and having inappropriate relationships with coworkers and committing adultery?”
Cartoon Character of Bureaucrat: “The reason is that internal dirt is internal. The department will crucify certain people and take care of others.” A criminal court document, uncovered by Team 7 Investigators, not only shows how badly the city of Renton wants to “out” the cartoonist (who goes by the name MrFiddlesticks), but states some of the fake character’s lines discuss real life incidents. For example, the search warrant says one cartoon statement “discussed a past incident that has already been investigated…..regarding a dating relationship (a female detective) had with a suspect.” An embarrassing revelation; yes, but criminal?We asked attorney Venkat Balasubramani to review several parody videos and the court documents. He’s an expert in cyber-law and constitutional issues.“The cyberstalking angle doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Balasubramani told KIRO-TV. “It’s a serious stretch and I’d be surprised if somebody looked at it and realistically thought these acts actually fit the statute and we could make somebody criminally liable. “When we asked about the more likely scenario, Balasubramani said, “I think they were trying to get at the speaker and they looked around for a statute that shoehorned their conduct into and sent that to Google and said ‘turn over the information. ”Historically, Google and You-Tube are far more likely to cough up an anonymous animator’s real name when there’s a criminal case, as opposed to just an internal affairs investigation into some personnel issues.KIRO Team 7 Investigators went to the City Attorney’s office to ask the chief prosecutor, Shawn Arthur, his motivations to criminalize cartoon creators. Halsne was told to leave a handwritten note. We did not hear back from Arthur. A similar thing happened at the Renton police department. A spokesperson told Halsne that Chief Kevin Milosevich was unavailable. Team 7 Investigators, however, did track down Penny Bartley. She’s a former Renton Police Public Information Officer and current jail administrator, which court records say is the female bureaucrat in some of the cartoons. The mystery animator makes fun of her ankles and questions her resume, yet Bartley wouldn’t talk about the parodies, except to say the city prosecutor never contacted her regarding the filing of a criminal warrant.
Halsne: “The video is insulting to you. Can’t you at least step out and talk about how that makes you feel?”
Bartley: “I’m not going to talk about that.”
Halsne: “So you’re not offended?”
Bartley: “I’m not going to comment on this Chris, I’ve said that. “KIRO-TV found two of the full parodies still hanging around the web (which are now posted on our site), but police said there were 6 or 7 additional cartoons created with animation software at www.xtranorma.com and posted under a pseudonyms. KIRO-TV has since obtained four more videos. When KIRO 7 Eyewitness News asked for comment from the city, we were told that there is a point person in charge of comments, and that person is on vacation in Canada.