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Professor Richard Falk, the UNHCR’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, spoke on the issue of The Israeli Assault on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on Wednesday 1st December.
Professor Falk spoke about his findings over the past few years about the blatant discrimination and oppression Palestinians face every day, including the torture and persecution inflicted upon them by the occupying state of Israel. According to Prof. Falk, the two-state solution is no longer an option and will only create more friction and bloodshed in the region; in his opinion, there can be only two possible outcomes:
- a “unified democratic secular state that respects the rights of all people within its borders”; or
- the exact opposite, and we will witness “an intensification of the existing apartheid situation”.
Among the throngs of supporters of Palestine were a handful of pro-Zionists, some of whom sought to disrupt the professor mid-lecture; others tried to monopolise the Question and Answer session at the end. Professor Falk, as always, answered with eloquence and grace.
Professor Falk begins at 19 minutes:
LOD, Israel — The 67 members of the extended Abu Eid family assessed the remains of their six concrete homes on Wednesday, two days after police in Lod demolished them amidst sheets of rain and blustery winds.
The six buildings were among more than 100 in the city under immediate demolition orders, following a fall Knesset decision to destroy an estimated 4,000 illegal housing structures in a plan said to cost millions of shekels.
A dozen other homes have been bulldozed in previous years, sparking periodic protests by hundreds of Arab residents. Yousef Asfour, coordinator with Amnesty International’s Israel branch, said an earlier incident in October saw two homes in the same neighborhood of the mixed Jewish-Arab city bulldozed.
The most high-profile demolition to date was Monday’s demolition of the entire Abu Eid family compound.
Most of the extended family members said they were home at around 8 a.m. when an estimated 500 police officers in tactical gear stormed the courtyard of the compound, broke through doors and quickly turned the men, women and children out into the season’s worst storm without shoes or jackets. Police made no arrests.
Eleven-year-old Odei was home alone with his 12-year-old sister when police broke through his door. “They pointed rifles at me and said ‘don’t move,’” he related. Once outside, he said, “I was wet and cold. They were like gangsters,” he added of the young police in face-concealing riot gear.
All that remained after the five-hour bulldozing operation was chewed-up grey concrete, bent fans, broken air-conditioners and furniture beneath rubble. A paddock containing goats was partially broken and nearly half of what the family said was 100 animals went missing.
Family members said they were not allowed to rescue of their possessions and watched as refrigerators were destroyed and food was thrown to the floor. Five allege that they were shoved or kicked, including Shareen, 27, who is three months pregnant and had re-entered her home to try to assist her mother.
Sinam, a mother of seven, claims that officers took gold jewelry she had in safekeeping to use as dowry for her two engaged daughters. A ring with precious stones was returned, she said, but a gold chain remains missing.
Thirteen-year-old Noor claims he watched as a soldier threw his puppy – tied up and barking – and then shoot it in the stomach. “I came over and it was dying,” he said quietly as other boys noted his tears that morning.
Lod’s police chief and mayor declined multiple requests for comment.
The family claims the six houses and small office destroyed Monday were built more than 50 years ago. Each family said it had been paying rent for decades to a state-owned company to use the land, but was only allowed to build up to 100 square-meter homes since it was zoned as agricultural.
As the family grew, it requested but was declined approval to expand their houses. Expansions were nonetheless made and retroactive permits sought. After many court appeals, family members were told to expect the demolitions at the end of December.
Some 30 homeowners in same area have received notices that their houses will also be bulldozed at the end of the month.
Families whose homes are demolished are asked to pay the municipality for the steep cost of the action or be jailed; some Arab residents in Lod have taken to demolishing their own homes because it is cheaper.
Arab homes principal target in larger plan
It is a scene being repeated across Israel with increasing frequency. Some 42,000 Arab homes built without required permits are threatened with demolition: 13,000 could be carried out at any time and 30,000 are at some stage in local courts, said Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, a Palestinian civil society organization.
Last year, 165 of these homes were bulldozed, Amnesty International said.
“It’s the same story for all the mixed cities: destruction and construction,” said Busayna Dabit, a project coordinator with the New Israel Fund and a Ramle resident. These “mixed” cities also include Haifa, Yaffa and Acre.
More than two-thirds of Arabs in Ramle and nearby Lod are living in illegally built houses. Hundreds have demonstrated periodically in Lod, where, the roughly 27,000 Arabs represent a third of the population.
The phenomenon is pervasive across Israel, from targeting Arab homes in mixed cities to the homes of Bedouins in the NEGEV. //// A collection of some 40 small population centers THERE house an estimated 40 percent of the Bedouins in the Negev, have been settled locations for decades and in some cases used as seasonal encampments for centuries. The areas are not demarcated on maps, receive no water, electricity, road repair or other municipal services.
In Shameer, an unrecognized village of some 4,000 near Lod, virtually every home has been issued a demolition order. A portion of the houses, however, are being legalized under a master plan that involved negotiations between the city, the Israeli Land Authority and Shameer’s inhabitants, including amounts that the government will pay as compensation.
Next door, some 13 families in the neighboring village of Dahmash are awaiting a court order to determine not only the fate of their homes – which are also under demolition orders – but whether Lod or the adjacent city of Ramle will be forced to absorb them into their municipalities, or whether a plan it has drawn up to make its residences legal retroactively will be approved.
The roughly 600 residents of Dahmash say the government told its original families to move there after they were forced off their lands from 1951 through the mid-1980s. While some houses have stood for more than 60 years – and one pre-dates the war – no municipal services, such as water, electricity or sanitation, have been provided to its residents. After three Dahmash children were killed crossing the railroad tracks on foot, the village won a recent court fight to bus them to schools in Ramle.
The Dahmash residents facing expulsion have been told to seek housing Ramle’s Juarish neighborhood, where thousands of Arabs were concentrated after the 1948 War of Independence but have never been given residential building licenses because the city has not registered their names.
National and local officials are intentionally not granting Arab-Israelis planning rights to allow them to develop any land, charged Amnesty International’s executive director for Israel, Itay Epshtain. “It is a form of diminished citizenship because a lot of the services you depend on are at the municipal level.”
Emek Lod’s leader, Minache Mosche, denies that Dahmash exists.
“There is no settlement or village by the name of Dahmash and there never has been one,” he said. He claimed that, with the exception of one pre-war house, there was nothing on the land except for two farm storage buildings until illegal construction of homes began in 1990.
Asked where the villagers should move, Ramle mayor Yoel Lavi said: “It’s a free market. You can buy everywhere.” “They are poor in culture, poor in behavior. No ambition.”
A kilometer away from the Abu Eid family, the wreckage of the homes of nine other families whose homes were destroyed in 2008 remains visible, across some railroad tracks from where one of the sons of a former homeowner now sleeps in a lot with dozens of sheep and his car repair shop.
The Wihwah brothers and five of their neighbors paid 15,000 shekels altogether to wreck their own homes two years ago after receiving an initial demolition order in 2003. The owners of the other two homes “didn’t think they would come,” said Telal. One week later, each had to pay 90,000 shekels when the police carried out the demolitions.
Talal said his family had to pay 250,000 shekels ($69,624) in back city taxes, despite not having received municipal services. He and his brothers say they are afraid to open bank accounts, out of fear that the city would confiscate any deposits.
“It’s very painful to look at these stones,” said Ahmad, one of his two brothers. “My grandfather owned this land. Now, I suffer from claustrophobia.”
Anne Usher is a freelance journalist based in Tel Aviv. She has written for The Christian Science Monitor and Ynet since moving to Israel and is a former editor for Cox Newspapers. Her bio is at anneusher.com
KIFL HARIS, Salfit — Shortly before midnight on Friday morning residents of the Salfit-district village of Kifl Haris reported dozens of Israeli military vehicles and bus-loads of what were described by locals as “settlers” entering the area.
Locals estimated some 3,000 “settlers” – religious Jews, many from settlements in the occupied West Bank – entered the area as protecting troops set up checkpoints and barricades around a small tomb in the village.
Locals say the tomb belongs to a sheikh from the village, while religious Jews visiting the site say it is the final resting place of Joshua ben Nun, leader of early Jewish tribes.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said there were 800 visitors accompanied by Israeli soldiers. The group stayed in the area from midnight to 5 a.m.
According to Israeli news site Ynet, the visitors found the tomb “desecrated” by Arabic graffiti with slogans like “we are the defenders of the national project” and “conciliation, speak to you enemy through bullets.”
You’ve heard of no fly and no buy lists – get ready for no work lists. Millions of workers now must apply to the DHS and prove they are not terrorists in order to be granted permission by the government to work.
On the Alex Jones Show today, a caller pointed to information posted on a union website for ironworkers spelling out details on the Department of Homeland Security’s TWIC and SWAC programs.
TWIC is short for Transportation Worker Identification Credential and SWAC stands for Secure Worker Access Consortium.
TWIC “is a biometric credential that ensures only vetted workers are eligible to enter a secure construction site, unescorted,” Ironworkers Local 361 in Ozone Park, New York, explains. “Before issuing a TWIC, TSA must conduct a security threat assessment on the TWIC applicant. An applicant who, as a result of the assessment, is determined to not pose a security threat, will be issued a TWIC card.”
In other words, construction workers in New York will need permission from the TSA and DHS in order to practice their profession and earn a living. It was much the same in the former Soviet Union and authoritarian states such as China where the government determines all aspects of an individual’s life and where even the mildly rebellious are severely punished.
SWAC is even more draconian. It is “a large-scale collaborative effort among public and private authorities, facility owners, contractors, and labor organizations who are partnering to prevent terrorist activity by creating a trusted contractor community. Over 500 organizations, including the Port Authority of NY and NJ, which manages and maintains the bridges, tunnels, bus terminals, airports, PATH, and seaports that are essential to the bi-state region’s trade and transportation capabilities, have joined this effort,” according to the union website.
SWAC also requires a background investigation by the government, so if construction, port workers, longshoremen, and truck drivers are involved in political activity frowned upon by the feds – for instance, 9/11 truth, considered dangerous and subversive by the State Department – it is likely they will have to find another line of work.
A SWAC PDF specifically mentions “treason” in an exhaustive list of crimes and misdeeds that will result in the federal government denying a person the right to earn a living.
The TWIC Disclosure and Certification form states the following: “I acknowledge that if TSA or other law enforcement agencies determine that I pose an imminent threat to national security or transportation security, my employer may be notified.”
The TSA no-fly list contains thousands of names, including journalists and political activists. If the government determines you hold the wrong political beliefs, according to the TWIC document, your employer will be told and you may lose your job and the ability to provide for your family.
The TWIC application also mentions “treason” and “sedition” as a criteria to put an end to an individual’s employment.
Sedition is defined as overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by officialdom to tend toward insurrection against the establishment. The Sedition Act of 1918 forbids the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces. The Sedition Act was updated on October 26, 2001, when Congress signed the USA Patriot Act into law. In the mid 70s, the Church Committee discovered that the government had carried out an aggressive campaign for decades to neutralize – as FBI director Hoover characterized it – political activity the establishment considered a threat to its monopoly on power.
As noted above, TWIC plans to force an expensive biometric ID on workers. This idea is hardly new. In 2002, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the Department of Homeland Security in order to get details on then director Tom Ridge’s plan to introduce a biometric national ID card. Ridge and the government have stated repeatdly that “national security requirements would ultimately make such cards a reality.”
Earlier this year, Democrats pushed the idea making a biometric national ID card mandatory for all Americans. “Everyone would have to produce the card to get a job, or keep a job,” the UPI reported on May 9. “On a five-year timetable the biometric cards would replace Social Security cards and would be used to prove eligibility for employment. Card scanners would be issued to all U.S. employers. The cards would at least have the capability of being linked to a central data system.”
TWIC and SWAC represent an incremental effort by the national security state to introduce biometric ID as a prerequisite for employment. In the months ahead, we can expect more intrusions by the government on our rights as spelled out by the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” that document states.
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, however, according to the government, will soon be predicated on a national biometric ID card and inclusion of our most private information in sprawling databases.
In the coming Brave New World Order, only citizens vetted by a totalitarian government will be allowed to work and feed their families. All others will be locked out of the system like the mutants in Total Recall, the dystopian movie based on a story by Phillip K. Dick.
Hillary Clinton has called WikiLeaks “an attack on the international community”. Coming from her, we must assume that is meant in all seriousness. We must compare it to what we saw on our screens on 9/11: “America under attack”.
When a Secretary of State announces that we are ‘under attack’, it follows without saying that we can expect some kind of response to that attack. Indeed the word ‘attack’ is more or less reserved for occasions where a response is planned. Otherwise the statement would be interpreted as reflecting weakness and impotence.
When America was ‘under attack’, we got the Patriot Act domestically, and never-ending war internationally — the Constitution was shredded along with international law. That was a very big response. What kind of response can we expect when the ‘international community’ is declared to be ‘under attack’, because a website has revealed a few relatively harmless secrets?
If the State Department really felt that the WikiLeaks operation was a serious threat to national security, or even a serious embarrassment politically, they could have shut it down at any time. They have their ways. And they could have ‘gotten to’ Assange in one way or another, as they got to David Kelly, who really was a threat, with his testimony that WMDs did not exists, testimony that was never heard about again, after he ‘committed suicide’.
Instead, with WikiLeaks, we have Assange at large flaunting it, and we see the leaks being published in the mainstream media, both in print and online, conveniently indexed. What’s wrong with this picture? If the leaks are harmful, why are they doing everything they can to make sure everyone, including any ‘potential terrorists’, sees them?
The WikiLeaks affair has become a major dramatic story line on the stage of the global mass media. It’s very much like the launch of a new television series. We’ve got a dramatic personality at the center, seen by some as a super hero and others as a super demon, who is able to reveal a million secrets at a single bound. We’ve got increasing dramatic tension, as the attack alarms ring, the secrets keep coming out, and… nothing decisive is being done. Something must be done! That’s clearly where this story line is leading.
By doing nothing decisive, and with Assange out on bail, the message between the lines is that new legislation is needed. Perhaps new legislation is already being discussed; I haven’t been following that part of the story. But as the dramatic tension mounts in the media, so that it becomes ‘obvious’ that something must be done, we can be sure we will end up with a draconian Cyber Terrorism Act, akin to the Domestic Terrorism Act.
Clearly, the provisions of this act will be very far-reaching. That has been the consistent pattern with each of our various ‘terrorism’ acts. Currently, anyone can be arbitrarily declared a domestic terrorist, and be locked up forever incommunicado. That hasn’t been happening on any significant scale, yet, but the provisions are that far reaching.
Similarly, in a Cyber Terrorism Act, we’ll get a provision that any website can be arbitrarily declared ‘in aid of terrorism’, closed down, and anyone involved with it can be treated as a domestic terrorist. The Act will be that far-reaching, but we probably won’t see a lot of such closures happening. Instead, we’ll get hit in more subtle ways. Websites will simply be seized, without fanfare, and that’s already been happening, under the logo of Homeland Security.
I think we can take a clue from the TSA experience at airports, as regards what we can expect at ‘net ports’. Consider, for example, the ‘no fly’ list. If you’re on the list, you can’t fly, they don’t give you any reasons, and they even seem to flaunt how arbitrary the list is. They are arbitrarily restricting your ability to connect with people face to face.
Similarly, from what might be called the Communications Security Administration (CSA), we can expect a ‘no send’ list. If you’re on the list, you can’t send or post messages, and no reasons will be given. They will be arbitrarily restricting your ability to connect with people remotely. Already, I’ve been encountering problems with sending, where my IP address has been mysteriously tagged as a spam source, and my ISP claimed to have no explanation.
Consider also the invasive screening process at airports. Everyone is treated as a potential terrorist, until they pass the invasive screening process. Similarly, every message anyone tries to send will be treated as a ‘potential cyber threat’, until it passes an invasive ‘threat filter’. Google is already deploying such a filter, and calling it a spam filter. Currently, with manual intervention, you can rescue a message from the filter. The CSA’s filter will simply delete your message, end of story, before it even gets to your ISP.
Air travel and the Internet have been the ‘great global connectors’, of people and of ideas. The thrust of ‘security’ measures has had little to do with terrorism, and everything to do with making ‘connection’ more and more difficult. Same story when you try to cross a border in your car.
WikiLeaks is indeed the 9/11 of the Internet. The leaks themselves are an inside job, just like the Twin Towers, with the leaks carefully selected to avoid anything really damaging, or anything embarrassing to Israel. And just as they didn’t scramble the interceptors, they didn’t close down the WikiLeaks site. They let both events play out, down on Highway 61, and then they splashed them all over the media. Such things are always done for a purpose.
Richard K. Moore can be contacted at email@example.com
Unless the US Congress takes a tougher line on lobbyists, Israel will continue building settlements on Palestinian land.
At last the United States is responding to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlements and re-start negotiations with the Palestinians.
Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, rushed to the House floor with a resolution drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] condemning the Palestinians for publicly suggesting that, in the wake of Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlements and negotiate, they will consider a unilateral declaration of statehood.
Congress passed the Berman bill, drafted only this week, on Wednesday. When it comes to pleasing AIPAC, there are simply no limits.
This remains true even though AIPAC is embroiled in an espionage/sex scandal that has it scrambling to find $20m to pay off a former top employee who is threatening to produce documents exposing the lobby.
The Berman bill passed overwhelmingly because that is how things work in a city where policy is driven by campaign contributions — and not just on this issue.
The only difference between how AIPAC lobbyists dictate US Middle East policy and pretty much every other major lobby is that AIPAC works to advance the interests of a foreign country.
In other words, comparisons to the National Rifle Association [NRA] would only be applicable if the gun owners that the NRA claims to represent lived in, say, Greece. Oh, and NRA-backed bills usually take longer than a day to get to the House floor.
And here you have the root of the problem. And it is not just an American problem. It is just as much an Israeli problem, a Palestinian problem, and an international problem.
There is only one reason that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapsed. It is the power of the “pro-Israel lobby” (led by AIPAC) which prevents the United States from saying publicly what it says privately: that resolution of a conflict which is so damaging to US interests is consistently being blocked by the intransigence of the Netanyahu government and its determination to maintain the occupation.
This is not a situation where responsibility attaches equally to both sides. The Israelis hold all of the disputed territories. Yes, the Palestinians have administrative control of some parts of the West Bank but its authority — and it is very small — derives from the Israelis.
Gaza is controlled by Hamas but it is a reservation or ghetto, not a free entity. Its borders are entirely blocked by the Israelis (and the Egyptians who do whatever Israel demands on their border with Gaza).
It remains under Israeli blockade, lightened only a bit since Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted that the blockade was not necessary for Israel’s security. And then there is Arab East Jerusalem, where the Netanyahu government has expanded efforts to push Palestinians out of their homes and replace them with settlers.
The Palestinians have no power at all although they have done everything that Israel and the United States demanded.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) fully recognised Israel and pledged itself to fighting terrorism and resorting exclusively to negotiations to achieve a state. They agreed that their state would be limited to the 22 per cent of historic Palestine that is the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — recognising that Israel would have the other 78 per cent.
Even Hamas, which still insists that Israel has no right to be there, says that if the Palestinian Authority negotiates a deal with Israel that is accepted by the Palestinian people, it too will join in and end its war with Israel.
And what has Israel offered in exchange for these historic concessions? Absolutely nothing.
Yes, it has played at negotiations.
Israel’s advocates argue that, at Camp David in 2000, it offered the Palestinians 94 per cent of the 22 per cent or 98 per cent or whatever.
Netanyahu’s current offer is 60 per cent of the 22 per cent. But the supposed offer came with the standard conditions and caveats when there should be only one condition. In exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians must agree to absolute security for Israel with ironclad guarantees backed up with surveillance systems to ensure that there are no violations.
In fact, the Palestinians agreed to those terms as far back as the Yasser Arafat era, when, in the late nineties, Israelis and Palestinians adopted a security plan brokered by the CIA to combat terrorism.
President Arafat’s efforts were so thorough, fighting a virtual civil war with Hamas, that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Arafat both in person and by telephone how much he appreciated Arafat’s help.
But neither Arafat nor his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, got anything in return.
That nothing is easily defined. During the entire 17-year period since the historic Rabin-Arafat agreement — and the famed handshake on the White House lawn — the Israelis never ceased confiscating land and building settlements in the areas that are supposed to constitute the Palestinian state.
That was and is the clearest measure of Israel’s intentions. The Israeli government does not intend to give up territory it wants; it gave up Gaza because it decided that it better served Israeli interests to just blockade it.
Why would Palestinians believe that Israel is negotiating seriously when it keeps building inside the future Palestinian state?
All this is obvious to anyone paying attention — especially since Prime Minister Netanyahu absolutely refused to freeze settlements for even 90 days in exchange for the United States doubling the aid package. Really, if he won’t freeze for 90 days for $3.5bn, only a fool would believe that he would ever actually give up any land permanently.
Marching to Israel’s tune
And yet the United States government keeps playing this game. No matter what Israel does, it is fine by America.
It does not have to be that way. If the administration and Congress put US interests (and Israel’s too) over the craving for campaign contributions, the United States could tell the Israeli government that, from now on, our aid package comes with strings.
Like a loan from the International Monetary Fund (although aid to Israel is a gift, not a loan), the US could say that in exchange for our billions, our UN vetoes of resolutions criticising Israel, and our silence in the face of war crimes like Gaza, we want Israel to end the occupation within, say, 24 months. And Israel would have to comply because our military assistance is, as AIPAC likes to call it, “Israel’s lifeline”.
If we did that, many Israelis would be very angry (just as many would appreciate America forcing an end to the occupation).
But the lobby would be furious because, above all else, it needs to feel that it controls US policy in the Middle East. Not for America’s sake. Not for Israel’s. But for its own. As with most Washington lobbies, it is not in business to make the world a better place. It is not pro-Israel; it is pro-AIPAC.
When will all this change? Who knows?
The AIPAC scandals are weakening the group, although not enough to prevent Congress from passing its latest bill condemning Palestinians. And younger American Jews, especially progressives (which is most of them), simply don’t buy the AIPAC line. American Jews are, after all, Americans.
But, for now, the bottom line is money. The US government dances to Israel’s tune because it is afraid to risk campaign contributions from a few dozen fat cats. That is the whole story.
Meanwhile, as General David Petraeus has said, US interests — including the lives of our men and women in uniform — are threatened by the belief in the Middle East that United States is Israel’s puppet. Petraeus’ view is common throughout the military which, unaffected by politics, manages to actually see the obvious. When will the rest of our government allow itself to do the same?
MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.
The Obama Administration’s effort to obtain your location from cell phone towers without a warrant was rebuffed Wednesday by a federal court.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the Justice Department cannot obtain information about which cell phone towers mobile phones communicate with without a warrant.
The decision was first reported by Wired’s David Kravets, and has received almost no coverage in the press. The Obama Administration is seeking to reverse an earlier ruling giving judges the authority to require a warrant for the government to obtain cell phone tracking data.
In October, Obama Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer filed a brief seeking the power to obtain cell phone location data without a warrant, arguing that it was essentially communication made in a public place.
Referencing a 1979 case, Smith vs. Maryland, the Assistant Attorney General wrote that because telephone callers cannot expect privacy in the numbers they dial, they can’t expect privacy in the locations of towers their cell phones interact with.
“In Smith, the Supreme Court held both that telephone users have no subjective expectation of privacy in dialed telephone numbers and also that any such expectation is not one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable,” Breuer wrote, along with several other officials. “The Court’s reasoning applies equally to cell-site information. The Court stated: “we doubt that people in general entertain any actual expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial. All telephone users realize that they must ‘convey’ phone numbers to the telephone company, since it is through telephone company switching equipment that their calls are completed.” Similarly, cell phone users understand they must convey a signal to a cell phone tower before their call may be completed.” (p. 12 – pdf)
The brief was co-written by US Attorney David Hickton, Assistant US Attorney Robert Eberhardt, and and Associate Director of the US Justice Department’s Office of Enforcement Operations.
Wired‘s David Kravets noted that the decision to bar law enforcement from routine collection of cell-site data comes in a broader context of rulings favoring electronic privacy.
“The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one in a string of court decisions boosting Americans’ privacy in the digital age — rulings the government fought against,” Kravets penned Wednesday. “The most significant and recent decision came Tuesday, when a different federal appeals court said for the first time the government must obtain a court warrant for an internet service provider to grant the authorities access to a suspect’s e-mail.”
“The case that concluded Wednesday concerns historical cell-site location information, which carriers usually retain for about 18 months,” Kravets added. “The data identifies the cell tower the customer was connected to at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call — and is often used in criminal prosecutions and investigations.”
In September, the appeals court ruled that judges should have the power to require warrants for the government to obtain cell-site information. The Obama Administration appealed that decision, and the ruling Wednesday rebuffed their efforts.
Earlier this month, Law.com provided a description of how law enforcement can use cell-site information in investigations.
…Cell phone records can track the movements of the person or persons in possession of a cell phone that has been activated, even when no one is making a call on the phone, that the tracking can be quite granular, within 146 feet, or 50 meters, and, in many cases, within 40 feet, and that the increase in cell phone towers and improvements in technology will continue to make tracking even more granular. Telephones equipped with Global Positioning System applications can be tracked by GPS satellites that orbit the earth and whose purpose is to track all GPS targets.
Though not all phones are equipped with GPS capabilities, all cell phones can be tracked through network-based tracking.
Cell phones are supported by a network of cell towers that relay messages from the caller through the carrier to the recipient. There are hundreds of thousands of cell phone towers in the United States. Activated cell phones are in constant contact with cell phone towers, keeping contact with the closest one as the cell phone moves across space so that if and when a call comes in or goes out it will do so instantly.
By tracking the “hops” a cell phone makes from cell phone tower to tower, law enforcement can track the movements of that phone — and, ostensibly, its owner — for as long as the records are kept by the carrier.
Kravets, at Wired, noted that the Obama Administration is also seeking permission to affix GPS devices to vehicles without a court warrant.
“The administration has also asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse its August ruling requiring court warrants to affix GPS devices to vehicles to track their every move,” he wrote. “The administration said Americans should expect no privacy ‘in the totality of his or her movements in public places.’”
“The appellate court’s answer is pending,” he added.