New York City police officers arrested a woman who was video recording them from a public sidewalk as they conducted some type of “vehicle safety checkpoint.”
The officers apparently stole a memory card from a camera, which turned out to be the wrong one, allowing us to view the video.
In the Youtube description, under the headline, “You stole the wrong SD card,” Christina Gonzalez said her boyfriend was also arrested.
We were arrested while filming an NYPD checkpoint on a bridge between a soon to be gentrified Bronx and a quickly gentrifying Harlem. We were charged with OGA, DisCon, and resisting arrest. I was holding a bag of yarn in one hand and a canvas in the other. My partner had food in his hands when he was tackled. Even though their violent actions were unjust, we did not resist. Simultaneous with our “arrests”, the checkpoint was closed down.
We were held for 25 hours.
OGA is obstructing government administration, which generally requires the person to physically obstruct police from doing their job.
According to a New York attorney:
Generally, If you impair or obstruct the administration of law or prevent a public servant (often a police officer) from performing his or her official duty and function, then you have committed this crime. However, the other crucial element is that this intentional obstruction be done through intimidation, interference, physical force or an independently unlawful act.
But Gonzalez didn’t appear to be doing any of the above. She was peppering the cops with questions as to what they were doing and one sergeant tried to answer a question before telling her he wasn’t going to answer more questions.
She kept peppering him with questions, which prompted him to order her to move away.
When she refused, he demanded identification, which she also refused to provide.
That led to her arrest.
I sent her a message asking her to clarify about the memory card. Will update when she responds.
UPDATE: Mickey Osterreicher just emailed the following:
See the following from the NYPD Patrol Guide under PG 208-03 Arrests – General Processing, effective 01-01-2000 that came as a result of a 1977 Consent Decree between NYPD and the NYCLU. In pertinent part that section reads as follows:
OBSERVERS AT THE SCENE OF POLICE INCIDENTS
As a rule, when a police officer stops, detains or arrests a person in a public area, persons who happen to be in or are attached to the area are naturally in position to and are allowed to observe the police officer’s actions. This right to observe is, of course, limited by reasons of safety to all concerned and as long as there is no substantive violation of law. The following guidelines should be utilized by police officers whenever the above situation exists:
a. A person remaining in the vicinity of a stop or arrest shall not be subject to arrest for Obstructing Governmental Administration (Penal Law, Section 195.05) unless the officer has probable cause to believe the person or persons are obstructing governmental administration.
b. None of the following constitutes probable cause for arrest or detention of an onlooker unless the safety of officers or other persons is directly endangered or the officer reasonably believes they are endangered or the law is otherwise violated:
(1) Speech alone, even though crude and vulgar
(2) Requesting and making notes of shield numbers or names of officers
(3) Taking photographs, videotapes or tape recordings
(4) Remaining in the vicinity of the stop or arrest.
c. Whenever an onlooker is arrested or taken into custody, the arresting officer shall request the patrol supervisor to the scene, or if unavailable, report the action to the supervisor where the person is taken.
This procedure is not intended in any manner to limit the authority of the police to establish police lines, e.g., crowd control at scenes of fires, demonstrations, etc.
US robots, Israeli drones to help make 2014 World Cup in Brazil ‘one of safest sporting events ever’
Brazil has added 30 US military robots to the Israeli drones and ‘Robocop-style’ glasses with face recognition cameras to its arsenal after the country allocated $900 million to make 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history.”
The 30 PackBot 510 units, which usually cost between $100,000 and $200,000 apiece, will arrive in Brazil as part of the $7.2 million deal the country signed with American iRobot advanced technology company. The contracts include services, spare parts and associated equipment.
“IRobot continues its international expansion, and Brazil represents an important market for the company’s unmanned ground vehicles,” Frank Wilson, iRobot’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “IRobot is excited to be providing the company’s state-of-the-art robotic technologies to Brazil as the country prepares for several high profile international events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”
The first real test for the PackBots will be the visit of Pope Franics to Brazil this July, with the country also looking to use the robots during the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The PackBots are equipped with cameras and are operated remotely in order to detect and examine suspicious objects or explore dangerous environments, while keeping their operators safe from harm.
The devices weigh about 27 kilogram and rely on caterpillar treads to move around, using videogame-style hand controllers to make it more familiar to the users.
More than 2000 of those military robots are currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with PackBots being the first to enter the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Brazil is spending $900 million to bolster its security forces, including high-tech surveillance equipment and helicopters, as the country is hoping to make the 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history.”
The country’s police will be equipped with facial-recognition camera glasses that can capture 400 facial images per second to store them in a central database of up to 13 million faces.
Brazil is also reported to have spent $25 million on four Israeli-made drones, which are expected to make their debut at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June.
There’ll also be plenty of manpower involved in the security operation as the World Cup organizers plan have 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers from the Brazilian Armed Forces at each of the 12 host cities during the event.
A court in Spain has formally charged 22 Spanish riot police officers with causing serious harm to a man when they fired rubber bullets at protesters in Barcelona.
Judge Josep Majo, who is leading the investigation, has filed charges of grievous bodily harm against the officers, who are accused of injuring the man during a general strike on March 29, 2012.
Judicial sources say the protester was forced to have his arm amputated as a consequence of the shooting incident.
During the general strike of March 2012, police fired rubber bullets at the crowd, causing at least five people to be hospitalized.
According to reports, two of the protesters lost an eye, two others were treated for injuries to their arms and a fifth reported rib fractures and a perforated lung.
This case is one of several similar probes launched by Spanish prosecutors involving people who have been injured by rubber bullets while protesting.
The most notable incident occurred during a separate demonstration in Barcelona on November 14, 2012, when protester Ester Quintana lost an eye after being wounded by a rubber bullet.
Under Spain’s local police protocol, officers are not allowed to fire directly against protesters, since the speed of the rubber bullet exceeds 700 km/h.
However, video recording of the incident show three agents, who appeared to be firing straight at the crowds.
During recent years, Spaniards have held numerous strikes and protests against the government imposed austerity measures that are particularly targeting the middle and working classes.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.
The USA, once one of the most free countries on earth, is no longer free. It is rapidly becoming a militarized gulag society – a giant open air prison.”
Nearly 1,000 American military bases occupy every corner of the planet. US troops have killed more than a million people in various countries during the past decade. Officially, this is all being done in the name of “freedom.”
Yet the USA, once one of the most free countries on earth, is no longer free. It is rapidly becoming a militarized gulag society – a giant open air prison.
The faster Americans lose their freedom, the louder their leaders chant empty, Orwellian freedom slogans. And the loudest and most Orwellian symbol of American unfreedom is the new World Trade Center skyscraper officially named the Freedom Tower, which might more appropriately be called the Unfreedom Tower.
Appropriately enough, the new Unfreedom Tower will be surrounded by $40 million dollars worth of “security infrastructure” including bollards, dual-barricades, street barriers and 11-foot-tall security booths. New York Business Journal lamented the situation in its recent headline: “World Trade Center or armed camp?” According to the New York Times, Lower Manhattan will become “a fortresslike environment” featuring “a fortified palisade of guard booths, vehicle barricades and sidewalk barriers.” New York Magazine quoted one of the planners: “You have these checkpoints that make it look more like an armed camp or a gated community.”
Or an Israeli-occupied territory.
The Unfreedom Tower is the architectural symbol of the new, post-9/11 world. The contradiction between its ostensible symbolic meaning – “freedom” – and the reality on the ground around it is not an accident.
George Orwell famously explained how those who set out to crush freedom do so by violating logic and language. By flooding the airwaves with slogans like “freedom is slavery,” Big Brother’s dystopian government in Orwell’s novel 1984 paralyzes the public’s capacity to think clearly and logically. Once clear thinking is paralyzed, Big Brother can do whatever he wants. As Orwell put it: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
By building a “Freedom Tower” surrounded by an armed camp, symbolizing the loss of liberty that 9/11 was designed to catalyze, the architects of Philip Zelikow’s post-9/11 “whole new world” are systematically and intentionally destroying the American public’s capacity to think.
Zelikow, Wolfowitz, and the other architects of this Orwellian “whole new world” have been using their controlled corporate media to attack the American mind with Orwellian “freedom equals slavery” slogans, beginning just minutes after the Twin Towers were demolished. Practically before the North Tower had finished its ten-second-freefall, the television was blaring that Bin Laden and his friends did it because “they hate our freedoms.” The utter absurdity of this statement was rarely remarked on.
The television then repeatedly told Americans that in order to preserve their freedom, they would have to give up some of their liberty. The fact that freedom and liberty mean the same thing makes this an absurdity. By forcing Americans to internalize such absurdities, the mind-controllers created a whole nation of unthinking automatons, ready to march off to war on transparently ridiculous premises… and to systematically slaughter civilians, rape children in front of their parents as an “interrogation technique,” commit unspeakable sexual crimes at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, poison much of the Middle East and Central Asia with depleted uranium, murder thousands of innocent people with cowardly drone strikes, and generally perpetrate unspeakable acts on a daily basis.
As Voltaire put it: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” If Voltaire were alive today, he would tell us that people who believe three skyscrapers can disappear at free-fall acceleration through the path of most resistance, due to modest office fires ignited by only two planes, will commit the most hideous atrocities imaginable.
The Unfreedom Tower now looms over an unfree land.
In today’s America, executive-branch death panels oversee a “disposition matrix” in which computers decide which people will be murdered by the government, which ones will merely be disappeared without charges into the global sex torture gulag, and which ones will be arrested and tried in a courtroom. This despite the clear Constitutional statement that in the USA, no one may be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” And the phrase “due process of law” is clearly defined: It means a public, transparent trial by jury, beginning with presumption of innocence, under various safeguards.
The pretext for this annihilation of liberty is the “war on terrorism.” Big Brother tells us that terrorists are likely to strike us all dead at any moment, so emergency measures are necessary. But in reality, terrorism barely even exists. Americans are more likely to drown in their bathtubs, or be hit by lightning, than be killed by terrorists. The whole terror scare is a paranoid hallucination that was carefully scripted and inflicted on the American people by the most depraved and demonic mind-controllers who have ever lived.
Anybody who can see that two plus two make four, not five, can see that the current rulers of the USA are not the Constitutional government. They are treasonous usurpers.
When will Americans break through the checkpoints, overturn the guard booths, overwhelm the barricades, and overthrow the demons-in-human-form who have paralyzed their minds and destroyed their freedoms?
Acting IRS chief Steven Miller on Friday said he did not believe agency officials did anything illegal when giving extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Miller, who was forced to resign this week by President Obama, said he didn’t believe the scrutiny was illegal even as he apologized for the IRS’s actions, which have turned into a political storm for the White House.
He also admitted under questioning from House Ways and Means Committee members that facts could emerge that might change whether he thinks anyone in the agency committed a crime, and he said one staffer involved in the extra scrutiny was reassigned and another received counseling.
Facing tense, and at times hostile, questions from GOP lawmakers at the first congressional hearing on the IRS controversy, Miller said the screening process the IRS used was “obnoxious” and called the customer service the agency offered “horrible.”
Miller stressed that the extra attention happened because IRS officials faced an avalanche of applications for tax-exempt status.
But he also pushed back on GOP lawmakers who said the IRS was targeting conservatives, calling that a “loaded” statement.
“When you talk about targeting, that’s a pejorative term,” Miller said.
Asked if the IRS’s actions had been illegal, he responded: “I don’t believe it is.”
He then added of the behavior: “I don’t believe it should happen.”
Miller’s answers did not sit well with GOP lawmakers throughout Friday’s hearing, and his comments fly in the face of top Republicans like Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who have said that agency staffers should be jailed.
Republicans on Friday accused the acting IRS chief of lying to them about the extra scrutiny given to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Miller found out about that special attention more than a year ago but declined to tell lawmakers.
At the start of Friday’s committee hearing, Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) rattled off several different violations he believes the IRS committed.
Camp also linked the IRS uproar to what he called a “culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this administration,” an apparent reference to last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department’s subpoena of reporter records.
“This systemic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation,” Camp said. “And, as much as I expect more people need to go, the reality is this is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers.”
But Republicans on the panel have also expressed frustration throughout the hearing at Miller’s sometimes feisty answers, with the acting chief maintaining that he did not lie to them.
“You’re not going to cooperate with me, Mr. Miller, and you’ve been uncooperative in this hearing,” Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) told the IRS official.
Democrats acknowledged that the IRS had made serious mistakes and generally agreed with Miller’s statements that agency officials did not target Tea Party and conservative groups for political reasons.
“What I’m trying to point out, and basically to debunk, is the notion or idea the political statements — and, I believe, nonfactual statements by Chairman Camp — to link these scandals to the White House,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), a member of House Democratic leadership.
Democrats also stressed repeatedly that the Doug Shulman, who was IRS commissioner when the targeting took place, was nominated by former President George W. Bush. And several said that the major issue was the cloudy regulations guiding which groups should be granted tax-exempt status.
Miller is testifying along with Russell George, the Treasury inspector general whose report details what he called “ineffective management” at the agency.
George’s report found that the IRS asked for excessive information from conservative groups, including donor lists and whether group leaders wanted to run for public office. The IRS also applied inconsistent principles when deciding which groups to give extra screening, the report said, leading some groups to wait months or years for approval.
According to the inspector general’s report, Lois Lerner, the IRS official who first disclosed the targeting, found out in June 2011. Lerner pushed for the screening guidelines to be changed, but other IRS officials eventually went around her to change them again.
George’s report also says that IRS staffers assert that lower-level employees crafted the screening process and that they were not influenced by any outside group.
Miller on Friday acknowledged that Lerner’s disclosure of the IRS targeting last Friday came from a planted question.
Camp had said in his opening statement that he was interested in hearing why the IRS targeting occurred and why the agency kept it secret for so long, who started the extra scrutiny, and when President Obama and his administration found out.
But in a hearing break, he told The Hill that he wasn’t satisfied with the answers the panel was getting from Miller, a feeling shared by other Republicans.
“On the one hand, you’re arguing today that the IRS is not corrupt,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). “But the subtext of that is you say, ‘Look, we’re just incompetent.’ And I think it is a perilous pathway to go down.”
By Karl Grossman | May 16, 2013
President Barack Obama got it right and wrong Monday when he stated, “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.”
He was right in declaring it was “outrageous” for the IRS to target conservative organizations for tough tax treatment. But he was incorrect in saying “it is contrary to our traditions.”
For the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has for decades gone after organizations and individuals that take stands in conflict with the federal government at the time. This has been a tradition, an outrageous tradition.
It is exposed in detail by David Burnham, longtime New York Times investigative reporter, in his 1991 book A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power. He relates how President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely “set the stage for the use of the tax agency for political purposes by most subsequent presidents.” Burnham writes about how a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, banker Andrew Mellon, was a special IRS target under FDR. During the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, he recounts, the focus of the IRS’s efforts “at political control” were civil rights organizations and those against the U.S. engaging in the Vietnam War. Nixon’s “enemies list” and his scheme to use the IRS against those on it is what the current IRS scandal is being most compared.
History Professor John A. Andrew III in his 2002 book Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon—its title drawn from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s dictum “The power to tax is the power to destroy”—focuses further on this tradition. He tells of how John F. Kennedy administration’s “Ideological Organizations Project” investigated, intimidated and challenged the tax-exempt status of right-wing groups including the John Birch Society. Then, with a turn of the White House to the right with Nixon came investigations, he writes, of such entities as the Jerry Rubin Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Corporate Responsibility.
During the Reagan administration, I had my own experience with the IRS—ostensibly
because of a book I wrote. Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam? involved reporting from what was then a war zone in Nicaragua and in Florida—where I interviewed leaders of the contras who were working with the CIA to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government—and Honduras, being set up as a tarmac for U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. I visited a U.S. military base there. The book warned against a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua (subsequently decided against by the Reagan White House after the Iran-contra scandal). The book was published in 1985 and soon afterwards I was hit with an IRS audit. It would be more, I was informed, than my showing up at an IRS office. The IRS was to come to my house for a “field audit.”
The investigator sat on one side of our dining room table and on the other side was me and my accountant, Peter Berger of Shelter Island. What would be an all-day event started with the investigator asking me to detail how much my family spent on food each week and then, slowly, methodically, going through other expenses. Then he went through income. He obviously was seeking to determine on this fishing expedition whether income exceeded expenses. He went through receipts for business expenses including restaurant receipts, asking who I ate with. He sorted through receipts for office supplies. By mid-afternoon, he had gotten nowhere. At that point, having been hours together, a somewhat weird relationship had been formed. And he began to tell me how his dream in college was to become a journalist. He expanded on that, and then asked: “Have you ever faced retaliation?”
“What do you think this is?” I responded.
He was taken back—insisting my name had come up “at random.”
In the end, all he did was trim some of what was listed as business use of my home phone.
Was I being retaliated against for the book I had written? One would never know. Recently, I ran into accountant Berger, now retired, and he commented about how that day at my house was the strangest IRS audit he had ever been involved in.
The IRS has been beyond reform. Burnham writes in A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power that a “political imperative of not messing with the IRS” has become “close to being a law of nature almost as unbending as the force of gravity.” It is “rarely examined by Congress.”
President Obama announced yesterday that the acting commissioner of the IRS was asked and agreed to tender his resignation as a result of the scandal. That’s a small start. Far more important is somehow ending the tradition of IRS political tyranny. Fundamental change in the IRS is called for.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
US Attorney General Eric Holder has claimed he was unaware of the subpoenas for AP’s phone records, but defended them as a necessary measure. Holder recused himself from the case that has been branded as an “unprecedented intrusion” into press freedom.
US lawmakers questioned the attorney general at a House Judiciary Committee about the two months of AP phone records obtained by the Justice Department without permission. In a session that saw the attorney on the back foot amid calls for his resign, he maintained his ignorance in the “ongoing matter.”
Flatly denying any prior knowledge to the subpoenas and who had issued them, he stated that he was 99 per cent sure that deputy attorney general James Cole had issued them.
“The matter is being supervised by the deputy attorney general. I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way that it was because I’m simply not a part of the case,” Holder told the committee, adding he was confident that the people who are involved in the investigation adhered to Justice Department regulations.
Investigators wish to discern why it was necessary to gather so much information from AP phone records. The Justice Departments claims that the records were seized as part of an investigation into leaked data on a CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bombing plot on the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Holder stressed that the leak was very serious and had put the safety of the American people at risk and as such the Justice Department’s action was justified.
Passing the buck
The Justice Department admitted its surveillance of AP’s phone lines in a letter to the organization’s heads last Friday. AP’s Chief Gary Pruitt reacted with ire, condemning the intrusion as a gross violation of press freedom that is inexcusable. AP estimates that over 100 of its journalists were affected by the phone surveillance and has implicated the involvement of the attorney general, alleging that subpoenas require his signature to be carried out.
There was a degree of frustration at Holder’s answers during the hearing due to his inability to answer questions on the subpoenas and why the Justice Department failed to negotiate with AP prior to the subpoenas, which is usually standard practice in such situations.
“There doesn’t appear to be any acceptance of responsibility for things that have gone wrong,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Holder. He suggested that Justice Department office should stop by Harry S Truman Presidential Library and take a photo of the famous sign, “The buck stops here.”
The White House has also claimed ignorance, stating that it had no knowledge of “any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.”
Prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been removed from his cell to an unknown location, losing all contact with his family and lawyer, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported Wednesday.
In an appeal sent out by the human rights group, Rajab had reportedly witnessed prisoners at the central Jaw prison being tortured.
Rajab’s wife had received a phonecall from Rajab testifying on what he had witnessed in the prison. Shortly after, Rajab’s wife was told that her husband had been removed from his prison cell.
His lawyer, family and fellow activists have not been in contact with him since.
On Wednesday, six Bahraini tweeters were sentenced to one year in jail each for insulting the King and “misusing the right of free expression.”
Torture in Bahraini prisons is very commonly used to force prisoners to sign confessions. In February of last year, leading political prisoners began refusing food after reporting systematic abuses in Bahrain’s jails, including beatings, torture and the use of tear gas.
Nabeel Rajab, who founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in 2002, has been in custody since June 6 on charges of “public insults against plaintiffs,” the prosecution said in a statement at the time of his rearrest in June 2012.
The avid Twitter user has been charged with insulting the security forces, posting comments on Twitter deemed insulting to a government body and organizing peaceful protests.
His activism has given him the largest Twitter following in Bahrain, and the fourth largest in the Arab world.
The BHCR appeal calls for the immediate release of Rajab “as it is believed that he has been targeted solely due to his legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights.”
A federal magistrate judge in New York recently ruled that cell phone location data deserves no protection under the Fourth Amendment and that accordingly, the government can engage in real-time location surveillance without a search warrant. In an opinion straight from the Twilight Zone, magistrate judge Gary Brown ruled two weeks ago that “cell phone users who fail to turn off their cell phones do not exhibit an expectation of privacy.”
The case in question involved a physician who the DEA believed had issued thousands of prescriptions for pain killers in exchange for cash. In March of this year, the DEA had obtained a warrant for his arrest, and, not knowing where he was, sought an order from magistrate judge Brown forcing the phone company to provide real-time data identifying the location of the physician’s phone.
Although the DEA agents requested a search warrant and the judge found that there was probable cause to believe that the cell phone location data would assist in the location and apprehension of an individual for whom there was already a valid arrest warrant, the judge later published a 30-page opinion further stating that he didn’t think the government needed to seek a search warrant in the first place.
Don’t Want the Government Tracking You? Turn Your Phone Off
In his puzzling opinion, the judge squarely criticizes people naive enough to expect privacy while also leaving their cell phones on when they’re not using them.
Given the ubiquity and celebrity of geolocation technologies, an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the prospective location of a cellular telephone where that individual has failed to protect his privacy by taking the simple expedient of powering it off.
As to control by the user, all of the known tracking technologies may be defeated by merely turning off the phone. Indeed—excluding apathy or inattention—the only reason that users leave cell phones turned on is so that the device can be located to receive calls. Conversely, individuals who do not want to be disturbed by unwanted telephone calls at a particular time or place simply turn their phones off, knowing that they cannot be located.
The Catch-22 here is that the only people who the judge believes would have any reasonable expectation of privacy are those whose phones are turned off (and thus, not generating any location data that the government could access, even with a warrant). And it ignores the necessity of keeping your cell phone turned on for communicating with family or for work.
That consumers are dumb enough to willingly share their location using the “Girls Around Me” app (which the judge specifically calls out by name, although the wrong one), only further justifies covert, warrantless government surveillance:
Given the notoriety surrounding the disclosure of geolocation data to retailers purveying soap powder and blue jeans to mall shoppers, the police searching for David Pogue’s iPhone and, most alarmingly, the creators and users of the Girls Around You app, cell phone users cannot realistically entertain the notion that such information would (or should) be withheld from federal law enforcement agents searching for a fugitive.
This is, in a word, ridiculous. There is a big difference between location information you knowingly share with a select group of friends (or, in fact, the world) and information collected about you without your knowledge or consent. Someone might be happy to share their location with a few friends by “checking in” using Foursquare while at a music festival, but not want law enforcement to access that same information. And, they would still reasonably expect that their location a week later while at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or abortion clinic should remain private. Sharing location data isn’t and shouldn’t be all or nothing.
We are also baffled by the judge’s willingness to tie a reasonable expectation of privacy to the use of a cell phone power button. We’re not sure if the judge has watched the Onion’s spoof news video describing a fictional “Google Opt Out Village” for people who don’t want to be tracked by the advertising company, but the logic in his opinion is consistent with the absurdity of that spoof. If you don’t want Google to track you, stop using all modern technology and move to a remote village. If you don’t want the government to covertly track your phone, turn it off and leave it off. What could be simpler, right?
Although the president’s press secretary noted yesterday then-Senator Obama’s support for a federal shield law to protect reporters from having to disclose their sources, he failed to mention how the White House deep-sixed a comprehensive shield bill back in 2009. That bill could have prevented the extraordinary Associated Press subpoena, which was disclosed this week.
Back in 2009, various stakeholders—including Republicans in the House, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), and a broad coalition of free press and public interest groups—came together to support the Free Flow of Information Act. Although not perfect, the original bill contained express safeguards requiring the administration to exhaust all other means of obtaining the information sought and to tailor subpoenas narrowly, along with other safeguards to preserve source anonymity.
While initially backing the legislation, the administration abruptly reversed course in late 2009, demanding that the bill contain what amounted to an exemption for national security leak cases and severely limiting judicial discretion under the measure. The bill died and has yet to be resurrected.
If there ever were a time to resurrect the federal shield law, it is now.
Although the details are still trickling out, it’s clear that a Justice Department leak investigation sought the dial-out records of 20 phone lines belonging to the AP and its reporters. The request covered both the personal mobile and home phones of targeted journalists, as well as office numbers for the AP in New York, Washington, Hartford, and the House of Representatives’ press gallery. More than 100 reporters work at the offices subject to the subpoenas, and the information pulled covered two months. Perhaps most striking, notice of the subpoena was delayed—meaning that the AP had no opportunity to go to court to contest it before the DOJ secured the records.
I haven’t been able to find any cases of similar sweep. In one of the more recent cases involving a leak subpoena for phone records (involving a tip to The New York Times that the offices of two Islamic charities suspected of funding terrorism were about to be raided), the government notified the news outlet in advance, negotiated with the Times at length, and only sought a subpoena as a last resort. The scope of the subpoena was modest compared to the AP request, covering only a couple of weeks of records and only two journalists. That’s a far cry from what happened here.
The notion of a reporter shield or privilege isn’t to protect journalists; it’s to protect the public. When the Bill of Rights was being drafted, America had a vibrant mass media. Indeed, it even had the 18th century equivalent of the blogger (the proverbial “lonely pamphleteer”). The drafters were well aware of the power of a free media to restrain government excess and to undermine the authoritarian impulse. Many recalled, for instance, the case of John Zenger, the colonial printer charged with libel for printing a periodical critical of the New York governor. That prosecution led in part to calls for express protection for freedoms of press and speech in the Constitution.
An essential element of the journalist’s toolkit is the anonymous source, and this is doubly true in the context of national security reporting. As the government itself acknowledges, the current classification system for sensitive national security information is deeply flawed. Not only is there little incentive not to classify something, too often national security is used as an excuse to prevent disclosure of information about embarrassing or illegal activities.
Absent “leaks,” we would never have learned about the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, its use of CIA “black sites,” and the unlawful torture of detainees in the Iraq War and the so-called “war on terror.” In more recent days, “leaks” have been instrumental in the public disclosure of the Obama administration’s cyberattacks against Iran and its targeted killing program.
And yet, despite the clear public interest in revealing this government misconduct, the Obama administration—the “most transparent administration in history“—will have as one of its legacies an unprecedented crackdown on the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. It has prosecuted many more leakers (twice as many as all previous administrations combined), and pursued leak investigations more aggressively than anyone else. The time is ripe for a federal law that would protect reporters from having to disclose their sources (with limited exceptions to ensure due process for criminal defendants and to prevent actual and imminent harm).
The AP scandal casts this need in stark relief.
The administration has asked Sen. Schumer to reintroduce the Free Flow of Information Act, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) just announced that he will do so in the House, and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced a similar bill today. The administration should certainly be commended for taking proactive steps to prevent this from happening again. That said, the administration can’t get in the way this time. The demand in 2009 for a broad exception for national security leaks cases delayed the bill, and tempered enthusiasm among Democrats for the bill in the face of strong opposition by certain Republicans. The 2013 bill must protect against what happened here with the AP, and it’s not clear that the 2009 White House compromise would have done so.
Mounting pressure from national media and the local community still has not convinced California police to offer any explanation for why they confiscated cell phone video taken by witnesses who say eight or nine officers beat a helpless man to death.
The Kern County Sherriff’s Office has responded to allegations of police brutality only by stonewalling reporters and the family of David Silva, 33, who died last week after witnesses say police took turns hitting the supposedly inebriated man in the head with their batons. Observers who phoned 911 to report the police abuse were later visited by detectives demanding they turn over any footage captured in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 8.
The seven Kern County deputies officials say were involved in the incident (the number of California Highway Patrol officers present is still unknown) have not been placed on administrative leave, according to the Bakersfield Californian, and department officials have refused to explain why.
“We’re following the same protocol, as far as the administrative process is concerned, that we’d follow in similar-type incidents,” said sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt. Other law enforcement higher-ups echoed a similar sentiment by implying their silence was warranted by an “ongoing investigation” that could last for months.
The cause of death will be announced pending a toxicology report from the coroner as well as microscopic studies. But the delay in explanations fail to account for why witnesses told local and national media outlets that Silva appeared to die in front of them, after a police beating and while a canine unit looked on, apparently ready to intervene if Silva would have been allowed to stand.
Melissa Quair told the Bakersfield Californian that aggressive deputies showed up at her door and blocked the exit as they seized her boyfriend’s phone, which contained video of the beating. She also asserted that her mother was forced to forfeit her phone, even after the police were told it did not contain any supposed evidence.
“They used more force than was needed,” Quair said. “I told them that they didn’t have permission to say who could go in or out of my house. My mom is disabled and has a lot of doctor and medical numbers stored in her phone. But the detective didn’t care and they told my mom to write all her contacts down on a piece of paper and while she did they watched her like hawks.”
Only one poorly-lit video of the beating has surfaced, but 19 blows are visibly delivered by three officers.
“Constant bashing, this is constant bashing,” Chris Silva, brother of the victim, told KBAK-TV after the tape was broadcast on the local news. “You can count, you know – I can’t keep track. And it hurts my head looking at this.”
- California dad ‘begged for his life’ as police beat him to death – witnesses (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Federal prosecutors secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of Associated Press journalists in what the news agency described Monday as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The Justice Department notified the AP on Friday that it had subpoenaed the records, which included more than 20 office, cellphone and home phone lines. The lines include the general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery.
The records included outgoing call numbers, the AP said, but it is unclear whether prosecutors also obtained incoming call numbers or the duration of calls. The news organization said it had no reason to think that the government listened in to the content of the calls. The government did not reveal why it seized the records, but the AP noted that federal officials have previously said they were investigating who had leaked information to the news service about a foiled terror plot in 2012. An AP story in May 2012 included details about a CIA operation in Yemen targeting al Qaeda operatives.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt called the action “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”
Republicans were quick to criticize the Department of Justice (DOJ), saying that the invasion of privacy of a news outlet was just the latest example of an administration rife with problems. News of the AP probe broke as the White House is already fending off criticism of its handling of last year’s attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative and Tea Party groups.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the DOJ subpoena “very disturbing” and said he expected to team up with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to probe the issue further.
“If this question went to the Attorney General then he’s responsible and he should be held accountable for what I think is wrong,” Issa said on CNN. “On the other hand, if it didn’t go to him, the question is: when is the Justice Department going to take responsibility for what it does?
“There are serious problems at DOJ, this is just the latest one.”
Department policy requires that the attorney general sign off on all requests for reporter phone records. It is unclear whether Attorney General Eric Holder signed off in this case.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice budget, said the department’s move was reminiscent of the wiretapping authorized by former President Nixon’s administration.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Wolf in an interview with The Hill after news of the story broke. “It kind of reminds you of the mid-70s.”
“It is the arrogance of power and paranoia. I think it’s shocking. It reminds me of the Nixon days. If they can do it to the AP, they can do to any news service in the country.”
Criticism also came from the left.
“The media’s purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance,” Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Office, said in a statement. “The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again.”
The AP’s Pruitt sent a letter on Monday to Holder protesting the seizure of records, demanding that the government return the call records to the AP and destroy its copies.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt said.
“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
Federal regulations require that subpoenas for a reporter’s phone records be as “narrowly drawn as possible.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions about the probe to the Justice Department.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said it takes its legal obligations and department policies seriously when subpoenaing media phone records.
“Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media,” the office said. “We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.
“Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws,” it said.
The FBI revealed in 2008 that it had subpoenaed the phone records of New York Times and Washington Post reporters in Indonesia as part of a terrorism investigation. The agency apologized for the incident, saying it failed to follow department policies.
Goodlatte said he planned to ask Holder “pointed questions” about the AP records on Wednesday when the attorney general is slated to testify during a general Judiciary oversight hearing.
“Any abridgement of the First Amendment right to the freedom of the press is very concerning,” said Goodlatte in a statement.
“The House Judiciary Committee will thoroughly investigate this issue and will also ask Attorney General Eric Holder pointed questions about it at Wednesday’s oversight hearing,” he said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also said he would be probing the issue further and looking into whether the government may have overstepped its bounds.
“The burden is always on the government when they go after private information – especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources,” said Leahy in a statement. “I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.”