Privacy SOS

Quick privacy and civil liberties news round-up: what you need to know and might have missed

  • DRONES! STAY OUT OF THE BAY AREA!: So say a group of activists and legal advocacy organizations, which are calling on the Sheriff of Alameda county to stop his plans to acquire surveillance drones. Mary Madden, an organizer and Oakland resident, said: “Community members intend to pursue city and county legislation to prohibit the use of drones to spy on Alameda County residents. The Sheriff’s idea is a threat to our privacy, and a deterrent to those of us who participate in community and political activities.” The groups will hold a press conference Thursday morning at 11 AM. Details here.
  • WHISTLEBLOWER SEES SERIOUS SETBACK IN ESPIONAGE ACT CASE: A judge has ruled that prosecutors mustn't prove that John Kiriakou intended to harm the United States or help a foreign nation in order to charge him with counts under the Espionage Act for the release of classified information. A recent Firedoglake blog cites a former government official who claims Kiriakou is facing such serious charges "because the CIA was “totally ticked at Kiriakou for acknowledging the use of torture as state policy.”"
  • WE HAVE NO GMAIL PRIVACY, JUDGE RULES: Sorry but this is too depressing for me to write about right now. Please scoot on over to Julian Sanchez' blog at CATO to read the gory details, meticulously reported (as usual). What can we do? Urge our legislators to update electronic communications privacy law, which hasn't happened since 1986. You read that right. Please take action to ensure cops must get a warrant to read our most private communications.
  • FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE DESCRIBES OVERCLASSIFICATION PROBLEM: A former federal judge spoke on a panel about secrecy at Fordham Law School yesterday and told the audience that the US government classifies far too much information. "Most of what appears in these highly classified, top-secret documents that I've reviewed is totally banal," he said.
  • GUANTANAMO JUDGE BECOMES VERY UPSET AT MENTION OF TORTURE: According to a reporter in the room, the judge presiding over Khalid Sheik Mohammed's war crimes trial at the military prison became very upset when the accused's defense lawyer mentioned the CIA torture (183 waterboarding episodes, to be precise) of his client. Here's what the reporter said took place:
"We have to talk about torture," Schwartz said.
"No we don't," the judge replied.
"I think we do," Schwartz said.
"I'm telling you I don't think that's relevant to this issue. That's the end of that," Pohl snapped.
When Schwartz persisted, Pohl said angrily, "Are you having trouble hearing me? Move on to something else!"
  • BOEING BOASTS ITS DATA ANALYSIS TOOL CAN SOLVE THE PROBLEM PRESENTED BY BIG DATA: The US government really ought to stop sucking up all of the digital communications and records it can get its hands on, but until it does it will have a lot of (largely useless) data on its hands. How to manage it in order to zero in on the data the government wants? Boeing says its "Tripwire Analytic Capability" software can help the government find the information it seeks in the ever-growing haystack of data floating through the digital ether. It can sort that data with frightening precision, Boeing claims. Does it really work? Who knows. Does it cost a lot of money? Possibly; according to this government website, it's priceless.
  • GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ARRESTED AND HELD FOR DURATION OF DEBATE: Dr. Jill Stein is running for president on the Green Party ticket. Last night she was arrested outside the official presidential debate and held for the duration of the event. She says she was handcuffed to a chair for eight hours. Read more.

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