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DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Department of Justice’s proposed Rule 41, which would allow U.S. judges to provide law enforcement with search warrants for devices outside of the DOJ’s and its agencies’ jurisdiction, could soon become law, unless Congress does something.

DOJWhile Rule 41 could make Americans less safe, putting their privacy at risk, that is not the only issue with the proposed change to the law. According to Tech Dirt, Rule 41 could also turn millions of computer users across the world into criminals, simply because they use privacy tools to communicate with one another.

“From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But if the DOJ wins this battle, the reality is that the U.S. government will be given the power to access phones and computers remotely with little to no oversight.

By allowing law enforcement to seek warrants to computers or other devices equipped with privacy tools, many have argued, Rule 41 adds a presumption of guilt to an activity that is part of the daily lives of most innocent American technology users.

In order to make sure the DOJ is not successful in its battle against privacy, several congressmen and senators from both political parties sent a letter to the DOJ asking for clarification on how the agency seeks to interpret the proposed changes to the law.

According to EFF, if Rule 41 becomes law, “anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.” In their letter to the DOJ, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and several others argue that Rule 41 would give law enforcement the power to hack into any device, expanding the scope of the DOJ’s authority, and risking our safety and privacy as a result.

Tech Dirt argues that while the DOJ claims that Rule 41 would not interfere with current laws, which already establish the need to demonstrate probable cause before the warrant is produced, judges have already been caught signing on warrants that exceeded existing jurisdiction limits.

Claiming that Rule 41 would keep those safeguards in place, Tech Dirt adds, is simply dishonest.

Unless Congress acts fast, Rule 41 will become the law by December 31st. Unfortunately for privacy, all the media seems to be talking about is the presidential election. Is anyone even paying attention?

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Two years ago, Microsoft refused to comply with a warrant concerning information hosted in Ireland, and the case was brought to court where justices ruled against the tech giant. Recently, however, the 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft, claiming that the US government warrants do not apply to data stored outside of the country.

DOJDespite the ruling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now proposing a piece of legislation that would affect Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), allowing the US government to force companies like Microsoft to unlock a server abroad.

According to the proposed legislation documents, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik claims that the ideas proposed by the DOJ would help the US government investigate foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism, urging Vice President Joe Biden to consider having Congress look at the DOJ’s solution.

In a post crafted by a former DOJ lawyer, the proposed legislation would allow the US government to have access to communication from non-US citizens who are located in foreign countries. Pieces of communication subject to the proposed rules would only be available for what the DOJ calls “criminal investigations,” which legalists claim to be helpful, since this restriction could help prevent current MLATs from being used with the purpose of gathering intelligence. Despite the carefully crafted piece of legislation, concessions aren’t enough to cover up for the DOJ’s goals to expand the agency’s reach.

According to Tech Dirt, the DOJ is using this proposed legislation to target laws and statutes that the agency has been abusing for years. Is the DOJ trying to make its work easier?

Take the Wiretap Act for instance, a law that has been rendered toothless ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a single state judge in California to build a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs. If the DOJ’s proposed rules are considered and signed into law, remaining restrictions imposed by the Wiretap Act would be lifted for good, making incidents like the one that took place in California more common across the country.

But that’s not all, restrictions imposed by the Stored Communications Act, which was used by the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft, as well as the criminal Pen Register statute would also be lifted under the proposed rules, Tech Dirt reports.

If the DOJ is lucky and Congress goes along with its plan, the dubious wording in the proposed rules would give officials authority to carry searches related to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” Targets of investigations would have to be in countries that have executive agreements with the United States.

According to Tech Dirt, the proposal may superficially seem to cater to privacy advocates, but “The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of ‘search first, ask permission later’ action.” If Tech Dit’s assessment is correct, the proposal rules’ dubious wording could further entrap US citizens, helping the authorities to destroy even more of our liberties in the name of security, while targeting foreign servers in the meantime.

Gov’t Watchdog Worried About Consumer Privacy Offers no Solution to the Federal Surveillance State

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Gov’t Watchdog Worried About Consumer Privacy Offers no Solution to the Federal Surveillance State

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Recently, the Government Accountability Office released a report on issues regarding “surreptitious tracking apps,” hoping to identify the problems with cellphone features used for stalking so that regulators and lawmakers are able to find policy solutions that protect the American consumer and his privacy.

OfficeUnfortunately for Americans across the board, GAO failed to include government-backed and run surveillance programs as features putting our privacy at risk.

The report, which can be read in full here, claims that the issue with most apps designed as tracking features is that they may intercept a smartphone’s communications, such as text messages, phone calls, and emails. Without the consent of those being tracked, GAO reported, their safety and privacy are at risk.

During a recent interview, GAO’s Physical Infrastructure Director Mark Goldstein said that while many tracking apps that offer services to parents who are concerned about their children’s whereabouts for instance have “legitimate purposes,” but many others are “marketed for what’s called surreptitious use, or where you’re not telling someone that you’re using their phone to track them, and this happens in a number of kinds of cases, for stalking and for other kinds of nefarious purposes.”

Without explaining what he meant by nefarious purposes, Goldstein went on to claim that the biggest safety issue with tracking apps available nowadays is that, if a tracker knows where you are, they “can stalk you, they can harm you.” And while “there are a variety of laws on the books, both at the federal level and at the state level that focus on different components of whether you can sell [these apps],” “millions of people report being stalked every year,” suggesting that whether the laws are in effect or not, it doesn’t matter—criminals will continue to do what they do, whether the law exists or not.

The solution, Goldstein explained, is a combination of government-backed efforts that would allegedly protect the citizen from abuse, regardless of how ineffective current laws are. These efforts include boosting the Department of Justice’s educational programs.

In the past, the DOJ launched the Stalking Resource Center, an agency that trains law enforcement officers, policymakers, victim service professionals, and others on the dangers associated with tracking technology. In 2012, reports claiming that the center did not offer any direct support to victims was mostly dismissed by mainstream media. But the program is still funded by taxpayer money.

According to Goldstein, law enforcement must also get a boost in order to effectively “prevent these things from happening and to penalize, obviously, and prosecute people who break the law in these areas.” Goldstein also added that producing more “legislative remedies” could also help to improve law enforcement effectiveness.

“The bottom line is,” Goldstein closed the interview by saying, “the technology brings us costs as well as benefits.” The fact an individual has access to a cell phone, the government employee claims, is enough to put him in danger. “As individuals,” he continued, ”we have to be alert to that, and as a government, we have to ensure that our citizens are able to use these kinds of devices without fear of something bad happening.”

Instead of micromanaging what app an individual uses on his or her phone, what GAO could have done instead to help protect American consumers was to also carry a research into whether the federal government’s spying programs are effective.

According to a White House-appointed review group as well as the nonprofit organization New America Foundation, NSA’s phone record collection has played an insignificant role in preventing terrorist attacks. But the effects of federal surveillance policies being used as we speak are not always neutral: abuse within the agency continues to put countless of innocent people—and their privacy—in danger.

But will GAO ever look into that? I doubt it.

They Said It… With Barack Obama, Penn Jillette and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off


TAXATION IS THEFT:
Penn Jillette“So many people say, ‘You know, your taxes aren’t taken by force,’ and that’s foolish. If you don’t pay your taxes and you don’t answer the warrant and you don’t go to court, eventually someone will pull a gun. Eventually someone with a gun will show up.” — renowned magician, author and libertarian Penn Jillette, interview, The Daily Caller, May 6, 3013.

WAR ON TERROR IS JUST GETTING STARTED: “At least 10 to 20 years.” – Michael Sheehan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, estimating at a May 16 U.S. Senate hearing how much longer the 12-year-old “War on Terrorism” will go on.

Jonathan TurleyOBAMA WORST PRESIDENT EVER FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES: “From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance… the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be. Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. … Obama has not only openly asserted powers that were the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment, but he has made many love him for it. More than any figure in history, Obama has been a disaster for the U.S. civil liberties movement.” — liberal constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley, “Nixon has won Watergate,” column in USA Today, March 25, 2013.

OBAMA TO STUDENTS — IGNORE REALITY, GOV’T IS YOUR FRIEND:
“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly Barack Obamawarn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all of our problems…. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.” — President Obama’s commencement address at Ohio State University on May 5. That’s right, kids, don’t worry your pretty little heads about drone assassinations of U.S. citizens, unconstitutional wars, sky-high taxes, IRS snooping, government recording your emails, the War on Drugs, the U.S. spy empire…

JAY LENO ON HOW TO REPEAL OBAMACARE: “This week will mark the 37th time House Republicans have tried to repeal Obamacare. If Republicans really wanted to do away with Obamacare they should just endorse it as a conservative non-profit and let the IRS take it down.” — Jay Leno, May 16, 2013.

THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS: “This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Watergate hearings. For those of you too young to remember, back then the administration had an enemies list. They were spying on reporters, and they used the IRS to harass groups they didn’t like. Thank God those days are gone forever.” — Jay Leno. May 15, 2013.
Jimmy Fallon
SPYING ON THE MEDIA: “It was just revealed that the Department of Justice secretly recorded the phone calls of AP journalists for two months. Obama promised reporters that the incident will be immediately investigated — by the Department of Justice.” — Jimmy Fallon, “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” May 14, 2013.

ON THE MOVE FOR LIBERTY:
John Stossel“Forty-three million Americans moved from one state to another between 1995 and 2010 — about one-seventh of Americans. … Americans have moved away from high-taxed, heavily regulated states to lower-taxed, less-regulated states. Most don’t think of it as a political decision. They just go where opportunities are, and that usually means where there’s less government.” — libertarian journalist John Stossel, “Live Free or Move,” syndicated column May 8, 2013.

Steve Cohen (D-TN)

DEMOCRAT RIPS INTO DOJ ON MARIJUANA: “One of the greatest threats to liberty has been the government taking people’s liberty for things that people are in favor of. The Pew Research Group shows that 52 percent of people do not think marijuana should be illegal. And yet there are people in jail, and your Justice Department is continuing to put people in jail, for sale, and use, on occasion, of marijuana. That’s something the American public has finally caught up with. It was a cultural lag. And it’s been an injustice for 40 years in this country to take people’s liberty for something that was similar to alcohol. You have continued what is allowing the Mexican cartels power, and the power to make money, ruin Mexico, hurt our country by having a Prohibition in the late 20th and 21st century. We saw it didn’t work in this country in the 20s. We remedied it. This is the time to remedy this Prohibition, and I would hope you would do so.” — Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), criticizing Attorney General Eric Holder in the U.S. House of Representatives, May 15, 2013.