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Judges Ignore FBI’s Law-Breaking Ways, Acting Outside of Their Jurisdiction

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

Judges Ignore FBI’s Law-Breaking Ways, Acting Outside of Their Jurisdiction

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

The problem with certain government policies (or should I say all of them?) is that, prior to being enacted, neither lawmakers nor members of the press ask the question: What are the long-term, unintended consequences of signing it into law? But in many other cases, oversight is so spotty that entire governmental agencies are given a green light to act as both the lawmaker and enforcer, making matters even worse.

FBI

During a recent child porn investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) deployed a hacking tool known as Network Investigative Technique (NIT), which allows officials to obtain the real IP addresses of certain website users. But the warrant used to deploy this tech was later ruled as invalid and unconstitutional by judges in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Kansas. Despite the courts’ review, the FBI was given a pass, as judges simply placed the blame at the feet of the judges issuing the warrants instead of penalizing the FBI for making the move.

Now, we’re learning that the malware used by the FBI is breaking its own rules by giving officials access to computers from users around the globe.

According to Motherboard, at least 50 Austrian IP addresses were targeted by federal intelligence officials, giving US authorities the means to pursue suspects outside of the country’s jurisdiction, effectively exceeding the agency’s own Rule 41(b), which allows for remote access searches without notice or special justification.

Tech Dirt reports that the FBI’s hacking tool has now been responsible for the targeting of individual IP numbers in Greece, Denmark, Colombia, Chile, and the UK, even though “the FBI gave no indication in its affidavit that it would possibly be carrying out extraterritorial searches.” In this case, the FBI failed to report that individuals being targeted were located in areas outside of the magistrate’s jurisdiction. And that is a huge problem.

But the targeting of individuals both in America and abroad is wrong—and unconstitutional.

Remote access of a series of computers without consent or specific justification has a name: Mass surveillance. An issue that has already been settled by the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. Individuals should be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures due to the 4th Amendment, so why is the FBI being given the freedom to act outside of its jurisdiction while also going against the law of the land?

In a free society, the work of law enforcement should always be difficult. Not because officers are to be mistrusted in general, but because people with power ought to be mistrusted. Regardless of what role they play. That’s why the presumption of innocence is a feature and not a bug in a country where liberty reigns.

Unless we are willing to annihilate any trace of freedom we still have, we should never let this type of abuse of power go unchecked. No matter how scared you may be of potential criminals.

Personal responsibility is still the best defense against criminals.

Vermont Legislature Sends Sweeping Privacy Bill to Governor’s Desk

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

Vermont Legislature Sends Sweeping Privacy Bill to Governor’s Desk

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

In Vermont, legislators are beginning to fight the federal government’s power grab by passing legislation that would hinder federal surveillance programs.

DronesIf the Tenth Amendment Center is correct, the activism sprung from the growing anti-surveillance spirit sparked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may have helped to push the Vermont legislature to pass a bill that would boost the state’s privacy protections in the state.

As it now stands, the bill’s text bans the warrantless use of stingray technology to track phone location, restricts the police’s use of surveillance drones, and keeps law enforcement from having warrantless access to user data from service providers.

Senate Bill 155, which was filed in December by Sens. Tim Ashe, Joe Benning, and Dick Sears originally addressed the state’s law enforcement’s use of drones by stipulating certain restrictions concerning the law enforcement’s data sharing and storage policies gathered through the use of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technologies. While in review, however, both the Senate and the House added amendments to S.155, limiting warrantless collection of electronic data and warrantless use of stingray devices. With the bill as it now is written, the ALPR law in the state could change significantly.

According to TAC’s Mike Maharrey, stingray programs are vastly funded by the US federal government, giving state and local law enforcement agencies extra incentives to make use of the intrusive technology, considering states don’t have to squeeze any extra funding to cover the use of these systems locally. But for agencies to have access to the technologies, the federal government requires agencies to sign non-disclosure agreements. As a result, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and even judges are kept out of the loop.

A recent trial demonstrated how these non-disclosure agreements hurt investigations.

According to an article on the Baltimore Sun, Detective Emmanuel Cabreja refused to answer questions when pressed to give information on the device used during the investigation. After the local detective cited a non-disclosure agreement, the judge threatened to hold him in contempt if the information wasn’t unveiled. Instead of caving in, prosecutors withdrew the evidence, which is what the feds instruct prosecutors to do in similar cases.

According to privacysos.org, the FBI often allows criminals to go unpunished rather than having to face “a possible scenario where a defendant brings a Fourth Amendment challenge to warrantless stingray spying.”

While the federal government allows states to make use of these technologies under the guise of the war on terror, the technology is used primarily for routine criminal investigations, a fact that has been revealed by the Tacoma Police Department.

Maharrey argues that the federal government’s network of drones, which are funded by the American taxpayer, is increasingly cornering innocent individuals, infringing on their right to privacy, which is guaranteed by the US Constitution. With pieces of legislation like S.155, states may stand a chance at fighting the federal government’s overreach.

Both chambers have passed S.155, and the bill now awaits to be sent to the governor’s desk. ​