Category Archives: NSA, DHS, FBI, Cyber Security, Spying

“Little by little, we’ve allowed our freedom to slip away,” Mr. Paul said

WASHINGTON — The government’s authority to sweep up vast quantities of phone records in the hunt for terrorists was set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Monday after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, blocked an extension of the program during an extraordinary and at times caustic Sunday session of the Senate.

Still, the Senate signaled that it was ready to curtail the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program with likely passage this week of legislation that would shift the storage of telephone records from the government to the phone companies. The House overwhelmingly passed that bill last month. Senators voted, 77 to 17, on Sunday to take up the House bill.

Mr. Paul’s stand may have forced the temporary expiration of parts of the post-9/11 Patriot Act used by the National Security Agency to collect phone records, but he was helped by the miscalculation of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who sent the Senate on a weeklong vacation after blocking the House bill before Memorial Day.


Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who was headed to Capitol Hill on Sunday, said he would block the rapid passage of a bill allowing a national surveillance program. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mr. McConnell, also of Kentucky, relented Sunday, setting up a final round of votes on Tuesday or Wednesday that will most likely send a compromise version of the House bill to President Obama for his signature. Even Mr. Paul, using the procedural weapon of an objection, conceded he could not stop that.

“Little by little, we’ve allowed our freedom to slip away,” Mr. Paul said during a lengthy floor soliloquy.

The expiration of surveillance authority demonstrates a profound shift in American attitudes since the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when national security was pre-eminent in both parties. Fourteen years after that attack, even as American conflicts continue abroad, a swell of privacy concerns stemming from both the vast expansion of communication systems and an increasing distrust of government’s use of data has turned those concerns on their head.

While it would represent a retrenchment on the part of the government, it does not end the argument over the dual imperatives of security and individual liberty brought to light by Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency.

The expiration of three key provisions of the Patriot Act means that, for now, the N.S.A. will no longer collect newly created logs of Americans’ phone calls in bulk. It also means that the F.B.I. cannot invoke the Patriot Act to obtain, for new investigations, wiretap orders that follow a suspect who changes phones, wiretap orders for a “lone wolf” terrorism suspect not linked to a group, or court orders to obtain business records relevant to an investigation.

However, the Justice Department may invoke a so-called grandfather clause to keep using those powers for investigations that had started before June 1, and there are additional workarounds investigators may use to overcome the lapse in the authorizations.

Mr. McConnell and other national security hawks who failed to continue the program badly underestimated the shift in the national mood, which has found its voice with Democrats and the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. The moment also put him at odds with Mr. Paul, whom he has endorsed for president.

“I remain determined to work toward the best outcome for the American people possible under the circumstances,” Mr. McConnell said. “This is where we are, colleagues — a House-passed bill with some serious flaws, and an inability to get a short-term extension to improve the House bill.”

Mr. Paul’s effort clearly angered many of his Republican colleagues, who met without him an hour before the Senate began to vote Sunday night. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who sparred with Mr. Paul on the floor over procedure, said later that Mr. Paul was not fit for the White House job he seeks. “I’ve said on many occasions that I believe he would be the worst candidate we could put forward,” he said.

Even as senators were trickling into the Capitol from the airport, Mr. McConnell attempted to extend some aspects of the law. He asked senators to consider a two-week continuation of the federal authority to track a “lone wolf” terrorism suspect not connected to a state sponsor and to conduct “roving” surveillance of a suspect, rather than of a phone number alone, to combat terrorists who frequently discard cellphones.

But Mr. Paul objected, and Mr. McConnell denounced from the Senate floor what he called “a campaign of demagoguery and disinformation” about the program.

Mr. McConnell then moved to a second option, a procedural move to take up the bill passed by the House, which he said the Senate would amend this week. It was unclear Sunday how many amendments, including any from Mr. Paul, would be considered and whether any could pass the Senate or be adopted by the House.

The House bill would overhaul the Patriot Act and scale back the bulk collection of phone records revealed by Mr. Snowden. Under the provisions of the House bill, sweeps that had operated under the guise of so-called national security letters issued by the F.B.I. would end. The data would instead be stored by the phone companies and could be retrieved by intelligence agencies only after approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

President Obama and his director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., have made dire warnings in recent days about the perils of letting the law expire and called for immediate approval of a surveillance bill passed by the House. “This shouldn’t and can’t be about politics,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address. “This is a matter of national security.”

The C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, echoed the president on Sunday during an interview on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” saying there had “been a little too much political grandstanding” and adding that “these tools are important to American lives.”

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, also urged the Senate to act, citing the threat of groups like the Islamic State. “Al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorists around the globe continue to plot attacks on America and our allies,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement. “Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously.”

Mr. McConnell had sought to get a series of short-term extensions passed so that Congress could continue to work on a compromise — like giving the phone companies more time to adapt to the new law — but that effort collapsed under the objections of Mr. Paul and two Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. Further, members of the House rejected extending the current law, given the wide support for their bill.

After a middle-of-the-night vote for a short-term extension failed on the Saturday before Memorial Day, senators left for a weeklong recess as the clock ticked. Senate Republican leaders sought a compromise that would make a new bill acceptable to both hawkish lawmakers and Mr. Paul. “I still have deep concerns,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

Over the week, negotiators on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had laid out a series of options to revise the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, including the addition of a certification process to ensure that the technology is ready to move metadata storage to the phone companies and allowing for a longer transition to phone company storage of the data. The House negotiators were skeptical of all efforts.

Democrats were critical of Mr. McConnell on Sunday night. “The job of the leader is to have a plan,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said on the Senate floor. “In this case, it is clear the majority leader simply didn’t have a plan.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 1, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Senate, in Reversal, Turns Toward Limits on Spying.


Paul begins Patriot Act filibuster

Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Wednesday, in what the Kentucky Republican’s staff is calling a long-anticipated filibuster of extending the Patriot Act.

"I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged," the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor. "The bulk collection of all Americans phone records all of the time is a direct violation of the fourth amendment."

Separately, Paul tweeted that he had taken to the Senate floor "to begin a filibuster of the Patriot Act renewal."

Paul suggested that the agency’s phone collection program could be the "tip of the iceberg" of the government’s surveillance practices. He said Americans must "decide as a country whether we value our Bill of Rights … or if we are willing to give that up so we feel safer."

The Kentucky Republican also slammed President Obama for not shutting down the NSA’s program in the wake of the a court ruling that determined the program is illegal.
"Where is the executive?" Paul asked. "How come the press gives him a free pass?

The Senate is currently debating "fast-track" trade legislation, with a procedural vote expected Thursday, so Paul is actually blocking his Senate colleagues from offering, debating and voting on amendments to that bill — something Democrats were quick to highlight.

Still, Paul appears poised to deliver a long speech from the floor that could tie up the Senate for hours.

Paul has made his opposition to NSA surveillance one of the cornerstones of his presidential campaign, and has pledged that he would end the "unconstitutional" program on his first day in the White House.

As he began Wednesday’s speech, Paul’s campaign blasted out an email on the NSA speech to supporters, seeking to build momentum.

"I will not rest. I will not back down. I will not yield one inch in this fight so long as my legs can stand," Paul wrote in the email.

The note to supporters included a link to Paul’s campaign website where supporters could "join the filibuster" by filing out their name, email and zip code.

Paul has used the Seante floor to his advantage before, famously staging a 13-hour filibuster of CIA nominee John Brennan in 2013. On Wednesday, Paul suggested that without his speech, there wouldn’t be a real debate in Congress on the Patriot Act.

"We are mired in a debate over trade. There’s another debate over the highway bill and the word is, we won’t actually get any time to debate if we’re going to abridge the Fourth Amendment," he said.

Senators are facing a looming deadline for action on the Patriot Act, with key provisions set to expire June 1.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged a vote on the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA’s collection of bulk phone records. Under the bill, the agency would have to ask private companies for a narrow set of phone records tied to a particular case. The NSA would also no longer hold the phone records in a government database.

Still, it’s not clear whether the USA Freedom Act can garner the needed 60 votes in the Senate.
McConnell and other top Republicans oppose the USA Freedom Act and are pushing to pass a "clean" extension of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which the NSA uses to justify its phone records program.

If both bills fail, the Senate could be forced to pass a short-term extension of the spy powers — though it’s unclear whether a stopgap measure could pass muster with the House, which passed the USA Freedom Act last week in a resounding vote.

— This story was updated at 2:42 p.m.

Tags: Rand Paul, National security, Mass surveillance, Filibuster, National Security Agency, Patriot Act


Patriot Act extension bill introduced by Sen. McConnell

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   April 22, 2015 at 9:34 AM




WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,

introduced a bill Tuesday to extend the controversial Patriot Act and its surveillance provisions until 2020.

The extension would allow the National Security Agency to continue to collect data of millions on U.S. phone records daily. The NSA does so under the authority of Section 215, which allows for secret court orders to collect "tangible things" that could be used by the government in investigations.

The Patriot Act was enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks to combat terrorism. McConnell used a Senate rule that will take the bill’s extension straight to the floor for voting, a move that would bypass traditional committee vetting process.

Section 215 expires on June 1. The NSA’s mass collection program was revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden, sparking a debate about privacy, security and the reach of government surveillance.

"Despite overwhelming consensus that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act must end, Senate Republican leaders are proposing to extend that authority without change," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. "This tone deaf attempt to pave the way for five and a half more years of unchecked surveillance will not succeed. I will oppose any reauthorization of Section 215 that does not contain meaningful reforms."

Leahy and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are attempting to end the NSA’s mass collection of records. Advocates for privacy condemned McConnell’s extension introduction.

"The Senate majority leader’s bill makes no attempt to protect Americans’ privacy or reform ongoing NSA surveillance programs that do not provide any tangible benefit to national security," Harley Geiger, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said. "For Americans concerned about government intrusion in their lives, the bill is a kick in the stomach."


While US military and intelligence interrogation impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles and even a cage – focuses on American citizens, most often poor, black and brown. ‘When you go in,’ Brian Jacob Church told the Guardian, ‘nobody knows what happened to you.’ Video: Phil Batta for the Guardian; editing: Mae Ryan


The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.


Held for hours at secret Chicago ‘black site’: ‘You’re a hostage. It’s kidnapping’

<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = "[default]; NS = "; />

Read more

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage


“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the US war on terrorism. While those abuses impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.


Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

Much remains hidden about Homan Square. The Chicago police department did not respond to the Guardian’s questions about the facility. But after the Guardian published this story, the department provided a statement insisting, without specifics, that there is nothing untoward taking place at what it called the “sensitive” location, home to undercover units.

“CPD [Chicago police department] abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them. It also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property,” the statement said, something numerous attorneys and one Homan Square arrestee have denied.

“There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square,” it continued.

The Chicago police statement did not address how long into an arrest or detention those records are generated or their availability to the public. A department spokesperson did not respond to a detailed request for clarification.

When a Guardian reporter arrived at the warehouse on Friday, a man at the gatehouse outside refused any entrance and would not answer questions. “This is a secure facility. You’re not even supposed to be standing here,” said the man, who refused to give his name.

A former Chicago police superintendent and a more recently retired detective, both of whom have been inside Homan Square in the last few years in a post-police capacity, said the police department did not operate out of the warehouse until the late 1990s.

But in detailing episodes involving their clients over the past several years, lawyers described mad scrambles that led to the closed doors of Homan Square, a place most had never heard of previously. The facility was even unknown to Rob Warden, the founder of Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, until the Guardian informed him of the allegations of clients who vanish into inherently coercive police custody.

“They just disappear,” said Anthony Hill, a criminal defense attorney, “until they show up at a district for charging or are just released back out on the street.”

‘Never going to see the light of day’: the search for the Nato Three, the head wound, the worried mom and the dead man

Homan Square


‘They were held incommunicado for much longer than I think should be permitted in this country – anywhere – but particularly given the strong constitutional rights afforded to people who are being charged with crimes,” said Sarah Gelsomino, the lawyer for Brian Jacob Church. Photograph: Phil Batta/Guardian

Jacob Church learned about Homan Square the hard way. On May 16 2012, he and 11 others were taken there after police infiltrated their protest against the Nato summit. Church says officers cuffed him to a bench for an estimated 17 hours, intermittently interrogating him without reading his Miranda rights to remain silent. It would take another three hours – and an unusual lawyer visit through a wire cage – before he was finally charged with terrorism-related offenses at the nearby 11th district station, where he was made to sign papers, fingerprinted and photographed.

In preparation for the Nato protest, Church, who is from Florida, had written a phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on his arm as a precautionary measure. Once taken to Homan Square, Church asked explicitly to call his lawyers, and said he was denied.

“Essentially, I wasn’t allowed to make any contact with anybody,” Church told the Guardian, in contradiction of a police guidance on permitting phone calls and legal counsel to arrestees.

Church’s left wrist was cuffed to a bar behind a bench in windowless cinderblock cell, with his ankles cuffed together. He remained in those restraints for about 17 hours.

“I had essentially figured, ‘All right, well, they disappeared us and so we’re probably never going to see the light of day again,’” Church said.

Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly, known as the ‘Nato Three’ Brian Jacob Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly, known as the ‘Nato Three’. Photograph: AP/Cook County sheriff’s office

Though the raid attracted major media attention, a team of attorneys could not find Church through 12 hours of “active searching”, Sarah Gelsomino, Church’s lawyer, recalled. No booking record existed. Only after she and others made a “major stink” with contacts in the offices of the corporation counsel and Mayor Rahm Emanuel did they even learn about Homan Square.

They sent another attorney to the facility, where he ultimately gained entry, and talked to Church through a floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cage. Finally, hours later, police took Church and his two co-defendants to a nearby police station for booking.

After serving two and a half years in prison, Church is currently on parole after he and his co-defendants were found not guilty in 2014 of terrorism-related offenses but guilty of lesser charges of possessing an incendiary device and the misdemeanor of “mob action”.

It’s almost like they throw a black bag over your head and make you disappear for a day or two

Brian Jacob Church

The access that Nato Three attorneys received to Homan Square was an exception to the rule, even if Jacob Church’s experience there was not.

Three attorneys interviewed by the Guardian report being personally turned away from Homan Square between 2009 and 2013 without being allowed access to their clients. Two more lawyers who hadn’t been physically denied described it as a place where police withheld information about their clients’ whereabouts. Church was the only person who had been detained at the facility who agreed to talk with the Guardian: their lawyers say others fear police retaliation.

One man in January 2013 had his name changed in the Chicago central bookings database and then taken to Homan Square without a record of his transfer being kept, according to Eliza Solowiej of Chicago’s First Defense Legal Aid. (The man, the Guardian understands, wishes to be anonymous; his current attorney declined to confirm Solowiej’s account.) She found out where he was after he was taken to the hospital with a head injury.

“He said that the officers caused his head injuries in an interrogation room at Homan Square. I had been looking for him for six to eight hours, and every department member I talked to said they had never heard of him,” Solowiej said. “He sent me a phone pic of his head injuries because I had seen him in a police station right before he was transferred to Homan Square without any.”

Bartmes, another Chicago attorney, said that in September 2013 she got a call from a mother worried that her 15-year-old son had been picked up by police before dawn. A sympathetic sergeant followed up with the mother to say her son was being questioned at Homan Square in connection to a shooting and would be released soon. When hours passed, Bartmes traveled to Homan Square, only to be refused entry for nearly an hour.

An officer told her, “Well, you can’t just stand here taking notes, this is a secure facility, there are undercover officers, and you’re making people very nervous,” Bartmes recalled. Told to leave, she said she would return in an hour if the boy was not released. He was home, and not charged, after “12, maybe 13” hours in custody.

On February 2, 2013, John Hubbard was taken to Homan Square. Hubbard never walked out. The Chicago Tribune reported that the 44-year old was found “unresponsive inside an interview room”, and pronounced dead. After publication, the Cook County medical examiner told the Guardian that the cause of death was determined to be heroin intoxication.

Homan Square is hardly concerned exclusively with terrorism. Several special units operate outside of it, including the anti-gang and anti-drug forces. If police “want money, guns, drugs”, or information on the flow of any of them onto Chicago’s streets, “they bring them there and use it as a place of interrogation off the books,” Hill said.

‘That scares the hell out of me’: a throwback to Chicago police abuse with a post-9/11 feel

Homan Square


‘The real danger in allowing practices like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,’ criminologist Tracy Siska told the Guardian. Photograph: Chandler West/Guardian

A former Chicago detective and current private investigator, Bill Dorsch, said he had not heard of the police abuses described by Church and lawyers for other suspects who had been taken to Homan Square. He has been permitted access to the facility to visit one of its main features, an evidence locker for the police department. (“I just showed my retirement star and passed through,” Dorsch said.)

Transferring detainees through police custody to deny them access to legal counsel, would be “a career-ender,” Dorsch said. “To move just for the purpose of hiding them, I can’t see that happening,” he told the Guardian.

Richard Brzeczek, Chicago’s police superintendent from 1980 to 1983, who also said he had no first-hand knowledge of abuses at Homan Square, said it was “never justified” to deny access to attorneys.

“Homan Square should be on the same list as every other facility where you can call central booking and say: ‘Can you tell me if this person is in custody and where,’” Brzeczek said.

“If you’re going to be doing this, then you have to include Homan Square on the list of facilities that prisoners are taken into and a record made. It can’t be an exempt facility.”

Indeed, Chicago police guidelines appear to ban the sorts of practices Church and the lawyers said occur at Homan Square.

A directive titled “Processing Persons Under Department Control” instructs that “investigation or interrogation of an arrestee will not delay the booking process,” and arrestees must be allowed “a reasonable number of telephone calls” to attorneys swiftly “after their arrival at the first place of custody.” Another directive, “Arrestee and In-Custody Communications,” says police supervisors must “allow visitation by attorneys.”

Attorney Scott Finger said that the Chicago police tightened the latter directive in 2012 after quiet complaints from lawyers about their lack of access to Homan Square. Without those changes, Church’s attorneys might not have gained entry at all. But that tightening – about a week before Church’s arrest – did not prevent Church’s prolonged detention without a lawyer, nor the later cases where lawyers were unable to enter.

The combination of holding clients for long periods, while concealing their whereabouts and denying access to a lawyer, struck legal experts as a throwback to the worst excesses of Chicago police abuse, with a post-9/11 feel to it.

On a smaller scale, Homan Square is “analogous to the CIA’s black sites,” said Andrea Lyon, a former Chicago public defender and current dean of Valparaiso University Law School. When she practiced law in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, she said, “police used the term ‘shadow site’” to refer to the quasi-disappearances now in place at Homan Square.

I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and hold somebody before booking for hours and hours

James Trainum, former detective, Washington DC

“Back when I first started working on torture cases and started representing criminal defendants in the early 1970s, my clients often told me they’d been taken from one police station to another before ending up at Area 2 where they were tortured,” said Taylor, the civil-rights lawyer most associated with pursuing the notoriously abusive Area 2 police commander Jon Burge. “And in that way the police prevent their family and lawyers from seeing them until they could coerce, through torture or other means, confessions from them.”

Police often have off-site facilities to have private conversations with their informants. But a retired Washington DC homicide detective, James Trainum, could not think of another circumstance nationwide where police held people incommunicado for extended periods.

“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist,” said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project.

Regardless of departmental regulations, police frequently deny or elide access to lawyers even at regular police precincts, said Solowiej of First Defense Legal Aid. But she said the outright denial was exacerbated at Chicago’s secretive interrogation and holding facility: “It’s very, very rare for anyone to experience their constitutional rights in Chicago police custody, and even more so at Homan Square,” Solowiej said.

Church said that one of his more striking memories of Homan Square was the “big, big vehicles” police had inside the complex that “look like very large MRAPs that they use in the Middle East.”

Cook County, home of Chicago, has received some 1,700 pieces of military equipment from a much-criticized Pentagon program transferring military gear to local police. It includes a Humvee, according to a local ABC News report.

Tracy Siska, a criminologist and civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project, said that Homan Square, as well as the unrelated case of ex-Guantánamo interrogator and retired Chicago detective Richard Zuley, showed the lines blurring between domestic law enforcement and overseas military operations.

“The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,” Siska said.

“They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”



Secret US spy program targeted Americans’ cellphones

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of cellphones through fake communications towers deployed on airplanes, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

The technology in the two-foot-square device enables investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location, these people said.

People with knowledge of the program wouldn’t discuss the frequency or duration of such flights, but said they take place on a regular basis.

A Justice Department official would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a program. The official said discussion of such matters would allow criminal suspects or foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance capabilities. Justice Department agencies comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval, the official said.

The program is the latest example of the extent to which the U.S. is training its surveillance lens inside the U.S. It is similar in approach to the National Security Agency’s program to collect millions of Americans phone records, in that it scoops up large volumes of data in order to find a single person or a handful of people. The U.S. government justified the phone-records collection by arguing it is a minimally invasive way of searching for terrorists.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

Published November 14, 2014

The Wall Street Journal

Casper Leitch: FaceBook is censoring activists  FaceBook is censoring activists – PLEASE visit my profile often and share my links!

April 25, 2013 at 5:11pm

At first, I thought it was just ME.  But, over time I have encountered SEVERAL activists on FaceBook who SUDDENLY get the same WARNING messages from FaceBook that I have been receiving.  It would seem, to those of us who attempt to reach a LARGE number of our friends, that FaceBook is doing EVERYTHING it can to prohibit the  sharing of REAL information.
When FaceBook forced us all to use it’s new TIMELINE FEATURE – it became impossible, at that point, to control who would have access to any thing and EVERY thing that is posted on the profiles of this social site.  If NOTHING ELSE, advertisers get access to our information – and we know that the government (ie. the DEA, FBI, CIA and HomeLand Security) have free access to our profiles and often times are reading our posts.
At that time, I removed ALL personal information from my profile…every bit of it – my private e-addy, my ph numbers, my real age, who my real family members are, date and place of birth information, current address, likes and dislikes, personal photos…every single bit of it and rebuilt my FaceBook personal profile into an electronic magazine focused on ending marijuana prohibition and preserving Freedom.
Members of the FaceBook community embraced my hard work and the number of friends I have quickly swelled to the 5,000 limit allowed by FaceBook.  Even tho I am the host of a global radio program with a listening audience of over 2-million people, I am still allowed to interact with ONLY 5,000 members of my audience on the worlds biggest SOCIAL MEDIA website.
To overcome THAT obstacle I started the ‘TIME 4 HEMP – LIVE’ page that people have liked and now visit for news in the world of hemp/marijuana that is found at:
On this page, I post information that is MOSTLY about marijuana with a few posts about our loss of Freedoms.  On my profile page I have gone CRAZY and put up posts about marijuana AND A GOOD NUMBER about our loss of Freedoms along with some links to great music.
I have many well informed friends who post fantastic information that I feel needs to be shared with ALL of my other friends….it seems that FaceBook does NOT agree.
When FaceBook first went to TimeLine – several of my friends requested that I tag them in my posts – and I did.  FaceBook blocked me one day from tagging any of my photos because I was "tagging too many people" in them.  I had about 50 friends that liked being tagged in my images because the images would appear on their profiles and the information attached that I was wanting to share could also reach their friends.  As of now, I am allowed to tag only 4 people per image – if I attempt to do more than that, I can then not tag anyone in an image for 30-days.
To overcome THAT obstacle, I began posting images and URL’s onto my profile and then would re-post them onto the profiles of my friends.  FaceBook won’t allow me to re-post the same image or URL now more than 8 times before they start blocking that option.
To overcome THAT obstacle, I attached my Twitter feed to my FaceBook account and began visiting the profile pages of my friends and sharing THEIR information onto my Profile so my friends could review it and….well, wouldn’t you know it….now FaceBook tells me that I am ”over using the SHARE button and need to slow down other wise be blocked from using this feature for 30-days" and if I should attempt to share more than 25 URL’s or images in about an hours time – I am blocked form using the share button – FIRST for 4-hours and if I keep OVER USING THE SHARE BUTTON that day – then I’m am blocked from using it for 30-days.
Now, I just post EVERY THING onto Twitter (and nearly 9,000 people follow the head-lines that I post at: – check it out!) and have begun using the marijuana social site established by Todd McCormick more and more to interact with my friends.  The link to that is and is free to join AND does NOT limit how you interact with other members.
I have to say – FaceBook is very successful in censoring activists.  In order for any one to discover the information posted on this profile page – it is now COMPLETELY up to my friends to actually come to my profile page each day and review the new links that I have been able to successfully post to find the information and SHARE IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS.
Instead of being able to get a message out to the 5,000 friends that I have like I could when TimeLine FIRST began…..instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 2,000 friends that I use to reach when TimeLine was just a few months old….instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 300 friends that I use to reach when TimeLine was just a year old….instead of being able to get a message out to the approximate 150 friends that I use to reach up until this week – I can now reach about 30 people a day.  For every one else interested in the material I post – they MUST take time to visit my profile and then SHARE any information they discover to be of importance.
THIS IS WHY I AM ASKING that my friends visit my profile OFTEN and make it a point to share and re-post the material that you consider to be important. 
The IRS is spying on you through Facebook, Twitter
Does Facebook spy on you, even after you’re logged out?
The Government is Spying On You Through Facebook Right…Now
Facebook’s Spying On You For a Good Cause
The FBI Is Spying On You: On Facebook, Twitter & Myspace
Many people watch you every move on Facebook


DEA agent sued over Facebook decoy page

DEA agent sued over Facebook decoy page

This image obtained by The Associated Press shows a Facebook page for "Sondra Prince." The Justice Department said Tuesday it is reviewing a woman’s complaint that a Drug Enforcement Administration agent set up a fake Facebook account using her identity. AP


WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration set up a fake Facebook account using photographs and other personal information it took from the cellphone of a New York woman arrested in a cocaine case, to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating drug secrets.

The Justice Department initially defended the practice in court filings but now says it is reviewing whether the Facebook guise went too far.

Sondra Arquiett’s Facebook account looked as real as any other. It included photos of her posing on the hood of a sleek BMW and a close-up with her young son and niece. She even appeared to write that she missed her boyfriend, who was identified by his nickname.

But it wasn’t her. The account was the work of DEA Agent Timothy Sinnigen, Arquiett said in a federal lawsuit. The case is scheduled for trial next week in Albany, New York.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement Tuesday that officials are reviewing both the incident and the practice, although in court papers filed earlier in the case, the federal government defended it. Fallon declined to comment further because the case is pending.

Details of the case were first reported by the online news site Buzzfeed.

Arquiett was arrested in July 2010 on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. She was accused of being part of a drug distribution ring run by her boyfriend, who had been previously indicted.

In a court filing in August, the Justice Department contended that while Arquiett didn’t directly authorize Sinnigen to create the fake account, she "implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in … ongoing criminal investigations."

The government also contended that the Facebook account was not public. A reporter was able to access it early Tuesday, though it was later disabled.

A spokesman for Facebook declined Tuesday to comment on the legal dispute. Facebook’s own policies appear to prohibit the practice, telling users that "You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission."

Lawyers for Arquiett did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages from The Associated Press. Arquiett did not immediately respond to an email asking to discuss the case.

Arquiett said in her filing that she suffered "fear and great emotional distress" and was endangered because the fake page gave the impression that she was cooperating with Sinnigen’s investigation as he interacted online with "dangerous individuals he was investigating."

The fate of Arquiett’s fight against the government’s use of her identity online is unclear.

A staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – a civil liberties organization – Nate Cardozo, said the government’s rationale was "laughable."

"If I’m cooperating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, ‘Can I search your phone?’ and I hand it over to them, my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime – not that they will take things that are not evidence off my phone and use it in another context," Cardozo said,

Lawrence Friedman, a privacy and constitutional law professor at New England Law-Boston, a law school, said the Arquiett’s "privacy claim rises and falls on the extent to which she consented to what it is the government says she consented to."

If Arquiett agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation and allow her phone to be used as part of that probe – as the government alleged in its court filing – then it would be harder for her to prove that her privacy rights were violated, Friedman said. If her phone were seized without consent, then she would have an easier claim.

"Basically, when you strike that kind of deal, you kind of have to play by the government’s rules," Friedman said. "This is not the ordinary situation in which the person walking down the street can have their identity stolen by the government," he said. "She was involved in a criminal investigation."



The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post. We can’t let them make up the rules

Innocent people’s lives are being ruined. Why isn’t anyone watching the watchlist?

Arjun Sethi, Saturday 30 August 2014 09.00 EDT


facebook surveillance illustration

Reasonable suspicion is based on a circular logic – people can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being suspected terrorists – that is ultimately backwards, and must be changed. Illustration: Joelle L / Flickr via Creative Commons Illustration: Joelle L / Flickr via Creative Commons

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. Now we know just how opaque, inefficient and discriminatory it can be.

As we were reminded again just this week, you can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly, and the consequences can be long and enduring. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information.

This kind of data sharing, however, isn’t limited to the latest from Edward Snowden’s NSA files. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors.

The watchlist tracks “known” and “suspected” terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information – including a Facebook or Twitter post – to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.

Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”, according to the Intercept. These individuals don’t even have a connection – as the government loosely defines it – to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists.

The absurdities don’t end there. Take Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a population under 100,000 that is known for its large Arab American community – and has more watchlisted residents than any other city in America except New York.

These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard – so-called “reasonable suspicion” – in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither “concrete evidence” nor “irrefutable evidence”. Instead, an official is permitted to consider “reasonable inferences” and “to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience”.

Consider a real world context – actual criminal justice – where an officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a person in the street and ask him or her a few questions. Courts have controversially held that avoiding eye contact with an officer, traveling alone, and traveling late at night, for example, all amount to reasonable suspicion.

This vague criteria is now being used to label innocent people as terrorism suspects.

Moreover, because the watchlist isn’t limited to known, actual terrorists, an official can watchlist a person if he has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is a suspected terrorist. It’s a circular logic – individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being suspected terrorists – that is ultimately backwards, and must be changed.

The government’s self-mandated surveillance guidance also includes loopholes that permit watchlisting without even showing reasonable suspicion. For example, non-citizens can be watchlisted for being associated with a watchlisted person – even if their relationship with that person is entirely innocuous. Another catch-all exception allows non-citizens to be watchlisted, so long as a source or tipster describes the person as an “extremist”, a “militant”, or in similar terms, and the “context suggests a nexus to terrorism”. The FBI’s definition of “nexus”, in turn, is far more nebulous than they’re letting on.

Because the watchlist designation process is secret, there’s no way of knowing just how many innocent people are added to the list due to these absurdities and loopholes. And yet, history shows that innocent people are inevitably added to the list and suffer life-altering consequences. Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements.

Watchlisting is an awesome power, and if used, must be exercised prudently and transparently.

The standards for inclusion should be appropriately narrow, the evidence relied upon credible and genuine, and the redress and review procedures consistent with basic constitutional requirements of fairness and due process. Instead, watchlisting is being used arbitrarily under a cloud of secrecy.

A watchlist saturated with innocent people diverts attention from real, genuine threats. A watchlist that disproportionately targets Arab and Muslim Americans or other minorities stigmatizes innocent people and alienates them from law enforcement. A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?


4-year-old expelled from pre-school for mom’s Facebook post

Originally posted on

[van id=”van/ns-acc/2014/08/27/SE-024WE_CNNA-ST1-1000000002435a6c”]

CALLAHAN, FL – A Florida mom says her four-year-old was expelled from his preschool over a message she posted on her personal Facebook page.

Ashley Habat says she and her son will were running late for school. It was picture day at Sonshine Christian Academy

“The administrator of the preschool checking him in she’s like “Well it’s picture day Will are you excited?” and you know he of course just went on to class but I had mentioned that they didn’t give enough notice. And she’s like, “Well we put it in his folder last week.” said Ashley Habat.

So Habat says she took to Facebook, saying she just wanted to vent her frustrations. She also never thought the school would ever see her post.

“They couldn’t see it, it was private to my friends only.” said Ashley Habat.

The post read, “Why is it that every single…

View original 194 more words

Why Potential Marijuana Investors Should Study Wiretapping

Rich Smith       Aug 4th 2014 9:22AM

Once upon a time, AT&T (T) urged its customers to "reach out and touch someone" with a long-distance phone call (which Ma Bell could charge extra for at the time). Those were simpler times.
Today, in our post-9/11 world, if you reach out by phone, you may end up touching more people than you bargain for. And those people may have guns, badges and court-approved wiretap warrants.

Top States for Wiretapping
This is especially true in Nevada, Colorado, California and New York. A recent report by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts said these four states issue the majority of wiretap authorizations in America (measured proportionate to their populations):

  • Nevada authorized 38.2 wiretap authorizations per 500,000 residents
  • Colorado authorized 12.4 per 500,000
  • California authorized 11.7 per 500,000
  • And New York State authorized 10.7 per 500,000

Rounding out the top 10 states for state-sanctioned wiretapping are Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri and New Jersey — in that order. In each state, state and federal law enforcement sought and received authorizations to conduct more than six wiretaps per 500,000 residents. (In case you were wondering, that office points out that it is not authorized to collect and report data on NSA wiretaps regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978).
According to Pew Research, which analyzed the report, 90 percent of the wiretaps authorized in 2013 were authorized to investigate "criminal drug-related offenses."
The 3,576 total wiretaps authorized resulted in 3,744 arrests (more than the number of wiretaps authorized). But the conviction rate from these wiretaps was less than 19 percent — just 709 convictions. (Curiously, AO also notes that in all of 2013, only one application for a wiretap was turned down.)
If that sounds bad, it is. According to a 2010 annual statistical report filed by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the average conviction rate in the federal criminal judicial system for that year was 93 percent.

What It Means to Investors
But we digress. To find out how all of this may be relevant to investors, let’s return to the 90 percent figure. You’ll notice that while Nevada is the No. 1 state for wiretapping, No. 2 is Colorado — a state which in January decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Now, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the opportunities that marijuana legalization — first in Colorado, and more recently in Washington state — might offer for investors. Over the past year, shares of GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH) have risen more than eight times, and microcap Advanced Cannabis Solutions (CANN) have more than tripled in value. Small cap Medical Marijuana (MJNA) has risen 50 percent.
Still, the fact remains that even if individual states are beginning to move toward legalization, the federal government and its Drug Enforcement Administrationstill consider marijuana an illegal drug, period. Until this changes, the fear of federal prosecution of a state-legal drug therefore still hangs over this industry.
Reading the Tea Leaves at the DEA
What will be our first clue that the DEA has begun backing off enforcement of drug laws in places like Colorado, where the state strictures are loosening? It could be this AO report we’ve been talking about up above. Let’s quickly run back down the list of what we know:

  • Colorado is one of the states most active in issuing state and federal wiretap authorizations.
  • Nine out of 10 such wiretaps concern drug offenses.
  • Colorado no longer finds marijuana as offensive as it used to.

It will be interesting to watch what happens to Colorado’s rank on the list of most frequent wiretappers when the AO issues its report on 2014 wiretap authorizations next summer. If Colorado falls a lot from No. 2, this could mean that law enforcement has decided to back off from prosecuting (at least marijuana-related) drug offenses in the state.
Such a development would bode well for marijuana stocks as more and more states vote to legalize, suggesting the DEA will bow to local interpretations of the drug laws.
If, on the other hand, Colorado continues to rank highly in the wiretap ratings — look out. That will be our first clue that the heat is still on.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned either.