Daily Archive: 07/17/2013

Jul 17 2013

The Continuing Erosion of Privacy

Millions of US license plates tracked and stored, new ACLU report finds

Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Wednesday 17 July 2013 10.07 EDT

Millions of Americans are having their movements tracked through automated scanning of their car license plates, with the records held often indefinitely in vast government and private databases.

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union has found an alarming proliferation of databases across the US storing details of Americans’ locations. The technology is not confined to government agencies – private companies are also getting in on the act, with one firm National Vehicle Location Service holding more than 800m records of scanned license plates.

“License plate readers are the most pervasive method of location tracking that nobody has heard of,” said Catherine Crump, ACLU lawyer and lead author of the report. “They collect data on millions of Americans, the overwhelming number of whom are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.”



Many police authorities have few or no regulations over use of the scanners other than that they should not be deployed to track people of personal interest such as spouses or friends. Pittsburg police department in California stated on the documents submitted to ACLU that the scanners can be used for “any routine patrol operation or criminal investigation – reasonable suspicion or probably cause is not required”. The police department in Scarsdale New York was glowing about the potential of the technology, saying the scanners had potential that “is only limited by the officer’s imagination”.

Boston Strangler: DNA testing of suspect’s corpse may lay identity to rest

Associated Press

Friday 12 July 2013 03.09 EDT

Investigators helped by advances in DNA technology finally have forensic evidence linking longtime suspect Albert DeSalvo to the last of the 1960s killings attributed to the Boston Strangler, leading many involved in the case to hope it can finally be put to rest.



DeSalvo’s family was outraged police secretly followed his nephew to collect DNA for new tests. Attorney Elaine Sharp said the family also believes there is still reasonable doubt he killed the Strangler’s last supposed victim.

NSA warned to rein in surveillance as agency reveals even greater scope

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Wednesday 17 July 2013 15.19 EDT

The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosed.

John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.



A document published last month by the Guardian detailing the history of the NSA’s post-9/11 bulk surveillance on telephone and internet data refer to one- or two-hop analysis performed by NSA. The document, provided by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, does not explicitly mention three-hop analysis, nor does it clearly suggest that such analysis occurs.

Wednesday’s hearing was the second major public congressional hearing about the NSA’s surveillance activities since the Guardian and the Washington Post disclosed some of them in early June. Unlike the previous hearing on June 18 before the House intelligence committee, members of the House judiciary committee aggressively questioned senior officials from the NSA, FBI, Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.



One senior member of the panel, congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of the 2001 Patriot Act, warned the officials that unless they rein in the scope of their surveillance on Americans’ phone records, “There are not the votes in the House of Representatives” to renew the provision after its 2015 expiration.



(S)everal members of the committee, of both parties, said they were concerned not merely about the analysis of the phone records but about NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone data in the first place, without an individual suspicion of connections to terrorism.

“The statute says ‘collection’,” congressman Jerrold Nadler told Cole. “You’re trying to confuse us by talking use.”

Congressman Ted Poe, a judge, said: “I hope as we move forward as a Congress we rein in the idea that it’s OK to bruise the spirit of the constitution in the name of national security.”



Congressman Spencer Bachus said he “was not aware at all” of the extent of the surveillance, since the NSA programs were primarily briefed to the intelligence committees of the House and Senate.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren revealed that an annual report provided to Congress by the government about the phone-records collection, something cited by intelligence officials as an example of their disclosures to Congress, is “less than a single page and not more than eight sentences”.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, challenged Litt’s contention that the Fisa court was “not a rubber stamp” by way of a baseball analogy. Jeffries noted that some of the greatest hitters in baseball history – the Cardinals’ Stan Musial, the Red Sox’s Ted Williams, the Tigers’ Ty Cobb and the Yankees’ Babe Ruth – did not hit more than four balls safely per 10 times at bat, for career batting averages ranging from Musial’s .331 to Cobb’s .366.

He then noted that the Fisa court approves over 99% of government requests for surveillance – which would give the government a lifetime batting average of .999 – saying: “But you’ve taken the position that the Fisa court is an independent check.”

Jul 17 2013

New DOJ Journalist Rules: For Thee But Not For Me

In the recent embarrassing uproar over Attorney General Eric Holder’s labeling a James Rosen, reporter for Fox News, a co-conspirator in a federal leak probe and issued a secret search warrant for his e-mails, Holder said that Department of Justice rules would be reviewed and revised as needed. The “New Rules” on media policy (pdf) were issued last week. The rules, as Marcy Wheeler at empty wheel points out, will only apply to explicitly to “members of the news media,” not journalists per se.

The definition might permit the exclusion of bloggers and book writers, not to mention publishers like WikiLeaks. [..]

That approach would have several advantages over protecting “the news media.” First, by protecting the act of journalism, you include those independent reporters who are unquestioningly engaging in journalism (overcoming the blogger question I laid out, but also those working independently on book projects, and potentially – though this would be a contentious though much needed debate – publishers like WikiLeaks), but also exclude those news personalities who are engaging in entertainment, corporate propaganda, or government disinformation.

The rules also are a move to set up an “official press.” More from Marcy who goes into detail:

The First Amendment was written, in part, to eliminate the kind of official press that parrots only the King’s sanctioned views. But with its revised “News Media Policies,” DOJ gets us closer to having just that, an official press.

That’s because all the changes laid out in the new policy (some of which are good, some of which are obviously flawed) apply only to “members of the news media.” They repeat over and over and over and over, “news media.” I’m not sure they once utter the word “journalist” or “reporter.” And according to DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide, a whole slew of journalists are not included in their definition of “news media.” [..]

The limitation of all these changes to the “news media” is most obvious when it treats the Privacy Protection Act – which should have prevented DOJ from treating James Rosen as a  suspect. [..]

The PPA, however, applies to all persons “reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.” [..]

I’m clearly covered by the PPA. But the FBI could easily decide to exclude me from this “news media” protection so as to be able to snoop into my work product.

Congratulations to the “members of the news media” who have been deemed the President’s official press. I hope you use your privileges wisely.

Update: I’ve learned that the issue of whom this applied to did come up in background meetings at DOJ; in fact, DOJ raised the issue. The problem is, there is no credentialing system that could define who gets this protection and DOJ didn’t want to lay it out (and most of the people invited have never been anything but a member of the news media, making it hard for them to understand how to differentiate a journalist).

Ultimately, I think DOJ is so anxious for Congress to pass a shield law (which they say elsewhere in their report) because it’ll mean Congress will do the dirty work of defining who is and who is not a journalist.

The full article is a wealth of information and worth the time to read it, along with all the links.

The Obama administration and Congress are coming very close to creating a state sanctioned press, a true “Pravda on the Potomac,” as The Washington Post is unofficially called. This is Cass Sunstein’s dream come true.

Jul 17 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The appalling GOP

There really isn’t any other word. Congressional Republicans are simply appalling. They have absolute control of the House. They set the agenda. They decide what comes to the floor. They decide what passes on to the Senate.

They know that extreme legislation isn’t going to be enacted into law. The Democratic majority in the Senate and the Democratic president stand in the way. So the legislation they choose to pass is a statement of their own values. It is simply designed to proclaim, “This is where we stand.” And for the vast majority of Americans, what they proudly proclaim is simply beyond the pale. [..]

Eisenhower was a conservative and frugal president who insisted on balancing the budget. He put a lid on Pentagon spending. He defended Social Security and labor laws, while building the interstate highways and funding the national education defense act. He was re-elected in a landslide.

Now it looks like the “stupid” wing of the Republican Party has taken over. Our nation suffers as a result. And Republicans are likely to pay the price for that.

Nozomi Hayase: Edward Snowden, True Hope for Change

Amid shock waves from the revelations of mass global NSA spying, the US government reaction to leaker Edward Snowden took a dramatic turn. From media smearing to overcharging him with espionage, this followed the predictable pattern of Obama’s war on whistleblowers; shooting the messengers by demonizing and discrediting them in order to kill the message or distract people from it. [..]

The US government’s recent manhunt for Snowden went too far in that it tried to intimidate a number of sovereign countries who were defending the universal right to asylum. A prime example was seen in the recent ‘jet aggression‘ of stopping the Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane, followed by the hacking of the emails of senior authorities in Bolivia. This desperate action showed the true colors of the Obama administration. It exposed to the world the real viciousness of this regime and their disdain for international law and basic human rights. Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan ‘Yes We Can’ scammed the American people with the secret practice of Stasi 2.0, ‘Yes, We Scan’.

Heidi Moore: By Prosecuting Fabrice Tourre but Not Goldman Sachs, the SEC Courts Failure

The SEC already reached a ‘no fault’ settlement with Goldman Sachs, so how can it bring down Tourre for the same non-crime?

Monday sees the opening of the trial of a colorful former Goldman Sachs trader, Fabrice Tourre: a made-for-TV Wall Streeter, a Frenchman with a quick wit who dubbed himself “Fabulous Fab” even as he worked on mortgage deals which, it is alleged, he knew would fail.

The trial is sure to be entertaining. It is also certain to add nothing to the sum of human knowledge; nor will it create any kind of catharsis or sense of justice for the mortgage crisis.

First, some quick background: the deal for which Tourre is on trial is known as Abacus. It was a set of sure-to-fail subprime mortgage securities that Goldman Sachs created exclusively for rich investor John Paulson. Paulson wanted to bet against subprime, but he was having trouble: mortgage securities are mashed-together bundles of all kinds of mortgages, some of good quality, some of excellent quality, and some of subprime quality. Paulson wanted a purely subprime product so that he could bet against it. Goldman Sachs created such a product for him.

Eunice Hyon Min Rho: Photo ID Law on Trial in Pennsylvania: What’s at Stake for Our Democracy

Margaret Pennington, a 90-year-old Chester County resident and lifelong voter, votes by going to her polling place two blocks away. She also no longer drives and depends on her daughter to take her around. She lives about 25 miles away from the nearest PennDOT office, Pennsylvania’s equivalent of a DMV office. For Pennington to obtain a photo ID to vote, her daughter would have to close her small retail business and lose a day’s work.

Pennington is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who will not be able to vote if the state’s photo ID law remains in place. Many are elderly, some have disabilities, some are low-income; all take seriously their responsibility to vote on Election Day.

Today the ACLU is back in court to ask that the photo ID law be blocked permanently, as it is an unnecessary and unjustifiable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed under the Pennsylvania State Constitution. We will show that not only does the state photo ID law fall far short of the constitutional promise that elections be “free and equal,” but it also fails to pass the common sense test.

Joan Walsh: Hey, Newt, this is not a “lynch mob”!

Newt Gingrich insists Trayvon Martin protesters were “prepared to be a lynch mob.” Here’s a little history lesson

Every day this year brings another 150thanniversary of an epochal Civil War event, some more important than others. A big one that’s getting little attention is the days-long New York City Draft Riots, when hundreds of furious Irish immigrants took to the streets to protest Civil War conscription, which began July 13, 1863. Against the backdrop of mostly peaceful protests against the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, many people are remembering the history of white rage, and white race riots – Tulsa, Okla., Rosewood, Fla. – but I’ve seen no one mention the draft riots, though the Zimmerman verdict came down on the 150th anniversary of their start.

With the ludicrous Newt Gingrich (who claims to be a historian) insisting the peaceful Trayvon Martin protesters were “prepared to be a lynch mob,” it’s worth remembering that devastating eruption of white mob violence 150 years earlier, when at least 11 black men were actually lynched.

Jessica Valenti: Fear and Consequences: George Zimmerman and the Protection of White Womanhood

My first week of college, I had a heated debate about abortion with two new friends-both were white, and one, Nancy, was extremely pro-life. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having such an “adult” conversation-we disagreed, but everyone was being respectful. Then my other pro-choice friend asked Nancy what she would do with a pregnancy if she was raped. I will never forget what Nancy said: “I think it would be cute to have a little black baby.” When we expressed outrage at her racism, Nancy shrugged. It never occurred to her a rapist would be anyone other than a black man. (DOJ statistics show that 80 to 90 percent of women who are raped are attacked by someone of their own race, unless they are Native women.) When this young woman imagined a criminal in her mind, he wasn’t a faceless bogeyman.

I hadn’t thought of this exchange in years, not until I was reading the responses to George Zimmerman’s acquittal-particularly those about the role of white womanhood. When I first heard that the jurors were women, I naïvely hoped they would see this teenage boy shot dead in the street and think of their children. But they weren’t just any women; most were white women. Women who, like me, have been taught to fear men of color. And who-as a feminist named Valerie pointed out on Twitter-probably would see Zimmerman as their son sooner than they would Trayvon Martin.

Jul 17 2013

On This Day In History July 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 17 is the 198th day of the year (199th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 167 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1998, a diplomatic conference adopts the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, establishing a permanent international court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002. As of March 2011, 114 states are party to the statute. Grenada will become the 115th state party on 1 August 2011. A further 34 states have signed but not ratified the treaty. Among other things, the statute establishes the court’s functions, jurisdiction and structure.

Under the Rome Statue, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Thus, the majority of international crimes continue to go unpunished unless and until domestic systems can properly deal with them. Therefore, permanent solutions to impunity must be found at the domestic level.

History

Following years of negotiations aimed at establishing a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals accused of genocide and other serious international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and the recently defined crimes of aggression, the United Nations General Assembly convened a five-week diplomatic conference in Rome in June 1998 “to finalize and adopt a convention on the establishment of an international criminal court”. On 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining.[5] The seven countries that voted against the treaty were Iraq, Israel, Libya, the People’s Republic of China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.

On 11 April 2002, ten countries ratified the statute at the same time at a special ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, bringing the total number of signatories to sixty, which was the minimum number required to bring the statue into force, as defined in Article 126. The treaty entered into force on 1 July 2002; the ICC can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The statute was modified in 2010 after the Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, but the amendments to the statute that were adopted at that time are not effective yet.

The Rome Statute is the result of multiple attempts for the creation of a supranational and international tribunal. At the end of 19th century, the international community took the first steps towards the institution of permanent courts with supranational jurisdiction. With the Hague International Peace Conferences, representatives of the most powerful nations made an attempt to harmonize laws of war and to limit the use of technologically advanced weapons. After World War I and even more after the heinous crimes committed during World War II, it became a priority to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes so serious that needed to be called “against humanity”. In order to re-affirm basic principles of democratic civilisation, the alleged criminals were not executed in public squares or sent to torture camps, but instead treated as criminals: with a regular trial, the right to defense and the presumption of innocence. The Nuremberg trials marked a crucial moment in legal history, and after that, some treaties that led to the drafting of the Rome Statute were signed.

UN General Assembly Resolution n. 260 9 December 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, was the first step towards the establishment of an international permanent criminal tribunal with jurisdiction on crimes yet to be defined in international treaties. In the resolution there was a hope for an effort from the Legal UN commission in that direction. The General Assembly, after the considerations expressed from the commission, established a committee to draft a statute and study the related legal issues. In 1951 a first draft was presented; a second followed in 195] but there were a number of delays, officially due to the difficulties in the definition of the crime of aggression, that were only solved with diplomatic assemblies in the years following the statute’s coming into force. The geopolitical tensions of the Cold War also contributed to the delays.

Trinidad and Tobago asked the General Assembly in December 1989 to re-open the talks for the establishment of an international criminal court and in 1994 presented a draft Statute. The General Assembly created an ad hoc committee for the International Criminal Court and, after hearing the conclusions, a Preparatory Committee that worked for two years (1996-1998) on the draft. Meanwhile, the United Nations created the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR) using statutes-and amendments due to issues raised during pre-trial or trial stages of the proceedings-that are quite similar to the Rome Statute.

During its 52nd session the UN General Assembly decided to convene a diplomatic conference for the establishment of the International Criminal Court, held in Rome 15 June-17 July 1998 to define the treaty, entered into force on 1 July 2002.

Jul 17 2013

Liz Warren Slays CNBC

CNBC’s Squackbox invited Sen. Elizabeth Warren on to discuss her bipartisan supported 21st Glass-Stegall Bill. I will only say, Elizabeth Warren for President 2016.

That had to hurt.

Jul 17 2013

Chronic Tonic: Just Smackin’ My Gums…

Originally posted at Voices on the Square

Yep, it’s me again, with a toothy (or rather lack thereof) update.

So I had my 4 molars that made up my upper right quadrant pulled last Tuesday. It was an exercise in pain and one in which I am still suffering the repercussions.

First, they called these extractions “simple” extractions as opposed to surgical. I’m thinking cool – cheaper and sounds easier. Well, apparently “simple is a bit of a misnomer.