Tag Archive: Fouth Amendment

May 16 2014

The DOJ Hates the Fourth Amendment

This administration, especially the Department of Justice really hates your Fourth Amendment rights and is doing everything in its power to narrow your right to privacy as much as it can.

DOJ Says Americans Have No 4th Amendment Protections At All When They Communicate With Foreigners

by Make Masnick, Techdirt

We’ve already questioned if it’s really true that the 4th Amendment doesn’t apply to foreigners (the Amendment refers to “people” not “citizens”). But in some new filings by the DOJ, the US government appears to take its “no 4th Amendment protections for foreigners” to absurd new levels. It says, quite clearly, that because foreigners have no 4th Amendment protections it means that any Americans lose their 4th Amendment protections when communicating with foreigners. They’re using a very twisted understanding of the (already troubling) third party doctrine to do this. As you may recall, after lying to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department said that it would start informing defendants if warrantless collection of information under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) was used in the investigation against them.

Last October, it finally started alerting some defendants, leading courts to halt proceedings and re-evaluate. As two of those cases have moved forward, the DOJ is trying to defend those cases, and one way it’s doing so is to flat out say that Americans have no 4th Amendment protections when talking to foreigners.

   The Supreme Court has long held that when one person voluntarily discloses information to another, the first person loses any cognizable interest under the Fourth Amendment in what the second person does with the information. . . . For Fourth Amendment purposes, the same principle applies whether the recipient intentionally makes the information public or stores it in a place subject to a government search. Thus, once a non-U.S. person located outside the United States receives information, the sender loses any cognizable Fourth Amendment rights with respect to that information. That is true even if the sender is a U.S. person protected by the Fourth Amendment, because he assumes the risk that the foreign recipient will give the information to others, leave the information freely accessible to others, or that the U.S. government (or a foreign government) will obtain the information.

This argument is questionable on so many levels. First, it’s already relying on the questionable third party doctrine, but it seems to go much further, by then arguing that merely providing information to a foreign person means that it’s okay for the US government to snoop on it without a warrant.

The official US position on the NSA is still unlimited eavesdropping power

by Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU at The Guardian

One year after Snowden, the government is defending – in not-so-plain sight – the ‘paramount’ power to spy on every call and email between you and your friends abroad

The government’s argument is not simply that the NSA has broad authority to monitor Americans’ international communications. The US government is arguing that the NSA’s authority is unlimited in this respect. If the government is right, nothing in the Constitution bars the NSA from monitoring a phone call between a journalist in New York City and his source in London. For that matter, nothing bars the NSA from monitoring every call and email between Americans in the United States and their non-American friends, relatives, and colleagues overseas.

In the government’s view, there is no need to ask whether the 2008 law violates Americans’ privacy rights, because in this context Americans have no rights to be violated.

Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel points out that former Sen Russ Feingold warned us back in 2008 about the abuses that could occur under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA).

Aug 13 2013

Federal Judge Orders Outside Oversight of NYPD

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin handed down her ruling on the New York City Police Department’s Stop and Frisk Policy. In her official summary, Judge Sheindlin found the policy unconstitutional calling it a “form of racial profiling’ and a violation of the Fourth and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendments rights of minorities in New York City. From the official transcript:

In conclusion, I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband. I also conclude that the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.

The ruling does not end the program. In a separate opinion, the judge ordered federal monitoring and, among other remedies, a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters.

Naturally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley reacted angrily claiming that the city did not get a fair trail:

“The judge conveyed a disturbing disregard for the good intentions of our officers, who form the most diverse police department in the US,” he said during a press conference Monday. It was a “dangerous” decision by the judge, Bloomberg added, while claiming that the policy had helped bring down crime in New York.

Kelly was likewise forthright in his condemnation of the judge’s ruling, describing it as “disturbing” and “highly offensive”. He rejected the claim that his officers had engaged in racial profiling. “This is simply, recklessly untrue,” he said, though he added that he had not yet read the ruling because he had spent the morning having dental work done.

It’s unknown of this ruling will effect President Barack Obama’s high opinion of Comm. Kelley and take e him out of contention for the head of Homeland Security.

The mayor vowed to appeal but he will be out of office at midnight on December 31 of this year. Hopefully the new mayor will have drop the appeal and work harder to protect the rights of NYC’s minority residents and their safety.

The best line of Judge Scheindlin’s ruling is her last one:

” I conclude with a particularly apt quote: “The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies – like stop-and-frisk, and . . . neighborhood watch regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice.”

Apr 19 2013

Stop CISPA Moves to the Senate

Stop CISPA The controversial data sharing bill, Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was passed by the House by a vote of 288 – 127, as 92 Democrats voted for the bill, while 29 Republicans voted against it. The bill passed without the privacy protections that civil liberties advocates felt were necessary, an objection that was echoed by the White House with a veto threat earlier this week. An attempt by the lead sponsors of the bill, Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), offered an amendment to mollify the objections but privacy advocates stated that it fell short of what was needed to safeguard an individual’s right to privacy.

Amendments that were proposed to protect Fourth Amendment rights were not even allowed debate by the rules committee:

Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, proposed a one-sentence amendment (PDF) that would have required the National Security Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies to secure a “warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment” before searching a database for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Grayson complained this morning on Twitter that House Republicans “wouldn’t even allow debate on requiring a warrant before a search.” [..]

CISPA is controversial because it overrules all existing federal and state laws by saying “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” including privacy policies and wiretap laws, companies may share cybersecurity-related information “with any other entity, including the federal government.” It would not, however, require them to do so. [..]

Because Grayson’s amendment was not permitted, CISPA will allow the federal government to compile a database of information shared by private companies and search that information for possible violations of hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal laws. [..]

“The government could use this information to investigate gun shows” and football games because of the threat of serious bodily harm if accidents occurred, Polis said. “What do these things even have to do with cybersecurity?… From football to gun show organizing, you’re really far afield.”

At the heart of CISPA is warrantless searches a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment which reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This has had a strange effect of uniting the left and right in the opposition to the bill. The Tea Party aligned group Freedom Works issued this statement:

CISPA would allow for more information sharing between the private sector and the federal government regarding cyber security. Although this year’s CISPA is a net improvement over last year’s bill, it still leaves open concerns about private information being shared in the name of national security.

There are grave Fourth Amendment concerns with CISPA. The bill would override existing privacy laws to allow companies to share “cyber threat information” with the federal government without making any reasonable effort to strip out any personal information from the file.

They even have a site to actively Stop CISPA along with the ACLU and the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Passage in the Senate without addition of privacy protections is doubtful but one never knows:

The discussion now shifts to the Democrat-controlled Senate, which appears unlikely to act on the legislation in the wake of a presidential veto threat earlier this week, and an executive order in January that may reduce the need for new legislation. Today’s House vote, on the other hand, could increase pressure on the Senate to enact some sort of legislation.

Sen. John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who was involved in last year’s cybersecurity debate, said after today’s vote that “CISPA’s privacy protections are insufficient.” Still, Rockefeller said, “I believe we can gain bipartisan agreement on bills that we can report out of our committees and allow [Majority Leader Harry Reid] to bring them to the Senate floor as early as possible.”

We urge everyone to keep the pressure on the Senate and the White House by calling and e-mailing your objections:

The White House switchboard is 202-456-1414.

The comments line is 202-456-1111.

The White House email address is here

Numbers for the Senate are here.

E-mail addresses for the Senate are here

Please be polite and on point.

The late internet activist Aaron Swartz called CISPA the “The Patriot Act of the Internet”.

Contact the White House and your Senators to protect your privacy rights.