FBI Targets Internet Archive With Secret ‘National Security Letter’, Loses

The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced Wednesday morning.

On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a controversial National Security Letter (.pdf) on the Internet Archive‘s founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library’s registered users, asking for the user’s name, address and activity on the site.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive’s lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality in a December 14 complaint (.pdf) to a federal court in San Francisco. The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public.

The Patriot Act greatly expanded the reach of NSLs, which are subpoenas for documents such as billing records and telephone records that the FBI can issue in terrorism investigations without a judge’s approval. Nearly all NSLs come with gag orders forbidding the recipient from ever speaking of the subpoena, except to a lawyer.

Brewster Kahle called the gag order “horrendous,” saying he couldn’t talk about the case with his board members, wife or staff, but said that his stand was part of a time-honored tradition of librarians protecting the rights of their patrons.

“This is an unqualified success that will help other recipients understand that you can push back on these,” Kahle said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning.

Though FBI guidelines on using NSLs warned of overusing them, two Congressionally ordered audits revealed that the FBI had issued hundreds of illegal requests for student health records, telephone records and credit reports. The reports also found that the FBI had issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs since 2001, but failed to track their use. In a letter to Congress last week, the FBI admitted it can only estimate how many NSLs it has issued.

The Internet Archive’s case is only the third known court challenge to an NSL, all of which ended with the FBI rescinding the NSL, according to the ACLU’s Melissa Goodman.

That makes you wonder about the the hundreds of thousands of NSLs that haven’t been challenged,” Goodman said, suggesting that the FBI had collected sensitive information on innocent Americans.

Read moreFBI Targets Internet Archive With Secret ‘National Security Letter’, Loses

Your personal data just got permanently cached at the US border

Now that US customs agents have unfettered access to laptops and other electronic devices at borders, a coalition of travel groups, civil liberties advocates and technologists is calling on Congress to rein in the Department of Homeland Security’s search and seizure practices. They’re also providing practical advice on how to prevent trade secrets and other sensitive data from being breached.

In a letter dated Thursday, the group, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union and the Business Travel Coalition, called on the House Committee on Homeland Security to ensure searches aren’t arbitrary or overly invasive. They also urged the passage of legislation outlawing abusive searches.

The letter comes 10 days after a US appeals court ruled Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have the right to rummage through electronic devices even if they have no reason to suspect the hardware holds illegal contents. Not only are they free to view the files during passage; they are also permitted to copy the entire contents of a device. There are no stated policies about what can and can’t be done with the data.

Over the past few months, several news reports have raised eyebrows after detailing border searches that involved electronic devices. The best known of them is this story from The Washington Post, which recounted the experiences of individuals who were forced to reveal data on cell phones and laptop devices when passing through US borders. One individual even reported some of the call history on her cell phone had been deleted.

“The Fourth Amendment protects us all against unreasonable government intrusions,” the letter, which was also signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology and security expert Bruce Schneier, states. “But this guarantee means nothing if CBP can arbitrarily search and seize our digital information at the border and indefinitely store and reuse it.”

Several of the groups are also providing advice to US-bound travelers carrying electronic devices. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives is encouraging members to remove photos, financial information and other personal data before leaving home. This is good advice even if you’re not traveling to the US. There is no reason to store five years worth of email on a portable machine.

In this posting, the EFF agrees that laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other gizmos should be cleaned of any sensitive information. Then, after passing through customs, travelers can download the data they need, work on it, transmit it back and then digitally destroy the files before returning.

The post also urges the use of strong encryption to scramble sensitive data, although it warns this approach is by no means perfect. For one thing, CBP agents are free to deny entry to travelers who refuse to divulge their passwords. They may also be able to seize the laptop.

If it sounds like a lot of work, consider this: so far, the federal government has refused to reveal any information about border searches, including what it does with the electronic data it seizes. Under the circumstances, there’s no way of knowing what will happen to, say, source code or company memos that may get confiscated. Or the email sent to your lawyer.

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
Published Thursday 1st May 2008 21:11 GMT

Source: The Register

FLDS RAID: DANGEROUS LEGAL PRECEDENT

I waited a week to comment on the Texas case, separating 437 children from their FLDS parents, to see if any substantive evidence of abuse would emerge. It hasn’t. Even if it had, those could have been handled individually. But no, Texas plans instead to make every member of the group pay the supreme price: to strip away their beloved children. This case is about group punishment. In spite of a search warrant tainted by a false witness (the “Sarah” who doesn’t exist), no actual specific evidence of abuse, or any unwilling participants in this polygamous compound, a self-righteous Texas judge had decreed that all 400 + children will not be returned to the custody of their parents. Texas has gone too far to rid itself of this awkward religious sect that built the “Yearning for Zion” (YFZ) ranch in order to evade persecution in Utah and Arizona.

As this tyrannical order clearly meant separating even nursing children from their mothers, a wave of outrage began to sweep the nation. The media-savvy judge immediately changed her order (allowing children under 1 year if age to be nursed) in order to keep the tide of public relations on the side of the authorities. But this should not deter the nation from realizing the danger of the tenuous legal proposition that mere membership in a group (that may have isolated examples of marrying underage girls) makes all unworthy of possessing any children at all–ever. That is wrong, especially when legal remedies exist to prosecute specific wrongdoers.

The local sheriff admitted on television that he had an “informant” on the inside for over 4 years. That was probably a disgruntled member of the group who decided to stay on to build up a case against his fellow church members. If a case can’t be built after four years of informing, and authorities have to rely on a false abuse phone call to justify this invasion, what does that say about the State’s case?

Read moreFLDS RAID: DANGEROUS LEGAL PRECEDENT

Ron Paul campaign dominates convention

Meeting reveals a party, in this state at least, far from united

— Call 2008 the year of the great tumult, the year of the outsiders, the young, the tech-savvy who are changing American politics.

Although most of the attention, money and passion lie with the long saga of the Democratic presidential contest, Nevada’s state Republican convention here offered evidence of the ground shifting across the spectrum, with an actual earthquake Friday night serving as an apt symbol.

Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican with a libertarian’s heart, followed his second-place finish in Nevada’s January presidential caucus by out-organizing the state’s Republican establishment. In the process, the Paulites embarrassed the campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

They seemed to make up more than half of the 1,300 or so state delegates to the convention. They won a key procedural vote on the rules, and their boisterous presence created significant delays, causing the convention chairman, Bob Beers, a state senator from Las Vegas, to recess the convention without selecting delegates to the national convention. The state convention is to resume at a later date.

Read moreRon Paul campaign dominates convention

FROM DNA OF FAMILY, A TOOL TO MAKE ARRESTS

PRIVACY ADVOCATES SAY THE EMERGING PRACTICE TURNS RELATIVES INTO GENETIC INFORMANTS

He was a church-going father of two, and for more than 30 years Dennis Rader eluded police in the Wichita area, killing 10 people and signing taunting letters with a self-styled monogram: BTK, for Bind Torture Kill. In the end, it was a DNA sample that tied BTK to his crimes. Not his own DNA. But his daughter’s.

Investigators obtained a court order without the daughter’s knowledge for a Pap smear specimen she had given five years earlier at a university medical clinic in Kansas. A DNA profile of the specimen almost perfectly matched the DNA evidence taken from several BTK crime scenes, leading detectives to conclude she was the child of the killer. That allowed police to secure an arrest warrant in February 2005 and end BTK’s murderous career.

The BTK case was an early use of an emerging tool in law enforcement: analyzing the DNA of a suspect’s relatives. In the BTK example, police had a suspect and were looking to tie him to the crime. But now, states are moving to conduct familial searches of criminal databases, looking for close-to-perfect matches with DNA from crime scenes. A partial match with a convicted criminal could implicate a brother or daughter or father of the convict. Such searches, advocates say, constitute a powerful law enforcement tool that, experts say, could increase by 40 percent the number of suspects identified through DNA.

Read moreFROM DNA OF FAMILY, A TOOL TO MAKE ARRESTS

Body Scanners at Airports in NYC and LA

Airports in New York and Los Angeles have become the latest equipped with body scanners that allow security screeners to peer beneath a passenger’s clothing to detect concealed weapons.

The machines, which are about the size of a revolving door, use low-energy electromagnetic waves to produce a computerized image of a traveler’s entire body.

Passengers step in and lift their arms. The scans only take a minute, and Transportation Security Administration officials say the procedure is less invasive than a physical frisk for knives, bombs or guns.

Someday, the “millimeter wave” scans might replace metal detectors, but for now they are being used selectively.

Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York saw their first scanners installed Thursday, each at a single checkpoint. Phoenix Sky-Harbor International Airport got one of the machines in October.

Modest travelers may have concerns about the images.

The black and white, three-dimensional scans aren’t as vivid as a photograph, but they do reveal some of the more intimate curves of the human form, maybe with as much clarity as an impressionist sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

Read moreBody Scanners at Airports in NYC and LA

U.S. to Expand Collection Of Crime Suspects’ DNA

Policy Adds People Arrested but Not Convicted

The U.S. government will soon begin collecting DNA samples from all citizens arrested in connection with any federal crime and from many immigrants detained by federal authorities, adding genetic identifiers from more than 1 million individuals a year to the swiftly growing federal law enforcement DNA database.

The policy will substantially expand the current practice of routinely collecting DNA samples from only those convicted of federal crimes, and it will build on a growing policy among states to collect DNA from many people who are arrested. Thirteen states do so now and turn their data over to the federal government.

The initiative, to be published as a proposed rule in the Federal Register in coming days, reflects a congressional directive that DNA from arrestees be collected to help catch a range of domestic criminals. But it also requires, for the first time, the collection of DNA samples from people other than U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who are detained by U.S. authorities.

Although fingerprints have long been collected for virtually every arrestee, privacy advocates say the new policy expands the DNA database, run by the FBI, beyond its initial aim of storing information on the perpetrators of violent crimes.

They also worry that people could be detained erroneously and swept into the database without cause, and that DNA samples from those who are never convicted of a crime, because of acquittal or a withdrawal of charges, might nonetheless be permanently retained by the FBI.

“Innocent people don’t belong in a so-called criminal database,” said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re crossing a line.”

Read moreU.S. to Expand Collection Of Crime Suspects’ DNA

They knew: Bush, Cheney authorized ‘harsh interrogations’

WASHINGTON — President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, news agencies have learned.

The Associated Press reported earlier that senior Bush administration officials took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.

However, ABC News is now reporting that President Bush himself was aware of the discussions and approved the controversial interrogation tactics himself.

“Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people.” Bush told ABC News. “And, yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.”

Read moreThey knew: Bush, Cheney authorized ‘harsh interrogations’

Oakland cops: Mind if we search your house for guns?

OAKLAND _ A six-month pilot program where Oakland police officers would knock on doors and ask permission to search homes for guns got the green light from the City Council’s public safety committee Tuesday night.
It goes to the full council Tuesday, when the council will meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The consent-to-search program, as it is called, is based closely on a similar effort launched in St. Louis in 1994 and on ongoing programs in Boston and Washington, D.C. The idea is simple: To ask parents for permission to search their homes for weapons their children may be hiding.

Under the program, officers would request permission to search homes for guns. Guns would be taken away, but officers would not pursue prosecution unless the weapon was tied to a crime.

The St. Louis effort fizzled after initial success, but Oakland’s Deputy Police Chief David Kozicki said that in Washington, police officers say they cannot keep up with requests from parents to search their homes. Such is the interest in the program, he said.

Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown), who is on the public safety committee, said she was surprised to hear that and hoped Oakland might see the same results.

Read moreOakland cops: Mind if we search your house for guns?

Homeland Security invokes nuclear bomb, as Bush quietly links cybersecurity program to NSA

Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has dropped the bomb.

At a speech to hundreds of security professionals Wednesday, Chertoff declared that the federal government has created a cyber security “Manhattan Project,” referencing the 1941-1946 project led by the Army Corps of Engineers to develop American’s first atomic bomb.

According to Wired’s Ryan Singel, Chertoff gave few details of what the government actually plans to do.

He cites a little-noticed presidential order: “In January, President Bush signed a presidential order expanding the role of DHS and the NSA in government computer security,” Singel writes. “Its contents are classified, but the U.S. Director of National Intelligence has said he wants the NSA to monitor America’s internet traffic and Google searches for signs of cyber attack.”

The National Security Agency was the key player in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was revealed by the New York Times in 2005.

Sound familiar? Yesterday, documents acquired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the Freedom of Information act showed the FBI has engaged in a massive cyber surveillance project that targets terror suspects emails, telephone calls and instant messagesand is able to get some information without a court order.

Last week, the ACLU revealed documents showing that the Pentagon was using the FBI to spy on Americans. The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans’ Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, according to Pentagon documents.

Read moreHomeland Security invokes nuclear bomb, as Bush quietly links cybersecurity program to NSA