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MoPOP at dusk, Seattle

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Get a warrant.

"If I'm not being investigated for a crime, there shouldn't be a secret police file on me." Mp3 founder Michael Robertson


I haven't really gone off too much on the current events front lately. It is so easy to be inundated with bad news these days if that is your pleasure. I did want to point out a couple things that got me to thinking.

I wrote last year about the license plate detection program that was being tested in San Diego. Cops roll through supermarkets, shopping centers and a variety of other places and scoop up license plate data. Reports are that they are reading roughly 3 million license plates a week.

A libertarian software bigwig, Michael Robertson, filed suit against this type of surveillance, which triggers all sorts of probable cause and privacy issues. Robertson sued in 2013, seeking all the license plate data the agency had on him in a database. A judge has now ruled against him in court.
"We saw these as records of investigations used by law enforcement and thus exempt from the Public Records Act," said Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal agreed with government lawyers that the records are sometimes used for law-enforcement investigations such as to locate stolen cars, and therefore can be withheld under the public records law. She also concluded that the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by law enforcement’s need to keep it secret. So now everybody in the United States is a suspect in a great big criminal investigation to be named at a future date.
"Bacal said the information is “clearly being used in an investigative capacity in furtherance of law enforcement purposes.”
She said if the information was made public, it could be used by criminals to identify where cameras are stationed or what police are investigating."
Granting Robertson's request "would create a precedent that these records are available to anyone requesting their records — including the very criminals seeking to discover and exploit weaknesses in the (license plate reader) system," she wrote.
So much like the warrantless NSA data mining that Snowden exposed, all of your information is now fair game for the police state, to be used to track you and just in case you may engage in criminality at some future point in time. This is like something from an apocalyptic Philip Dick novel. We are all suspects in an investigation to be named later and the constitution becomes once again seriously diminished.
"If I'm not being investigated for a crime, there shouldn't be a secret police file on me" that details "where I go, where I shop, where I visit," Robertson said in an interview with The Associated Press prior to the ruling. "That's crazy, Nazi police-type stuff."
On the other side are government and law enforcement officials who say they're not misusing the systems and that tracking and storing the data can help with criminal investigations, either to incriminate or exonerate a suspect.
"At some point, you have to trust and believe that the agencies that you utilize for law enforcement are doing what's right and what's best for the community, and they're not targeting your community," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. John Gaw said.
Sergeant Gaw, I have news for you, we don't trust you. There is an added concern that the heavy usage of police cameras that we are starting to see will soon be coupled with facial recognition capability. The spy apologists have chosen a great time to retool their arsenal and chip away at our privacy rights, at a time when the ISIS terrorism bogeyman makes the slender man pale in comparison. We cede these protections very easily when people get scared.

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Ex FBI gumshoe turned congressman Mike Rogers had my favorite quote on the subject:
Rogers: I would argue the fact that we haven't had any complaints come forward with any specificity arguing that their privacy has been violated, clearly indicates, in ten years, clearly indicates that something must be doing right. Somebody must be doing something exactly right.
Vladeck: But who would be complaining?
Rogers: Somebody who's privacy was violated. You can't have your privacy violated if you don't know your privacy is violated.
Vladeck: I disagree with that. If a tree falls in the forest, it makes a noise whether you're there to see it or not.
Rogers (astounded): Well that's a new interesting standard in the law. We're going to have this conversation... but we're going to have wine, because that's going to get a lot more interesting...
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FBI Director James Comey is unhappy that Apple and Google no longer want to play ball with the government and allow them access to their user's encrypted cell phone data.
"I get that the post-Snowden world has started an understandable pendulum swing," he said. "What I'm worried about is, this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."
I think that the American public have spoken quite clearly on this, Mr. Comey, from the left and the right. We believe that we have the right to privacy, even from our own government, and the specter of the terrorist threat pales with the possibility of surrendering our constitutional rights.

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Good for Yahoo for fighting the government strong arm tactics of the Obama administration, ridiculous fines even before a FISA court had held that such snooping was legal. Thank you Apple and Google as well.

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Bradley Manning, aka Chelsea,  has a very interesting article in the Guardian recently, How to make Isis fall on its own sword. Off the current subject but definitely worth reading.

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