Tag Archives: Fourth Amendment

Illinois women arrested for blocking Smart Meter installers

A smart meter is an electrical meter that records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information at least daily back to the utility company for monitoring and billing purposes. Unlike traditional automatic meter reading, smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. There are concerns regarding the cost, health, fire risk, security and privacy effects of smart meters.

On Nov. 14, 2012, I did a post on a woman in Las Vegas who opted out of the smart meter (the State of Nevada has an opt-out policy), then had her electricity disconnected by three armed men from Nevada Energy.

Here’s another story — this time of two women in Naperville, Illinois, who were arrested for blocking smart meter installers. Naperville is located in northeastern Illinois, and is the state’s 5th largest city.

Melissa Jenco reports for the Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2013, that Melissa “Kim” Bendis and Jennifer Stahl, leaders of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group and vocal opponents of Naperville’s initiative to install wireless electric meters on homes, were arrested this afternoon after interfering with the installation process, according to city officials.

Naperville has installed smart meters on 57,000 homes and is about 99% through with the process. Officials say the project will make the electric system more reliable and efficient and reduce costs.

Police are accompanying crews this week as they install smart meters at homes that previously sent away installers. City Manager Doug Krieger said, “The previous installation attempts were met with some resistance and we wanted to ensure our employees’ safety.”

However, the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group has expressed concerns over whether the wireless meters will affect health, security and privacy. The group has a federal lawsuit pending against the city.

Bendis was charged with two misdemeanors — attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer. For her part, Stahl received two ordinance violation citations — interfering with a police officer and preventing access to customer premises.

Stahl said when she refused the smart meter, installers accompanied by police cut the bicycle lock she had placed on her fence and entered her backyard. She then stood in front of her electric meter and refused to move.

“It was forced on my house today,” she said. “It was really a violation. I violated something, but I’ve been violated too so I guess we’re now in a society of violating one another.”

The city, which has repeatedly declared the wireless meters to be safe, offers a non-wireless alternative meter to residents with concerns. There is a $68.35 initial fee for a non-wireless meter plus a $24.75 monthly fee for manually reading it. Stahl said residents who want a non-wireless meter should not have to pay for it, and said she represents other homeowners who were not able to continue to refuse the wireless meter installation: “I have not done the work of attempting to educate the community and advocating for the right of anybody in Naperville to refuse the smart meter just to stand off to the side.”

Krieger defended the city moving forward with installation of the meters despite the objections from some homeowners: “The city has always had and maintains the right to access our equipment, and today we were simply exercising that right.”

Click here to watch CBS2’s news video of this.


Smart meter installers accompanied by police cut the bicycle lock that Jennifer Stahl had placed on her fence and entered her backyard.

So much for the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.



Good Idea or Violation of Fourth Amendment?


NYPD Commissioner says department  will begin testing  a new high-tech device that scans for concealed  weapons

NY Post: Get ready for scan-and-frisk. The NYPD will soon deploy new technology allowing police to detect guns  carried by criminals without using the typical pat-down procedure, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.

The department just received a machine that reads terahertz — the natural  energy emitted by people and inanimate objects — and allows police to view  concealed weapons from a distance. “If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” Kelly said.

A video image aired at a Police Foundation breakfast Wednesday showed an  officer, clad in a New York Jets jersey and jeans, with the shape of a hidden  gun clearly visible under his clothing when viewed through the device.

The department will begin testing the high-tech device for use on the street. The device is small enough to be placed in a police vehicle or stationed  at a street corner where gunplay has occurred in the past.

Kelly, who first discussed the possibility of using this technology last  year, said the NYPD has been working with the London Metropolitan Police and a  contractor “to develop a tool that meets our requirements.” “We took delivery of it last week,” Kelly said at the gathering at the  Waldorf Astoria. “One of our requirements was that the technology must be  portable.”

“We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology. We’re also talking to our legal staff about this. But we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union last year raised concerns about “virtual  pat downs,” and some security experts have said false positives could lead to  unjustified stops.

I’m not sure about this. Seems to me it violates our Fourth Amendment:

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.

The Fourth Amendment was intended to create a constitutional buffer between U.S. citizens and the intimidating power of law enforcement. It has three components. First, it establishes a privacy interest by recognizing the right of U.S. citizens to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Second, it protects this privacy interest by prohibiting searches and seizures that are “unreasonable” or are not authorized by a warrant based upon probable cause. Third, it states that no warrant may be issued to a law enforcement officer unless that warrant describes with particularity “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I thought the TSA scanners violated our Fourth Amendment too yet that didn’t stop the federal government from implementing them anyway.

What do you think?


Privacy of our email in danger

Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy has rewritten a bill H.R. 2471, that’s already been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. Leahy’s revision would empower the federal government to read our email without warrants, thereby violating the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses, and property — whether through police stops of citizens on the street, arrests, or searches of homes and businesses.

To make this even more diabolical, Leahy is touting his revision as protecting Americans’ email privacy! Can they be more in-your-face than this?

The revised bill is scheduled for a vote next week. Let your representatives and senators know you are against this!!!!

To find your reps and senators, go here.


Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy

Declan McCullagh reports for CNET.com, Nov. 20, 2012:

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)

Revised bill highlights

  • Grants warrantless access to Americans’ electronic correspondence to over 22 federal agencies. Only a subpoena is required, not a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause.
  • Permits state and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans’ correspondence stored on systems not offered “to the public,” including university networks.
  • Authorizes any law enforcement agency to access accounts without a warrant — or subsequent court review — if they claim “emergency” situations exist.
  • Says providers “shall notify” law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell their customers that they’ve been the target of a warrant, order, or subpoena.
  • Delays notification of customers whose accounts have been accessed from 3 days to “10 business days.” This notification can be postponed by up to 360 days.

It’s an abrupt departure from Leahy’s earlier approach, which required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read the contents of e-mail or other communications. The Vermont Democrat boasted last year that his bill “provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by… requiring that the government obtain a search warrant.”

Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to “reconsider acting” on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday. The package (PDF) is a substitute for H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved.

One person participating in Capitol Hill meetings on this topic told CNET that Justice Department officials have expressed their displeasure about Leahy’s original bill. The department is on record as opposing any such requirement: James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general, has publicly warned that requiring a warrant to obtain stored e-mail could have an “adverse impact” on criminal investigations.

Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said requiring warrantless access to Americans’ data “undercuts” the purpose of Leahy’s original proposal. “We believe a warrant is the appropriate standard for any contents,” he said. […]

Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that in light of the revelations about how former CIA director David Petraeus’ e-mail was perused by the FBI, “even the Department of Justice should concede that there’s a need for more judicial oversight,” not less.

Markham Erickson, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. who has followed the topic closely and said he was speaking for himself and not his corporate clients, expressed concerns about the alphabet soup of federal agencies that would be granted more power:

❝ There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC or FTC need to access customer information service providers with a mere subpoena. If those agencies feel they do not have the tools to do their jobs adequately, they should work with the appropriate authorizing committees to explore solutions. The Senate Judiciary committee is really not in a position to adequately make those determinations. ❞

The list of agencies that would receive civil subpoena authority for the contents of electronic communications also includes the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission. […]

This is a bitter setback for Internet companies and a liberal-conservative-libertarian coalition, which had hoped to convince Congress to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act to protect documents stored in the cloud. Leahy glued those changes onto an unrelated privacy-related bill supported by Netflix.

At the moment, Internet users enjoy more privacy rights if they store data on their hard drives or under their mattresses, a legal hiccup that the companies fear could slow the shift to cloud-based services unless the law is changed to be more privacy-protective.

Members of the so-called Digital Due Process coalition include Apple, Amazon.com, Americans for Tax Reform, AT&T, the Center for Democracy and Technology, eBay, Google, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, TechFreedom, and Twitter. (CNET was the first to report on the coalition’s creation.) […]

Judges already have been wrestling with how to apply the Fourth Amendment to an always-on, always-connected society. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police needed a search warrant for GPS tracking of vehicles. Some courts have ruled that warrantless tracking of Americans’ cell phones, another coalition concern, is unconstitutional.The FBI and other law enforcement agencies already must obtain warrants for e-mail in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, thanks to a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010.

Big Brother is watching you via social media

Fellowship of the Minds is delighted to have a guest writer today.

Her name is Fiona Causer, who describes herself as “a student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies. She enjoys writing and seeks to use it as a vehicle to convey ideas and engage others in discussing relevant issues of our day.”

I’m impressed by the quality of her writing — lucid, fluid, and displaying a mastery over the English language which, in my experience, few college undergraduates have. I’m even more impressed by her political awareness and sure instincts. Fiona gives me hope for America’s future.


Social Media: A Step Towards a Big Brother State

by Fiona Causer

While some people fear the intrusion of employers and potential employers into the world of social media, others know the real issue is far bigger: The intrusion of federal, state and local government agencies into social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Law programs and paralegal certification curricula that focus on privacy law maintain a strong emphasis on the Bill of Rights, namely the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and an American’s right to speak freely without fear of government persecution. But currently, it appears the interpretation of that Constitutional right is being blurred. George Orwell’s dystopic vision of Big Brother is puny when compared to the technology available today to government bureaucrats, which can and are used against innocent American citizens who simply want to share pictures of their grandchildren and an occasional political opinion.

Think it’s far-fetched that government employees are monitoring Facebook posts and Twitter tweets?

Think again.

According to an article in The Washington Post, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained a copy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) materials related to monitoring social media. Ginger McCall, director of EPIC’s open government program, said in the article, “The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly. This is entirely outside of the bounds of the agency’s statutory duties and it could have a substantial chilling effect on legitimate dissent and freedom of speech.”

The New York Times report on a 2011 reference guide for DHS analysts provides further evidence of the government’s intrusion into private lives, including a list of categories of “items of interest” that will trigger a DHS report of an individual’s social media activity. Among the categories is discussion of “policy directives, debates and implementations related to DHS.” In other words, individuals interested in having an online discussion about DHS policies are in danger of being reported to the government.

The DHS manual also lists keywords that DHS bureaucrats are searching for when they peruse Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. While DHS representatives claim the key words are primarily related to natural disasters or problems with long airport security lines, the manual lists far more inclusive terms such as “China, cops, hacking, illegal immigrants, Iran, Iraq, marijuana, organized crime, police, pork and radicals.” In other words, beware of discussing solutions to the problem of illegal immigration or posting a harmless recipé for a pulled pork sandwich!

Social media monitoring isn’t limited just to DHS. In fact, the FBI plans to monitor Facebook and Twitter as well as online blogs using keyword searches, too. Some of the keywords the FBI plans to search for include “white powder, suspicious package, lock down, bomb, active shoot, and school lock down”, according to an article on itbusiness.ca.

What happened to the U.S. Constitution’s protection for American citizens? Private citizens and civil liberties groups are rightfully concerned about the impact of these new governmental snooping into social media.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press. One is hard pressed to find in the First Amendment justification for government bureaucrats reading blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets.

The Fourth Amendment gives Americans the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,against unreasonable searches and seizures.” When government snoops into our social media — our technological online homes — that should be construed as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

All this is yet another sign that rapidly changing technology is outpacing our political institutions. The Founding Fathers and the Constitution they crafted did not anticipate our 21st century world of Facebook, Twitter, stem cells, biometric IDs, and radical transhuman bio-engineering.

In the end, tasked by the Constitution with that responsibility, the Supreme Court will need to step in and weigh in. Until the nine justices do that, We the People must be aware of Big Brother’s prying eyes, and exercise due caution and prudence in our online activities.

Michigan State Police Use Orwellian Cellphone “Extraction” Devices

While we’ve been busy filling out and remitting our taxes to the IRS, Creeping Big Brotherism proceeds at pace. Michigan state police are using “extraction devices” that tap into private data on your cell phones.

ClickOnDetroit and thenewspaper.com report that the Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan learned of the cell phone scanning devices and is asking why the state police is using the CelleBrite devices and why it is not telling the public about it.

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

A CelleBrite brochure describes the device’s capabilities:

“Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags. The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps.”

The ACLU is concerned that these powerful capabilities are being quietly used to bypass Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. ACLU attorney Mark Fancher said, “It can contain information that many people consider to be private, to be beyond the reach of law enforcement and other government actors.”

In August 2008, the ACLU filed an official Freedom of Information request for records on the program, including logs of how the devices were used. But the Michigan State Police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680 — a sum so exorbitant the ACLU found to be outrageous.

The national ACLU is also suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for its policy of warrantless electronic searches of laptops and cell phones belonging to people entering the country who are not suspected of committing any crime.

Watch: ACLU Says State Police Could Be Breaking 4th Amendmant Rights

H/t beloved fellow Sagebrush


New Jersey Legislators Take On TSA Goons

Thank our Founding Fathers for designing the United States as a federation where political power is not entirely concentrated in Washington, DC, but instead dispersed among geographical units — the 50 state governments! [Note to constitutional law expert Obama: It’s 50, not 57 states.]

Congress isn’t doing anything about the porn-scanner/TSA-grope problem, but state governments are. In this video, New Jersey legislators are speaking out in opposition to “the new TSA airport security procedure.” New Jersey State Senator Mike Doherty (R):

“We believe there are violations of the Constitution and of New Jersey laws. When you go to the airport, when you buy an airline ticket, you do not give up your Constitutional rights. American citizens should be able to travel freely, without being harassed and intimidated by their government. There are other procedures that can be used, and there are other countries in the world that provide clear role models of how to do this.

We see government action as continuing to intimidate our citizens and violate their rights. Enough is enough. We are introducing resolutions today both in the Senate and in the Assembly calling on our federal Congressional delegation to immediately get engaged in this issue, take a look at these new TSA security procedures, and stand up for our citizens not only in New Jersey but across the United States of America.” 

Even the ACLU has entered the fray. It recommends that those full-body porn scanners be used only sparingly to screen really suspicious airport passengers.

H/t beloved fellow FS.