Tag Archives: right to privacy

WTF! Navy tracks our parking tickets and traffic citations

Eye of Sauron

It’s not enough that the NSA (National Security Agency) spies on every phone call, email, and credit card transaction we make.

Now comes news that the U.S. Navy, specifically the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service), has a massive database of hundreds of millions of law enforcement records. If you’ve had so much as a parking ticket, you are already in that database.

Mark Flatten reports for the Washington Examiner, March 21, 2014, that the NCIS database is called the Law Enforcement Information Exchange (or LinX), containing 506.3 million law enforcement records ranging from criminal histories and arrest reports to field information cards filled out by cops on the beat even when no crime has occurred.

Fidell reviewed the Navy’s LinX website at the request of the Washington Examiner to assess the propriety of putting such a powerful database under the control of a military police entity. He says LinX “gives me the willies.

LinX is a national information-sharing hub for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It is run by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, raising concerns among some military law experts that putting such detailed data about ordinary citizens in the hands of military officials crosses the line that generally prohibits the armed forces from conducting civilian law enforcement operations.

Those fears are heightened by recent disclosures of the National Security Agency spying on Americans, and the CIA allegedly spying on Congress.

The military has a history of spying on Americans. The Army did it during the Vietnam War and the Air Force did it after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Among the groups subjected to military spying in the name of protecting military facilities from terrorism was a band of Quakers organizing a peace rally in Florida.

LinX administrators say it is nothing more than an information-sharing network that connects records from participating police departments across the country.

LinX was created in 2003 and put under NCIS, which has counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering missions in addition to responsibility for criminal investigations. LinX was originally supposed to help NCIS protect naval bases from terrorism.

More than 1,300 agencies participate, including The FBI and other Department of Justice divisions, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. Police departments along both coasts and in Texas, New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii are in LinX. Participating agencies must feed their information into the federal data warehouse and electronically update it daily in return for access.

The number of records in the system has mushroomed from about 50 million in 2007 to more than 10 times that number today.

Background checks for gun sales and applications for concealed weapons permits are not included in the system, according to NCIS officials and representatives of major state and local agencies contacted by the Examiner.

Director of NCIS Andrew Traver

Director of NCIS Andrew Traver

The director of NCIS, Andrew Traver, drew stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association after Obama twice nominated him to be head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The nomination failed to go forward in the Senate both times, largely because of what the NRA described as Traver’s advocacy for stricter gun laws.

He became NCIS director in October 2013.

NCIS officials could not say how much has been spent on LinX since it was created 2003. They provided figures since the 2008 fiscal year totaling $42.3 million. Older records are not available from NCIS.

Incomplete data from USAspending.gov shows at least $7.2 million more was spent between 2003 and 2008. The actual figure is probably much higher, since the spending listed on the disclosure site only totals $23 million since 2003.

Why LinX wound up in the NCIS, a military law enforcement agency, is not clear. Current NCIS officials could not explain the reasoning, other than to say it grew out of the department’s need for access to law enforcement records relevant to criminal investigations.

The FBI, a DOJ entity, has since built its own system similar to LinX, called the National Data Exchange or N-Dex. The systems are connected, and much of the information in N-Dex comes from LinX, said Christopher Cote, assistant director for information technology at NCIS.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School and is a member of the Defense Department’s Legal Policy Board and a board member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War, calls LinX “domestic spying.”

Asked by Washington Examiner to review LinX, Fidell says “It gives me the willies. Clearly, it cannot be right that any part of the Navy is collecting traffic citation information. This sounds like something from a third-world country, where you have powerful military intelligence watching everybody.

Fidell says Americans have distrusted the use of the military for civilian law enforcement since before the Revolutionary War. Since the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, it has been illegal for the military to engage in domestic law enforcement except in limited circumstances, such as quelling insurrections. The limits in the law were largely undefined for almost a century.

In 1973, the Army provided logistical support for FBI agents trying to break the standoff with American Indian Movement militants at Wounded Knee, S.D. Several criminal defendants later argued the use of the military was illegal under Posse Comitatus. Ensuing court decisions decreed that using the military for direct policing, such as making arrests or conducting searches, was illegal and should be left to civilian departments. Providing logistical support, equipment and information are allowed. Since then, the law has been loosened to allow limited military participation in certain large-scale anti-drug investigations.

Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute and an Examiner columnist who has written about the overreach of the military in civilian law enforcement, says that aside from the legal issues is the problem of “mission creep.” What begins as a well-meaning and limited effort to assist local police can grow into a powerful threat to constitutional protections.

A recent example of mission-creep gone awry is the Threat And Local Observation Notice (or TALON) program created by the Air Force at the same time LinX was launched.

Like LinX, TALON’s purpose was to create a network for information-sharing among federal, state and local police agencies that could be used to help protect military facilities. In 2005, media reports showed TALON was being used to spy on anti-war groups, including the Quakers. TALON was disbanded in 2007.

Healy says: “The history of these programs is that they tend to metastasize and that there is mission creep that involves gathering far more information than is needed. In general, what you see in these programs is they start out very narrow and they expand beyond the limits of their original logic. Repeatedly throughout American history, what starts small becomes larger, more intrusive, more troubling.”

TALON was primarily an intelligence-gathering network. As for LinX, it can only be used for law enforcement purposes, though intelligence and counter-terror officers at NCIS do have access to the system. The rules governing LinX are almost identical to those controlling other federal databases run by the FBI.

NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said while NCIS is a military police unit, its agents are civilian employees equivalent to those at the FBI and other federal agencies. And although there are limits on military enforcement of civilian laws, it is allowed if it is done “primarily for a military purpose,” which is how NCIS uses the system.

Civil libertarians get more concerned as more trivial information on average citizens is collected under the guise of protecting the public, especially absent some reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.

ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese said pawn shop records and parking tickets are that kind of questionable information. “To me, that may be where you are starting to cross the line on mass collection of information on innocent people just because you can. We live now in a world of records where everything we do is generating a record. So the standard can’t be, ‘We have to keep it all because it might be useful for something some day.’ The rationale has to be more finely tuned than that.”

~Eowyn

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Here’s why you should NOT get a credit card from Capital One

Short answer:

Capital One recently updated its contract to its credit cardholders, which says the credit card issuer can drop by your home any time it pleases, without your permission. Not even the police or the IRS can do that without a warrant.

Capital One

Long answer:

David Lazarus reports for the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 17, 2014, that Rick Rofman, 71, of Van Nuys received Capital One’s contract update specifying that “we may contact you in any manner we choose” and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a “personal visit . . . at your home and at your place of employment.”

Rofman was spooked by the visitation rights and observed that “Even the Internal Revenue Service cannot visit you at home without an arrest warrant.”

Doesn’t the 4th Amendment of the Constitution guard against unreasonable searches and seizures like what Cap One is claiming for itself?

Apparently not.

Daniel E. Kann, a Santa Clarita lawyer who specializes in illegal-search cases, says, “It sounds really invasive, but I don’t think it’s a violation of your 4th Amendment rights” because the amendment applies primarily to searches and seizures by law enforcement, not civilians. A credit card company, in theory, could reserve the right to visit your home or office without a court order.

However, Kann points out there are laws against harassment, not to mention stalking, and Capital One could be held accountable under such statutes if its visits can be construed as harassment.

But Capital One’s contract update includes another outrage: “We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.”

That means Capital One can trick you into picking up the phone by using what looks like a local number or masquerading as something it’s not.

This is known as spoofing, and it’s perfectly legal. The federal Truth in Caller ID Act makes it a crime to use a phony number or caller ID message to commit fraud or cause harm to others. But it’s not against the law to engage in what courts have called “non-harmful spoofing,” which includes businesses wearing digital disguises to penetrate a consumer’s phone defenses. Such corporate spoofing is employed primarily by telemarketers.

~Eowyn

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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.
~Eowyn

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.

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What's so funny about abortion?

Last Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012, was the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v Wade decision.
In the name of a woman’s “right to privacy” under the due process clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, the floodgates were opened to legalized abortion. In those 39 years, more than 54 million (54,559,615) tiny human beings were killed.
Have you ever listened to the Roe v Wade arguments?
Sarah Weddington was the young attorney who represented “Jane Roe” (real name Norma McCorvey) before the Supreme Court. The legality of abortion hinges on the unborn not being recognized as a “person” in the U.S. legal system. Not being recognized as “persons” in turn means that the unborn human life has no constitutional right to protection of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
All of that is curious to say the least, given the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that business corporations are “persons” under the law.
During Weddington’s appearance before the Supreme Court in the Roe v Wade hearing, every time when the subject of whether the unborn is a “person” came up, there was laughter in the audience. You can hear the tittering at the 0:33 and 1:00 marks in this audio:

Go to this site for another audio. Laughter can be heard at the 24:00 and 24:10 marks, every time someone said “If it was established that a fetus were a person under the Constitution….”
So my question is:

What is so darn funny about abortion? What is so funny about discussing killing “a fetus” an unborn human being?

Norma McCorvey speaks for pro-life, 2009


In 1994, 21 years after Roe v Wade, “Jane Roe” Norma McCorvey converted to Christianity and expressed remorse for her part in the Supreme Court decision. She began working in the pro-life movement, such as Operation Rescue. In 1998, at age 51, McCorvey was formally received into the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, she declared she was no longer a lesbian.

Sarah Weddington speaks at pro-abortion rally, 2004


Sarah Weddington enjoyed much professional success after Roe v Wade. She was a legislator in the Texas House of Representatives from 1972 to 1977; General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1977; and a special White House advisor in the Carter administration, during which time she helped appoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg to a federal judgeship. Weddington is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Now 67 years old, she remains unrepentant and continues to advocate abortion. In 2004, she was one of the speakers at a March for Women’s Life in Washington, DC.
~Eowyn

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