Nov 142009
 November 14, 2009  Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on The “techie” side of “Getting It Right”

Jim Burrows writes:

The following posting is intended as part of the background information for a forthcoming Get FISA Right chat on the technological issues in “getting FISA right” or more generally balancing needed foreign intelligence gathering with the rights reserved and protected in the Constitution. We eagerly seek your comments here and your participation in the chat. Please post as comments here not only critiques of this posting, but also any ideas regarding who should participate in such a discussion, when we should hold it and any of the ideas that should be discussed.

We will also discuss the logistics of the chat at our next regular organization conference call or two Please join us.

One of the knottiest problems in “getting FISA right” is the question of precisely how to insure that our Constitutionally guaranteed rights are protected while any email is being spied upon. It’s a purely technical problem in one sense, but one that has huge repercussions in the Constitutional and political areas. As a dedicated nerd and and civil libertarian, let me see if I can lay it out clearly.

Read more on Getting FISA Right.

Sep 292009
 September 29, 2009  Business, Laws, U.S. Comments Off on Hoyer throws cold water on bill introduced to repeal retroactive immunity

Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced today that the introduction of the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act, a bill that would eliminate retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly participated in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. The immunity had been included in the FISA Amendment Acts of 2008.

“During the previous administration, telecommunications companies were granted retroactive immunity for violating the rights and privacy of millions of Americans,” said Merkley. “I am proud to join Senator Dodd and co-sponsor the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act to help restore accountability and increase oversight to protect the privacy rights that have been central to our nation since its inception.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) hasn’t seen the bill yet, but is already rejecting it. As quoted on Politico, Hoyer commented, “I don’t think that revisiting that issue will get us anyplace,” Hoyer said. Without Hoyer’s support, the bill has little chance of passing both houses of Congress. Hoyer didn’t totally shut the door, however. As quoted in an Associated Press report, Hoyer said:

“I am not going to make a decision on that at this point in time.”

But he added: “I think there was a determination to move on on that issue and I think that determination is a good one.”

Sep 162009
 September 16, 2009  Featured News, Govt, Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on Obama: Renew PATRIOT Act provisions on domestic surveillance

David Kravets writes:

The Obama administration is informing Congress it supports renewing three Patriot Act provisions expiring at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy in the United States.

In a letter to Patrick Leahy, the Vermont senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department on Monday suggested the administration might consider “modifications” to the act to protect civil liberties.

“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to the Vermont senator, (.pdf) whose committee is expected next week to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.

Read more about the expiring provisions that Obama wants to renew over the objections of privacy advocates and civil libertarians on Threat Level.

Note that Obama’s position on this is not a flip flop.  During his campaign, when asked about the PATRIOT Act,  he pointed out what he saw as its advantages and blamed the problems on executive orders.

Photo credit: Bachrach44.