Dec 242009

John Wesley Hall Jr. of blogs:

Kiss the Fourth Amendment goodbye,” posted today by Kathleen Baker, Denver Conservative Examiner, concludes that the Obama Administration granting diplomatic immunity to INTERPOL operating in the United States means that we can “Kiss the Fourth Amendment goodbye.” Once again, a conservative watchdog gets it wrong, in their zeal to demonize the President.


So, where does it say that INTERPOL gets to act outside the Fourth Amendment? It doesn’t. Nothing in the article or the statute it quotes says a word about it, except the writer’s imagination and lack of reading comprehension. This is just wrong. Dead wrong. Even a commenter got on the bandwagon and agreed without critical analysis. Maybe even without reading. See also the with a slightly different view.

The old early law career saw “RTFS” applies: Read The Frigging Statute.


Oct 082009

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 to approve legislation to reauthorize expiring provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act and improve oversight of several tools used to gather intelligence.

The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act reauthorizes three provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year: roving wiretaps, the “lone wolf” measure, and Section 215 orders for tangible things, commonly referred to as the “library records” provision.

Read more on RTTNews. The ACLU criticized the passage of the bill, as did EFF. The bill now goes to the full Senate. EFF’s Kevin Bankston writes:

Instead of adding more protections to the bill, as EFF and the Times have been urging (along with many other Americans who have been organizing Facebook and Twitter activism around PATRIOT reform), the Committee this morning voted to accept seven Republican amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act to remove the few civil liberties protections left in the bill after it was already watered down at last Thursday’s Committee meeting. Surprisingly and disappointingly, most of those amendments were recommended to their Republican sponsors by the Obama Administration.

Image credit:  mrhox

Sep 162009

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.

Sep 052009

From EFF:

The Privacy Coalition is inviting the public to give the Obama Administration a grade on its privacy work thus far. Visit the Privacy Report Card page and vote to give the administration a grade anywhere from an “A” to an “F” — or, if you prefer, an “Incomplete.”

Direct link to consumer privacy report card:

You will also be able to grade the Obama administration on cybersecurity, medical privacy, and civil liberties.

The Privacy Coalition will be announcing the administration’s grades on September 9, so do take this opportunity to express your views — positive, neutral, or negative — as to how the Obama administration has done so far in these important areas.

Sep 032009

Ken Boehm reports that the:

NLPC [National Legal and Policy Center] has uncovered a plan by the White House New Media operation to hire a technology vendor to conduct a massive, secret effort to harvest personal information on millions of Americans from social networking websites.

The information to be captured includes comments, tag lines, emails, audio, and video. The targeted sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others – any space where the White House “maintains a presence.”

In the course of investigating procurement by the White House New Media office, NLPC discovered a 51-page solicitation of bids that was filed on Friday, August 21, 2009. Filed as Solicitation # WHO-S-09-0003, it is posted at Click here to download a 51-page pdf of the solicitation.

While the solicitation specifies a 12-month contract, it allows for seven one-year extensions. It specifies no dollar cap. Other troubling issues include:

  • extremely broad secrecy terms preventing the vendor from disclosing to the public or the media what information is being captured and archived (page 7, “Restriction Against Disclosure”)
  • wholesale capturing of comments by non-White House staff on publicly accessible sites
  • capturing of content of any type (text, graphics, audio, or video)
  • capturing of comments by both Obama critics and supporters, with no restriction as to how the White House would use the information.

Read more on NLPC

Updated 9-06-09: See David Gewitz’s column on CNN claiming to “debunk” the NLPC claims and NLPC’s response.

Sep 032009

Over on Politico, Josh Gerstein writes:

President Barack Obama’s administration is escalating a legal showdown which has the Justice Department defending official secrecy and executive power with arguments more associated with former Vice President Dick Cheney than the White House’s newest occupants.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Justice Department filed an appeal and a request for emergency stay of a federal judge’s order that security clearances be granted to private attorneys representing parties to a lawsuit over claims that a CIA station chief and a senior diplomat illegally spied on a Drug Enforcement Agency officer while they were stationed in Burma in the early 1990s.


“Is President Bush not still in power?” asked Washington, D.C. attorney Mark Zaid, who regularly pursues national security-related cases on behalf of intelligence community employees. “With respect to national security litigation and plaintiffs’ ability to challenge government misconduct, virtually nothing has changed since President Obama took office. The Executive Branch has continued to seek to ensure its power remains absolute and subject to no outside oversight.”

In pressing its appeal Wednesday, the Justice Department rejected Judge Royce Lamberth’s ruling last week that the lawsuit over the alleged illegal surveillance requires that private lawyers be allowed to learn certain classified information known by their former-government-employee clients.

Read more on Politico

Aug 082009

Philadelphia’s police department is investigating why an officer used his police car’s computer to run a criminal background check on President Barack Obama.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Friday the officer could face discipline for performing the check Wednesday morning. The Secret Service alerted the department after it learned about the incident from National Crime Information Center.

Read more on Huffington Post.

In July, two Georgia police officers were put on paid administrative leave after it was found that they had run an unauthorized background check on the President.