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follow jazz_music 2014 Jun 14, 5:53pm
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Thought the NSA was bad? Local police and the Obama administration are hoovering cellphone location data from inside your house, and a crackdown could lead to surveillance reform.
The Obama administration has been telling local cops to keep information on so-called Stingrays secret.
All across America, from Florida to Colorado and back again, the country's increasingly militarized local police forces are using a secretive technology to vacuum up cellphone data from entire neighborhoods â€“ including from people inside their own homes â€“ almost always without a warrant. This week, numerous investigations by major news agencies revealed the US government is now taking unbelievable measures to make sure you never find out about it. But a landmark court ruling for privacy could soon force the cops to stop, even as the Obama administration fights to keep its latest tool for mass surveillance a secret.
So-called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers â€“ more often called their popular brand name, "Stingray" â€“ have long been the talk of the civil liberties crowd, for the indiscriminate and invasive way these roving devices conduct surveillance. Essentially, Stingrays act as fake cellphone towers (usually mounted in a mobile police truck) that police can point toward any given area and force every phone in the area to connect to it. So even if you're not making a call, police can find out who you've been calling, and for how long, as well as your precise location. As Nathan Freed Wessler of the ACLU explained on Thursday, "In one Florida case, a police officer explained in court that he 'quite literally stood in front of every door and window' with his stingray to track the phones inside a large apartment complex."
Yet these mass surveillance devices have largely stayed out of the public eye, thanks to the federal government and local police refusing to disclose they're using them in the first place â€“ sometimes, shockingly, even to judges. As the Associated Press reported this week, the Obama administration has been telling local cops to keep information on Stingrays secret from members of the news media, even when it seems like local public records laws would mandate their disclosure. The AP noted:
Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
Some of the government's tactics to hide Stingray from journalists and the public have been downright disturbing. After the ACLU had filed a records request for information on Stingrays, the local police force initially told them that, yes, they had the documents and to come on down to the station to look at them. But just before an ACLU rep was due to arrive, US Marshals seized the records and hid them away at another location, in what Wessler describes as "a blatant violation of state open-records laws".
The federal government has used various other tactics around the country to prevent disclosure of similar information.
USA Today also published a significant nationwide investigation about the Stingray problem, as well as what are known as "cellphone tower dumps". When police agencies don't have Stingrays at their disposal, they can go to cell phone providers to get the cellphone location information of everyone who has connected to a specific cell tower (which inevitably includes thousands of innocent people). The paper's John Kelly reported that one Colorado case shows cellphone tower dumps got police "'cellular telephone numbers, including the date, time and duration of any calls,' as well as numbers and location data for all phones that connected to the towers searched, whether calls were being made or not."
It's scary enough to think that the NSA is collecting so much information, but this mass location and metadata tracking at the local level all may be about to change. This week, the ACLU won a historic victory in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (serving Florida, Alabama and Georgia), which ruled that police need to get a warrant from a judge before extracting from your cellphone the location data obtained by way of a cell tower. This ruling will apply whether cops are going after one person, the whole tower and, one can assume, Stingrays. (The case was also argued by the aforementioned Wessler, who clearly is this monthâ€™s civil liberties Most Valuable Player.)
This case has huge implications, and not just for the Stingrays secretly being used in Florida. It virtually guarantees the US supreme court will soon have to tackle the larger cellphone location question in some form â€“ and whether police across the country have to finally start getting a warrant to find out where your precise location for days or weeks at a time. But as Stanford law professor Jennifer Granick wrote on Friday, it could also have an impact on NSA spying, which relies on the theory that indiscriminately collecting metadata is fair game until a court says otherwise.
You may be asking: how, exactly, are the local cops getting their hands on such advanced military technology? Well, the feds are, in many cases, giving away the technology for free. When the US government is not loaning police agencies their own Stingrays, the Defense Department and Homeland Security are giving federal grants to cops, which allow departments to purchase the gear at the cost of $400,000 a pop from defense contractors like Harris Corporation, which makes the Stingray brand.
Speaking of which, the New York Times's Matt Apuzzo wrote another essential, overlooked story this week detailing all of the other free military gear â€“ like machine guns, armored vehicles and aircraft â€“ that police are receiving from the Pentagon. An example from his story about the militarization of what used to be routine police activities also comes from Florida: "In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of 'barbering without a license.'"
Like Stingrays, and the NSA's phone dragnet before them, the militarization of America's local cops is a phenomenon that's only now getting widespread attention. As journalist Radley Balko, who wrote a seminal book on the subject two years ago, said this week, the Obama administration could easily limit these tactics to "cases of legitimate national security" â€“ but has clearly chosen not to.
No matter how much President Obama talks about how he has "maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs", it seems the Most Transparent Administration in American Historyâ„¢ remains much more interested in maintaining a healthy, top-secret surveillance state.
(which inevitably includes thousands of innocent people).
There was a time when all were presumed innocent,,,,until proven guilty
When do we get to actually call the police state a police state. I recently heard America described as the world's largest minimum security prison on BBC.
Localized surveillance, regional prepositioning of thousands of military assets like Bearcats and MRAPs with local domestic law enforcement.
It makes one wonder what they have in mind.
From the link:
"Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic "emergency" or "civil disturbance":
"Two years later, the Department of Defense's (DoD) Army Modernisation Strategy described the arrival of a new "era of persistent conflict" due to competition for "depleting natural resources and overseas markets" fuelling "future resource wars over water, food and energy." The report predicted a resurgence of:
"... anti-government and radical ideologies that potentially threaten government stability."
In the same year, a report by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute warned that a series of domestic crises could provoke large-scale civil unrest."
Robert Sproul says
It makes one wonder what they have in mind.
Why would you have to wonder? Even a cursory reading of world history will provide the answer.
A. The politicians are afraid. They know they have created an unsustainable situation that will lead to a major crisis in the future and want to be able to retain control when it happens.
B. They can get away with it. Every government in history has become ever more controlling and repressive until there is a reset through war or revolution. People always buy the it's for your own good argument until it's too late. People who protest are pictured as unpatriotic or paranoid kooks.
Yeah, I have no doubts about their intentions.
Bush felt it was necessary, for the first time in our nations history, to create a Battle Command Group in the (his ominous coinage) "Homeland".
"At Brookings, Renuart acknowledged that NorthCom works actively with the FBIâ€™s joint terrorism task force and other intelligence agencies.
â€œEvery day our command center monitors between thirty-five and forty-five events around the United States that might require federal support,â€ he said. â€œWe can monitor the pulse of our nation. . . . Monitoring that information on a routine basis is part of our daily battle rhythm.â€
"daily battle rhythm.â€ for fucks sake.
The Founders dreaded Standing Army is here.
And you know they are itching for action.
Security is perhaps the highest priority for government planners: security, that is, for its own power and perks.
And, it goes without saying, protection of its primary constituency, the concentrated private power in this corrupt system of Cut-Throat Capitalizm.
(I think they anticipate that the 500 American Billionaires [who control 2 trillion of wealth] and their paid political apparatchiks will eventually need protectionâ€¦..when a desperate, if diabetic and obese, proletariat finally gets off the couch. Maybe when the Cheeto factory closes.)
Robert Sproul saysIt makes one wonder what they have in mind.Why would you have to wonder? Even a cursory reading of world history will provide the answer.A. The politicians are afraid. They know they have created an unsustainable situation that will lead to a major crisis in the future and want to be able to retain control when it happens. B. They can get away with it. Every government in history has become ever more controlling and repressive until there is a reset through war or revolution. People always buy the it's for your own good argument until it's too late. People who protest are pictured as unpatriotic or paranoid kooks.
It makes one wonder what they have in mind.
(which inevitably includes thousands of innocent people). There was a time when all were presumed innocent,,,,until proven guilty
errc says(which inevitably includes thousands of innocent people). There was a time when all were presumed innocent,,,,until proven guiltyThat was before Bush signed the Patriot act into law and Obama expanded it to 1984 levels.It amazes me to hear liberals point out our police state transgressions only to demand more government power AND support the exact people who created the police state.The D's and R's are both fascist authoritarians. #draintheswamp so we can #magaNext can we please elect an actual liberal like Rand Paul? Who else would fight against the police state?
Socialism isn't working too well in Venezuela.
The elites laugh when the 99% are divided.
The USA is a bankrupt warmongering police state.The default American response to the US collapse is to ignore the decay, excuse government abuse, attack the messengers who warn of the dangers of tyranny, and to blame everyone else except themselves for the decline.Americans are ignoring the obvious collapse of the US by sticking their heads in the sand and focusing instead on bread and circuses, celebrities, sports, movies, music, alcohol, drugs, and sex.Americans don't care about government corruption and scandals.Americans will vehemently attack anyone who dares criticize their beloved government overlords by shouting "fake news!" or calling patriots spammers, trolls, shills, bots, racists, or nutjobs and demanding that the truth-tellers be censored, banned, get IRS audits, be arrested, or be killed.Americans quickly blame China, Russia, libtards, homosexuals, Communists, Nazis, blacks, Jews, Muslims, feminists, or illegal immigrants for the fall o...
I'd love to be his liquor supplier