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Archive for January 1st, 2014|Daily archive page

Court Rules Suspicionless Search and Seizure of Electronic Devices at US Border OK

In Archive, DHS, Police State on January 1, 2014 at 11:35 PM

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12/31/2013

David Kravets/WIRED/ACLU:

A federal judge today upheld a President Barack Obama administration policy allowing authorities along the U.S. border to search and seize laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices for any reason.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in New York comes as laptops, and now smartphones, have become virtual extensions of ourselves, housing everything from email to instant-message chats to our papers and effects.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the challenge nearly three years ago, claiming U.S. border officials should have reasonable suspicion to search gadgets along the border because of the data they store. But Judge Korman said the so-called “border exemption,” in which people can be searched for no reason at all along the border, continues to apply in the digital age.

Alarmingly, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.

The judge said it “would be foolish, if not irresponsible” to store sensitive information on electronic devices while traveling internationally.

“We’re disappointed in today’s decision, which allows the government to conduct intrusive searches of Americans’ laptops and other electronics at the border without any suspicion that those devices contain evidence of wrongdoing,” said Catherine Crump, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the case in July 2011. “Suspicionless searches of devices containing vast amounts of personal information cannot meet the standard set by the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately, these searches are part of a broader pattern of aggressive government surveillance that collects information on too many innocent people, under lax standards, and without adequate oversight.”

In June, in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, DHS released its December 2011 Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Impact Assessment of its electronics search policy, concluding that suspicionless searches do not violate the First or Fourth Amendments. The report said that a reasonable suspicion standard is inadvisable because it could lead to litigation and the forced divulgence of national security information, and would prevent border officers from acting on inchoate “hunches.”

The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

Related Link: LATimes Editorial: Hands Off Our Laptops

MoD to Introduce “Draconian” Security By-Laws at US Spy Bases in UK Linked to Mass Surveillance/Drone Strikes

In Archive, CIA, Drones, Military, MoD, NSA, Surveillance, UK on January 1, 2014 at 10:51 PM

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12/30/2013

TheIndependent:

The Ministry of Defence is set to introduce “draconian” new powers to tighten security and limit access to US airbases in Britain implicated in mass surveillance and drone strikes, The Independent can reveal.

The measures, which include powers to arrest for offences ranging from taking photographs to failing to clean up dog mess, would be put in place through a little-known project to overhaul the by-laws surrounding military facilities across the country.

Among the sites where the new rules are set to be imposed are two US Air Force bases used as key communication hubs for clandestine eavesdropping.

The Independent revealed earlier this year that RAF Croughton, near Milton Keynes, is used to funnel back to Washington data from a global network of spy bases in US embassies, including the secret Berlin facility alleged to have been used by the National Security Agency to listen in on the phone of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The base, which serves as a relay centre for CIA agent communications, is also at the centre of concerns that it may be used as a support site for US drone strikes operated from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti against Yemeni targets.

Along with RAF Menwith Hill listening station in North Yorkshire (Lifting the Lid on Menwith Hill), the base is understood to be one of Washington’s key intelligence facilities in Britain, although the MoD insists USAF staff at RAF Croughton “neither fly nor control any remotely piloted aircraft”.

Until now neither RAF Croughton, nor its adjacent site, RAF Barford St John, which is also used as a signal relay station, have been subject to military land by-laws, despite being military bases for more than 60 years. During the Second World War, Barford St John was used as a top secret test facility for Britain’s first generation of jet fighters. It currently hosts an array of transmitter masts maintained by US military personnel.

But the two bases now feature on a list of nearly 150 military facilities where by-laws are being introduced or revised amid criticism that the new rules are being used to impose unprecedented levels of secrecy around sensitive sites. Similar revised by-laws for RAF Menwith Hill and nearby RAF Fylingdales, a US radar station earmarked for use in Washington’s missile defence system, are expected to be produced in the coming months.

Proposals for new by-laws for RAF Croughton and Barford St John were published earlier this year by the MoD. It is understood that up to 38 other military sites where no by-laws currently exist are also being reviewed. The new regulations designate an outer “controlled area” around each facility, where a wide-ranging list of banned activities applies, and an inner “protected area” with more stringent restrictions.

Among the 20 activities to be banned within the controlled area are camping “in tents, caravans, trees or otherwise”, digging, engaging in “any trade or business” or grazing any animal. Also among the offences, which can result in an individual being “taken into custody without warrant”, is a failure to pick up dog waste or causing damage to “any crops, turfs, plants, roots or trees”.

The list of 10 banned actions within the protected area includes a prohibition on taking “any visual image of any person or thing.”

Jennifer Gibson, Reprieve: “These by-laws have been designed to prevent any transparency about what activities take place at RAF Croughton and Barford St John. There is strong evidence that Croughton plays a role in the US drone campaign. But instead of coming clean with the public, the Ministry of Defence has decided to help the US further by drafting draconian by-laws that give the military the power to arrest dog walkers who stray in the general vicinity of the base. It must be asked what is going on at RAF Croughton and elsewhere and why is the UK helping the US cover it up?”

Lindis Percy, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB): “By-laws have not been used around other bases for years and yet they are now being brought in for these locations. Why? Does this mean an expansion of both bases? As usual there is a cloak of secrecy thrown around these US occupied and controlled bases as to what they are planning.”

ACLU Executive Order 12333 FOIA Lawsuit

In Archive, FOIA, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance on January 1, 2014 at 9:23 PM

12/30/2013

Alex Abdo/ACLU:

ACLU, along with Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, today filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding that the government release basic information about its use of Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance of Americans’ international communications.

The executive order, signed by President Reagan in 1981 and modified many times since, is the authority relied upon by the intelligence agencies, including the NSA, to conduct surveillance of foreigners outside of the United States. According to recent reports, however, the government relies upon the executive order to sweep up the international communications of countless Americans.

Although EO 12333 permits the government to target foreigners abroad for surveillance, recent revelations have confirmed that the government interprets that authority to permit sweeping monitoring of Americans’ international communications. How the government conducts this surveillance, and whether it appropriately accommodates the constitutional rights of American citizens and residents whose communications are intercepted in the course of that surveillance, are matters of great public significance and concern. While the government has released several documents describing the rules that govern its collection and use of Americans’ international communications under statutory authorities regulating surveillance on U.S. soil, little information is publicly available regarding the rules that apply to surveillance of Americans’ international calls and emails under EO 12333.

That gap in public knowledge is particularly troubling in light of recent revelations, which make clear that the NSA is collecting vast quantities of data worldwide pursuant to EO 12333. For instance, recent news reports indicate that, relying on the executive order, the NSA is collecting: nearly 5 billion records per day on the location of cell phones, including Americans’ cell phones; hundreds of millions of contact lists or address books from personal email and instant messaging accounts; and information from Google and Yahoo user accounts as that information travels between those companies’ data centers located abroad.

The rules that govern surveillance under the executive order are of particular concern because that surveillance is not meaningfully overseen by Congress, and it is not overseen at all by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In other words, the executive is conducting surveillance under its own executive order without any real oversight.

One document already released is a recent version of U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive 18, dated 2011. USSID 18 — as it is commonly referred to — regulates the NSA’s collection of Americans’ communications, including from surveillance conducted on foreign soil. Until Edward Snowden’s disclosures, little was known about how the NSA interpreted its authority under USSID 18. Many questions remain unanswered even since those disclosures, but this much is clear: the government interprets USSID 18 to permit it to sweep up Americans’ international communications without any court order and with little oversight.

We now know too well that unchecked surveillance authority can lead to dangerous overreach.

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