This week's This American Life is an entire hour devoted to investigating the FBI's killing of Ibragim Todashev along with a companion piece in Boston Magazine. You probably heard about the basics of the Todashev story. Todashev was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers implicated in the Boston Marathon bombings (and the one who was killed when law enforcement tried to capture them), who was being interviewed by the FBI and was then shot multiple times and killed -- with a whole variety of conflicting stories coming out soon after as to what he did to lead to his death. One of the key stories was that Todashev had just admitted to participating, with Tsarnaev, in a grisly triple homicide outside of Boston a year and half earlier, and then supposedly lunged at the FBI agents (there were a variety of different reports, each claiming he had some kind of weapon, but each time the report differed on what kind of weapon). But reporter Susan Zalkind, who had been friendly with one of the 3 men killed back in 2011, which Todashev supposedly confessed to taking part in, decided to explore the story more deeply, and found a variety of oddities at every turn, nearly all of which involve strange moves by the FBI.
It's also impossible to listen to this story, without connecting it to some of the recent Snowden revelations concerning how the NSA and FBI act. While the various chapters of the story are all interesting (including Todashev's girlfriend who agreed to be interviewed by Zalkind, and a month or so later was deported, almost certainly because of the interview), perhaps the most striking is the story of Ashurmamad Miraliev, profiled in Act 2 of This American Life and written up in more detail by Zalkind last fall.
Miraliev was someone who lived in Florida and had become an acquaintance, but not a close friend, of Todashev. Months after Todashev was killed, Miraliev was pulled over and arrested, supposedly for having an expired license (it had expired a week or so earlier). He was then interrogated for six hours by the FBI (without a lawyer) -- almost all about Todashev, asking specific questions about the triple homicide and Todashev's involvement (remember, this is supposedly well after the FBI claims Todashev confessed to those murders). Miraliev pointed out that he wasn't that close to Todashev, that he'd never been to Massachusetts, and that all of that happened well before he'd ever met Todashev. He then asked to be let go, and was told that he was being thrown in jail based on absolutely ridiculous trumped up charges that are way too convoluted to fully cover here, but the short version is that a year earlier, Miraliev had apparently gotten into a yelling altercation with a guy who Todashev had fought with, and the feds (a year later) had pressured the guy Todashev fought with to press charges, and then claimed that Miraliev was "witness tampering" for that screaming match. The charges were later dropped after a judge pointed out how ridiculous they were -- but the whole thing still got Miraliev put on a terrorist watch list, caused him to miss a court date for his student visa, and got him kicked out of the country:
So the FBI had been matchmaking: They had helped the sheriff’s department go fishing on a long-closed case to find a victim and a charge with which they could pressure or detain first Ibragim, and later Ashurmamad. The witness-tampering charge the FBI brought against Ashurmamad was so flimsy that it was dropped in just a month.
And yet it didn’t matter. Although he had never been to Boston and never met the Tsarnaevs, Ashurmamad was nonetheless flagged—according to a note on the booking sheet—“ON TERRORIST WATCH LIST/PLACED PROTECTIVE CUSTODY AND HIGH RISK. HOUSE ALONE.” Ashurmamad was taken from the Orlando Police Department to the Osceola County jail, where he was kept alone in an 8-by-10 room. To meet with his lawyers, he had to have his hands and wrists shackled and be chained to the ground. Ashurmamad told me there were no windows, the light was always on, and he was always cold. He was there for a month until the tampering case was dropped. But he wasn’t released. His student visa had expired, and he’d missed a court date while he was in jail. So he was moved directly to an immigration detention facility, and on November 4, he was ordered to be deported back to Tajikistan.
Hearing the original story, and reading through the details, I'm further reminded of the stories of how the NSA, FBI and others in the federal government use "parallel construction" to build questionable cases against individuals they want dealt with.
The whole story highlights, yet again, why anyone who claims "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear," are simply wrong. Miraliev did not appear to do anything "wrong" other than failing to reregister his driver's license on time. But, because the FBI wanted to pressure and then punish him, to give them information they didn't have supposedly to confirm a murder which the FBI itself claims they had already solved, suddenly he got kicked out of the country entirely, losing everything he had (he lost his home, his money and car, which were all left in the US when he got sent back to Tajikistan).
While Zalkind presents a plausible theory on what may have happened with the FBI and Todashev, the hiding of information, the coverup and the continued efforts to bully, threaten, harass and (eventually) deport a number of his friends is quite shocking. One former law enforcement official quoted in the show, notes that when your job is to stop terrorism, these kinds of actions seem perfectly reasonable. Even if you have no proof, you just want anyone who knew anyone to be gone, so they're not your problem. It's entirely possible that's what's going on, and no one seems to care about punishing perfectly innocent people.
But if you actually believed the crap that the NSA and FBI have been saying about only targeting real threats to national security, and not putting innocent people at risk, take a listen or read the writeup. It presents a very different picture than one of an FBI protecting the country. It suggests a bunch of thuggish bullies who went too far, and are now doing everything possible to cover their tracks.
Stung by internal security lapses, U.S. intelligence officials plan to use a sweeping electronic system to continually monitor workers with secret clearances.... The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade.... Intelligence officials have long wanted a computerized system that could monitor employees, in part to foil leakers like former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden....
Of course, now that it's about the intelligence community spying on the intelligence community, those government employees are suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable about all of this:
Privacy advocates and government employee union officials expressed concerns that electronic monitoring could intrude into individuals' private lives, prompt flawed investigations and put sensitive personal data at greater risk.
The officials backing the program claim this is no real risk because "the system would have safeguards." Of course, that's the excuse we've been hearing for ages about the bulk data collection programs that the NSA and FBI use -- that supposedly they have "safeguards." Considering that the government employees union doesn't seem satisfied with that response indicates that the folks who actually work in the intelligence community know that such "safeguards" are pretty bogus and do little to actually protect privacy.
Of course, there seems to be no recognition from those who are complaining about this new system that it shows why the American public (and, well, the rest of the world) are so concerned about the other surveillance programs of the intelligence community.
from the not-so-fun-when-it's-your-metadata,-huh? dept
Earlier today, we wrote about Senator Dianne Feinstein's justified anger over the CIA "spying" on the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers as they went about putting together a massive (and apparently incredibly damning) report condemning the CIA's torture program. Having now watched the whole video of her speech, as well as read the transcript, there's a lot more here to discuss. You can watch the speech yourself if you'd like, or read the full transcript, which we've embedded below:
Apparently, some of the concerns actually stem from an earlier incident, from back in 2010, during which the CIA deleted access to a bunch of documents that it had previously given to the committee staffers. This came after an initial fight over whether or not the CIA would interfere with the staffers' efforts. The Intelligence Committee eventually agreed with the CIA's request that the research work be carried out on the CIA's premises, but only after the CIA promised not to interfere and to leave the staffers alone. The staffers requested lots of documents, and the CIA did a full pure data dump on them, just handing over piles and piles of documents with no context at all. Basically, it appears the CIA sought to bury the staffers in bullshit, hoping to hide many of the important bits. In response, the staffers asked the CIA to provide an electronic search engine, in order to go through the electronic documents. Also, to keep things organized, the staffers would regularly make local copies and/or print out key documents so they could more easily organize them and keep track of them. Based on this, they noticed that some documents that had initially been available "went missing" in 2010:
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.
This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.
Apparently, this snafu was settled quietly between the intelligence committee and the CIA, with the CIA promising not to do it again.
Now, as we've been pointing out, and which was revealed by McClatchy and the NY Times last week, this latest fight is focused mostly on a draft of an internal review by the CIA of the torture program, conducted for then director Leon Panetta. Feinstein reveals some more key details about this document. First, it appears that Panetta more or less ordered the CIA to conduct what appears to be a "shadow review" of the very same documents that were being handed over to the Senate staffers. The report, as noted, appears to come to the same basic conclusions about the CIA's torture program (i.e., that it went to insane lengths and produced absolutely nothing in the way of useful intelligence). This internal review also contradicted the CIA's "official response" to the Intelligence Committee's own report.
Here's where it gets a bit trickier. When current CIA director John Brennan was asked for the full internal report, rather than the draft that the staffers had, there appears to have been a freakout at the CIA, because no one had intended for the intelligence committee to see the report, either as a draft or final report. The CIA appears to have believed that Senate staffers got access to the report illegally (hence the CIA's request that the staffers be investigated for illegal activity). Feinstein denies all of this and notes that the draft report was among the many documents provided in the data dump -- in what now looks like an accident by the CIA folks (and some contractors) in charge of compiling the data dump for the intelligence committee. The staffers "found" this document by using that search tool, which they'd asked the CIA to provide.
Feinstein goes on to reject the claims made by the CIA and CIA supporters that (1) the staffers should have known not to read the documents since they were marked "deliberative" or "privileged" and (2) that they somehow "mishandled" those classified documents by printing them out and bringing them to the Senate. As she notes, both of those claims make little sense. On the classification:
As with many other documents provided to the committee at the CIA facility, some of the Internal Panetta Review documents—some—contained markings indicating that they were “deliberative” and/or “privileged.” This was not especially noteworthy to staff. In fact, CIA has provided thousands of internal documents, to include CIA legal guidance and talking points prepared for the CIA director, some of which were marked as being deliberative or privileged.
Moreover, the CIA has officially provided such documents to the committee here in the Senate. In fact, the CIA’s official June 27, 2013, response to the committee study, which Director Brennan delivered to me personally, is labeled “Deliberative Process Privileged Document.”
We have discussed this with the Senate Legal Counsel who has confirmed that Congress does not recognize these claims of privilege when it comes to documents provided to Congress for our oversight duties.
That takes care of that. On the question of mishandling the documents, the argument is not quite as strong, but still quite reasonable. Yes, it does appear that staffers did not follow the exact process for removing the documents -- in that they were supposed to first review it with CIA staffers, but the reasoning here is not so crazy. The review process was supposedly just so that the CIA could make sure that names of key people or details of operations weren't revealed. The staffers made sure that all such info had been redacted before moving the document -- and, of course, they recognized that this document was a bit of a smoking gun for the CIA in that it appeared to confirm that Director Brennan had been lying to the committee. Taking it to the CIA to review would be an odd move -- especially for staffers tasked with oversight of the CIA itself. Even more important, the staffers noticed that, like back in 2010, that draft review document suddenly "disappeared" from their computer system, despite the previous promises that the CIA wouldn't do that any more (also, she points out that the CIA had previously destroyed early evidence about their torture program). So they made the entirely reasonable decision to make a copy and store it in the Senate:
When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.
As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.
Now, the Relocation of the Internal Panetta Review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill. As I mentioned before, the document was handled and transported in a manner consistent with its classification, redacted appropriately, and it remains secured—with restricted access—in committee spaces.
Now that brings us to the latest "fight." In late 2013, after the intelligence committee had seen that draft report, it had requested the final report from the CIA. That set off alarm bells in the CIA when they realized that the committee knew such a report existed, leading to a freakout and further "searching" the staffers' supposedly private computers and networks:
Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.
According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.
Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.
As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.
Of course, as Julian Sanchez points out, from this description, it certainly appears that the CIA was collecting "just metadata," and, as you may recall, Feinstein has been at the forefront of arguing that no one should care about the NSA's activities, because it's just metadata. Kinda funny how perspective shifts when it's your metadata being discussed. Suddenly, it becomes a constitutional issue:
Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.
Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.
And yet that doesn't apply when the NSA spies on all Americans? Yes, Feinstein is absolutely right to be angry about this. It is an astounding breach of protocol, and given that it's the Senate Intelligence Committee's job to oversee the CIA, it appears to be quite a brazen move by the CIA to effectively undermine the Senate's oversight. It's just too bad she doesn't see how the very same things she's angry about concerning her own staff apply equally to everyone else.
There's one other issue in the speech that should be highlighted as well. She notes both of the referrals (that we've previously discussed) to the DOJ: the request to investigate the CIA's activities, and the CIA's tit-for-tat response asking for an investigation into the staffers' access and removal of the draft Panetta review. Feinstein also points out that the person at the CIA who filed the crimes report against her staffers at the DOJ was heavily involved in the torture program the report condemns, and certainly suggests that the move is much more about intimidating Senate overseers:
Weeks later, I was also told that after the inspector general referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the acting general counsel of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. I have not been provided the specifics of these allegations or been told whether the department has initiated a criminal investigation based on the allegations of the CIA’s acting general counsel.
As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.
I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.
And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.
Once again, it's worth noting that these are the very same folks that, just weeks ago, Feinstein was insisting would never abuse their positions because they're professionals. She said that on January 19th. That was just four days after CIA Director Brennan had told her about how the CIA had conducted the almost certainly illegal search on her own staffers.\
And, of course, this is the point that many of us have been making all along to Feinstein and other kneejerk defenders of the intelligence community. No matter how "professional" they are, they're still human. And given situations where their own jobs may be threatened, they're going to do what they do, and that often leads to serious abuses, like the ones that now have Feinstein so angry. That's why we're so concerned by her lack of real oversight of the intelligence community for years, as well as the rather permissive attitude that both Congress and the courts have taken for years to the intelligence community, by insisting that they only do what they do for the purposes of "national security." I'm curious what kind of "national security" reason the CIA has for spying on the very staffers who were investigating the CIA's torture program?
Smokey Robinson sued his ex-wife, Claudette Rogers Robinson, seeking declaratory judgment that he may terminate and "recapture" the copyrights to all the songs he wrote during their marriage, and that she cannot claim interest in them under California community property law.
Robinson is reclaiming the rights to his pre-1978 songs from Jobete Music Co., something many artists are doing as copyright termination goes into effect. Robinson's main problem, oddly, isn't Jobete arguing that the songs were "work for hire," but rather that his ex-wife (who he divorced in 1985) believes she should be entitled to 50% of whatever income these songs generate.
The Dec. 2, 2013 letter from counsel is attached to the complaint as Exhibit A. In it, Claudette claims 50 percent interest and demands 50 percent payment of the royalties and advances from all songs she claims as community property.
"She is entitled to half the publisher's share and half the writer's share," Claudette's counsel wrote in a Dec. 6 follow-up email.
Robinson's filing points to a couple of aspects which would seem to lock Claudette Rogers-Robinson out of claiming half of his songs' profits.
"[T]he 1976 Copyright Act expressly provides that these 'recaptured' copyrights belong to the author alone, which is plaintiff. Moreover, the 1976 Copyright Act precludes any transfer of those copyrights before the terminations themselves are effective. Thus, any transfer of such rights to any third party, whether defendant or a music publisher, was barred by the 1976 Copyright Act, and is therefore null and void."
So, according to this claim, his ex-wife couldn't have made any legal claim to the songs prior to rights termination, and seems to prevent her from doing so post-recapture. But another point Robinson raises seems to conflict with the assumptions of the current life+70 years copyright term.
"As a result of the divorce, all copyrights, contract, and/or royalty rights to the musical compositions created between November 7, 1959 and May 30, 1985 were purportedly divided between plaintiff and defendant as tenants-in-common. Defendant also received a monthly spousal support payment of substantial sums and significant real and personal property."
However, Smokey says: "Defendant did not write any part of any of the musical compositions at issue; her interest was awarded on the basis of community property principles alone."
By Smokey's reasoning, any person who didn't partake in the creative process of copyrighted works should be locked out of profiting from the works. This raises a question: if his ex-wife has no right to profit from Smokey's songs, why should Smokey's descendants?
The current copyright term allows heirs or other rights holders to exploit copyrighted material for 70 years after the death of the creator. Arguing that passing copyright control on to heirs is roughly comparable to an inheritance relies more on "community property principles" than copyright law. But intellectual property isn't directly comparable to "real property" (land, houses, belongings, etc.). Real property has no set (but highly arbitrary) expiration date and isn't subject to a "limited" period of protection.
Robinson asserts he "solely" owns these songs because he is the composer. Following this line of thinking, Robinson's descendants should have no legal claim to profits from Robinson's creations for 70 years after his death. If copyright law were deployed honestly, his "sole creator" claim would terminate his claim -- and any of his heirs' -- at the time of his death. But it isn't. And everyone involved -- from the labels claiming pre-1978 songs were "work for hire" to Smokey Robinson claiming his ex-wife isn't entitled to profits (but presumably his heirs are) -- is twisting the law to assert control.
Who needs SOPA when US judges seem willing to pretend the law already lets them do what SOPA would have created? AACS, the licensing organization that handles the basic encryption used on DVDs, sued one of many DVD ripping software companies, DVDFab (which is based in China). DVD ripping is a somewhat contentious topic. While it's generally accepted (even by the recording industry) that ripping music CDs is legitimate, for whatever reason, Hollywood has fought exceptionally hard against the idea that movies should ever be rippable. With DVD software, they make it "illegal" by placing (weak) DRM on the DVDs, and then claim that any attempt to get around that violates the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA, 17 USC 1201.
AACS sought a preliminary injunction against DVDFab, who chose not to respond to the lawsuit (understandable, seeing as it's based halfway around the world). Of course, rather than just granting a basic preliminary injunction, federal judge Vernon Broderick appears to have issued an order that is basically Hollywood's dream: ordering the seizure of basically everything in an attempt to wipe DVDFab off the internet entirely. It orders the company to stop using its website, domain names and social media. Then, it goes way beyond that, using "this Court's inherent equitable power" to order domain registries to disable the company's URLs and make them "transferable" on the orders of the court -- basically ordering the companies to seize the domain names. Then, it also orders all companies who have anything to do with DVDFab to stop doing business with the company. This includes social networking companies, service providers, advertising firms, payment processors and more:
Any third party service providers providing services to Defendants in connection with
any of the DVDFab Domain Names, the DVDFab Websites or the DVDFab Social Media
Accounts, and who receive actual notice of this Order, including without limitation, web
hosting providers, social media or other online service providers (including without
limitation, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+), back-end service providers, web
designers, distributors, search-based online advertising services (such as through paid
inclusion, paid search results, sponsored search results, sponsored links, and Internet
keyword advertising), and any banks, savings and loan associations, merchant account
providers, payment processors and providers, credit card associations, or other financial
institutions which receive or process payments or hold assets on Defendants' behalf
(including without limitation, Avangate Inc., Avangate B.V., PayPal, Western Union,
PayEase, IPS Ltd., Realypay, WorldPay, Opus Payments, Amazon Payments, WorldPay,
Money Gram International, WebMoney, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express,
Visa Electron, Maestro, Solo, Laser, and Carte Bleue) for any Defendant or any of the
DVDFab Domain Names or the DVDFab Websites, and who receive actual notice of this
Order, shall, within three (3) days of receipt of this Order, cease or disable providing such
services to: a) Defendants in relation to the DVDFab Software and/or any other products
or services that circumvent the AACS Technology; andb) any and all of the DVDFab
Domain Names, the DVDFab Websites or DVDFab Social Media Accounts.
This goes way, way, way beyond the normal remedies put forth under copyright law. In fact, it was these kinds of solutions which SOPA was designed to add to copyright law. I can understand how a judge only hearing one side of a case goes with the "default" judgment and just gives the single party everything they ask for, but at some point doesn't common sense have to come in, and have people point out that this kind of remedy, seeking to wipe an entire company completely off the face of the internet for daring to do something that's basically legal in similar realms (i.e., with music), seems immensely worrisome.
"...money from Comcast's political action committee has flowed to all but three members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Checks have landed in the campaign coffers of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who oversee the chamber's antitrust panel. Meanwhile, the cable giant has donated in some way to 32 of the 39 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which is planning a hearing of its own."
Another recent report noted that House members of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology received $853,525 from Comcast between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2012. Members of the 109th, 110th, 111th and 112th Congresses also received $6,678,446 from Comcast between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2012. Amusingly, Comcast tries strangely to downplay throwing cash at lawmakers by somehow insisting that because those same lawmakers are supposed to also represent Comcast employees (who'll likely see layoffs) and Comcast customers (who'll certainly see higher prices and anti-competitive behavior), that somehow this is all ok:
Comcast stresses its donations are a function of its business. "Comcast NBCUniversal operates in 39 states and has 130,000 employees across the country," said spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. "It is important for our customers, our employees and our shareholders that we participate in the political process. The majority of our PAC contributions are to the senators and members who represent our employees and customers."
So if I follow Sena's logic to its dizzying conclusion: dumping money into the laps of lawmakers so they'll approve a merger that benefits only Comcast is justified because if those lawmakers weren't busy having Comcast cash dumped in their laps -- they might actually represent the people that voted for them? I've seen a lot of spin, and that one is pretty fantastic. We're not lobbying solely for the company's financial gain, you little people benefit too because lawmakers are technically supposed to be representing you. That is, if we weren't paying them to do otherwise. Isn't engaging in the political process fun!? Don't you feel engaged? Why aren't you laughing?
This morning, Senator Dianne Feinstein finally got angry over the abusive practices of the intelligence community that she oversees as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Historically, of course, Feinstein has used her role of "oversight" to actually do everything possible to protect and defend the various intelligence organizations. However, as we've been discussing, Feinstein has wanted to declassify and publish an apparently devastating $40 million 6,300 page report detailing how the CIA's torture program was a complete disaster. The CIA has been fighting hard against this, and in the last few weeks, it came out that the CIA also spied on Senate staffers who were working on the report, after they'd uncovered an internal CIA document that corroborated the big report, and which showed the CIA had lied to the Senate. The CIA has hit back trying to blame the staffers for "illegally" taking a classified document, but that argument rings hollow.
Feinstein is apparently quite furious about all of this and let loose this morning about the CIA, claiming that they not only spied on the staffers, but secretly removed documents from the computers the staffers were using. She directly claimed that the CIA "may have undermined the constitutional framework" of Congressional oversight. That's not a charge one throws around lightly.
Besides possible constitutional violations, Feinstein said the CIA may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, various federal laws and a presidential executive order that bars the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance. She said she has asked for an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee's computers was inappropriate, but, "I have received neither."
While this confirms much of what was reported last week, it's noteworthy that Feinstein is speaking out about it. To date, she has tried to avoid saying much about this whole debate publicly, but it appears that the issue has finally boiled over. As we noted last week, having the CIA spy on its Senate overseers (and potentially tampering with their computers to remove documents) is an incredible overreach.
Of course, wasn't it just less than two months ago that Feinstein claimed that the intelligence community would never abuse its powers, because they were made up of professionals whose activities are "strictly vetted"? Perhaps she'll now go back and admit that perhaps she shouldn't be so trusting of the intelligence community when they're spying on everyone else, beyond just her staffers.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White issued the order Monday afternoon California time in response to requests from plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the lawfulness of the NSA surveillance.
"It is undisputed that the Court would be unable to afford effective relief once the records are destroyed, and therefore the harm to Plaintiffs would be irreparable," White wrote in his two-page order. "A temporary restraining order is necessary and appropriate in order to allow the Court to decide whether the evidence should be preserved with the benefit of full briefing and participation by all parties."
As we pointed out earlier, either way this goes, the NSA wins. If it holds onto the data, it gets to play around with the info for long past the 5-year expiration date. If it's told to destroy it (as Reggie Walton instructed), it gets to toss out evidence it had no intention of ever allowing into a public courtroom.
This may set up a showdown of sorts, but it's tough to see how a district court will be able to override the direct order given by the court that directly grants permission to the NSA to collect and store this metadata. The government can appeal either order, so it will be very enlightening to see which one it chooses to dispute. Chances are the appeal will go smoother in district court as Reggie Walton made it crystal clear that extending the expiration date puts the program on unconstitutional footing.
In order to keep from showing its hand, the NSA simply needs to do nothing and let someone else, possibly the administration itself, sort it out. Or it may decide segregating relevant metadata is above its pay grade and appeal the newest decision, allowing it to dispose of evidence it doesn't want to expose.
Briefs are due to be filed in the next few days and the government's arguments should prove to be an entertaining read, especially if it attempts to argue that it should destroy the past-due records, directly contradicting the DOJ's earlier request to retain it.
Somehow the word "copyright" is being thrown around in relation to a 500-year-old statue. Any reasonable person would assume the word "copyright" shouldn't come within 350 years of any creation, but that's how the story's being presented. (h/t to Techdirt reader WulfTheSaxon)
Italy's culture minister has expressed outrage over an advertisement by a US weapons firm showing Michelangelo's David holding a rifle. Dario Franceschini said the image was offensive and violated the law.
A number of Italian media web sites carried the image of the advertisement showing David holding a bolt-action rifle. The advertisement, from Illinois-based ArmaLite, carries the line "a work of art" in promoting the $3,000 rifle. Mr Franceschini urged the company to withdraw the advertisement for the AR-50A1.
He said in a tweet: "The image of David, armed, offends and infringes the law. We will take action against the American company so that it immediately withdraws its campaign."
First off, the ad itself is over a year old, as Sara Morrison at The Wire points out. The ad was originally tweeted by Armalite back in May of 2013. This ad, however, was only recently published in Italy, hence the sudden outrage.
Now, as for the claim of copyright… that doesn't seem to be exactly what's being claimed here. (And, indeed, none of the officials quoted actually use the word "copyright," instead claiming the ad "distorts" the original work. That term is deployed solely by reporting on the event.) The country of Italy "owns" Michelangelo's statue of David (finished in 1504), although the piece itself resides in Florence, a claim not without its own controversy. (Italy claimed the statue in 2010, something that enraged Florence officials who firmly believed that statue belonged to the city that had hosted it since its completion.)
What Italian officials actually seem to be claiming is control over use of images of the sculpture, which is adjacent to copyright, but not entirely the same thing.
Cristina Acidini, Florence superintendent for history and fine arts, condemned the company’s use of the image and also urged ArmaLite to immediately withdraw it.
“To use a work of art from any of the Florence museums for promotional purposes, it is necessary to obtain an evaluation of how the image may be used,” Miss Acidini said. “No-one ever agreed to that.”
What's being stated here sounds more like publicity rights. Florence officials are seeking to control use of David's "image" in advertising. ("Image" in this case being the collective perception of a cultural icon, rather than a photograph.) Italy may technically "own" the sculpture (as much as anyone can "own" a cultural icon), but it can't claim to control the copyright, which has long since expired. (And that's even under Italy's restrictive laws which make no allowances for fair use and include dubious "moral rights" as part of the copyright package.)
So, Florence effectively controls use of images (photos) of the sculpture, and is trying to assert some form of publicity rights on behalf of a statue. It can't lock anyone out from producing their own David sculptures, but what museum officials have done instead is prevent anyone from producing their own images. The museum has a strict "no photography" policy which means that any photos of David are controlled by the museum. (There doesn't seem to any similar policy restricting photography of the replica located elsewhere in Florence.) In this fashion, Florence officials can seek to control of David's use in commercial works via copyright law, even if what's being detailed here seems to rely more on outrage over "distorting" the sculpture's iconic status than any true legal basis.
But this assertion of control over a cultural icon is still specious, as even the Florence superintendent of fine arts seems to realize. As Cristina Acidini says at ilpost.com, it's an "international event" but "I cannot, of course, send the FBI after Armalite." Instead, she intends to use the court of public opinion to render a verdict in the museum's favor and shame ArmaLite into dumping the ad.
"But I intend to use all the possibilities of reaction... starting with the 'moral persuasion' and scandal in the newspapers."
So, what we have is a copyright-esque assertion being used to shame a gun manufacturer into dropping an ad that has offended cultural sensibilities halfway around the world (ArmaLite is based in Illinois). At the center of it all is a 500-year-old sculpture currently in the public domain, but controlled by "adjacent" copyright measures. In the end, all these Italian officials have is their offended sensibilities, which really isn't enough to justify their demands.
We've covered stories in the past involving students attempting to hack into school networks for the purpose of changing their grades. I'll admit this was something of an obsession of mine when I was younger as well, because apparently the work acquiring the skills to pull this off was somehow less of an effort than just reading a damned textbook once in a while.
In any case, this is apparently a thing students still occasionally attempt. An alumnus of Purdue University allegedly decided he'd have a better shot at getting into another school for his master's degree if he altered his previous college marks electronically. Police released the following mugshot of the perp.
Okay, fine, so the actual perp's name is Roy Sun, a 25 year old who was already earning $70,000 a year with his engineering degree. Once it was discovered that he had changed his grades electronically, Sun was sentenced to four years in jail, of which he'll only serve 90 days, with the balance being served on supervised probation. Sun's willingness to be forthcoming on what he did is impressive.
Sun first hacked into a professor's computer account and changed his grade in 2008. He said he volunteered to be the guinea pig to see if he and fellow Purdue student Mitsutoashi Shirasaki would get caught. They didn't, which emboldened Sun.
"When I came back in 2009, I felt really arrogant," he said during the sentencing hearing. "I thought I was untouchable. It became so much easier to change my grades than going to class and working real hard."
So with the exception of one course, Sun quit attending classes his senior year and still received straight A's.
Well, okay then. This seems to raise the more alarming question of how network security at Purdue is handled, given the ease with which Sun seemed to play master over his electronic marks. That isn't to say that Sun doesn't cut an impressive figure, however. The judge handling his case noted as much.
Before sentencing, Judge Thomas Busch said, "The most troubling thing about this is how brilliant you are and how capable your are to devise this and carry it out. ... I worry about people who are as bright as you who are as dishonest as you because you can do more damage."
One wonders why someone so brilliant couldn't devise a way to better cover his tracks, however. Instead, Sun will have to live the rest of his life as a convicted felon and figure out a way to either get another school to accept him and pursue a degree, or else pursue work in the technology world without such a degree. This isn't unheard of, of course, but it seems Sun made his life a lot harder by trying to cheat on his marks.