by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 7:39pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 6:29pm
from the innovation-at-work dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 5:27pm
from the arbitrary dept
Given all of that, it's quite bizarre that they're now cutting off various VPN/anonymizing services, as it should be quite obvious that there are tremendous perfectly legal and reasonable uses of such services. Personally, I have two VPN services, which I use when I travel, or am working from outside the office to make sure my data is encrypted and safe. It's really just good computing hygiene to use such a service. However, apparently, Mastercard and Visa would like everyone's data to be exposed.
At least one of the VPNs so impacted, iPredator, is apparently looking at its legal options. Given Wikileaks' victory on a nearly identical issue, you'd think that the credit card companies would know better -- but perhaps they think that the VPN providers won't bother with a costly legal battle.
It now turns out that these policies have carried over to VPN providers and other anonymizing services. Before the weekend customers of the popular Swedish payment service provider Payson received an email stating that VPN services are no longer allowed to accept Visa and Mastercard payments due to a recent policy change.
"Payson has restrictions against anonymization (including VPN services). As a result Payson can unfortunately no longer give your customers the option to finance payments via their cards (VISA or MasterCard)," the email states, adding that they still accept bank transfers as deposits.
The new policy went into effect on Monday, leaving customers with a two-day window to find a solution.
by Michael Ho
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (aka GALEX) has shut down after over a decade of observing galaxies in orbit around the Earth, and it was originally planned to have just a 29-month mission. This space telescope discovered a missing link in the evolution of galaxy evolution, and data from the instrument will continue to be analyzed for years to come. [url]
- The European Space Agency (ESA) turned off the Herschel infrared space telescope as scheduled because it ran out of its supply of liquid helium. After collecting over 25,000 hours of data, this satellite has been placed in a "disposal" orbit. In 2011, Herschel found the first confirmed evidence of oxygen molecules in space. [url]
- French Space Agency CNES has terminated its CoRoT satellite for exoplanet hunting. CoRoT was the first instrument to find an exoplanet using the transit method, but it suffered a computer failure and can no longer transmit useful data. [url]
- The Kepler space telescope has unexpectedly stopped functioning and isn't collecting data anymore. It's not officially dead because there's still a chance that it could recover. But if it doesn't come back, it still completed its mission of observing hundreds of exoplanets and has collected enough data to keep scientists busy for a long time. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 4:40pm
from the check-your-constitution,-nathan dept
- By a margin of more than 2:1, Americans believe that individual inventors contribute the most to society versus corporations, government organizations and universities.
- The majority of Americans believe that allowing inventors to patent new technology ideas increases the pace of innovation. On average, less than 10 percent said the practice decreases the pace of innovation.
- More than half of Americans believe that if an inventor comes up with a popular technology idea first, the inventor should not only be allowed to patent it, but always be able to enforce their patent rights and receive compensation from the companies using the same technology in their products.
First off, if "individual inventors" contribute the most to society compared to corporations -- then shouldn't we be skeptical of a massive corporation like Intellectual Ventures that appears to be sucking up tons of patents? Of course, IV will claim that it's "helping the independent inventor" by providing them with "much needed capital" or some such crap. But when reporters actually asked them to support that claim, the one "example" that IV gave those reporters turned out to be something else entirely -- a trolling operation on a bogus patent, which was later revealed to have involved a patent holder who mislead the patent office to get that patent and where Intellectual Ventures actually got 90% of the profits. That's helping individual inventors?
Second, it's no surprise that lots of people think that patents increase the pace of innovation. That's the story that's been told for years. But what people think isn't always what reality is, and at this point the number of studies showing how much patents have held back innovation is overwhelming. I think I'm going to go with the data on this one, rather than what random people who haven't seen the data think.
Third, on the question of the inventor being able to receive compensation, it seems pretty clear that the question here implies, almost entirely incorrectly, that companies who actually bring products to market are often "copying" the ideas from the inventor. That's almost never the case. If the question properly asked whether or not companies who actually built a product and then brought it to market successfully, totally independent of some guy who got a vague patent, should have to pay someone who had a vague idea that was never implemented, and which they never even tried to take to market, the answers would be very different.
Once again, IV seems to think people are stupid, and that all it needs to do is spew bullshit to support its position. What a sad place it must be to work at when the best they can do is to ask misleading questions that, even when answered as is, make "big corporation" Intellectual Ventures look so bad.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 3:50pm
Old School Snail Mail 'Metadata' Still Being Harvested By The USPS And Turned Over To Law Enforcement/Security Agencies By Request
from the get-it-all,-just-in-case dept
We live in a wondrous age of technological advancement, where almost any form of communication can be instantly captured by interceding security agencies and stored safely away somewhere in Utah where it can be "questioned" at the agencies' convenience.
But the old school ways still have their charm. Various entities have intercepted snail mail since the days when it was just referred to as "mail." Not so much interception goes on now, partly because there's much less to intercept, but law enforcement agencies are still able to access scans of the envelopes of every piece of mail sent or received in the US, all without a warrant. Not unexpectedly, this "enhancement" to the "mail covers" program emerged post-9/11.
The NY Times has a good piece on the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, which was put into place following the post-9/11 anthrax mailings. It quite literally scans every envelope, post card, and piece of junk mail — some 160 billion pieces of mail a year. These scanners probably know more about the mail you receive than you do.The old "mail covers" program was targeted. The new, post-9/11 version isn't. Everything is photographed and anything can be requested by simply filling out a form. The argument is that there's no expectation of privacy seeing as any number of people will be able to view what's written on the outside of the envelope as it's in transit. Of course, people might feel their privacy is being violated if they observed someone going through a stack of their mail and taking photos of every envelope, but that's where the courts stand on this issue currently.
The Mail Isolation program is really just a super-beefed-up version of the USPS "mail covers" program that has been around for about a century, explains the Times. Mail covers are warrantless requests for photos of the outside of specific recipients’ mail.
Basically, a law enforcement agency fills out the request, and for 30 days (extendable to 120 days), it receives scans of all mail related to the subject of the request. Only the outside of the mail is provided, as opening mail would require a warrant. Authorities maintain that no warrant is needed for information on the outside of a piece of mail, as there can be no reasonable expectation of privacy. The USPS can deny a mail covers request, but rarely does.
Unlike other invasive programs officials have defended by claiming they have prevented [insert number here] terrorist attacks, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program has at least been instrumental in taking down a purveyor of terrorist-like activity.
In a criminal complaint filed June 7 in Federal District Court in Eastern Texas, the F.B.I. said a postal investigator tracing the ricin letters was able to narrow the search to Shannon Guess Richardson, an actress in New Boston, Tex., by examining information from the front and back images of 60 pieces of mail scanned immediately before and after the tainted letters sent to Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg showing return addresses near her home. Ms. Richardson had originally accused her husband of mailing the letters, but investigators determined that he was at work during the time they were mailed.While that's comforting, the downside is that this system, like any other mass data collection, is prone to abuse. And what's considered not "private enough" to require a warrant can still tell the requesting party quite a bit about you.
"It's a treasure trove of information," said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges. "Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena."The postal service holds the power to approve or deny these requests, without any outside review, which means every request will sail right through. 15-20,000 requests come through each year related to criminal activity. The number of requests made for national security reasons hasn't been revealed.
But, he said: "It can be easily abused because it's so easy to use and you don't have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form."
In the post-9/11 security/law enforcement climate, it seems it's better to have everything and not need it than want something and not have it. This is all above-board and perfectly constitutional according to the courts, so if any of these entities want to dig through your mail for any reason, (perhaps as a form of political harassment) all they have to do is fill out the right paperwork.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 3:00pm
Controversial EU Data Protection Regulation May Be Negotiated In Secret In Breach Of Parliamentary Process
from the snowden-effect dept
Today, the European Parliament held a three-hour long debate on PRISM, Tempora and what the EU response should be. Many wanted TAFTA/TTIP put on hold; others didn't. But one theme cropped up again and again: the need for strong data protection laws that would offer at least some legal protection against massive and unregulated transfer of Europeans' personal data to the US.
As Techdirt readers may recall, the EU's Data Protection Regulation was already contentious even before Ed Snowden revealed the scale of US and UK spying on EU citizens. The new focus on passing it soon only intensifies the battle going on there between those who want to introduce meaningful constraints on what can be done with EU data, and those who seem happier to listen to lobbyists and allow personal information to flow across the Atlantic largely unchecked. But it looks like the politicians have come up with a way to avoid public debate on the matter, as Monica Horten at Iptegrity.com reports:
Secret trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers are being proposed as a way to get around the impasse of 3000+ amendments on the Data Protection Regulation.
As Horten explains:
trilogues are held in secret, behind closed doors, and the only people allowed in are the rapporteur [the lead MEP representing the European Parliament] and his shadows, the Commissioner, the Presidency, and selected advisers from each institution. The trilogue discussions are not made public.
As well as being reprehensible -- if anything needed to be conducted in public, this did -- it may be against the EU's own rules:
trilogues cannot start before the responsible committee has given a mandate. That's what's a little bit odd here. The mandate can only be given when the committee votes in October.
That might solve the problem of avoiding high-profile arguments over what should be in the Regulation, but it would also place anything that comes out of these secret negotiations on a questionable footing:
But the Brussels rumour mill is suggesting that there could be a move to begin trilogues on the Data Protection Regulation before October, without waiting for the committee mandate.
it would be a breach of Parliamentary process, and especially egregious given that this law deals with fundamental rights.
In other words, nobody really knows what will happen here. Call it the Snowden Effect: anything relating even indirectly to his case seems to become more complex and unpredictable....
In any event, the rapporteur does not have to agree to trilogues. It is an option.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 2:17pm
from the it-had-to-happen dept
As the growing number of Techdirt stories on the subject testify, drones are becoming a more familiar part of modern life. But their presence can add a new element to situations. An obvious example is during demonstrations, where drones can be used to monitor those taking part -- but also the authorities' reaction. As with cases where members of the public have used smartphones to capture police abuse, so drones offer the possibility of revealing questionable police activity that might in the past have gone unrecorded.
Given that potential to show the forces of law and order in an unflattering light, it was perhaps inevitable that the police would eventually take action against a drone that was monitoring them -- in this case, by shooting it down:
Tuesday afternoon on June 11th 2013, Police was violently attacking peaceful protestors. Police fired guns at one of our [remote control] drone during the protests in Taksim square, Istanbul. Police aimed directly at the camera. Due to the impact on the camera (it did have a housing) the last video was not saved properly on the SD card. The camera and drone were both broken. Managed to keep the SD card.
Here's a video of the take-down:
The drone's images before its violent end provide amazingly clear pictures of what is happening on the ground, and you can see why the authorities might not be very happy about that:
But as a Geek.com article on the incident points out, when you can soon buy a tiny $50 drone that streams straight to your smartphone for uploading to video sharing sites, the police may find themselves being monitored by tens or even hundreds of such devices during their actions against demonstrations, which makes shooting them all down problematic. Doubtless the authorities will come up with an answer to that (a squadron of police drones engaging in a dog-fight, perhaps?), but citizen drone users will then find a way around that -- perhaps flying small, hard-to-spot drones very high in the sky, and using high-quality cameras with zoom lenses. And so the drones arms race will continue.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 1:28pm
from the have-fun-guys dept
I am Mark Lutz and two attorneys named Morgan Pietz and Nicholas Ranallo are filing motions asking this court to issue orders without notifying me! I apologize to the Court for my anger, but I have never had a chance to fight any of their motions! The Constitution gives me the right of Due Process, which means that the courts can't take something from me without first giving me a chance to contest that decision. Just so I am as clear as I can be, I have never been served with any paperwork by either attorney Pietz or Ranallo. EVER.The other filings are similar, if only slightly more professional. Steele had actually filed a similar filing a week earlier, which Judge Wright rejected within an hour. It seems unlikely that he'll be any more open to these latest claims as he's made it clear that he's very much onto Team Prenda's usual tactics of denying everything, trying to talk their way out of any hole they've dug, and when caught, attacking those who caught them. This latest is straight out of their playbook. The question of whether or not these four guys are being served is an important one, but as Judge Wright made clear in his initial ruling, Steele and Paul Hansmeier are considered by the Court to be principals of Prenda, so as long as Pietz and Ranallo are serving Prenda itself, in the form of Paul Duffy (who, you'll notice, is the lone member of the "Team" as defined by Judge Wright and who did not file one of these statements), it probably covers those three. The situation may be different with Lutz and Peter Hansmeier, but even then, I'll wait on Pietz's and Ranallo's reply, since nearly every statement from Team Prenda ends up proving to be less than fully accurate later on.
People's faith in the law rests on the belief that attorneys who break the rules don't get away with it. I place my trust in this Court to make sure that these attorneys will be held accountable for their actions. Here the record is obvious that Pietz and Ranallo have been breaking the rules. I therefore ask the court to strike all pleadings filed by attorneys Pietz and Ranallo that do not have a proof of service filed with them. I also ask that any orders that were entered by this court against AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13 or me be vacated. These guys are total fraudsters
On a related note, earlier in this same case, we discussed how Team Prenda had done everything to try to hide from being served during an earlier round of filings. Their efforts to avoid service may become fairly relevant should this issue get any further.
Of course, on the same day this happened, something even more interesting was happening up in Northern California, in the AF Holdings v. Navasca case. That was the case where Judge Edward Chen had ordered Team Prenda to produce a copy of the supposed "Salt Marsh" signature, which Mark Lutz insisted he could not find (as did Paul Duffy). Lutz tried to brush off everything, saying that Brett Gibbs regularly asked him to sign various things and he would do so on behalf of the mysterious Salt Marsh trust. While this argument was an odd one, Judge Chen accepted it and was ready to close the case.
However, Ranallo has now asked Judge Chen for sanctions against a variety of the members of Team Prenda for their actions and statements in the case, and has presented a tremendous amount of evidence that Steele, Hansmeier and Lutz have been flat out lying. And, some of that evidence comes in the form of a damning deposition from former Prenda lawyer Brett Gibbs. Gibbs, it appears, has finally realized that Steele and Hansmeier were throwing him under the bus. While Gibbs had already given one deposition against Steele and Hansmeier, it was fairly tame compared to this latest one, in which he points out that Lutz's claims are clearly untrue:
I have reviewed the Affidavit of Mark Lutz filed in this case on May 13, 2013 (Doc. #80). I believe that the information provided in the fifth paragraph of that affidavit regarding my interactions with Mr. Lutz is not an accurate description of those events. I did not "from time to time" send certificates for Mr. Lutz to sign on behalf of the Salt Marsh Trust. I did not have the alleged conversations with Mr. Lutz. In fact, I did not know that Mark Lutz was directly affiliated with these companies, as an owner or otherwise, until months after filing the ADR Certification in this case.Of course, one could argue that Gibbs' credibility is less than perfect (though, still better that Steele/Hansmeier/Lutz). But, even without Gibbs' deposition, Ranallo has pretty strong evidence of the typical shenanigans from Steele/Hansmeier here, in that he actually shows that Steele and Hansmeier's own statements in two different cases, directly contradicts each other.
Instead, I was specifically told by Mr. Hansmeier that Salt Marsh was the owner of AF Holdings, and that he, Salt Marsh, had read and understood the ADR handbook, and that I could go ahead and file the ADR Certification with the electronic signature of Salt Marsh. Again, I never spoke with Salt Marsh directly. Through my conversation with Mr. Hansmeier, I was under the impression that the Salt Marsh was an individual who had in fact complied with the Local Rule and that his original signature existed on a document that was being held by my then employer, Prenda Law, Inc. Given that information, I proceeded to file the ADR Certification on that basis.
After I filed this case, I learned through a separate case filed in Minnesota that the assignment agreement may have been invalid because there was a dispute whether a signature on the agreement was in fact forged. Once alerted to this, I immediately discussed this matter with John Steele and Paul Hansmeier. They assured me that it was a valid signature, that the allegations were mere "conspiracy theories," and that I should have no concern in continuing to prosecute this and other AF Holdings' cases. I believe I was diligent in my factual and legal investigation of this matter.
AF Holdings' first attempt to explain this assignment came on February 19th, when Paul Hansmeier appeared as AF Holdings' 30(b)(6) deponent in this action. In a clearly rehearsed explanation, Mr. Hansmeier stated that Mark Lutz, paralegal for Steele Hansmeier, Prenda Law, and the Anti-Piracy Law Group tasked his boss, John Steele, with arranging a "corporate representative" to acknowledge the assignment in this case (Hansmeier Dep. at 121:11-128:12).Believe it or not, there's much more in there, but that selection of using Steele's claims against Hansmeier's claims is really quite classic. This is, of course, what happens when you dig yourself a giant hole and then try to bullshit your way out of it. Sooner or later you're going to contradict your own claims.
We are to believe that Mr. Steele did this as a favor to his paralegal, because the paralegal was himself too busy to personally sign his own name on behalf the company he supposedly runs. It is unclear how Mr. Lutz saved any time this way, since it undoubtedly took at least as long to arrange for the "representative" as it would have to sign his own name, but nonetheless, we are told that efficiency was the motivation. See Hansmeier Dep. at 127:22- 128:8 ("...Mr. Lutz is an individual. There are a certain number hours in a day and for him to accomplish everything he's going to accomplish in a given day, or for anyone in any capacity in any business, you rely on third parties to aid you to accomplish tasks.")
According to Mr. Hansmeier, Mr. Steele then sought out his property caretaker in Minnesota, Alan Cooper, to serve as "corporate representative" to acknowledge the assignment. Hansmeier Dep. at 122:5-11. According to Mr. Hansmeier, Mr. Steele was therefore the sole individual that could shed any light on the circumstances surrounding the execution. Hansmeier Dep. at 122:11-126:21. Specifically, Mr. Hansmeier testified that"Mark Lutz spoke to Mr. Steele and said, Well, I understand that there's an issue with this Alan Cooper and asked Mr. Steele point-blank, Is the signature a forgery. Mr. Steele said the signature is not forgery. And he asked him, Is the— is the signature authentic. Mr. Steele says, yes, the signature is authentic..." and, "...all I can say is that AF Holdings – the only person who knows who this Alan Cooper is is John Steele...". Hansmeier Dep. 122:11-18 and 126:10-127:2.Mssrs. Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy were each given a chance to forward their own explanation(s) for the Cooper assignment on April 2, 2013 at a hearing in the Central District of California. Rather than testifying under oath (and subject to cross examination), however, each invoked their Fifth Amendment right. Ingenuity 13 v. Doe, 2013 WL 1898633 at * 2 (C.D. Cal., May 6, 2013).
Mr. Steele later decided to address this issue in the form of an affidavit– safe from cross-examination - in response to yet another Order to Show Cause regarding sanctions in the District of Arizona. A copy of the Arizona Order to Show Cause is annexed hereto as Exhibit K , AF Holdings response is annexed as Exhibit L, and Mr. Steele's affidavit in support is annexed hereto as Exhibit M. Mr. Steele's affidavit is wholly inconsistent with Mr. Hansmeier's version of events, and Mr. Steele cannot bring himself to even claim that Mr. Cooper actually executed the assignment. What Mr. Steele does say, however, contradicts Mr. Hansmeier's testimony and various publicly available documents. See, e.g. Exhibit M... Specifically, Mr. Steele describes the Alan Cooper circumstances as follows:"8. ...I agreed to help him set up a company for him and help him out in getting started with his business.Several things are notable about Mr. Steele's version of events. First, and most conspicuously, is his purported ignorance regarding the Alan Cooper transactions, notwithstanding Mr. Hansmeier's testimony that Mr. Steele was the only one with information. In contrast to Mr. Hansmeier's testimony, which makes it clear that Mark Lutz specifically tasked Mr. Steele with finding a corporate representative for the purpose of acknowledging AF Holdings' assignments, Mr. Steele implies that this was a favor for Mr. Cooper, wholly unrelated to any specific task. Moreover, Mr. Steele disclaims any personal knowledge regarding the "limited number of transactions" that Mr. Cooper was involved in, and disclaims any knowledge that would allow him to reassure Mr. Lutz and Mr. Hansmeier that the relevant assignments were not forgeries, as he apparently did. Indeed, Mr. Steele's affidavit seems to indicate that Mr. Lutz would himself have all the necessary information regarding the assignment, and there would be no reason for Mr. Lutz to go to Mr. Steele for confirmation regarding the validity of the assignments.
9. Shortly thereafter, Alan told me that he could not put any time into the project and I believe that he never ended up following through with getting his new company off the ground. As a less time intensive alternative, I suggested that if Alan wanted to learn more about the adult industry, I could connect him to a new company that was run by Mark Lutz.
10. I informed Alan that one way to get his name established would be to serve in a corporate representative role, which would let him gain exposure to the types of deals Mr. Lutz was doing and see if that was something that appealed to him.
11. My understanding is that Alan took me up on the offer and participated in a limited number of transactions in 2011 with Mr. Lutz’s companies. I am not aware of any post-2011 transactions in which Alan participated.” Steele Aff. at 8- 11.
Secondly, AF Holdings response and Mr. Steele's affidavit simply do not square with documented reality. AF Holdings' response to the OTSC indicates that "At some point in early 2011, Steele and Cooper discussed how a friend of Steele's was exploring opportunities related to purchasing and marketing adult content. Cooper expressed interest in learning more about these opportunities, and Steele offered to help him learn more...Cooper ended up not moving forward with the ideas Steele proposed to him..." See Exhibit N at 6.
This explanation does not square with history. Indeed, John Steele began misappropriating Mr. Cooper's identity before "early 2011," in connection with VPR, Inc., and other entities. As previously described in ECF No. 55, 55-1, and 55-5, VPR, Inc., was formed and registered with the Nevada Secretary of State in late 2010 and identified Alan Cooper as the president, secretary, and all other relevant positions in the entity. As previously described, the corporate address identified by the Nevada Secretary of State is 4532 East Villa Theresa Drive ("the Villa Theresa Address"), an address previously shared by John Steele's sister and Anthony Saltmarsh. See ECF Nos. 55-1, 55-3 and 55-4.
VPR, Inc. cannot be the entity that never came to fruition, as described in Mr. Steele's affidavit, as it has filed copyright lawsuits against more than a thousand Does, through its counsel, Steele Hansmeier.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 12:22pm
Iran's President-Elect: Net Filtering Doesn't Work... Oh, And By The Way, Human Rights Are Universal
from the he-said-what??? dept
In the past, Iran has provided plenty of light relief here on Techdirt, whether because of plans to build its own Internet, or thanks to weird stuff like this. But it looks like those days are over
following the election of a surprisingly-moderate President, Hassan Rouhani. Here, for example, are his thoughts on Net filters, as reported by The Guardian:
"Supporters of internet filtering should explain whether they've successfully restricted access to information? Which important piece of news has filtering been able to black out in recent years?"
That's a pretty remarkable statement, since it comes from a nation that has tried to impose Net censorship more rigorously than most. It's also important, because it underlines why Western countries that keep flirting with the idea of introducing Net filtering are simply wasting their time. Rouhani has some other points that Western leaders would do well to remember:
He added: "Filtering has not even stopped people from accessing unethical [a reference to pornographic] websites. Widespread online filtering will only increase distrust between people and the state."
"Injustice is an injustice...it's a double standard to call an injustice in an unfriendly country as an injustice but to label the same thing in a friendly country as not...human rights is same in any place around the world."
It's early days yet, and it remains to be seen whether the new President will be able to push through reforms in the face of conservative resistance in Iran. But it certainly looks like we might be seeing some interesting stories coming out of Iran soon, even if they are not so amusing as those Techdirt has carried in the past.
by Rob Hager
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 11:33am
from the constitutional-analysis dept
Edward Snowden is not a constitutional lawyer. But his public statement explaining his decision to blow the whistle on what he and Congress both know to be only the "tip of the iceberg" of state snooping secrets expresses a belief in the meaning of the Constitution: in a democracy, the people – not his defense contractor employers or the government that hires them - should ultimately determine whether mass surveillance interfering with everyone's privacy is reasonable.
Some have tried to minimize the import of the snooping exposed by Snowden on the grounds that the government is just storing the information it gathers, and has not yet searched it. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." Seizure – the taking of private information – is what the government has now been forced to admit in its decision to prosecute Snowden for telling the truth about their secret seizures. Whether or not the state ever chooses to "search" the seized information, the universal, non-consensual seizure itself of what used to be called "pen register" data grossly invades individual privacy and vastly empowers government, all in violation of the Constitution if "unreasonable."
The Supreme Court reads the Fourth Amendment's "unreasonable" test to mean not "objectively reasonable," United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922 (1984). This would mean "reasonable" as viewed by ordinary citizens - like Snowden. The Fourth Amendment is a unique exception to the Constitution's general choice of representative democracy ("a Republican Form of Government," Art. IV, §4) over direct democracy. The term "reasonable" appears nowhere in the Constitution except in the Fourth Amendment, although it is a concept well-known to law. For example, legal negligence is a breach of what a jury determines a "reasonable man" would do in the same circumstances. A similar standard has been imported into Fourth Amendment determinations. The Supreme Court long ago said that "probable cause for a search exists when the facts and circumstances within the police officer's knowledge provide a reasonably trustworthy basis for a man of reasonable caution to believe that a criminal offense has been committed or is about to take place." Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925). So what the public deems reasonable is what the Constitution means by reasonable. Though public opinion is always relevant to interpretations of the Constitution, this is the only context where the Constitution directly assigns to the people the power to determine what the Constitution means.
By definition, the people cannot deem to be "reasonable" what they do not know about. Snowden uniquely did know. So like a digital era Paul Revere he decided to share his knowledge with his fellow citizens to test his hypothesis that they would not consider dragnet surveillance of their private electronic communications any more reasonable than he did, and like him, as citizens, they might choose to act upon that knowledge.
A strong case can be made that Snowden is right. Hence there is no need for him, or his supporters, to concede that he has broken any law. According to the Supreme Court, "it remains a cardinal principle that searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment -- subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991) (quoting Katz v. U.S.)
The scope and duration of the seizures revealed by Snowden make them inherently non-judicial in nature, as discussed below. Any exception to the Fourth Amendment's "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects" in the absence of showing individualized probable cause – or even reasonable suspicion – that a crime is being or will imminently be committed places it well outside the judicial process. This imposes a heavy burden on the state to prove that its search was otherwise “reasonable,” and not a breach of the Fourth Amendment's “bulwark against police practices that prevail in totalitarian regimes.” (id. Stevens, J. dissenting).
According to the Snowden revelations the Obama administration has violated this rule. A valid warrant could not have been issued under this rule when no reasonable person could possibly believe, no matter how much irrational fear the state and its propagandists are able to drum up, that universal crime by the general public, or by Verizon subscribers in particular, has been committed or is about to take place.
The state's burden of proving reasonableness is more difficult to carry in that the Constitution was designed to prohibit in every conceivable way known to its framers just the kind of authoritarian intrusion by central government on autonomous self-governing citizens that the Bush and Obama administrations' power-grabbing, privacy-invading nationwide snooping on innocent citizens represents. At least three constitutional protections against tyranny in addition to the Fourth Amendment reasonableness requirement should also invalidate such encroachments.
In his Federalist #47, James Madison explained the separation of powers principle: “The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands ... may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The dual sovereignty of the federal system was intended to further divide those separated powers between what is truly of national concern and what is of only local concern. "By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. "Bond v. United States,131 S. Ct. 2355, 2365 (2011) (Kennedy, J., for unanimous Court ).
The question as to separation of powers is: which branch of the state, if any, can be trusted to accurately discern and express the judgment of the people as to the Fourth Amendment reasonableness of a permanent and universal regime of search and seizure of private communications? Since the subject restrained by the Fourth Amendment is the state acting in its executive capacity, the contours of the restraint on executive powers cannot be left to the subjective determination of the executive branch itself. Allowing the executive branch to decide the reasonableness of its own actions would defeat the purpose of the Fourth Amendment. Hence the views of Obama, his prosecutors, military, and spies are all irrelevant to this determination. They stand accused of violating the rule of reasonableness which, not them, but the people must decide.
The judicial power under Article III of the Constitution extends only to the application of law in individual cases. Like stories, cases have a beginning, a middle and an end. The state does not have the power to initiate and courts do not have the power to hear a never-ending case against the whole population of the United States, or even against the subset of all the customers of Verizon. Only a police state with its secret tribunals takes such an adversarial posture against its own people. Where the government diffusely suspects and secretly snoops on the whole people, in a democracy, it is the government itself that proves itself illegitimate, unrepresentative, unreasonable, and in violation of its oath to support the Constitution.
The power to make rules that affect everyone into the indefinite future is inherently a legislative and not a judicial power. An unelected “court” that violates the separation of powers by exercising legislative powers in order to make new rules empowering the executive in secret collaboration between the two separate branches is the very definition of tyranny, in Madison's terms. Having a judge authorize an act does not turn that authorization into a “judicial process” as required by Katz. No judge or magistrate, let alone one judge of a multi-judge tribunal, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly acting in secret even from her own secret FISA court, can exercise Article III judicial authority, let alone collaborate with Article II executive power, to decree a universal and unending search or seizure of private communications. Any such unlimited “search and seizure” of persons who are not even suspects takes place inherently “outside the judicial process” of cases. As stated in Acevedo and Katz quoted above, it is therefore presumed “per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
A legislature authentically representative of the people might determine that such a generalized search is a reasonable and necessary exception to this per se rule under some “specifically established and well-delineated” circumstance “that society is prepared to recognize as 'reasonable,'" Katz (Harlan, J, at 361). That has obviously not been done. Few in Congress were even aware of the scope of the snooping being conducted by the Obama administration and its strained interpretations of law. Nor were they aware of the advisory opinions from a nominal court in fact acting as a secret unelected legislature acting in secret complicity with the executive branch to circumvent constitutional norms and usurp its legislative power.
Legislators were in any event proscribed from sharing with their constituents any knowledge they did acquire. Hence they could not represent any views of their constituents about the reasonability of secret spying which their constituents did not even know about.
With respect to federalism, the general police power to define and enforce criminal law resides with the states, not the federal government. Most of what the federal government now targets as part of its domestic “war on terrorism,” which it invokes to justify universal snooping, in fact constitutes the local common law crimes traditionally described as “riot” or “mayhem.” The federal government has no generalized power to enforce state criminal law or make its own. There is no general power given the federal government in the Constitution to “fight terror,” which is a tactic. The government therefore has an initial burden to prove that its invasion of the privacy of every target of its dragnet surveillance program was “necessary and proper” to enforce some specific federal power that is enumerated in the Constitution.
This proof has been alleged but, if it exists at all, it remains hidden under a blanket assertion of state secrecy. What the people can see before their own eyes is the most expensive security state in the history of the world incompetent to prevent, except for those attempts resulting primarily from the state's own entrapments, several atrocious domestic crimes having varying degrees of international provenance. If spying actually did prevent other attempted crimes, as alleged, then where are the attempt indictments and prosecutions to prove it?
Since the “war” against terrorism is not a war in any traditional meaning of the term, but rather law enforcement by military means, and the NSA is a military spy agency, the Third Amendment command that, “No solider shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house” may be dusted off for application in the information age to this extreme case of state intrusion into private homes.
This is a time of peace in North America both because Congress has not declared war in any traditional notion of the term, and because the framer's original concept of war did not include overseas imperial adventures. The Third Amendment bespeaks war within the United States.
Electronic communications capacity has become an inherent feature of any modern dwelling house in the United States. Yet every electronic communication originated and sent from private homes is being seized by the military. Such permanent residence by Big Brother military spies within one's private stream of communications could be seen as an updated form of unconstitutional “quartering,” the same kind of abuse of power by the military against citizens that the founders detested and prohibited, except in time of war
Aside from these constitutional restrictions on Congress from authorizing a universal spying program, and Congress's actual failure to assess and represent general public views about the reasonableness of mass spying, there is another factor that precludes Congress as it functions in the era of money in politics from representing the objective public view of Fourth Amendment reasonableness.
What makes a modern Paul Revere like Edward Snowden necessary is that even Congress itself cannot be trusted to represent the will of the people, in these corrupt times, on virtually any subject on which money speaks. Polls consistently show confidence in Congress declining to around 10%, while about 80% of voters consider the government to be illegitimate in terms of the Declaration, i.e., lacking the “consent of the governed.” Of likely voters, 69% think Congress will “break the rules” for their financial contributors. Other polls express the country's universal understanding (95%) that big money invests in politics for the large financial returns it earns by controlling government.
Such polls indicate a widespread understanding that Congress does not represent the people in any real sense. Its members and leadership are widely perceived as instead beholden to money. No politician wins office without some compromise of democratic legitimacy by dependence on plutocrats and special interest money, and certainly not a governing majority and its leadership without a lot of such money. Thus enactment of a law by Congress purporting to determine what the people think is reasonable is not necessarily a valid constitutional law that mirrors objective reasonableness.
Even aside from the lucrative government surveillance contracts that special interest money secures from Congress to subsidize “America’s last growth industry,” the plutocrats who buy enough politicians to dictate policy feel more secure when the people are stripped of their liberties. Without civil liberties, the people of the United States cannot sustain a democracy dependent upon that “consent of the governed” engraved on its foundation stone when laid in 1776. Without civil liberty, money can continue to rule by purchasing influence from its elected peddlers. In this corrupted system what the overwhelming majority of people may consider reasonable is now irrelevant to members of Congress, whether the subject is establishing effective weapon background checks or anything else opposed by the plutocrat class who pays them. See Martin Gilens, Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America (2012). Congress can thus not reliably represent the public's view of Fourth Amendment reasonableness, even if it had tried.
What do the American people consider reasonable concerning mass surveillance? A Washington Post poll (question #8) taken after the Boston Marathon bombing suggests that most Americans with an opinion would worry that government surveillance in the name of fighting terrorism would be unreasonable (i.e. “go too far”):
“Which worries you more: that the government (will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights), or that it (will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism)?
Will not go far enough: 41%
Will go too far: 48%
Neither (vol.): 5%
No opinion: 4%
A Pew poll taken after the Snowden revelations confirmed that a similar majority finds mass surveillance unreasonable. They answered “no” by 52-45% to the straightforward question: “Should the gov't be able to monitor everyone's email to prevent possible terrorism?” On the question of whether Snowden's NSA leak “serves the public interest” a majority with an opinion thinks it did, by 49-44%. If they “knew government had collected their data,” 63% said they “would feel their personal privacy was violated.” Of those respondents who agree with the Tea Party, 65% “Disapprove Gov't collection of telephone and internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts.”
A TIME poll has 54% thinking Snowden did a “good thing,” in response to a neutrally phrased question: “Do you feel that the person who leaked the information about this secret program did a good thing in informing the American public or a bad thing?
A Washington Post/ABC Poll asked: “The NSA surveillance program was classified as secret, and was made public by a former government contractor named Edward Snowden. Do you support or oppose Snowden being charged with a crime for disclosing the NSA surveillance program?”
A majority having an opinion opposed prosecution 48-43%, with independents opposing even more. An overwhelming majority of 65% supported “having the U.S. Congress hold public hearings on the NSA surveillance program,” suggesting the public dismisses the claimed need for secrecy as being more important than their own privacy interests.
When such a majority, or even a substantial minority, opposes government snooping in everyone's electronic communications, that should be a conclusive indication as to whether such a search and seizure is generally viewed as unreasonable. If reasonable people can differ on the question, then such a search and seizure cannot be held to be reasonable. “Reasonable” is what any reasonable person would accept. As one scholar recently observed, “the actual course that Internet surveillance law will take remains extremely difficult to predict.” That is because such a public consensus of reasonableness has not been reliably and formally determined and expressed. It is important for the public to step in now to resolve this uncertainty by formulating and expressing informed views on reasonableness of dragnet surveillance. The “judicial” appraisal of reasonableness that has taken place outside of public view is only a single data-point for the public to consider in reaching its own independent assessment of reasonableness.
Those who would rely upon Smith v. Maryland (1979) for a rule that pen registers are inherently exempt from the Fourth Amendment, due to the court-determined lack of public “expectation” of privacy with regard to dialed telephone numbers, ignore the Court's important proviso in that case that swallows any such firm rule based primarily on word-play. The five-judge majority held that such attributed “expectations” would not govern, and “a normative inquiry would be proper … [f]or example, if the Government were suddenly to announce on nationwide television that all homes henceforth would be subject to warrantless entry,” 442 U.S. 740-741, n. 5, which has essentially just happened, for all private digital communications purposes.
In other words, it is not what the public cynically “expects” from a tyrannical and intrusive government that secretly evades its constitutional obligations, but what the public “normatively” considers reasonable which must govern application of the Fourth Amendment. The people are thus entitled to “expect” what they think is reasonable conduct from their government even if such conduct is not in fact forthcoming from a government demonstrably not dependent upon their opinion, and the public knows it. Otherwise, as Justice Marshall wrote, reliance on public “expectations” in the sense of factual predictions of government behavior, “would allow the government to define the scope of Fourth Amendment protections.”
Three Smith dissenters, Marshall and Brennan, expressly, and Stewart, implicitly, thought the “normative” exception should have governed the Smith case itself. Smith was a case where the pen register targeted the phone of a specific suspect of a specific crime against a known victim involving use of the telephone, the evidence of which crime was strong enough that the suspect was ultimately convicted. The Court's rationale was that Smith reasonably expected the telephone company to know the number he called, which knowledge – once shared with the police - provided evidence of his guilt.
Smith provides no support for the idea that the public would either expect or consider “normatively” reasonable the indiscriminate maintenance of pen registers for all the electronic communications of persons, the overwhelming portion of whom were not remotely suspected, let alone probably guilty, of any specific crime either involving or not involving such communications.
Justice Marshall also cogently attacked the word-play foundations of Smith by pointing out that because persons may release private information to a third party for one purpose “it does not follow that they expect this information to be made available to the public in general or the government in particular. Privacy is not a discrete commodity, possessed absolutely or not at all.“ Since the false dichotomy of expectations used by the majority is a logical fallacy and propaganda technique, the public would likely find far more reasonable the relativist view of privacy expressed by Justice Marshall that “[t]hose who disclose certain facts to a bank or phone company for a limited business purpose need not assume that this information will be released to other persons for other purposes” without a warrant.
Whether the contrary holding by the Smith majority was unreasonable is a question for the public to decide, and courts to merely discern, not dictate. For a Fourth Amendment determination of what is “unreasonable” the Supreme Court does not have the power to decree, but only mirror and reflect, the public's objective sense of reasonableness of government intrusions on their individual privacy.
The standard remedy against the state for making an unreasonable search or seizure is a damages claim against the officials involved where a jury would determine reasonableness. At the time of the Constitution this was the practice for protection of citizens from state intrusion. “An officer who searched or seized without a warrant did so at his own risk; he would be liable for trespass, including exemplary [i.e., punitive] damages, unless the jury found that his action was "reasonable.” … [T]he Framers [of the Fourth Amendment] endeavored to preserve the jury's role in regulating searches and seizures.” 500 U.S. 581-2 (Scalia. J., concurring).
A jury, properly selected and informed, can be fairly representative of, and a legitimate disinterested proxy for, informed public opinion. A civil jury is thereby institutionally capable of reflecting what society at large considers reasonable. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 48, requires a unanimous verdict of at least six jurors. Thus a fairly small minority of jurors representing a similar minority of the public can force either a compromise verdict by which alleged snooping is found unreasonable, or at least a mistrial if other jurors refuse to negotiate.
The problem with the civil justice solution contemplated by the Constitution's Seventh Amendment however is that courts have invented official immunities to protect government officials from juries. E.g. Safford Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009). This tends to remove the question of Fourth Amendment reasonableness from the jury where the Constitution originally placed it, and delegate that decision right back to those very officials who cannot be trusted to guard the chicken-coop, and to the judges who invent defenses subversive of the Constitution in order to exempt those officials from their constitutional responsibility. Even aside from judge-made official immunities, new judge-made “standing to sue” rules prevent victims of unconstitutional secret surveillance from seeking any remedy in court without prior individualized evidence. E.g. ACLU v. NSA. Judge-made state-secret and sovereign immunity doctrines, in catch-22 fashion, block plaintiffs from getting that evidence.
The Justices on the Supreme Court appointed through an increasingly corrupt and unrepresentative political process (three justices of the Smith majority were Nixon appointees) cannot be trusted to reflect the public's objective view of what may be a reasonable sacrifice of privacy in exchange for achieving some proportionate benefit toward achieving legitimate law enforcement goals. As observed by one of the last great Supreme Court Justices, appointed just prior to the institutionalization of Nixonian corruption, in Fourth Amendment cases the “Court has become a loyal foot soldier in the Executive's fight against crime.” (Stevens, J.). The government's proportionality analysis between loss of liberty and security is difficult to take seriously when, as one comedian observes, falling furniture accidents cause more harm than the terrorism offered to justify its new erosion of liberties.
If any branch of the state were conceded the formal power to decide Fourth Amendment reasonableness in the current environment of the independence from the will of the people by all three separate branches of the state, and their corrupt dependence on the will of money, it would inevitably use that power to cancel the people's civil liberties, as it has already done in secret. The remaining public forum where the public may yet formulate and express its judgment about the reasonableness of mass surveillance purporting to target terror is a criminal jury trial.
Bradley Manning was denied his constitutional right to such a trial because of the paradoxical notion that the US Military, which is uniformly sworn “to support this Constitution” as required by Article VI (cl. 3) thereof, can operate as a Constitution-free zone in its treatment of soldiers like Manning under the false pretense that their actual sworn duty is to do anything the military determines necessary or proper for promoting “security” against shadowy “enemies.”
The Supreme Court has held that “the constitutional grant of power to Congress to regulate the armed forces … itself does not empower Congress to deprive people of trials under Bill of Rights safeguards, and we are not willing to hold that power to circumvent those safeguards should be inferred through the Necessary and Proper Clause.” So far this broad principle has been applied only to honorably discharged soldiers, Toth v Quarles, 350 U.S. 11, 21-22 (1955), as well as, fortunately for Snowden, any civilian, even if tried abroad, Kinsella v. U.S. ex rel. Singleton, 361 U.S. 234 (1960), including the military's own civilian employees, like Snowden. Grisham v. Hagan, 361 U.S. 278 (1960); McElroy v. Guagliardo, 361 U.S. 281 (1960).
It remains for a soldier like Manning to expose the military's betrayal of its universal oath to support the Constitution by winning application of the Bill of Rights to at least those cases, like his, involving other than uniquely military crimes like desertion, see Dynes v. Hoover, 61 U.S. 20 How. 65 (1857), or cases not driven by the exigencies of the actual battlefield. The battlefield exception supposedly justifies the betrayal, but in fact excuses only skipping the Fifth Amendment indictment of a soldier who is “in actual service in time of War or public danger” not a Sixth Amendment trial.
Snowden, if he chooses to return to the United States to face trial or is forced to do so – notwithstanding that he has a compelling claim to political refugee status– will present a difficult target for the money-stream media to demonize, although they are trying. Unlike the case of Manning, the government must provide Snowden a public trial fully compliant with the Bill of Rights. On the evidence of his well-articulated public statements, Snowden would seem to have the makings of a good witness and, on a level playing field, a capable match for tyrants, both in and outside the courtroom.
In any Sixth Amendment criminal trial of Snowden, a profoundly important – even defining - issue will be weighed in the balance. If Snowden did catch the state massively violating its Fourth Amendment obligations in the view of even a significant minority of the public, then the interests in maintaining the secrecy of those police-state surveillance methods cannot constitutionally receive any legal support whatsoever from a justice system operating under the Constitution.
A number even smaller than the majority that polls show generally favor Snowden would be sufficient to predictably prevent a representative jury of 12 peers from unanimously finding the state's search to be reasonable. F.R.Crim.P., R. 23, 31(d).
Obama's aspiring police-state's whole project of classifying its violations of the Constitution should then fall. Keeping his violations of the Constitution secret might be constitutionally “necessary” to carry out Obama's goals, but it is not “proper” if the surveillance state goals themselves are unreasonable. If the underlying snooping is unreasonable, the secrecy of the snooping, and the effort to punish one blowing the whistle on this secret unconstitutional project would all be a profoundly illegal abuse of power.
Snowden has a different argument that his revelation to countries who are not enemies of the United States about US hacking is also not punishable. State-sponsored hacking is increasingly seen as an act of aggression inconsistent with international law, a principle accepted by the U.S. which has also made domestic hacking a serious crime. The same rule that the state cannot enforce any law solely to keep secret and abet its own illegal conduct would apply to these revelations as well. The state must obey the law, not operate like organized crime enforcers eliminating witnesses to their crimes.
A criminal jury's independence in handling this question of reasonableness in Snowden's case would seem definitive of whether the US is a police state or still possesses sufficient civil liberties to peacefully reclaim its democracy. Surely every citizen who has information about a crime is obliged to provide that information in accordance with legal processes that comply with the Constitution. But neither pervasive government secrecy nor enduring mass surveillance is consistent with the democracy established by the U.S. Constitution. In any Snowden trial the preservation of the original constitutional protection against creation of a police state will require that a fairly impaneled and informed jury decide this question of reasonableness without interference from the state apparatus of secret courts and secret laws that belie any notion of due process.
Since the US justice system cannot be trusted, as a matter of course, to provide constitutional due process, Snowden would need to negotiate the rules of the game before consenting to face a U.S. trial. He has some strong cards to play in such negotiations, if he can stay alive. If he plays those cards 1) to draw a judge not blackmailed by or otherwise secretly dependent upon the national security state, 2) to get a fair jury impaneled, and then 3) to fairly place before that jury the question whether the government's snooping was unreasonable, he need not remain a fugitive from US injustice.
Such a trial would constitute a fair test, and a useful one, of whether Snowden was guilty of anything other than defending the Constitution in the noble spirit of '76, whether Obama and his military is guilty of impeachable wholesale violation of the Constitution, and whether the US has retained sufficient liberty that it can still be counted among the world's democracies, a status that Europe is beginning to doubt. Although if ignorant politicians and propagandists in and outside of government continue to charge Snowden with espionage, under the bizarre notion that his revelations to the US public of its government's secret violations of the Constitution amounts to intentional “adhering to [the US's] Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort,” he may eventually not be able to obtain a fair trial in the US at all, due to jury panel bias.
Given the highly politicized US judiciary, Snowden is wisely playing for time and a stronger hand by first seeking justice in a political asylum process or extradition hearing, whether it would have taken place in Hong Kong or now elsewhere. Hong Kong was a good initial choice. British standards of justice there have not been entirely eradicated under its current Chinese rulers and, unlike the US, the Chinese government had no apparent axe of its own to grind in the Snowden affair.
By international standards, the US and its judiciary rank below Hong Kong on a 2012-13 rule of law index. While American propagandists routinely imply that the US system is a paragon against which all others must be measured, in fact, objectively, Hong Kong ranks #8 and #9 respectively on absence of corruption and quality of its criminal justice system, well ahead of the US's #18 and #26 rankings. The World Economic Forum – which certainly suffers no anti-US or general anti-plutocrat biases -- ranks Hong Kong #12 in its 2012-13 index on judicial independence. That is substantially higher than the appallingly low US ranking of #38 on the same index, which is proportionately not that far ahead of China's #66 ranking. If due process was his priority, Snowden was clearly no fool in choosing sanctuary in Hong Kong, though he is aware of the coercive and corrupting power that the US can and does bring to bear on virtually any country. Though China is better situated than most to resist such pressure, it appears that even China preferred not to pay the cost. Or perhaps his security could not guaranteed as effectively in Hong Kong as in Moscow, for the time being.
The paradox to be resolved is that the US justice system cannot be trusted to rein in a secrecy-obsessed and vengeful government exposed in illegal conduct as necessary to permit a fair trial to go forward under constitutional protections; but at the same time a legal process is the only means to resolve the question about the constitutionality of the government's conduct and Snowden's innocence.
As Snowden forum-shops and otherwise jousts with the US government within an international legal context, he might consider making an offer to voluntarily participate in his trial, prior to any extradition, from outside the country by telecommunication with the courtroom. Such practices for taking evidence are allowed by law and are not uncommon. Rule 43 of The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides: “For good cause in compelling circumstances and with appropriate safeguards, the court may permit testimony in open court by contemporaneous transmission from a different location.” Cf. F.R.Crim.P 26. Snowden's legitimate fear of returning to the US would seem good cause and his now widely followed case a compelling circumstance to use electronic means for cutting through the dilemma and allowing legal proceedings in his case to move toward some conclusion without Snowden having to trust a defective U.S. justice process to preserve his rights.
Such a digital age trial would no doubt attract a large audience, serving the ultimate purpose of educating, along with the jury, the American people – and even the world – about one of the most fundamental democratic rights.
Such an offer by Snowden could only strengthen the hand of any country who takes what his experience in China has apparently shown to be the costly act of resisting an extradition request by the U.S. The asylum country could insist that before it will entertain any extradition request, the U.S, must obtain a conviction of Snowden through such a fair “in absentia” proceeding following constitutional procedures as might be agreed by Snowden – rather than make a mere allegation that can as easily be characterized as political repression. Until then an asylum country would be justified in claiming that what Snowden did was no crime as indicated by the supportive polls indicating that it is the U.S, government, not Snowden, who has acted unreasonably and therefore illegally.
Any trial of Edward Snowden will determine how much of the 1791 Constitution remains in force in one of the great civil liberties contests in American history. The jury – and the American people – would then choose between Obama's Constitution, which insulates the state – and those who buy influence peddled by its politicians – from the consent of the governed by manipulating reality, or Snowden's Constitution which empowers an informed people to protect themselves against tyrannical state intrusions upon their liberty by “uncovering” reality. If Snowden is who he appears to be, his trial could be comparable to the celebrated John Peter Zenger Trial in colonial times. Though, as then, the judiciary presides over what amounts to a taxed-without-representation colony of an illegitimate ruling class which it serves, a fairly selected and instructed jury, supported by the people, watched by the world, could nonetheless – by standing in solidarity against that class – win a resounding victory for liberty.
Rob Hager writes on public corruption issues and is a public interest litigator who wrote and filed briefs in the Supreme Court's 2012 Montana states rights sequel to Citizens United, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 10:52am
from the and-honestly,-no-one-truly-'likes'-the-government-except-the-government dept
The release of a report from the Inspector General on the Bureau of Internal Information Programs (BIIP) brings with it the surprising news that the various agencies under its purview spent $630,000 pursuing Facebook "likes" in an attempt to increase their popularity. Normally, I would be setting the keyboard to "Mock Relentlessly," but this isn't so much a case of the government blowing tax dollars on stupid stuff as it is a case of using the wrong tool (bureaucracy) for the job (increasing engagement). That being said, it still means the money was ultimately wasted, but not in the "espresso machine in every cubicle" sort of way. (And there will probably be a little mocking.)
The Bureau of International Information Programs is supposed to be the leading edge for the State Department's public relations front, as John Hudson points out in his article for Foreign Policy.
The IG report stings -- especially because the Bureau of International Information and Programs is supposed to be Foggy Bottom's epicenter of online savvy. The bureau includes groovy-sounding divisions such as the Office of Innovative Engagement, which evangelizes on the "importance of using online engagement to drive offline, person-to-person activities and events." The bureau's stated mission is to be Foggy Bottom's "foreign-facing public diplomacy communications bureau" and supports its "growing social media community that numbers over 22 million followers."An attempt to harness the power of social media through the bureaucratic interworking of 150 agencies is doomed from the start. It makes it very difficult to hone in on a clear strategy and avoid creating a disjointed, inconsistent mess. What makes it impossible is "leadership" that fails to meet even the laxest definition of the word. This is the first thing that greets readers of the report once they scroll past the introductory material, listed as the first item under "Key Judgements."
Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) leadership failed to convey its strategic vision to staff members, despite formalized communications. Leadership created an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion, and uncertainty."Secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty" are certainly hallmarks of government leadership. It's never a good thing, but it's certainly much worse when the intended aim is to present a unified and engaging social media presence.
According to the report, first flagged by the Diplopundit, overlap and coordination issues trouble the various bureau's 150 social media accounts. The report also mentions a "pervasive perception of cronyism" exacerbating its already "serious morale problem."Cronyism is also a hallmark of government leadership, common enough that this perception will likely never go away. And again, 150 social media accounts, steered by dozens of agencies with no clear guidance, is a recipe for public affairs disaster. Added to the stultifying mix of secrecy, suspicion, uncertainty and a "perception" of cronyism is the crippling banality of bureaucracy, something that takes a straightforward job and turns it into a soul-deadening morass where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing, but both have signed off on it -- in triplicate.
There is overlap and a lack of clarity in the functions and responsibilities between the Office of Web Engagement and the Office of Innovative Engagement. Staffing gaps in the latter, coupled with a 15-month vacancy in the director position, have left the office adrift and less able to play its role as the bureau's new technology pioneer.The Inspector General does a marvelous job attempting to convey the relation and primary of two nearly identically named offices, but it's obvious the staff views the two as interchangeable. Logically, it would seem the Office of Web Engagement would cover, well, web engagement. The IG explains the distinction between the two, but it isn't so much an explanation as it is a statement of "This is for This." It also fails to clarify how an understaffed office that has run without a director for 15 months is supposed to handle the very important (to the BIIP, at least) social media functions.
An example of overlap is IIP's 20/100/100 program, which helps 20 embassies at a time raise their social media fan base by 100 percent in 100 days. At the conclusion of an embassy's participation in the program, its social media staff members frequently turn to the Office of Web Engagement rather than the Office of Innovative Engagement for advice. As the number of participating embassies rises with each round of the program, the advising function is shifting to the Office of Web Engagement, drawing staff members away from their primary duties.
The Office of Innovative Engagement is the proper place for this function for two reasons. First, its mandate is to keep up with the latest changes in social media rules and approaches. Second, it runs the Social Media Hub, the Department's primary repository of this information.In summation, the Inspector General recommends "clarifying the roles, scope and responsibilities" of these two separate, but largely similar offices. It would seem a name change would go a long way towards clearing things up, or better yet, combining the two since everyone's used to going to the wrong place anyway. The staffing issue would be somewhat mitigated and there would actually be someone filling the director position.
As is to be expected from the preceding info, the Department's social media "strategy" seems to be the result of staffers being asked to hit targets (see the 20/100/100 program above) but given very little guidance on how to achieve these goals.
With the Department's use of social media comes strategic questions of the role, purpose, and limitations of the medium. A consensus is emerging that developing numbers of Facebook followers and Twitter fans may not lead automatically to target audience engagement...The actual worth of a "Like" or a Twitter follower is still up for discussion, but you can go a long way towards negating the value of both by placing numbers ahead of engagement.
The bureau spent about $630,000 on the two campaigns and succeeded in increasing the fans of the English Facebook pages from about 100,000 to more than 2 million for each page. Advertising also helped increase interest in the foreign language pages; by March 2013, they ranged from 68,000 to more than 450,000 fans.Much of this expense came in the form of paid post promotion, something Facebook makes almost mandatory if you're going to reach the maximum number of "fans." Then again, paying to push it to everyone's feed isn't a guarantee that it will be seen, much less engaged with. Paying for eyeballs also carries with it a faint hint of gaming the system, something both largely ineffective and somewhat morally suspect.
Many in the bureau criticize the advertising campaigns as "buying fans" who may have once clicked on an ad or "liked" a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further...The Inspector notes that engagement is "a means, not an end." The true purpose of the State Departments social media presence is to "accomplish specific PD (Public Diplomacy) goals." This may be true, but if these offices are going to utilize social media, it's rather hard to achieve the "ends" without putting more thought and care into the "means." (Or, at the very least, some sort of unified front.)
IIP's four global thematic English-language Facebook pages had garnered more than 2.5 million fans each by mid-March 2013; the number actually engaging with each page was considerably smaller, with just over 2 percent "liking," sharing, or commenting on any item within the previous week. Engagement on each posting varied, and most of that interaction was in the form of "likes." Many postings had fewer than 100 comments or shares...
Government entities face a much more uphill battle for hearts and minds than commercial entities, considering there's usually no end product to admire and no day-to-day presence in their lives. These entities also tend to view social media as a top-down structure from which they can dump press releases and photo ops onto the masses. This is not unlike government in general which, with the notable exception of campaign season, tends to operate in the same fashion.
If these departments are unwilling to engage on a level that actually feels like engagement to the public, chances are achieving "public diplomacy" goals via social media will be next to impossible. "Managing" this with a bureaucractic layers of redundancy only makes things worse. "Social media" isn't "regular media." It has little interest in regurgitating press releases and waiting around until government officials decide it's convenient to "address the media." The "macro" effort might benefit from committees and 68-point "Recommendations" directive, but the "micro" moves too quickly for that.
What the Inspector General found concerning the State Department and its use of social media is exactly what anyone should have expected to be discovered. The government is bureaucratic, something that meshes not at all with social media. Paying for "Likes" is the least of the State Department's social media problems. The largest problem is that what's detailed in this report is the natural state of many government entities and it's unlikely to be solved by rearranging the desks and issuing "clarifying" memos.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 10:01am
from the oh,-so-it's-like-a-CD,-only-more-expensive dept
The years when the compact disc was the preferred audio format were some of the most profitable years in the recording industry's history. Both vinyl fans and cassette collectors purchased albums they already owned in the new format. Why? Convenience. It replaced vinyl's bulkiness with something that could be carried around comfortably by the hundreds, if needed. It also solved the cassette's biggest issue, saving music fans from the tedium of manually rolling the tape to a favorite track via the inexact science of button mashing.
The CD was simply a more convenient format and claimed to be damn near indestructible if properly cared for. (Sadly, the jewel box was rarely up to the task of being the CD's protector, as the all-important CD-holding center pins/braces usually disintegrated upon purchase.)
Clearly, the recording industry would prefer a return to that era, as it has made several attempts to woo buyers back to its shiny discs, offering a variety of audio improvements. The latest advancement in plastic disc technology comes via the Universal
Megalith Music Group.
Universal Music Group recently did a low key introduction of a new hi-res audio format called High Fidelity Pure Audio. The launch was kicked off at the Dolby headquarters in London on June 20th and the format became available in France first, which seemed like a great place to dip the product’s toe in the water without having picky audio journalists noticing.If you haven't felt your heart skip a beat or a surge of mild interest, don't bother checking your pulse. You're very much alive, in contrast to the offering before you. Yet another attempt to reinstate a long-gone profit margin which will be greeted with the sort of public indifference that can scarcely be bothered to expend energy on a shrug.
So what exactly is this stealth format? High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) is basically a Blu-ray disc that delivers 96kHz/24 bit audio recordings in three lossless formats: uncompressed PCM, DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Most discs include the option to download MP3 and lossless FLAC versions of the songs as well. The discs will also play on any Blu-ray player or PS3 device.
If this were a novel experiment, it might be greeted with enthusiasm from a few high-end stereo afficionados and loads of ridicule from everyone else. But it's all been done before and even those willing to throw lots of money at an audio system have bought a ticket for this ride too many times before.
Didn’t we just play this game about 10 years ago with the DVD Audio disc and SACD, formats that both failed miserably? While it’s laudable that Universal is even considering bringing a higher fidelity product to the marketplace, haven’t they learned anything from history?UMG has not. Or if it has, this new format isn't the based on anything it's learned. People may decry the quality of compressed audio, but nothing else comes close to it for portability and convenience, Bobby Owsinski points out.
[I]mprovements in fidelity happened along the way in most formats, but almost as a byproduct of the technology. Nowhere in this stream did the majority of consumers choose to replace a format simply because it sounded better.UMG may think there's an underserved niche market that needs to be filled, but any physical music format at this point is really a niche. I don't think it's actively trying to fill a void as much as it's trying to see how many people are willing to purchase something again in a shiny, new format. That's really not how "repeat business" is supposed to work.
I have to imagine the costs of this effort are going to outweigh the profits, which in an industry that has spent 15 years hollering about how uncomfortable its deathbed is, makes absolutely no sense at all.
[Personal note: visiting the Google-translated High Fidelity Audio Disc site, I was greeted with the following message, possibly indicating I may not be the target audience for this product.]
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 9:00am
Reveal Illegal Surveillance? Run For Your Life; Conduct Illegal Surveillance & Lie About It? No Biggie
from the our-priorities-are-really-screwed-up dept
In a sane world, the person who exposed an illegal surveillance program would be celebrated and congratulated, while the guy who ran the program and lied to Congress about it would be the one worried about his future. Instead, Snowden is being hunted, while no one seems even remotely concerned that Clapper has admitted to not just perjuring himself, but also running a highly questionable surveillance program that to this day is continuing to collect data on millions of Americans and their communications. Something is really screwed up with our priorities.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 7:53am
Clueless State AGs Attack Google Over YouTube Videos Instead Of Pursuing The Criminals Who Made Them
from the seriously,-guys? dept
After viewing a series of videos promoting dangerous activities such as the sale of illegal drugs, fraudulent passports and sex trafficking on YouTube, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked YouTube's parent company, Google, to provide more information on how much the company has profited from videos.Right. I'm wondering when Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt are going to demand that Ford explain why bank robbers use their cars as escape vehicles, or when Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt are going to demand that AT&T explain why extortionists have used their phone services.
Let's go through this nonsense step by step, because it's really beyond the pale. First off, it takes a special kind of cluelessness for two attorneys general, who are supposed to help their states enforce the law, to be shown videos that disclose crimes being committed and rather than go after those committing the crimes, instead decide to blame the tool that revealed the crimes to them. This is beyond blaming the messenger. This is blaming the manufacturer of a video camera because it was used to tape a crime which the AGs failed to stop. It's beyond a head in the sand approach. It's putting your head in the sand and then blaming the sky for shining light on your ass.
Second, there's an important bit of federal law called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides pretty clear safe harbors for service providers such that that they are not liable for actions committed by their users. In other words, there's no legal issue here for the AGs to grandstand about, even as they're hoping to get a personal exception to Section 230 that just applies to state AGs. Threatening companies over things for which they are not legally liable is extreme bullying by politicians who have way too much power.
Third, if the videos themselves are illegal, then there is a clear process by which those who found the videos can seek to get them taken off the site. If the videos are not illegal, as seems likely to be the case, then they're protected by the First Amendment, and these attacks from government officials seeking to stifle free speech really seem to raise serious questions about the competence of these Attorneys General to enforce the law in their own states, when they appear to be somewhat unfamiliar with both Constitutional basics and the federal laws that bind them.
Fourth, as it stands more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. If there's some magic way that these politicians think that each and every one of those videos can be pre-vetted to make sure nothing that they don't like gets uploaded, they don't understand basic math. The alternative, of course, is not to have the ability to have any user-generated content exist online at all. In other words, the "solution" is to kill what makes the internet and things like YouTube useful. Way to go, Jon Bruning and Scott Pruitt. I'm sure your constituents will be thrilled to know that your big accomplishment was to make sure that you killed YouTube and all of their ability to make and share their own content.
In other words, this is an extremely misguided move by two state politicians who are making themselves look incredibly foolish, because someone spread some moral panic FUD about "drugs and sex on YouTube!" And who's responsible for that? Ah, yes, an astroturfing group out of Washington, DC designed to create moral panics around Google:
Digital Citizens Alliance Executive Director Tom Galvin, who presented a detailed report to the National Association of Attorneys General on YouTube last month, made the following remarks after the letter was released:Okay, well, here's the obvious response: Digital Citizens Alliance Executive Director Tom Galvin has allowed bogus, censorious, anti-innovation screeds to be sent by states' attorneys general. Worse, they have promoted this FUD-filled exercise with PR spam blasts to reporters trying to generate bogus faux-moral panics to promote their own anti-innovation agenda. Hopefully, the public and reporters will be able to get answers that others have failed to get. Namely, why such an obvious bullshit astroturfing group is putting anti-innovation, anti-free speech policies into the mouths of states attorneys general, and doing so in a manner that only leads to it being more difficult for law enforcement to track down actual criminals. When the Digital Citizens Alliance finally takes steps to ensure that it stops these bogus moral panics in targeting third parties and driving the actual crimes further underground, the internet will be a safer place.
"Google has allowed thousands of videos to exist on YouTube that offer drugs, prostitution, forged passports, counterfeits and content theft. Worse, they have profited from them by running ads in conjunction with these videos. Hopefully, the attorneys general will be able to get answers others have failed to get. Namely why such an important, otherwise great company is putting profit over the safety of Internet users. When Google finally takes steps to ensure these dangerous videos are gone for good from YouTube, the Internet will be a safer place."
As you can see from the full letter that these guys sent, they're demanding answers to various questions, almost all of which appear to be based on flat-out ignorance of both how the technology of offering a platform for user-generated content works, as well as the automatic nature of internet advertising. Attacking a company by showing your own ignorance of the very basic technology, enjoyed by millions of people, doesn't seem like a particularly wise strategic political move by these attorneys general.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 5:54am
Mayor Bloomberg Opens Own Wallet To Erect Protective Wall Of Money Around His Beloved Stop And Frisk Program
from the this-stack-of-cash-says-your-rights-are-invalid dept
We wrote recently about New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's apoplectic response to the passage of two bills aimed at his beloved stop and frisk program. In addition to claiming the city would fall immediately and be
beset on all sides by the tyranny of evil men swept up in an unprecedented crime wave (which would seem to imply stop and frisk isn't catching that many criminals), he also promised to veto both bills despite both having landed on his desk with veto-proof votes.
The odds are stacked against him and the city council doesn't currently seem to be stocked with a large number of Bloomberg supporters, but the Mayor's apparently not going to let others not take "No" for an answer.
Aides and advisors said the billionaire lame-duck mayor intends to use some of his fortune to influence the outcome of a vote to override his coming veto of measures to install an NYPD inspector general and to modify the controversial stop-and-frisk program.Now, if we didn't participate in a democratic system that is rarely, if ever, abused [brief pause to reinsert still-rolling eyes back in sockets], one could easily mistake Bloomberg's statement to mean he's going to reach into his deep pockets and start handing out bribes. That, of course, would be illegal. Instead, he's going to go the morally acceptable route [pause to tighten eyeroll-resistant goggles] and throw his money into various campaign war chests.
"The bottom line is I make no bones about it, I'm telling you I'm going to support those candidates," said Bloomberg. "Some of these things are life and death issues, like these two horrendous bills in the City Council and they're going to put our police officers at risk and they're going to put the public at risk and I've got an obligation to tell people that."Once again, the criminal apocalypse is nigh and only Bloomberg's constitutionally-unsound stop and frisk program can prevent it. Part of Bloomberg's billions will now be flowing directly to those who share his views -- specifically, that the NYPD is the mayor's personal army, and that any attempt to provide it with oversight or steer it away from violating civil liberties en masse will weaken the force and damage the city.
Even if Bloomberg fails to secure the vetoes before he leaves office, he appears willing to spare no expense stacking the legislative deck in order to see these new laws repealed or gutted. He'll no longer have the title and everything that comes with it, but if he spends his money wisely (or just spends enough of it), he'll still be able to keep at least one hand on the reins.
Texas Trooper Shoves 74-Year-Old Then Arrests Her For Felony Assault When She Hits Him With Her Purse
from the entitled-children-in-grown-ups-clothes dept
On what was presumably a hot, sweltering night in
the nation's Texas' capital, a senator's epic filibuster temporarily derailed an abortion bill. This all went far from smoothly as time stamps were changed post-vote, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (whose pet legislation was being talked over) briefly threatened to have media members arrested for "inciting a riot" and a 74-year-old woman was arrested for assaulting an officer.
According to the Probable Cause Affidavit, the Lt. Governor order that the gallery be cleared and the Troopers were enforcing that order. When they got to Martha Northington and told her to leave, there was a problem.What kind of "problem?" Well, the kind of problem posed by 74-year-old women who just don't move as fast as the trooper thought she should. Here's video of the incident.
According to the arrest affidavit, Northington resisted by grabbing her seat. Unfortunately for the Trooper, the scene was being videotaped. At 0:02 in the video, you can clearly see Northington reach down to pick up her purse and newspaper. Almost immediately after this the Trooper on her right grabs her arm and you hear Northington protest that he’s hurting her. You can see that the black Trooper is not concerned by her picking up the purse, but the white officer has a death grip on her right wrist.The arrest affidavit carries its own narrative, which is at odds with what was captured on video.
She attempted to resist by grabbing the chair, not standing, and pulling back from me. We broke her hold of the chair and got her up and as I escorted her up the gallery steps Trooper Hall released her. I was escorting her by the arm up the steps by myself and she continued to try and pull away from me. At the top of the stairs, she spun and slapped my face with her open hand and told me to let her go. The intentional slap to the face by Northington was offensive and I was currently wearing a State Trooper uniform...At this point i spun her around and proceeded to handcuff her for the assault. While trying to handcuff her she continued to resist by pulling her arms and attempted to twist away from me...Ms. Northington was transported to Travis County SO without further incident...As was already pointed out, Northington was gathering her belongings rather than holding on to her chair. In fact, it looks as if she's voluntarily leaving, right up to the point that the trooper ups his aggression level.
At the 11-second mark, she does hit the trooper in the face, but with her purse (and that from an angle where she didn't have much of a wind-up). But the officer refers to it as an "open hand slap," something that sounds undeniably more threatening (and "offensive") than "At the top of the stairs, the 74-year-old woman hit me with her purse..."
After hustling an obviously dangerous elderly woman out of the building, the trooper attempted to book her on a felony charge.
Northington was apparently originally charged with Assault on a Public Servant, a third degree felony, but the arraigning magistrate reduced the charges to Resisting Arrest and Assault by Contact, Class A and Class C misdemeanors, respectively.Because Contempt of Cop has yet to be codified into our criminal statutes, the trooper allegedly drew a blank at first when filling out his report. But even the final reduced charges are ridiculous, especially the resisting arrest charge. If you're going to charge someone with resisting arrest, it should logically follow that an arrest was already in progress.
OK, even if we give the trooper the benefit of the doubt, if she is resisting arrest, there has to be an underlying charge. What was she being arrested for in the first place?An assault charge should only cover actual threats to officer safety, rather than just be used to add additional charges to the arrest, one for every unapproved bit of contact between the arrestee and the officer. Even if it was technically assault, shouldn't a trained officer be willing and able to "walk off" being hit by a woman's swung purse, especially if the person swinging it is elderly?
Second, any assault on a peace officer is a felony, even if that is just by contact (i.e., an offensive touch)... Here, Northington supposedly slapped the trooper with an open hand. Yet the black trooper does not make a move to help the trooper who was just “assaulted” by Northington.
Apparently not. Once you've overreacted, the only way to save face in the law enforcement world is to push forward, trumping up charges and rewriting the narrative. And if you think that might be problematic, don't worry. The cleanup crew will be right behind you, ready to condemn the public for thinking bad thoughts about law enforcement.
In response to criticism, [DPS spokesperson Katherine] Cesinger wrote in a statement that troopers only took “actions they deemed appropriate” when responding to protesters that night.The lesson is: because law enforcement members perform a dangerous but necessary job, they are never to be questioned or criticized for their tactics, actions or words.
“Our DPS troopers work every day to ensure that all visitors and staff at the Texas Capitol remain safe and that order is maintained,” Cesinger wrote. “It’s unfortunate that some find it is easy to pass judgment on the officers who are risking their lives every day to protect and serve Texas.”
That's very simply a complete load of self-serving crap. The badges these officers wear aren't a shield against criticism or permission slips to perform their jobs however they see fit. There are oaths to uphold, rights to protect and policies to follow, all of which seem to be ignored once someone triggers the very low threshold to unofficial "contempt of cop" charges. The statement from the DPS is profoundly wrongheaded and only serves to widen the gulf between law enforcement and the people they serve.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 3rd 2013 1:37am
Bolivian President's Jet Rerouted On Suspicions Snowden Could Be On Board; Multi-Country Outrage Ensues
from the we-are-all-Bolivians dept
The Snowden saga continues to deliver surprising twists and turns that may well have important geopolitical knock-on effects. The latest involves the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, whose country is rumored to be willing to offer political asylum to Snowden. Here's what happened, as reported by The Guardian:
Bolivia reacted with fury after a plane carrying the country's president home from Russia was diverted to Vienna amid suspicions that it was carrying the surveillance whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
Both Bolivia and Austria deny that Snowden is on board, but no one has been allowed to check. Since being forced to land in Vienna, Morales has now been given permission by France and Portugal to overfly their territory, but not by Spain, which had also refused. The simultaneous revocation of permission to pass over these countries looks rather suspicious. The Bolivian defense minister, Ruben Saavedra, who was on the flight, has no doubts about who is behind it:
France and Portugal were accused of withdrawing permission for the plane, carrying the president, Evo Morales, from energy talks in Moscow, to pass through their airspace.
"This is a hostile act by the United States State Department which has used various European governments."
The Bolivian Vice-President said they had been "kidnapped by imperialism" in Europe.
That framing has now been taken up by other South American governments, who have expressed their outrage at the insult to Bolivia and hence their region. As The Guardian reports in an update on the Bolivian story:
Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner has tweeted that she has been advised that Peruvian president Ollanta Humala will call a meeting of the Union of South American Nations [UNASUR] to discuss ongoing events.
And -- ironically -- Ecuador has re-entered the story after trying to distance itself from Snowden:
Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, has also railed against what he called an "affront to our America," and called on his fellow South American presidents to "take action".
There is clearly a lot of political grandstanding and opportunism here. But there seems no doubt that this latest development will sour relationships between the US and South American nations, at least for a while. Spain and Portugal also come out of this badly, and are likely to lose influence among their former South American colonies. This latest incident shows once again the impact of Snowden's actions, which continue to cause major ripples throughout the entire diplomatic world.
Posting on Twitter, Correa wrote: "Decisive hours for UNASUR! Either we graduated from the colonies, or we claim our independence, sovereignty and dignity. We are all Bolivia!"