Tuesday, February 23. 2010
Spying on L. Merion students sparks probes by FBI, Montco detectives
Philadelphia Daily News
A federal invasion-of-privacy lawsuit may be the least of the Lower Merion School District's problems.So, how did the school spy on students? By turning on the camera on their laptops while they were at home, and without their consent.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday on behalf of Harriton High School student Blake Robbins, claims that an assistant principal reprimanded the 15-year-old for "improper behavior in his home" that was captured by the embedded camera on Robbins' school-issued Apple MacBook.OK, a couple of points here. Apparently the schools lawyers are asleep at the switch, or incompetent, because the school admitted to using the cameras on 42 occasions. Now, the reason they did this is completely irrelevant, because unless the school district involved the police and the police secured warrants, they broke the law and someone is going to prison for a LONG time.
Let me throw some words out here:
OK, with that mix, what can possibly go wrong? Add to this a creepy IT guy who revels in secretly spying on people and you have a new episode of Family Guy.
Somehow, I don't think people will be laughing much in the near future. We are talking about some serious criminal charges like Illegal wiretaps, conspiracy, and criminal invasion of privacy. Should pictures turn up of naked teens, the child porn laws come in, and they are pretty Draconian (and rightly so). Of course, should the school be erasing logs, pictures, and other files relevant to this case, you can add obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Of course, if someone were sitting on any pix of naked teens, I think they'd be happy to cop to an obstruction charge after they destroyed the evidence.
If these charges are born out, many of these people should do hard time. Excuses about "protecting the children" don't cut it when you victimize the children in the process.
Tuesday, January 26. 2010
“We understand these aren’t perfect bio-markers to measure overall health, but they do have the virtues of still being relatively good, easy to measure, and not too expensive to monitor. In the future it is possible that we will change or replace these bio-markers with superior alternative ones, if/when they are available and not too expensive to implement.”
That's the problem with a profit-driven, employer based healthcare system in which people are "rewarded" for being healthier. Along with making something like healthy food less accessible to those who need it most, it makes personal matters -- like your cholesterol level and weight -- you're boss' business. His bottom line trumps your privacy.
Saturday, December 13. 2008
“As to the thugs and less-than-human garbage who hounded him into submission (so they believe), it is only through grassroots efforts such as 'adamsblock' that they can be exposed and neutralized.”
“…next assignment is to have live footage of TL being burnt to the ground. but of course, the scum of TL has to go with it. remember, garbage feeds the fire.”
(From comments on SFGate about a recently removed Tenderloin webcam)
The story of Adamsblock.com here in San Francisco seems simple at first. Adam Jackson set up a couple of cameras from his apartment overlooking Taylor Street in the Tenderloin, a seedy section of downtown San Francisco. Adamsblock.com became popular, got a tremendous number of hits from all over the world, and was embraced by neighborhood groups as a crime-fighting tool. When a graffiti group held up a banner before the webcams advertising their website, Jackson, who felt it was encouraging graffiti, deleted the image.
That was when the threats began.
Unfortunately, Jackson had posted his address, his email and his telephone number. He began getting emailed threats. Pictures of Jackson and his girlfriend were posted on another website. Someone phoned his place of work accusing him of being a pedophile. The bullying became so outrageous that Jackson posted an “apology” in response to threats of people “coming after him” if he didn’t, and took down the website.
According to the SFGate article: “with his apology, Jackson announced something else. The site will continue, but not under his direction. An unnamed party already has a camera up at a different Tenderloin street corner.”
The article is framed as a “little-guy-faces-down-thugs” story, with writer C.W. Nevius offering us the following reassurance at the end:
Jackson said at least three other sites have sprung up independently, and there has been interest in linking all of them together through ourblock.com. It is possible that neighborhoods all over the city will have 24-hour cameras. That was Jackson's idea all along.
This, I’m afraid, does not leave me, as Nevius plainly intended it to, with the urge to leap to my feet and cheer.
I want to make it clear at the outset that I have no use for the kind of Internet bullies who made Adam Jackson’s life hell. That’s why I’ve written so frequently in the past about sites like Free Republic that encourage, and sometimes even abet cyber-bullying. And I am not going to join the chorus of people berating Jackson for posting his personal information. That may have been unwise, but it does not make him and his girlfriend fair game.
In addition I confess that I like webcams. Had I known about Adamsblock before all this happened, I probably would have logged on regularly.
Reading over the comments to this story dredges up a host of issues about privacy, the Internet and surveillance that many of the commentators plainly didn’t intend. Perhaps the most succinct example I can provide is the following comment:
big brother is watching, can be a good thing. spies do it, of all kinds, spouses do it, homeland security does it, and so on. cam away no matter who you are as only those who have something to hide will protest the invasion on a public street.
The comment is signed “tacr.”
It’s possible, I suppose, that there really is someone whose parents either named him or her “tacr” or who has adopted that as a legal name, but I doubt it. “Tacr” is almost certainly a pseudonym.
What’s the matter, tacr? Got something to hide? Ashamed of what you’re posting? Why not stand proudly and publicly behind what you write? After all, only those who have something to hide would object to signing with their real name….right?
We all know why, of course, and it’s not necessarily because tacr is “ashamed” of his or her comments, or is hiding something unsavory. It’s because, as Mr. Jackson himself discovered, posting your real name online can result in harassment, even when you’ve not done or written anything you consider wrong. It can open a door that leads directly to your offline life, a door you might prefer to remain firmly closed.
There are drawbacks to the extensive use of pseudonyms online. The comments I quote at the beginning of this piece are examples, and one reason I have mixed feelings about aliases. Hiding behind a false name makes it easier to post dehumanizing, irresponsible and indefensible garbage, including direct and indirect calls for violence –
– kind of like being on a street without cameras makes it easier to get away with writing graffiti on the sides of buildings, or trolling for hookers, or urinating in public.
If it truly was “Jackson’s idea all along” that 24-hour cameras be posted all over San Francisco” then I’m sorry, I can’t be counted on as a supporter. It’s one thing to have a single, discrete camera posted on one street-corner, offering a little slice-of-San-Francisco-life to the world. The idea of anyone, private citizen or public official, being able to watch me as I wend my way through the city, noting the regular path I take to work, the stores I go into, the friends I visit, the meetings I attend, the newspapers I buy, is another thing entirely.
Yes, yes, I know, this is supposed to “protect” me but frankly, I’d sooner take the chances I’ve taken for most of my life when I’ve walked down streets – some of them quite dangerous – without either Big or Little Brother keeping an eye on me.
Especially when there are commenters like the ones I’ve posted, people who might label me as scum and garbage simply because of where I live.
Sunday, December 7. 2008
"When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house." Raw Story 12/6/2008
I’ve never been a big fan of reality shows, but I think I might get behind this one. A former Texas police officer has started his own reality show, Kopbusters, in which corrupt cops are “stung” on camera. In this case, Kopbusters set up a house with Christmas trees growing under light equipment frequently used by people growing marijuana:
The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster's attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster's secret mobile office nearby.
The Channel 7 news story connected to this article, is by the way, very badly put together in that it omits the information about affidavits that explains why this raid makes the police look bad. A deliberate omission, or journalistic incompetence? Who knows?
Context about why this issue is important can be found in a New York Times article from 2007 about a case where an elderly woman was shot to death by police raiding her house in a botched drug bust. After an arrested drug dealer pointed out her house as a place where they could find a kilogram of cocaine:
Instead of hiring an informant to try to buy drugs at the house, the officers filed for a search warrant, claiming that drugs had been bought there from a man named Sam. Because they falsely claimed that the house was equipped with surveillance equipment, they got a no-knock warrant that allowed them to break down the front door.
It’s going to be very interesting to watch what kind of reaction this new reality show gets.
Saturday, October 4. 2008
According to the AFP, ”new controversial FBI guidelines are about to "go into effect" that are, according to Attorney General Michael Mukasy “designed to better protect the country from terrorist attacks."
For an experienced reader of news, the date on the article, the construction of certain sentences and the repetition of certain words in this short article stand out as red flags. Combine a Saturday dateline with a gassy quote from a government source like “the FBI and Department of justice more broadly have set priorities for and reorganized their activities to prevent further terrorist attacks against the American people.” Mix in some statements from other sources that include most forms of the words “controversial, “concern” or “troubling,” and you know you’ve got something that deserves your attention.
And when you add to this the repetition of a word like “guidelines” with nary a specific about those guidelines, what you’ve likely got, dear readers, is a potentially explosive bit of information carefully camouflaged in a weekend news-dump.
Reading about these guidelines in this piece is like playing a game of twenty questions. I picture Mukasey standing before us, a wicked smile on his face as he hugs the guidelines to his chest and shakes his head, barely able to suppress his good-natured laughter as he offers us clues about the surprise he and the FBI have in store for us all.
The Guidelines are “for FBI operations,” we’re told. No, they aren’t the old proposed ones that “met strong criticism from congressional committees last month.” These guidelines “comprise 50 pages dealing with five areas of FBI investigation, including criminal, national security, and foreign intelligence.” These guidelines will protect us. These guidelines will make the FBI “a more flexible and adept collector of intelligence.” These guidelines “will be available to the public.” These guidelines “reflect consultation with Congress as well as privacy and civil liberties groups.”
Has to do with wiretaps? Involves dossiers on American citizens? Bigger than a breadbox?
Hints come, of course, from the sidelines, which is where words like “troubling” and “concern” are introduced. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy complains that the guidelines give the FBI the power to use “intrusive investigative techniques on Americans without requiring any evidence of wrongdoing…” but the money-shot comes at the end of the piece, which concludes with a quote from the ACLU:
"..the guidelines allow a person's race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move that the ACLU believes may institute a racial profiling as a matter of policy.”
So, “evidence of wrongdoing” is no longer required, but race and ethnic background can be “used as a factor in opening an investigation,” -- and the ACLU believes this may “institute racial profiling as a matter of policy?”
“May?” I’m curious about the alternate interpretation offered by anyone who doesn’t think this institutes racial profiling as a matter of policy.
Thursday, January 4. 2007
W pushes envelope on U.S. spying
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.What part of:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.does George W. Bush NOT understand?
Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.Really? A man with absolutely NO respect for the Bill of Rights, who has been violating the law repeatedly for the last six years, violates it again and you are surprised? What are you? Retarded?
Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.Ya think?
Most of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act deals with mundane reform measures. But it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval.Another thing the Dems need to do SOON, is put an end to these damned "signing statements" and start prosecuting anyone who followed through on Bush's illegal actions.
Critics point out the administration could quickly get a warrant from a criminal court or a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to search targeted mail, and the Postal Service could block delivery in the meantime.And to justify torture and other violations of national and international law.
Friday, March 10. 2006
Here's a quick 'n' easy test to see whether you are an idiot. It consists of just two yes-or-no questions.
1) Do you think the Pentagon really added information on peaceful demonstrators to its terrorist database by mistake?
2) Do you think the Pentagon really has destroyed all that information and is no longer keeping an eye on peaceful demonstrators?
If you answer "yes" to either question, you are an idiot. You should report immediately to the Institute for Creative Thought Crime for assessment, but at this late date there probably is little that can be done for you (not that we won't be happy to take your money anyway).
Thursday, March 9. 2006
Monday, February 20. 2006
Facing Pressure, White House Seeks Approval for Spying
New York Times
After two months of insisting that President Bush did not need court approval to authorize the wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive Congressional approval of the program.If Bush has the autority to orders wiretaps without a warrant, then why does he need congress to make it legal?
With Alito and Robertson in place, all BushCo actions will unltimately be found legal.
Tuesday, February 14. 2006
Since The New York Times broke the story of the National Security Agency's secret warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, various denizens of blogdom, most of them not lawyers, have argued about whether the president's program is, in fact, illegal. (Glenn Greenwald, who is a lawyer, has done the best blogging on the issue.)
Finally, though someone has asked the lawyers, and to the surprise of not a single person who actually has read the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, they say it's definitely illegal:
Democratic and Republican attorneys overwhelmingly approved a resolution Monday urging President Bush to seek approval behind the closed doors of a courtroom before engaging in any more eavesdropping on international telephone calls.I particularly like that last part. If there's any division at all, it's generally possible for the chair to rule that a voice vote has gone whichever way the chair wants. The motion to delete that paragraph must have been literally shouted down.
Monday, November 7. 2005
Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning
The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.This is Right-wing harassment using government power to supress freedom of speech. The ountry is FULL of luntaic churches preaching in favor of war crimes, and they don't get any letters.
Thursday, October 27. 2005
American passports go electronic
American Passports will be fitted with Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RFID) from next year that will hold a digital photo of the passport's owner along with other information currently printed in passports.This is misleading. The danger is not that your data will be intercepted while a scanner is reading it, the danger is that the bad guys (including U.S. law enforcement and intelligence services) will have their own readers to skim your data. Terrorists will be able to I.D. Americans with ease and target them for robbery, kidnapping or murder.
The chips will also have enough memory to add additional biometric information in the future.You can bet it will be used for precisely that.
Sunday, October 23. 2005
FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations
The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.I said that when the "Patriot" Act was passed it would be abused. Even with the broad powers tha Act gives the FBI, they still fail to comply with the law.
Your Laser Printer is a Spy
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a consumer privacy and digital rights organization, has analyzed codes embedded in printouts in color laser printers. The code cracked by the EFF was an invisible bar code that contained the serial number of the printer for tracking users as well as the date and time a page was printed.While I can't say I disagree with the reasoning behind this, I feel that printer companies should specifically inform you that they have made it possible for things you print to be tied directly to you. Also, it should clearly specify who will be given access to the information that allows people to identify a printer. Will it require a warrant? (I doubt it at the moment).
Folks, especially whistle-blowers, need to be aware that documents they print out will need to be sanitized (re-copied at Kinkos to obliterate these ID marks and pay cash). I would guess that even B&W printers and inkjets have this built in spy as well.
Wednesday, October 5. 2005
Wal-Mart Turns in Student's Anti-Bush Photo, Secret Service Investigates Him
Selina Jarvis is the chair of the social studies department at Currituck County High School in North Carolina, and she is not used to having the Secret Service question her or one of her students.
But that's what happened on September 20.
Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights," she says. One student "had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's down sign with his own hand next to the President's picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster."
But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect.
An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service.
Why? Are the Kitty Hawk Police so fucking stupid that they agree with the brain-dead scum that Wal-Mart hires? Don't they have any REAL crime to worry about.
On Tuesday, September 20, the Secret Service came to Currituck High."At 1:35, the student came to me and told me that the Secret Service had taken his poster," Jarvis says. "I didn't believe him at first. But they had come into my room when I wasn't there and had taken his poster, which was in a stack with all the others."
Why? Is dissent against Precious Leader now a crime?
(Stupid question, of course it is).
"Halfway through my afternoon class, the assistant principal got me out of class and took me to the office conference room," she says. "Two men from the Secret Service were there. They asked me what I knew about the student. I told them he was a great kid, that he was in the homecoming court, and that he'd never been in any trouble."
"They asked me, didn't I think that it was suspicious," she recalls. "I said no, it was a Bill of Rights project!"
Adherence to the Bill of Rights is now considered prima facia evidence for a criminal investigation.
At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident "would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted," she says.
This is jack-booted thuggery pure and simple. These are the actions of bullies with incredibly small genitalia compensating for the fact by abusing their power to pick on kids and school teachers.
My, aren't they brave.
"I blame Wal-Mart more than anybody," she says. "I was really disgusted with them. But everyone was using poor judgment, from Wal-Mart up to the Secret Service."
Yet ANOTHER reason to hate Wal-Mart, which will soon be a crime as well.
Sharon Davenport of the Kitty Hawk Police Department said, "We just handed it over" to the Secret Service. "No investigative report was filed."
Then why hand it over to the SS? Apparently you folks view the Bill of Rights as suspect as well.
Jonathan Scherry, spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., said, "We certainly respect artistic freedom, but we also have the responsibility to look into incidents when necessary. In this case, it was brought to our attention from a private citizen, a photo lab employee."
Any hamster with half a brain could figuire out that the only person that needed investigating was the dickhead who filed the complaint.
This is police state facism, pure and simple. If it had happened under Clinton, Limbaugh, et al, would be screaming for the SS to be disbanded and blaming it on evil liberals.
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